Natural gas pipelines and LNG plants carry a heavy trio of potential impacts.
UPSTREAM: This is the harm that is done where the gas comes from. With the pipelines presently under discussion, most of that gas will come from northeastern BC; some from northern Alberta. The principal associated impacts are the construction of new roads; habitat loss and fragmentation; rampant use and contamination of freshwater for fracking; social disruption in "boom" communities; and emissions of methane and carbon dioxide at well-heads. Raw natural gas from BC's Horn River Basin contains 12 percent carbon dioxide. The maximum allowable CO2 concentration for piped gas is 2 percent - the rest of the CO2 is vented at the well-head.
MIDSTREAM: These are the impacts along a pipeline's route. These include the clearing and maintenance of the pipeline right-of-way (herbicides are used); construction of new roads; stream and river crossings (more than 1300 on each proposed route); construction and operation of compressor stations; fugitive methane leaks from pipeline operations; explosion risk; and the opening up of new natural gas sources. The routing of pipelines through north-central and northwestern BC will grant access to natural gas deposits that have so far been too remote to make profitable: the Bowser Basin (north of Smithers) and the Nechako Basin (southwest of Prince George). The Bowser Basin has an estimated 189 billion cubic metres of natural gas; the Nechako Basin has an estimated 269 billion cubic metres of natural gas. Fracking will come to these areas and feeder pipelines will be built. Freshwater will be depleted and poisoned. These "basins" are at the headwaters of Canada's two greatest salmon-producing rivers: the Fraser and the Skeena.
DOWNSTREAM: These are the impacts created by conversion of the natural gas to liquefied natural gas, by its shipping to overseas markets, and by its re-gassification and combustion there. These impacts include social disruption of coastal communities by mega-construction projects and subsequent LNG plant operations; marine habitat loss; air pollution and acid rain from the combustion of natural gas to generate electricity for LNG plants; disruption to port freedoms caused by the transits of LNG tankers; trans-oceanic spread of invasive species in vessel bilges; tanker collisions and incidents in BC coastal waters; climate warming caused by the combustion of natural gas at overseas markets; and economic support of countries with poor human rights records.
The question to ask: What will the people of BC and Canada receive in return for this degradation of the planet?
Premier Clark's promise of a "Prosperity Fund" is a pipeline-dream.