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Squamish council walks back some earlier criticism of Woodfibre LNG's water lease application process

District staff had five to six weeks to respond — not days — as was earlier said at council.
Woodfibre LNG
Rendering of Woodfibre LNG at build out.
At the Sept. 7 Squamish council meeting, some councillors walked back aspects of earlier criticism of Woodfibre LNG related to its provincial water lease application.

At the July 20 council meeting, councillors passed a motion put forward by Coun. Chris Pettingill that: "Council submit a letter to the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development opposing Woodfibre LNG’s Crown Water Lease application request, outlining concerns with respect to engagement, inconsistent information and missing information

Woodfibre LNG is seeking the water lease to, among other things, "support the investigation, construction and operations of the LNG export facility including floats, docks, barge ramp, floatel, and a passenger ferry terminal," according to the lease application.

At the July meeting, some on council bemoaned the process and not getting enough time to comment, citing days given before the deadline.

Coun. Jenna Stoner said at the time that her main issue was the lack of engagement on the provincial level.

"This should have been referred to us as an impacted party, but we only received it through Ms. [Tracy] Saxby, by email three days prior to the deadline for comment," Stoner said at the time.

CAO Linda Glenday at the time said that municipal bureaucrats had received a notification of the application, but "not much before" the letter from Tracey Saxby, the head of the environmentalist group My Sea to Sky.

But it turned out that District staff had received the application on June 7, according to a letter to the provincial government by the District's Gary Buxton.

The letter was in the Sept. 7 council package.

"With respect to the FLNRO notification and engagement process, while council was concerned that the timeline for a response was too short, I will acknowledge that the referral application was actually received by District staff on June 7, 2021, leaving us five to six weeks to respond. Unfortunately, we were in the midst of a process change in the Community Planning Department at that time, and the referral was not moved on to the relevant staff to review and consider. I was not present at the July 20 council meeting to provide this information to council. We have subsequently reviewed the new processes to ensure this lapse is not repeated," Buxton said in his letter.

"There was some information we were missing when we discussed this and passed this motion," said Coun. Eric Andersen on Sept. 7.

"We were confused as council and staff present on the day of July 20 as to the notice that we received," Andersen said. "I think that really it is important for us to highlight this for the public this evening and offer that explanation and correction if you like. We were simply unaware of the correspondence and the timing that we received it, or that staff received it," he said. "We should acknowledge that we were not as informed as we should have been on July 20."

Coun. Chris Pettingill said that the timing was not part of the resolution, but rather the focus was the missing or inconsistent information.

Though the application names Woodfibre and opposes the company’s application, Coun. Doug Race said that his understanding of the July 20 conversation was that complaints were directed at the provincial government, not "the merits of the application."  

Coun. Pettingill said that some of council did support the motion because of missing or incomplete information by the company.

During the council meeting in July, as Buxton outlines in his letter, council members said that supporting information was inconsistent, including that employment and taxation numbers were different from those presented in documents from the EAO; that herring habitat information was different from information made publicly available since the EAO decision; that there was incomplete review and reference to local land use planning documents, visual impacts were not considered, that benefits of the project were cited in absence of any costs or impacts, as well as that the provincial government engagement and notification process was inadequate.