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Woodfibre LNG granted extension on deadline to start

Squamish activist criticizes the lack of climate change conditions attached to certificate
Woodfibre rendering of projected site at build out.
Woodfibre LNG rendering of projected site at build out.

The controversial Woodfibre LNG project has more time to put shovels in the ground, as it had its environmental assessment certificate extended for an additional five years on Oct. 25.

Woodfibre's certificate was set to expire by Oct. 26 this year, but has been renewed by the provincial Environmental Assessment Office, or EAO.

This means the new expiration date will be Oct. 26, 2025.

By this date, the Woodfibre project must have "significantly started," according to the terms of the renewal.

This deadline cannot be renewed again.

Elenore Arend, the chief executive assessment officer of the EAO, said when making the decision, she considered Woodfibre's application, an EAO extension report and a submission from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.

An excerpt from the EAO report reads:

"There are no changes proposed to the [environmental assessment certificate] and the conclusions predicted in the original [environmental assessment] of the project are still valid, notwithstanding pending management plans that are still to be finalized, and may require baseline data set updates; The extension application is unlikely to cause incremental or additional negative effects to the Indigenous nations or their rights."

Woodfibre applauded the decision.

"Woodfibre LNG would like to thank everyone who contributed thoughtful comments and questions — these submissions will help make our project better," wrote company spokesperson Rebecca Scott in an email to The Chief.

"We're appreciative that the B.C. government is committed to a fact and science-based review process. We remain focused on the completion of pre-construction requirements so that we can get shovels in the ground next year."

On the other hand, a prominent local environmental organization expressed outrage.

"We are furious," said Tracey Saxby of My Sea to Sky.

"This is incredibly irresponsible of the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office to approve this project without any conditions related to climate change."

She noted that local governments have demanded that Woodfibre abides by carbon reduction goals outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC.

For example, this past May, the District of Squamish's council voted in favour of asking the province to impose conditions on the company that would force it to cut emissions by 45% by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

"It's irresponsible, it's illogical, and, quite frankly, I'm flabbergasted," Saxby said, when noting there were no climate change conditions on the renewed certificate.

She said My Sea to Sky, along with environmental law group Ecojustice, will be seeking to challenge the decision in court.

"We're going to try to get to the bottom of this decision and how it was made," she said.  "We're also going to be looking into whether or not this decision was able to be made, given that the government right now is in caretaker mode."

Under caretaker mode, the government is supposed to restrict itself to matters that are routine, non-controversial or urgent, and in the public interest, according to federal guidelines.

However, the guidelines state that "exercising 'restraint' does not mean that government is prohibited from making decisions or announcements, or otherwise taking action, during the caretaker period."

Saxby said that as of Sunday they have 30 days to file a challenge.

"We are not going to stop until we stop this project for good," she said.

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