They’ve got the power.
Under the terms of the recently granted Squamish Nation environmental certificate agreement, if Woodfibre LNG does not comply with the Nation’s conditions, they can shut the liquefied natural gas project down, according to a Squamish Nation spokesman.
“The proponent must abide by all of our conditions – and that is legally binding – and if they fail to do so, it gives us teeth to basically challenge the project: seek injunctions, revoke our environmental certificate and/or demand… that they must abide by and implement all of our conditions,” hereditary chief Ian Campbell told The Squamish Chief.
Squamish Nation chiefs and council voted Wednesday (Oct.14) in favour of granting Woodfibre LNG an environmental certificate. Eight councillors voted yes, two were opposed and two abstained, including Campbell because he is a signatory to documents.
The agreement binds Woodfibre LNG to satisfying the 13 of the 25 conditions the First Nation set out this summer. The other conditions concern FortisBC and the provincial government.
The agreement will be posted on the Squamish Nation website, according to the Nation.
The agreement gives the Nation particular power over the controversial cooling method employed by the company. The Nation will choose the cooling method.
The way the agreement is set up, Squamish and Woodfibre LNG will form a working group with equal representation from each. The working group will study the cooling methods that are available: seawater cooling, which has been controversial because of its possible impact on the marine environment; air cooling; and a third method that is a combination of the two.
Independent scientists will draft a report and the best option will be picked based on which choice has the least environmental impact, Campbell said.
“We have maintained all the way through the process that our number one concern is environment,” Campbell said.
“So we don’t believe face-value what the proponent is saying around seawater cooling. We want that proven that that it is not going to have an adverse impact on herring, on whales, acoustics, on the shipping side…. Squamish Nation will determine what method is best appropriate for our values and the values others share with us around environmental security.”
The working group on the cooling method should be set up shortly, according to the Nation.
Campbell stressed granting the environmental certificate is not blanket approval for liquefied natural gas or the Woodfibre LNG project.
“It is one step in a multistep process that really is centred around environment still,” he said.
Squamish Nation member Beverly Brown said she was present for the chiefs and council vote, along with four other band members.
“I feel like the process is completely flawed,” she said. “I would feel better off if they would just say, ‘These are off-reserve lands we will never get them back, so what we are going to do is negotiate the best deal possible, for you, for our benefit.’ That would be transparent, that would be responsible, that would be accountable. In doing so they would still need to provide membership with proper information and a vote.”
Campbell said a vote by the 4,000 members is not required because the project is off reserve, on private land that was confiscated from the Squamish Nation in about 1906.
“It is a different legal landscape in the sense of aboriginal rights and title and current case law, so the decision then falls to chiefs and council to make an informed decision,” he said, adding that if the project were on reserve land the Indian Act would require a vote by the membership.
“Our technical analysis was cutting edge, where no other First Nations, to our knowledge, has been able to move beyond the [provincial] environmental assessment to do our own independent assessment and have that legally binding with not only the proponents, but the provincial government.”
Brown said she resents the insinuation that this agreement is precedent-setting.
“It is not historical to sell out your people,” she said.
The Squamish Nation is still working out an environmental agreement with FortisBC and economic agreements with FortisBC, Woodfibre and the province, according to the Nation. A decision by the provincial government is expected soon.