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FortisBC gives timeline for Eagle Mountain to Woodfibre pipeline

Construction in Squamish's Loggers Lane East anticipated to start around 2023
FortisBC works to upgrade its natural gas pipeline in Coquitlam in 2017. If Woodfibre LNG goes ahead, the associated pipeline work would begin in Squamish in 2023, ForitsBC says.

FortisBC representatives say that if everything goes to plan, construction of its Eagle Mountain to Woodfibre pipeline will begin in the Loggers Lane East neighbourhood in 2023.

The pipe will go along Finch Drive and make its way to the BC Rail property by the business park. From there, it will tunnel for about nine kilometres through the estuary until it hits Woodfibre.

Representatives said the company has yet to figure out where they will dispose of the material crews dig out to form the tunnel.

FortisBC hopes to have a company chosen for the job by 2021 and will start construction in mid-2022, where it's anticipated to begin around Coquitlam and make its way to the Squamish Woodfibre project.

That being said, representatives say that this pipeline depends on whether the Woodfibre project goes ahead. That project has experienced much forward momentum, but it still has not made its official final investment decision.

These were some of the points presented in the company's online public information session, which was held on Aug. 13.

This was one of two such online sessions.

Fortis representatives reiterated their previous announcement that they will be applying to have changes made to the project's environmental certificate due to new aspects of the design.

For one, the Squamish compressor station is being moved from its originally proposed location on Mount Mulligan near Valleycliffe to a new proposed area by the Woodfibre site.

"The preferred location has been changed based on public feedback received since 2016," said Gord Schoberg, the company's senior manager of community relations.

Secondly, the project is rerouting eight kilometres of pipeline in the Stawamus Valley.

Schoberg said this will minimize impacts that have been identified by the Squamish Nation.

Fortis will apply for the amendments in September, and the Environmental Assessment Office will schedule a public comment period on the matter, he said.

He also added that when construction is underway in town, Fortis will "guarantee" vehicle and pedestrian access to residents and businesses who are along the pipeline route.

"Traffic management, will, of course, be a huge issue that will have to be carefully planned for," Shoberg said.

The pipeline will cross Highway 99 with a trenchless underground method that will ensure traffic won't be affected on that road, he said.

A shutoff valve for the pipe will be located on the east side of Squamish at the base of Mount Mulligan, representatives said.

There were a number of questions that were posed by the online audience during the presentation, some of which were answered but for others, the reply was "stay tuned."

For example, Schoberg acknowledged that having potentially hundreds of workers coming to town in the time of COVID-19 could cause concern about the spread of the disease.

He said Fortis was monitoring the situation and would work out safety plans with contractors but offered no other details.

Schoberg noted the company had scouted out potential work camp sites, but no other details on that were available either.

An ever-popular question — which has been asked many times, including by Squamish's mayor — about the collective impact of Woodfibre, Fortis and BC Hydro was also deferred.

Schoberg said those details will emerge later as the company acquires contractors and finalizes its terms.

There were also environmental concerns raised by those watching online.

Some wondered how building a fossil fuel pipeline through town would allow the company to reach its goal of reducing customer greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030.

Company representatives said that providing liquefied natural gas locally and globally would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

There was also a query about why the Squamish compressor station can't be electric-powered, thus lowering its carbon footprint.

The station's proposed location has been moved to the Woodfibre site and a question was raised as to why it couldn't use that method of power if the Woodfibre facility was to run on electricity.

As of now, the proposal for the compressor at Woodfibre is for gas-powered compressor units.

Representatives from Fortis replied that while the station will be close to the Woodfibre LNG facility, the challenging terrain, among other things, makes it impossible for the compressor to be close enough to tap into the electrical grid.

"It's something that we actually looked at quite seriously, because it certainly aligns with our 30-by-30 strategy," said Darrin Marshall, a senior project manager with Fortis.

"We have to maintain a certain distance from the Woodfibre facility. So, ultimately as a result of this exercise, we determined there was only one suitable site on the Woodfibre property.... Now that site is heavily constrained. It's got challenging topography and it's got a number of features to consider."

The company also reiterated its promise that its pipeline will be carrying nothing other than natural gas. It also promised that it would not be expanded further after being built.

"We have agreed and signed on those terms," said Art Kanzaki, Fortis' director of gasline projects.

"I know there's a question about whether the pipeline could be converted to an oil pipeline or any other commodity. First of all, it's not designed to carry any other commodity. It is only designed to handle and transport natural gas, and up to a certain limit in accordance with what Woodfibre needs as our customer."

If there's an increase in demand in the future, the company would have to go through a "rigorous review process" with regulators before making any changes to the pipeline, he said.

A local environmentalist group gave the session a mixed review.

While My Sea to Sky commended Fortis' effort to move the compressor station, it challenged the company on its decision to not electrify its Squamish compressor station.

"While we support the relocation of the compressor station from Mount Mulligan to the Woodfibre site, we have several outstanding concerns that the high-pressure, 24-inch pipeline recklessly puts the health and safety of Squamish residents at risk," said Tracey Saxby of My Sea to Sky in a written statement to The Chief.

 "FortisBC's rationale for not using electricity to power the compressor station deserves greater scrutiny. Opting for natural gas to power the compressor station will significantly increase local greenhouse gas pollution and worsen air pollution which has human health impacts. There needs to be greater collaboration between FortisBC, BC Hydro, and Woodfibre LNG to ensure access to electricity to power the compressor station."

The group also had sharp words for the company's process of informing the public.

"FortisBC staff frequently deflected questions, provided non-answers, or completely failed to answer several questions related to climate change and public safety," Saxby continued.

"The format of these virtual information sessions is also concerning as FortisBC chose not to allow participants to see who else was in attendance, or what questions the other attendees asked. We recognize that online public engagement like this is very new, but there needs to be an effort to increase transparency and accountability as we adapt to public engagement in a post-COVID world."



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