After years of climate and Indigenous-led opposition to East Coast liquified natural gas (LNG), energy giant Pieridae Energy is giving up on its Goldboro project.
In a corporate update this week, the Calgary-based company said it intends to sell off its Goldboro assets, which include licences and permits to 267 acres of coastal land in Nova Scotia that for years was slated as a future location for an LNG export terminal. The company plans to use the cash to pay off a $20-million loan due by the end of next year.
Pieridae said once it offloads its Goldboro assets, that will “mark the conclusion of [its] strategic pivot away from East Coast LNG and toward an Alberta-focused natural gas production and processing business.”
The announcement is a bruise for proponents of East Coast LNG development but represents a major win for climate and Indigenous-led advocacy against the fossil fuel’s expansion.
“This project has flailed for many years now, and the company even had the audacity to request a billion in federal money even as we were still dealing with the impacts of COVID,” national programs director with Sierra Club Canada Foundation Gretchen Fitzgerald told Canada’s National Observer. “The active opposition from Mi’kmaw Grassroots Grandmothers to the establishment of man camps in the rural area where it was to be located showed how unwelcome this project was in a province that had already successfully mobilized to stop fracking.”
“When fracking was proposed in the neighbouring province of New Brunswick as a possible source of fossil gas for the Goldboro plant, there was a similar successful opposition,” she added. “I think given the climate emergency and the strength of the local community and Indigenous rights holders to oppose it, the project is finally dead even if another purchaser is unwise enough to attempt to restart it.”
Pieridae long struggled to overcome the challenging economics of building LNG in Atlantic Canada. Unlike in Western Canada, which is closer to natural gas fields that enjoy political support, in Eastern Canada, extracting gas has been successfully opposed. Without gas to extract, an export terminal would need to pipe the gas across the country from Western Canada where it would have to pass through Quebec — an unlikely prospect reminiscent of the failed Energy East pipeline. Moreover, the business case for East Coast LNG has always been contingent on selling to Europe, which has many options for cheaper LNG.
Beyond the specific economics of Goldboro LNG, the future of the fossil fuel was clearly spelled out by the International Energy Agency in a recent forecast. Demand for all fossil fuels, including gas, is set to peak this decade at the same time several new LNG facilities are being built, representing a glut of supply.
The planet-warming power of LNG is also becoming better understood, making it more challenging to build LNG facilities in an era of decarbonization needed to prevent catastrophic global warming. Traditionally, fossil fuels were understood on a spectrum of bad to worse, with coal burning being the poster child for excessive greenhouse gas emissions. But a growing body of scientific evidence shows when methane leaks that occur when natural gas is extracted and transported are accounted for, the fuel is clearly a problem for the atmosphere and could be worse than burning coal itself.
“I think given the climate emergency and the strength of the local community and Indigenous rights holders to oppose it, the project is finally dead even if another purchaser is unwise enough to attempt to restart it.” — @GreenMission #cdnpoli
While true that burned natural gas emits less carbon dioxide than coal, natural gas is primarily made up of methane — a potent greenhouse gas with 84 to 87 times more warming potential over 20 years than CO2. Even though methane breaks down faster in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, it traps more heat, making it a priority area for near-term emissions reductions. Climate scientists have warned that short-term, steep emissions reductions are needed to avoid crossing dangerous tipping points that would lock in devastating climate impacts.
A report published in June by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-NS in partnership with the think tank’s B.C. office and the Corporate Mapping Project found Atlantic Canada is at a crossroads for energy development. Nearly 20 major extractive projects have been proposed since 2010, and many of those projects have been defeated by opposition groups.
In Nova Scotia, where this summer’s wildfires prompted thousands to evacuate, the Alton Gas project was cancelled in 2021 after strong Mi’kmaw opposition. There is a moratorium on fracking in the province, which followed public pushback, and also a pause in Newfoundland and Labrador. In neighbouring New Brunswick, a moratorium has been in place since 2014 after huge opposition and protests from Indigenous supporters — many from Elsipogtog First Nation — and other opponents. And while Premier Blaine Higgs has recently said he wants to expand fracking regardless of the moratorium, First Nations have said they are prepared to push back again.
— With files from Cloe Logan
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