Squamish Nation leadership was conspicuously absent from the big announcement Friday morning of Woodfibre LNG officially moving ahead.
Chief Ian Campbell did not attend the event held at the Woodfibre LNG site that was hosted by Woodfibre LNG brass, Premier Christy Clark and Minister of Natural Gas Development Rich Coleman.
“Put simply, our Woodfibre LNG work simply isn't finished, it's too early to celebrate,” said Campbell in a statement emailed shortly after the announcement. “Under the Squamish Process – our legally binding, independent Environmental Assessment – we set out 25 conditions that must be met before we sign anything. We are still working on them.”
With a backdrop of current Woodfibre LNG employees on the 100-year-old site of the former Woodfibre pulp mill, Byng Giraud, Woodfibre LNG's vice-president of corporate affairs, announced the $1.6-billion Woodfibre LNG export facility was “a go.”
The timing of the announcement was based on the provincial government’s own announcement earlier that LNG facilities in the province that use electric drives in their cooling process will get a special tax rate.
“In response to the province’s decision today to offer a competitive electricity drive rate for LNG proponents that chose e-drive, I’m proud to announce that the board of directors of Woodfibre’s LNG parent company, Pacific Oil and Gas… has authorized the funds necessary for the Woodfibre LNG project to proceed,” he said.
The Squamish Nation set out its 25 conditions this summer that their support for the project hinged on and those have not all been yet met, Campbell said. Campbell told The Squamish Chief it was his understanding it would be made clear at the event that the Nation and the province in particular still have outstanding issues.
For her part, Clark acknowledged the Nation, but made no reference to outstanding issues.
“I would like to recognize the work of the Squamish First Nation, thank them for welcoming us into their traditional territory. Some of the members of the Squamish First Nation are behind me today working on this site. We hope that many more will find their way to this site in the coming years,” Clark said.
Campbell said issues still to be finalized include FortisBC’s feasibility work to determine a pipeline route under the Squamish Estuary, avoiding the Skwelwil'em Wildlife Management Area, “as well as ongoing management planning and emergency response planning; a number of issues including finalizing an impact benefit agreement that will be with Fortis, Woodfibre as well as a Nation to Nation agreement with the province, which we still don’t have a final agreement with the province on.”
Campbell said the Nation leadership would have preferred the government wait to make their announcement.
Mayor Patricia Heintzman, who was on hand for the announcement, but said she found out about it through the media, said it seemed to be “a little disrespectful” that the Nation’s process had been preempted.
“That is obviously concerning,” she said. “Squamish Nation has set conditions and there is every expectation that they will be met and until such time – people have jumped the gun a bit.”