Today in the legislature we proceeded to second reading of Bill 40 – Natural Gas Development Statutes Amendment Act, 2015. Bill 40 introduces a number amendments being made within the jurisdiction of the Minister of Natural Gas Development and Responsible for Housing. I am supporting this important piece of legislation for reasons that I outline in my speech below.
First, this legislation enables the Oil and Gas Commission to develop and regulate any potential carbon capture and storage initiatives in BC. As I noted in my speech, in my view this is critical for future atmospheric carbon dioxide removal. And British Columbia is the home of the world’s first pilot project to test the viability of technology for use in commercial scale carbon scrubbing. This exciting project is the brainchild of Canadian researcher David Keith, now a professor at Harvard University, and is being developed a Calgary-based company Carbon Engineering.
The second aspect of this bill concerns important changes changes to the Residential Tenancy Act and the Strata Property Act. They allow tenants to break a fixed-term tenancy agreement with one month’s notice to escape family violence or if a tenant moves to a long-term care facility. Electronic repayments of a tenant’s damage deposit is now also allowed.
The Strata Property Act changes allow an 80% instead of a 100% vote to wind down and subsequently disband a strata. I discuss this more in the speech below.
A. Weaver: It gives me great pleasure to stand and rise in support of Bill 40, the Natural Gas Development Statutes Amendment Act, which, as has been mentioned already by several members both in opposition and in government, is really an amalgamation of two bills that reflect the two separate mandates of the minister involved in housing and natural gas.
Now, I will say off the bat that I do appreciate the introduction of the carbon-capture-and-storage-enabling legislation, as well as the amendments to the Strata Property Act and the Residential Tenancy Act, as I do believe they are fine pieces of legislation. But there is…. Again, the devil will be in the details, and I will explore that further in committee stage of the debate.
I would also like to thank, at the onset here, the ministry staff for providing us — my office and, in collaboration and at the same time, the member for Delta South’s office and her staff — with a very fine briefing that allowed us to ask many questions to gain insight as to the intentions of this legislation.
Now, as I’ve mentioned, I do recognize the importance of carbon-capture-and-storage-enabling legislation. My concern with this is not so much that enabling legislation is being introduced, but it’s being introduced under the purview of the Oil and Gas Commission. Let me please explain why I would do that.
There are two aspects to carbon capture and storage. There are the aspects with respect to capture and storage from what’s called geological carbon. That’s carbon that’s contained in our fossil fuels — the combustion of coal and the combustion of natural gas produce carbon dioxide. And that carbon dioxide, it’s been thought…. It has in some jurisdictions been stored underground. B.C. has a rich history of capture and storage in the sour gas component of the natural gas industry, so there is some expertise here in British Columbia already in terms of underground gas storage.
However, the second aspect of carbon capture and storage is capturing and storing not fossil carbon but present-day carbon in the atmosphere. We have, in Canada, a company that has developed under the intellectual leadership and scientific analyses and studies of David Keith, now at Harvard University, formerly at the University of Calgary. This company called Carbon Engineering has actually built its very first test site in Squamish, B.C., to capture and sequester carbon that’s already in the atmosphere.
Now, this is an example of innovation in British Columbia that I haven’t heard anything about from the opposite side. This is an example of innovation in carbon capture technology that actually is what we do need to go down sooner rather than later — that is, drawing down carbon from the atmosphere that’s already there, because the climate change in store as we equilibrate to existing levels of greenhouse gases will be profound.
So this technology, embedded within the company Carbon Engineering and situated in Squamish now with their first test facility, is fascinating in that what it does is it brings in air from the atmosphere. It then takes that air and mixes it so that you get out of that a liquid product that then reacts with solid products to create calcium carbonate. The carbon dioxide is now stored in this so-called wet phase in these little pellets. These pellets are then heated, and the pellets can then be recycled to create more calcium carbonate. In that heating process, you produce a stream of pure carbon dioxide. Now that carbon dioxide, which is a pure stream, originated in the atmosphere and can be stored in carbon capture and storage.
I believe that this government should be putting this legislation not in oil and gas but in the Environment Ministry. We have no hope of any realistic LNG coming to B.C. anytime soon. I’ve been saying that for over three years now, and I’m still waiting to eat my words as the Minister of Natural Gas said I will be doing. I notice he’s not listening right now. But I would love to be in a position of eating my words. I’m still not eating them.
Let me quote from a news release that was issued yesterday on Bloomberg — a news story from the Goldman Sachs group, which says the following: “A wave of new supply from Australia to the U.S. is deepening a glut of the fuel, raising the risk of losses for exporters and prompting some buyers to look at breaking contracts with suppliers.” Those are existing contracts.
Goldman Sachs is not a fly-by-night organization. Goldman Sachs has forecast a 13 percent drop in LNG prices in 2017 and a further 23 percent drop by 2018. And the U.S. starts shipping LNG in January of 2016.
