Skip to content

SLRD holds off on allowing minor amenities at Woodfibre LNG

FortisBC requested a temporary use permit for offices and washrooms for the site
A site map of the proposed amenities under a temporary use permit at the Woodfibre LNG site, southwest of Squamish.

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District has knocked back a temporary use permit (TUP) for offices and amenities on the site of the Woodfibre LNG project, and requested more information and collaboration.

The request on the table at the Feb. 28 board meeting was for a three-year TUP to allow FortisBC to install infrastructure at the Woodfibre LNG site, southwest of Squamish, that would support the construction of the gas pipeline project, such as field offices and worker amenities like lunchrooms and washrooms.

Staff reported that, as the land where the buildings would go is zoned for resources, a temporary use permit rezoning is required. The application specified the temporary buildings will use propane for heating, there will be generators on-site for electricity, sewage will go to septic tanks and be transported out, and potable water will be brought on-site by a barge. Clearing of the site will be required, with remediation to be carried out after the buildings are removed.

Despite the scope of the request being limited to the TUP, directors from Squamish zeroed-in on the claimed benefits of the project as a whole, and the fact the application was not referred to staff at the District of Squamish (DOS). The Woodfibre project straddles both jurisdictions, while the TUP was for a plot of land in the SLRD.

Director Chris Pettingill, who is also a DOS councillor, queried whether SLRD staff had done anything to verify FortisBC’s claims relating to the project—being that the Woodfibre LNG project would help de-carbonize international markets as an alternative to coal, and infrastructure built locally would reduce prices for Squamish FortisBC customers.

“The research I hear is that LNG is not better than coal, and it's quite likely offsetting solar and wind, and not just coal, and there’s evidence from Australia and so on that when you start exporting LNG it pushes up natural gas prices and so on," he said. "Have we done anything to validate their claims of benefits?”

Pettingill was told no, but staff could request more information.

Another DOS councillor, Director Jenna Stoner, questioned the public notice given, being that notices were only posted to the regional newspaper (Pique Newsmagazine) and not the Squamish newspaper (Squamish Chief) given proximity of the community to the site—she was given no reason. The SLRD would have met its public notice requirements by posting the TUP application to only one newspaper within the region.

Stoner also asked whether the TUP was referred to DOS staff, also given proximity, and was told that was not within notice requirements for the SLRD. Additionally, the 150-metre neighbour requirement for notice did not apply, as the Woodfibre LNG project is remote.

Area B Director, Vivian Birch-Jones, supported Stoner’s questions, pulling up the claims from FortisBC that the project would have net benefit to their 9,800 Squamish customers by improving affordability. Birch-Jones said a lack of engagement with DOS staff did not make sense given the claimed benefits for that community.

On that point, Pettingill noted the DOS is “working aggressively” to get gas out of buildings, so making it easier to and cheaper to have gas is “contrary to the direction we’ve been taking in general.”

Instead of supporting the staff recommendation to approve the TUP, Stoner made a motion to refer the file back to SLRD staff for further clarity on use, to refer the entire file to staff at the DOS to improve collaboration and understanding of the project as a whole, and to have public notice posted to the Squamish Chief.

In speaking to her motion, Stoner said she wants to understand the broader impacts of the project and its component parts, and not consider each item related to the project alone.

She was supported by the third DOS elected official on the SLRD board, mayor Armand Hurford, who said he wished to see better contextual mapping to understand the scope of the ask, while Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton concurred, adding he found “very general statements about the benefits very challenging as well.”

The motion was unanimously supported.

The project is expected to employ 850 people at peak construction, with site preparation currently underway, according to the January update from Woodfibre LNG. Facility construction is expected to begin this year.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks