LNG spill could have ‘catastrophic effects,’ group says

My Sea to Sky appeals to federal government to conduct separate assessment of Woodfibre LNG proposal

A citizens’ group has appealed to the environment minister to do a federal environmental assessment of the Woodfibre LNG plant planned for Howe Sound.

The My Sea to Sky group delivered the letter from its lawyer to Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, asking the federal government to step in and do its own assessment, which is currently being conducted by the B.C. government’s Environmental Assessment Office.

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The group says “shipping LNG through our heavily populated area requires serious consideration of the hazards…. The Woodfibre location doesn’t meet the siting criteria set by the LNG industry itself,” according to spokesperson Eoin Finn.

Lawyer Bill Andrews, who represents My Sea to Sky, warns of the “potentially catastrophic effects of an LNG spill due to an accident or malfunction regarding LNG shipping.”

In an interview with The Squamish Chief, Andrews said, “At this point it becomes clear that the B.C. environmental assessment project is not going to assess the possibility of a spill.”

A federal assessment would allow for public participation on the working group, unlike the B.C. assessment, which allowed public comment for 60 days only, he said. “So the environmental assessment is really behind closed doors, which is contrary to the federal requirement,” said Andrews. The appeal is not about liquefied natural gas as an industry, he said. “This is about whether the particular site of Woodfibre… is a proper site. This needs to be seriously examined. This is not the type of location that would be permitted in the U.S. because it’s too confined and too close to the population.”

A federal assessment should include a hazard zone analysis, he said. Once the plant is in operation, LNG tankers will go “right by” the Sea to Sky Highway, Lions Bay and other populated areas, Andrews said.

“I am hopeful caution will prevail and that there will be a serious examination of whether this is a suitable site for an LNG terminal and shipping.”

Woodfibre vice-president of corporate affairs Byng Giraud said the site is well positioned for LNG shipping.

“Safety is a very high priority for this industry and this company,” Giraud said. “In terms of siting, this is a very good site.”

A narrow waterway is by definition about five times the width of a ship, or for two-way traffic, 500 metres, he explained. “Where we are sited is about five kilometres across… We comply absolutely with SIGTTO (Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators) standards,” said Giraud. “We are well within compliance. We are five kilometres from Britannia and seven kilometres from Squamish…. That is not considered a narrow waterway from any marine expert.”

Giraud also said the B.C. environmental assessment includes federal agencies.

“I am a little surprised by the misunderstanding,” Giraud said. “This is a federal process as well as a provincial process.” The office brings federal agencies – including Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Transport Canada – together with provincial regulators. Approval will need to be granted by both the provincial ministers and the federal environment minister in order for the plant to go ahead, Giraud said.

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