The study, announced Wednesday, will evaluate three proposed LNG export terminals, an existing aluminium smelter, a proposed oil refinery, a crude-oil export facility and gas-turbine-powered electrical generation facilities.
Premier Christy Clark has repeatedly said British Columbia's LNG would be the cleanest in the world. Canada aims to be a major supplier of liquefied natural gas to Asia.
The province had previously maintained any air quality studies would only be needed after LNG projects are approved.
"This study will ensure our airshed plan for Kitimat is comprehensive, so the quality of life in the area is upheld while jobs and economic prospects increase as a result of LNG and industrial development," Rich Coleman, Minister of Natural Gas Development, said in a release.
"British Columbia is an environmental leader and we are taking the steps necessary to keep that title," Coleman said.
The province released a report in July estimating the LNG industry could provide 60,0000 construction jobs and support 75,000 jobs in operating gas liquefaction plants and drilling natural gas for export.
The announcement for the air quality study follows environmental group Clean Energy Canada's release last week of a report -- "The Cleanest LNG in the World?" -- warning if the LNG industry grows as large as the British Columbian government predicts, its carbon footprint could amount to nearly double that of Alberta's entire oil sands sector in 2010.
The group said it based its evaluation not only on the emissions of British Columbia's proposed LNG plants, "but also on the full carbon footprint of the commodity they would produce -- from wellhead to waterline -- given the government's commitment to deliver LNG with 'lower life cycle greenhouse gas emissions than anywhere else.'"
One-third of the carbon emissions are expected to be created by the liquefaction process, Clean Energy Canada's report says, and two-thirds of the emissions would come from extracting it out of the ground and shipping it to the coast for export.
"My commitment is to have the cleanest LNG facilities in the world," Clark told an editorial board meeting of The Globe and Mail Tuesday, a day before the announcement of the Kitimat air quality study.
She said, however, she never intended for the "clean" commitment to capture the emissions produced upstream, meaning the exploration and production of the gas, the newspaper reported.
"We don't produce LNG in the northeast, we produce natural gas. We will produce liquefied natural gas in the northwest, so that's what we have been talking about," Clark told the newspaper. "There is no 'L' in LNG until it gets to Kitimat or Prince Rupert," she said, referring to export facilities.
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