Like the Office of Public Hearings on the Environment (BAPE) canceled in March for the GNL Quebec project, the commission of inquiry which will begin in September will be chaired by a commissioner who worked for 16 years as a “consultant” for the main association promoting the interests of petrochemical companies involved in the development of natural gas exploitation and marketing projects in Canada.
According to details unveiled Friday morning, Denis Bergeron will act as chairman of the commission. He will be supported by another commissioner, Laurent Pilotto. “In support of their respective expertise and experience, the commissioners will be able to count on a team of three analysts specializing in maritime transport, climate change, water sciences as well as sustainable economics and finance”, specified the BAPE. by press release. The mandate is due to start on September 14, with a final report scheduled for early 2021.
Mr. Bergeron has been a member of the BAPE since June 2011. According to his curriculum vitae published by the organization, he was “consultant auditor for the Canadian Chemical Industry Association (ACIC) from 1995 to 2011” , that is, for about 16 years. As part of his duties, “Mr. Bergeron ensured, within a multidisciplinary team, the application of the responsible management codes of practice of the ACIC to its members”.
Little known to the general public in Quebec, ACIC is presented by the federal government as “the main association representing the interests of petrochemical companies in Canada”. It has about fifty “member” or “partner” companies that operate in particular in the production of natural gas, the transformation of gas, the use of its by-products or its transport for export. These include companies involved in gas development including Imperial Oil, Shell Chemicals Canada, Canada Kuwait Petrochemical Corporation and Inter Pipeline (which operates gas pipelines).
Mr. Pilotto was appointed to the BAPE in September 2019. Before that, he had worked at the Régie de l’énergie for 16 years. He was notably “director of the multidisciplinary teams of analysts who advise the Régie in the fields of electricity distribution and transmission, natural gas distribution, energy efficiency programs and price monitoring. oil products “. Thus, from 2008 to 2010, he was “director – natural gas and energy efficiency”, and from 2010 to 2013, he was “director – natural gas and petroleum products”.
The duty had already shed light on this information when Denis Bergeron and Laurent Pilotto were appointed head of the BAPE, which was to assess the LNG Quebec project from last March. This mandate had however been canceled by the Legault government, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The BAPE then defended the appointments of the two commissioners for this commission of inquiry into the liquefaction plant and liquefied natural gas export project. The organization had thus affirmed that its confidence “in the impartiality of the commissioners appointed for this file is complete”.
“These are appointed by the president of the BAPE in accordance with the ethical values of the BAPE”, he had specified in writing. “In order to be able to be appointed by the president of the BAPE as commissioner, the members of the BAPE are sworn in before a judge of the Superior Court of Quebec and must then sign a declaration of absence of conflict of interest sworn by the legal advisor to the BAPE. “
The organization explained that “members must also sign a declaration of ethical and deontological commitment” and submit a “declaration” each year indicating the nature of their “financial interests”. BAPE President Philippe Bourke also published a letter in The duty, in order to defend the organization’s position on this issue.
On Friday, the BAPE reaffirmed its full confidence in the commissioners appointed to lead the assessment of GNL Quebec. “The president of the BAPE reiterates all his confidence in Denis Bergeron and that is why he was again appointed as president of this commission of inquiry. The verifications related to the absence of conflict of interest remain, ”the organization said by email.
“In addition, neither at the time, nor this time around, was the term ‘petrochemicals’ used by the BAPE and cannot be associated with Mr. Bergeron’s professional background,” added the BAPE.
Greenpeace spokesperson Patrick Bonin said he was disappointed with the BAPE’s choice to appoint only two commissioners for the review of GNL Quebec. “The presence of three specialist analysts cannot justify the absence of a third commissioner specializing in climate change and biodiversity. The role of commissioner is quite different from that of analyst and the appointment of a third commissioner would have greatly improved the commission charged with evaluating this complex project. “
He also reiterated a request made by 40 environmental groups for public hearings to be held in several regions of Quebec. The first BAPE, which was canceled in March, was to be held only in Saguenay.
The Coalition Fjord, a group that opposes GNL Quebec, also wants the addition of a third commissioner, but also an assessment of the cumulative impacts of the expected increase in commercial maritime traffic on the Saguenay.
The BAPE did not specify the timetable for the committee’s work on Friday, nor “the terms of participation”. The body will have to take into account the health rules put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 in order to determine, for example, whether it will be possible to hold public hearings with people present in a room, as is done normally.
Climate and biodiversity
The BAPE on the GNL Quebec project will have to address several environmental issues within the framework of its mandate. Greenhouse gas emissions from the gas plant project are expected to reach more than eight million tonnes per year on Canadian soil, the equivalent of adding 3.4 million cars to the road. The proponents say, however, that the project will cut emissions elsewhere in the world, stressing that exported natural gas would replace more harmful fuels, such as coal.
Liquefied natural gas will also be exported aboard LNG tankers that will cross Quebec’s only marine park, that of the Saguenay – Saint-Laurent. According to the promoter’s forecasts, the project will involve at least 320 passages each year. This section raises questions about the protection of endangered marine mammals, including the beluga. GNL Quebec admitted that the resulting maritime traffic could pose a “risk” to the beluga and other cetaceans of the St. Lawrence. The company believes, however, that it will be able to counter this risk, even if it will not control the maritime transport of liquefied gas.
The project promoters have been experiencing financial difficulties for several months. Gazoduq and GNL Quebec, which are owned by the same US financial interests, both had to layoffs last week. Some employees now fear an outright abandonment of this project, the realization of which would require investments of $ 14 billion.
In addition to the Quebec assessment, the LNG Quebec plant and marine terminal are subject to a federal review. The pipeline must be subject to a joint assessment between the two levels of government. The final decision on the construction of this pipeline rests solely with the federal government.
Arrested on Wednesday in connection with the work of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Benoit Charette, reiterated that he has a “favorable prejudice” for GNL Quebec. “I have a vision that is shared by the government. This is a project that has clear economic and environmental merits, “he argued, while promising that an” informed decision “will be made upon completion of the BAPE’s environmental assessment.