At first blush the Woodfibre liquefied natural gas (LNG) proposal is a double-edged sword that carries both great promise and equally significant potential pitfalls for the Squamish area.
There’s little question that 50 to 100 jobs — the sort of well-paying jobs that support families and create spin-off employment — would be a significant boost to the area’s economy. They would make Woodfibre LNG the second- or third-largest private-sector employer in town. If it were available this year, the annual tax revenue (the Woodfibre mill put some $2 million into municipal coffers each year before it closed in 2006) would likely be in the high six figures and would make a significant dent in this year’s projected property tax increase.
On the other hand, if it resulted in measurable increases in any or all forms of pollution — water, air, noise and light — the so-called “re-industrialization” of the Woodfibre site by Singapore-based Pacific Energy Corp. would begin to turn back some of the gains made in the environmental health of Howe Sound. We’re not marine biologists, but given its proximity to key herring spawning areas, one would think the discharge of either LNG other toxic elements into the sound would be detrimental to that key piece of the recovering Howe Sound ecosystem web, at least in the short term.
As pointed out this week the Future of Howe Sound Society, emerging and relatively benign industries such as tourism, outdoor recreation and filming would undoubtedly suffer if there were a spill of significant size. For example, the recovery of the Howe Sound ecosystem would be a terrific good-news story to impart to guests of the Sea to Sky Gondola once it opens next year; if there’s a spill, say, shortly after the LNG facility opens in 2017 or 2018, guests might well find the aerial tram a less desirable attraction.
While there’s no direct threat to our area from environmental fracturing, a.k.a. “fracking,” that’s used in the extraction of fossil fuels, British Columbians might also wish to have a closer look and consider whether the relatively untested and potentially dangerous technology is really all it’s (ahem) cracked up to be.
In a broad sense, it’s good news that a company such as Pacific Energy wants to invest in our community, potentially boosting the economy. But there are simply too many questions to make this one a slam dunk.
— David Burke