After environmental groups and opposition parties in Quebec, it is now the turn of three Innu nations to formally oppose the construction of the LNG Quebec gas industrial complex. While recalling the existence of ancestral rights on the territory of the project, they affirm that it “is prejudicial to future generations”, in particular because of its climatic impacts and the risks for the biodiversity of the Saguenay.
As part of a joint public outing on Wednesday, the councils of the Innu First Nations of Essipit, Mashteuiatsh and Pessamit expressed “a strongly unfavorable opinion” in relation to the Énergie Saguenay project, designed to facilitate export natural gas produced primarily by fracking in Alberta.
“The leaders of the First Nations concerned are deeply concerned about the decision that governments will take regarding the Énergie Saguenay project and call on them to act and commit now. For them, this project is detrimental to future generations and is clearly inconsistent with a healthy vision for the future, as well as with the global and societal challenges of the coming decades ”, they write.
Without mentioning the appeals that could be launched if the Legault government give the green light to the plant and marine terminal project in the coming months, the Aboriginal leaders recalled that the project site “is located on a territory where these Innu First Nations hold ancestral rights”. They add that “constitutional obligations protecting rights must be respected, such as seeking consent, consultation and accommodation”.
These three Innu nations, who had initiated a “Open dialogue” with the promoters, and since 2015, do not call into question the good faith of GNL Québec in the context of these discussions. But they believe that “the issues surrounding marine mammals and a real energy transition remain fraught with uncertainties”, after the publication of a very critical report from the Office of Public Hearings on the Environment (BAPE).
“The commission of inquiry [du BAPE] noted that there is no guarantee or means of ensuring that the liquefied natural gas produced will effectively be used as a substitute for more polluting fuels in the targeted export markets. This advice came to destroy the only aspect that gave rise to a positive perception of the project at the outset, namely the substitution scenario ”, deplore the First Nations.
The BAPE report concludes in fact, the project for the liquefaction and maritime export of natural gas will result in a “net addition” of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The commissioners thus reject the main argument put forward by the promoters, who assert on the contrary that the project would reduce global GHG emissions.
The BAPE also refutes the idea that this natural gas would contribute to the “energy transition” necessary to fight against the climate crisis, as the Prime Minister affirmed. Francois Legault and some of its ministers even before the environmental assessment. Rather, the report underlines that LNG Quebec “could act as a brake on the energy transition in the markets targeted by the project”.
Risks to beluga whales
With regard to risks for beluga whales that would represent the daily passages of LNG vessels in the Saguenay – Saint-Laurent marine park, the BAPE considers that “any increase in maritime traffic projected into the Saguenay River would run counter to efforts to restore this population”.
“Due to the precarious state and the current ‘endangered’ status of the beluga population of the St. Lawrence Estuary, any additional stress, including that generated by the increase in maritime traffic, must be considered. as a significant risk to its recovery and survival, ”the report notes. Moreover, according to the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs, among the main threats to its recovery, “underwater noise associated with maritime activities of all kinds constitutes the only threat that could be reduced in the short term. term ”.
According to most recent data scientists available, 50% of the beluga population frequents the Saguenay Fjord (and 67% of females), which would be the daily crossing point for LNG Quebec’s LNG carriers. These vessels are 300 meters in length and have a width of 50 meters. They would therefore be the largest ships to navigate in the heart of Quebec’s only marine park.
“The project would almost double the merchant maritime traffic on the Saguenay River and would therefore significantly increase the quantity of ballast water that would be discharged there”, further indicates the BAPE report. In concrete terms, each LNG carrier that comes alongside the Énergie Saguenay facilities could discharge up to 70 million liters of ballast water. In this context, the BAPE notes that the project “could represent a risk of introducing new invasive aquatic species into the Saguenay River which could compromise the balance of this ecosystem”.
Decision by fall
The Quebec Liberal Party, Solidarity Quebec and the Quebec Party are opposed to the LNG Quebec project, which must also undergo a federal environmental assessment. On the side of the Legault government, we promise that a decision will be returned by fall next in this file.
Benoit Charette recently indicated that his ministry sent two sets of questions to the promoter. These are linked to the “three conditions” set by the CAQ members so that the largest private industrial project in Quebec’s history can receive the green light from the government. Promoters must therefore demonstrate “Social acceptability” of LNG Quebec, but also its role in the context of the “energy transition” and its capacity to generate a “reduction” in greenhouse gas emissions “on a global scale”.
Beyond the BAPE report and the decision that the Legault government will take on the project, Symbio Infrastructure (which controls the liquefaction plant project and the gas pipeline project) is still struggling to find the necessary funding to carry out this $ 14 billion project ($ 10 billion for Énergie Saguenay and $ 4 billion for the 780-kilometer gas pipeline). Symbio Infrastructure is still trying to raise $ 100 million to carry the project through to the start of construction.