The lights have been turned off at the open houses, keyboards have been worn out with online commenting and, after this Sunday’s protest, the protest signs have been packed away, for now.
Plenty of Squamish residents have had a lot to say about the proposed Woodfibre liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant and FortisBC natural gas pipeline projects, but how engaged with the public have the companies been?
The Environmental Assessment Office public comment period for the proposed Woodfibre LNG project ended on March 23 and the FortisBC period ended March 27.
The EAO told The Squamish Chief it received 1,600 comments for Woodfibre LNG alone, plus approximately 500 for the FortisBC natural gas pipeline project.
Woodfibre also held consultations prior to the Environmental Assessment process, which began in January. The company doesn’t break down the numbers for Squamish in particular, but held a total of seven open houses attended by more than 870 people, according to a company spokesperson. There were 10 small group meetings involving about 200 people, plus more than 310 stakeholder meetings, and outreach such as telephone town halls, newsletters and a website were also implemented, according to the company.
Specific toSquamish, the company also conducted a phone canvas.
As part of the EA consultation period that began Jan. 22 and ran until last week, Woodfibre LNG was involved in three open houses attended by more than 440 people, the spokesperson said by email. Woodfibre representatives also participated in a community roundtable, which was attended by more than 50 people, and 11 stakeholder meetings were attended by 64.
“I’m proud to say that our community engagement has led to meaningful change in our project, such as our decision to power our LNG plant with electricity, which will make ours one of the cleanest LNG facilities in the world,” Byng Giraud, Woodfibre’s vice-president of corporate affairs, said in an email to The Squamish Chief.
“We also know how important it is that we help keep the conversation going.”
Woodfibre LNG and FortisBC opened a community office in downtown Squamish that is staffed with company representatives.
FortisBC conducted nearly two years of public consultation and First Nations engagement to discuss the project and gather feedback, according to FortisBC spokesperson Trevor Boudreau.
Since April 2013, FortisBC held a total of eight open houses and public information sessions in the Sea to Sky Corridor and in Coquitlam. The majority was in support of the EA review process, according to Boudreau.
FortisBC also participated in more than 50 small group meetings and gatherings with stakeholders and community members, Boudreau said by email.
According to Boudreau, feedback from the public did have an impact.
Because of concerns over noise and emissions, FortisBC changed from gas to electric drives to power the proposed new compressor in Squamish, he said.
The current location of the proposed Squamish compressor station was also changed based on feedback received in early consultation with residents. “We found a location in the central part of the industrial area to address concerns from residents,” Boudreau said.
The EAO is currently sifting through all the comments.
“Given the volume of comments received in writing during the public comment period, we have not yet had a chance to assess the overall themes,” Mike Shepard, project assessment manager at the Environmental Assessment Office, said in an email.
“During discussions with people who attended the open houses, the themes included impacts to local tourism and recreation, to property values, to marine ecosystems, to marine safety and to air and water quality.”
Woodfibre LNG is required to respond to comments received during the public comment periods, and the company’s responses will be posted on the EAO website.
All comments will be considered in the environmental assessment process, Shepard said.
The costs of the EAO public comment periods are the responsibility of the company, according to Shepard.
A decision on the Woodfibre LNG project should be made by late summer, according to Shepard.
“We are currently planning to refer the application with our assessment report to the ministers in mid-July. After that, they have 45 days to make a decision on whether to issue a certificate,” said Shepard.
The District of Squamish also held its own public consultation period and will be providing the EAO with its own statement on the projects.
A summary report to council on the public feedback to the district will be made on Monday, April 13.
The Woodfibre LNG and FortisBC community office downtown will remain open for people to stop by with questions. A new Woodfibre LNG public feedback website, Askwoodfibrelng.ca, was launched last week.