We have no hope, yet this government is pursuing carbon capture in the oil and gas sector and is missing out critical opportunities in the innovative carbon capture sector with a Canadian company, a Calgary company, whose first test plant anywhere in the world where this is being done is in Squamish, B.C.
Do we hear anything about that? No, we hear about this fantasy of LNG, on and on. That is why it is deeply troubling that this will actually be contained within the Oil and Gas Commission because, frankly, carbon capture and storage is more than about oil and gas. It’s a grand environmental issue and should, I would argue, be based in that.
The spot price in Japan, the much-touted, soon-to-become market for all of B.C.’s gas, is $6.13 in 2016, compared to $7.49. Goldman Sachs has projected a $5.19 spot price for landed LNG in Japan in 2017 and — get this — a $4.75 spot price in Japan for 2018.
I’m not eating my words yet. I’m still waiting for the Minister of Natural Gas to show me that…. He says to himself: “You will.” No, I don’t think so — not any time soon. Maybe in the mid-2020s, but by that time, of course, there’ll be nobody accountable left in this government, because there will be a new government at that time.
As I said, I do support the carbon capture legislation that’s being brought here. We do need enabling legislation for carbon capture, just not the carbon capture this government is dreaming about. It’s about the innovation potential that we could have for innovative Canadian technology and building upon that sector.
This bill also contains important legislation changes which will protect employees within the Oil and Gas Commission from potential legal problems, providing, of course, that they make decisions in good faith, as I’m sure we would all expect our governing agencies and bodies to do and have faith and confidence that they will.
The second aspect of this bill is with respect to the rental tenancy act and the Strata Act. Now, as someone who presently lives in a bare land strata and someone who’s had a property in another strata, I recognize the difficulty in getting 100 percent agreement in a strata. Sometimes the owners of the strata don’t even live in the country where the strata is. It’s very, very difficult.
It takes just one person out of 100 to be difficult, and nothing will happen. So I recognize the importance of actually moving to a slightly lower threshold in the wind-up resolution for a strata — you know, 80 percent, 90 percent, 85 percent. I don’t know where the numbers come from. We’ll explore that a bit further in the committee stage. But I do agree and commend the minister for seeing this problem here.
One of the other things that I think needs to be discussed further in committee stage will be a potential effect, an effect that may not have been thought through, on affordability in areas such as Victoria, Vancouver and some parts of the Okanagan as strata owners recognize the value in their property.
Say you have an aging demographic who own an older building and there’s 80 percent of them who see the value in their property and say: “Maybe we should sell this so that a developer can turn this four-storey building into a 20-storey building. Look at the wealth and the prosperity that we will have.” But maybe there are a few other people out there who don’t actually have the ability to find another place. So there is some concern about people being displaced, as there might be an incentive here…. In fact, I would argue this is an incentive for certain strata to think about winding up, tearing down, selling and building anew.
Now, I recognize that that would build new supply, new rentals perhaps, new ownership and supply, and that’s a good thing, but supply does not come on stream overnight. There’s a delay as these are built, so there has to be some careful management of that, I would believe.
It’ll be interesting to see whether or not bare land stratas across the province will start seeing this as an opportunity as well. Many builders are able to build bare land stratas where the local municipal bylaws don’t actually have to have the same level of rigour in terms of their application — widths of streets, areas for sidewalks, etc. — and there may be some pressure from bare land stratas in the months ahead to actually come off that. I don’t know how that will be handled.
In terms of the rental tenancy, again, I support the additions that have been done. I think it’s critical, in fact, to allow those who are, for example, fleeing a violent relationship and those who become very ill all of a sudden and can no longer be in their residence a means and a way, through consultation and approval by some authority — which we’ll explore further in regulations, I’m sure; we’ll see further what that means in regulations — to break a lease without having to be burdened with subsequent bills from landlords who, in many cases — particularly in Victoria, where we have a 0.6 percent vacancy rate — could, in fact, rent it and, frankly, would rent it to another person.
Finally, on the electronic payments, again, it’s incredibly important to bring this up to the 21st century. A lot of rental transactions are done through electronic payments, both in terms of receiving rent and in terms of removing damage deposits, but there is a slight caution here with the electronic payments, as the member for Delta South pointed out.
If you make an electronic payment, some people will think that they’ve made an electronic payment and it’s done. But until the recipient actually receives it and deposits it into a bank account, there is no receipt or transaction. Now, not everybody in our society has a bank account. If a landlord sends an electronic transaction, the landlord may think that the electronic transaction has been sent within…. I forget the number of days. It may be 28. It may be slightly more or less.
If that transaction is not received and deposited into an account, that transaction is deemed null and void, so there would be questions with respect to whether or not the landlord, in good faith, tried to transfer the deposit or whether they did not. This is particularly problematic with landlords who may not live in the same jurisdiction as the house that is being rented, where electronic transfers are quite common.
With that said, with the caveats aside, I do support this legislation. I look forward to exploring it further in committee stage, and I thank the Speaker and the members for their time.