FortisBC is proposing changes to controversial aspects of the Eagle Mountain – Woodfibre Gas Pipeline Project.
Once complete, the 47-kilometre pipeline would provide natural gas to FortisBC's potential customer Woodfibre LNG.
The company is floating the option of moving the Squamish compressor station, previously
proposed for Mount Mulligan, to the northeast section of the Woodfibre LNG site.
"It is actually quite close to where our 10-inch gas line passes through that services the Sunshine Coast and our customers on Vancouver Island," said Trevor Wales corporate communications advisor for FortisBC.
"That is one of the benefits of this location."
There has been significant opposition from members of the community including the environmental organization My Sea to Sky to the location of the station at the base of Mount Mulligan in Valleycliffe. The proposed move addresses the community's concerns, which included the proximity to homes, schools and the hospital.
The proposed number of compressor units at the Squamish station, if located at Woodfibre, would also be reduced from three to two and the total horsepower of the units would also be reduced.
The newly proposed compressor station would still run on natural gas.
"These amendments are all proposed. While we are saying we would like to be able to move the Squamish compressor station to this location at the Woodfibre property, that is not a for sure thing until that approval takes place,” Wales said. “As it stands right now, we are going to continue to advance our planning for Mount Mulligan and the Woodfibre property until we have a clearer decision."
FortisBC also suggests a rerouting of an eight-kilometre section of the pipeline extension in the Stawamus Valley to minimize impacts and reflect input from Squamish Nation, according to Wales.
This section of the pipeline is between kilometre 32 and 24 of the pipeline, with kilometre 47 at Woodfibre and kilometre 1 in Coquitlam.
"What we are doing is moving the proposed pipeline from the west side to the east side.... We won't have to cross the river as a result and it also addresses some of the feedback we received from Squamish Nation. They asked us, if possible, to reduce some of the visual aspects and impacts to vegetation and wildlife," Wales said.
The Squamish Nation and the EAO will have to approve all of these proposed changes.
In October of 2015, Squamish Nation council voted to approve its own Environmental Assessment Agreement for the Woodfibre LNG project.
“FortisBC has been transparent about their intent to pursue these proposed changes, but have acknowledged they need to do further work to assess the environmental and social costs versus benefits,” said Khelsilem, councillor and spokesperson for the Nation. “Before making a decision on whether to amend the Squamish Nation Environmental Assessment Agreement, we will conduct our own due diligence about the proposed changes in the coming months, and evaluate whether the proposed changes are acceptable compared to what is presently approved.”
FortisBC will be applying to the provincial Environmental Assessment Office for amendments to its already granted Environmental Assessment Certificate.
The provincial EA Certificate was granted in 2016.
The amendments themselves won't be filed until later this year.
In the next couple of weeks, an amendment description document will be submitted to the EAO, Wales said.
Engagement will occur for a few months before the official amendment application.
"We are following the EAO's amendment process. Some of the timing of these things are subject to their discretion," Wales said.
The public comment period, for example, is set by the EAO.
Other changes to the plan, that are not proposed within Squamish, include increasing the size of the two electric compressors at the Coquitlam compressor station and building an additional three-kilometre section of pipeline adjacent to the existing pipeline, near the Eagle Mountain compressor station "to increase reliability of natural gas supply to Woodfibre LNG."
My Sea to Sky’s Tracey Saxby said while the group appreciates that FortisBC is “finally” responding to the community’s concerns regarding the proposed compressor station on Mount Mulligan, members still have many concerns about the proposed Woodfibre LNG project.
“This amendment still does not address the significant increase in local air pollution and greenhouse gases if the relocated compressor station is running on natural gas,” she said, questioning why the station slated for the Woodfibre site would not be electric.
“We are disappointed that our safety concerns about locating a 24-inch high pressure gas pipeline in close proximity to residents and businesses in Ravens Plateau, Finch Drive and Industrial Way are still being ignored,” she said.
“We encourage FortisBC to address these outstanding concerns before submitting their amendment to the BC Environmental Assessment Office.”
Saxby said the group still opposes the project, despite these changes.
“Building new fossil fuel infrastructure that will lock us into decades of greenhouse gas pollution is reckless and irresponsible when we are facing a climate emergency. Business as usual is no longer an option,” she said.
Public meetings will take place in Squamish regarding the proposed changes, Wales said.
Should all go according to plan, shovels could be in the ground on the pipeline in 2021.
Woodfibre LNG has yet to announce a Final Investment Decision. A decision is expected this year.
*Please note, this story has been updated since it was first posted to include a comment from My Sea to Sky and later the Squamish Nation spokesperson.