The Woodfibre LNG project is owned by infamous Indonesian billionaire Sukanto Tanoto. According to numerous reports, his business operations have been convicted for evading taxes by using shell companies. In 2014, the group paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and penalties. The Guardian reported:
Documents arising from the case show that Tanoto’s company, Asian Agri, systematically produced fake invoices and fake hedging contracts to evade more than $100m of taxes.
According to evidence contained in more than 8,000 papers, the company, which employs 25,000 people in 14 subsidiaries and owns 165,000 hectares of plantations, was engaged in “routine and systematic fraudulent accounting and book-keeping practices” using British jurisdictions.
Tanoto has long been the accused of wrongdoing. Asia Times reported on a number of bank scandals involving the Indonesian businessman:
Tanoto’s enterprises were often a source of controversy. One of the most notorious cases involved his original pulp and rayon mill, PT Indorayon Inti Rayon, which was highly criticized by the local community and environmentalists for its lax pollution controls. The plant was forced to close in 1998 after violent protests by local residents angered about alleged pollution of nearby Lake Toba – Southeast Asia’s largest lake and Sumatra’s biggest tourist attraction. The company was later investigated for illegal logging operations – though those charges were never substantiated.
At The Common Sense Canadian, Dr. Eoin Finn, a retired KMPG partner, PhD in physical chemistry and MBA in international business, worried that announced cost-cutting at Woodfibre LNG would create further environmental risks:
Many wondered what the tradeoffs would be between safety and cost. Now comes word from the influential shipping magazine TradeWinds last month that Woodfibre plans “to use two elderly LNG carriers as floating storage units (FSUs)…Two LNG carriers, the 126,300 m3 LNG Capricorn (built 1978) and LNG Taurus (built 1979), which were purchased by Singapore-based Nova Shipping & Logistics last year, have been widely rumoured to be earmarked for conversion into FSUs for the Woodfibre project. Both ships are currently laid up in Southeast Asia”.
Given Sukanto Tanoto’s history, he would seem a comfortable associate and ally for Christy Clark and Rich Coleman. For citizens who care about Howe Sound, Tanoto represents a clear and present danger.
Aside from trustworthiness of the LNG proponent and provincial officials responsible for monitoring its activities, the question remains about British Columbia’s commitment to dealing with carbon emissions. Between 2016 and and 2019, BC taxpayers will be assessed $5 billion in carbon taxes. The alleged aim is to encourage a decarbonized economy. However, promoting additional production of natural gas encourages the opposite, a more carbonized economy. Regular readers here will understand that natural gas is only a relatively clean fuel at time of final consumption; its production results in substantial environmental degradation and significant – in British Columbia, unmeasured – release of methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas.
Pembina Institute published an infographic (shown at the bottom) to outline potential environmental impacts of Woodfibre LNG. The information offended the company. Squamish Chief reported the reaction of Byng Giraud, a former Imperial Metals executive and now Woodfibre’s VP in charge of public relations:
“Pembina is somebody we have been in conversations with informally over the last few months. They indicate they are an organization that works collaboratively. This is a bit of a bolt out of the blue,” he said. “Frankly it is inaccurate and based on faulty assumptions.”
Giraud said the whole graphic is based on the assumption that if you build a new facility that new wells would need to be built.
“The reality is, over the past decade, B.C. production has been decreasing while American production has been increasing,” he said.
Mr. Giraud’s words inspired the title of this piece. Spin doctors understand that statements should be given with certainty, preferably in places where they won’t be tested for accuracy. The corporate press is one of those places. In words of Jonathan Swift:
Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect.
However, I’m always willing to test the words of a person who intends to mislead. This time, it was easy to establish truth. The British Columbia government regularly updates gas productions stats. This graph indicates an increase of 53.4% from 2007 to 2015.