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Council votes no to Fortis drilling

FortisBC not permitted to drill test boreholes in the estuary

Council voted no.

For the third time, FortisBC’s application to drill test boreholes in the estuary came before Squamish council, only this time, rather than defer the decision, council voted four to three against granting the permit.

About 130 people, the vast majority opposed to the drilling, packed municipal hall to watch the vote at Tuesday night’s regular council meeting.

Councillors Doug Race, Jason Blackman-Wulff and Susan Chapelle voted for granting the permit. Councillors Peter Kent, Karen Elliott, Ted Prior and Mayor Patrica Heintzman voted against granting it. Two weeks ago, when the borehole issue was before council for the second time, Prior had said he would vote for it should the question be called. Instead the decision was deferred.

He said one thing that changed his mind was that council had gotten more legal advice, so he was less concerned about legal action against them for turning down the permit.

Prior also said he didn’t think there was enough collaboration with First Nations.

“If we really want to be successful, we have to truly be collaborating,” he said.

Heintzman explained her vote against the permit: “This is a precedent-setting thing and you look at all the small things, the large things that happened to the estuary over the years and it is that accumulative impact of all those things. And it is just one more thing, and one more thing and it is OK because we have already screwed up this part. We have to, at some point, start to say no, we can’t do that anymore.”

For now, FortisBC cannot drill five test boreholes in the estuary to determine if horizontal drilling can be done to install a natural gas pipeline to feed the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant set for Squamish in 2017.

Councillor Race said he was concerned about the legal ramifications of the council’s decision. “It remains to be seen, I think, if tonight’s decision will have any impact. Just leave it at that,” he said.

Councillor Elliott said she wasn’t opposed to the boreholes per se, or to pipelines, but wanted the community to be more supportive of the idea.

“I would support the boreholes if I knew the community supported the current route, but I think there are a large amount of people who are concerned about the current right-of-way they have chosen through the estuary,” she said.

In the lobby after the meeting, Squamish’s Kati Palethorpe said she was thrilled the permit was not granted. “It was like a thriller,” she said. “I feel our voices and our concerns were heard and council did a good job. Council asked good questions and they did their homework and they didn’t say no to everything, but they said we need more information and I think that is really fair.”

Trevor Boudreau, spokesman for FortisBC, said he was disappointed.

“We have all of the necessary approvals and regulatory permits needed to conduct the investigative work, and either met or exceeded the district’s established guidelines,” he said by email Tuesday night.

“The proposed route we submitted to the EAO is based on nearly two years of consultation with the public, aboriginal groups, key stakeholders and the community. We’ll discuss this decision internally over the coming days and decide on the next steps available to us.”