As discussions about the potential for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal in Saint John heat up, environmentalists are calling for any such plans to be cancelled.

“I think these are conversations that have no real place in reality. I’m not sure why they’re taking place,” said Jim Emberger, a spokesperson for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance.

 

The potential for European countries to experience a shortage of natural gas at the hands of Russia has prompted talks for Canada to step up to the plate in providing liquefied natural gas.

An LNG terminal located off the Bay of Fundy in Saint John is currently used for importing from the United States.

Read more: As Russia strangles gas flow, Canada has ‘responsibility’ to step up on LNG, Freeland says 

“In terms of the LNG facility, it could be converted to an LNG export facility. It will need a gas supply, but its conversion could be in roughly three years,” New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said at a news conference in June.

According to Emberger, the premier’s timeline is overly optimistic and still leaves a significant gap before the terminal would be operational.

“This is being driven more by Canada and the oil and gas industry to make some final profits out of fossil fuels before they have to go away,” he said.

Canada has set a lofty goal to slash its greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Emberger believes the creation of an export terminal moves the province in the opposite direction.

Read more: Higgs says New Brunswick LNG facility could help Europe cut energy ties with Russia 

“We can guesstimate that there will be maybe 1.2 or so million tonnes of greenhouse gases produced every year by this thing. So, you know, on the one hand, we’re taking stuff out, (on) the other hand, we’re putting it right back in,” he said.

Rumblings of an LNG export terminal in Canada intensified last week, when Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland fielded questions in Saint John about Canada’s role in supplying LNG to European countries.

“I do think that energy security today, more than ever, is a question of security, full-stop, and Canada’s really lucky. We have a lot of energy. I think it is a political responsibility for us as a country to support our allies with energy security,” Freeland told reporters.

“So yes, I think there is a role for the federal government working with provincial governments, working with the private sector, working with our European allies to make this happen.”

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick has denounced calls for the terminal, including any decisions involving the removal of the shale gas moratorium.

“So this is a project that just takes us away from where we need to go, and it also opens up other doors. Which, we know our premier is keenly interested in seeing fracking developed in our province,” said Matthew Abbott, the marine program director with the council.

“In some ways this seems to be a pretext for finding a way to get rid of the moratorium. So it really looks like, you know, this is politicians and others advocating for something they wanted to do anyway.”

Read more: Environmental groups protest proposals to build LNG terminals on Canada’s East Coast 

Abbott said citizens of New Brunswick and Indigenous nations have already voiced strong opposition to fracking in the province. Removing the moratorium, he added, would lead to significant public strife and potential for serious environmental impacts.

“If this project were to go ahead and were to lead to fracking, we’d see significant risks to groundwater, to land, and even to our ocean water through potential dumping of waste from the fracking industry.”

Michael Blackier, a spokesperson for Saint John LNG, said its parent company Repsol continues to explore options to maximize the value of the terminal.

He added this does include the potential to add liquefication capabilities to the existing Saint John LNG facility.