The final response of the District of Squamish to the Environmental Assessment Office on proposed Squamish liquefied natural gas projects is basically: No, unless all district conditions are met.
At a special meeting Tuesday, council deliberated on tweaks to the letter and its accompanying draft 17-page detailed response that outlines concerns about the proposed Woodfibre LNG export facility and related FortisBC Eagle Mountain – Woodfibre Gas Pipeline Project.
Council voted four to three to include an amendment, proposed by Mayor Patricia Heintzman, that strongly states the district’s current lack of support for the projects. The amendment reads:
“Due to the significant outstanding information and the community concerns that have not been adequately addressed, and there are no guarantees at this moment that they will be addressed adequately, the current application is not supportable.”
The amendment was proposed after Auli Parviainen, speaking on behalf of the anti-LNG group My Sea to Sky, proposed a resolution that clearly stated the district was against the current LNG proposals.
While council didn’t entertain Parviainen’s resolution, Heintzman and councillors Karen Elliot, Peter Kent and Ted Prior voted for the amendment drafted by Heintzman on the spot.
In support of the amendment, Elliott said that it was council’s responsibility to use the strongest language possible to express the community’s sentiment.
“If we don’t fight for what is best for this community, who will?” asked Elliott. “We are the seven people that have to make a decision on what is best for the next 30, 40 years out of these projects, and I want to be taken seriously.”
Councillors Doug Race, Susan Chapelle and Jason Blackman-Wulff voted against adding the amendment. Race said he was concerned about the ramifications of the addition.
“I think it is a mistake to take an expressed concern and suggest that necessarily translates into lack of support in the community. I don’t think we can make that jump,” said Race. “To take the step, on behalf of this municipality of saying we don’t support this at this time is a very large step, it is not something to be taken triflingly, and it could have all kinds of consequences. I am not happy going there at all.”
Byng Giraud, Woodfibre LNG vice-president of corporate affairs, told The Squamish Chief Wednesday he was looking forward to reading the district’s response and welcomed the requests made.
“Personally, I like hearing those sorts of things because it opens up opportunities for dialogue,” he said. “I think it is important that people who have concerns have them addressed and they bring them to us, and so saying that, it forces us to respond and I think it is important that we respond.”
Giraud said that about half of the concerns raised in the response are for the companies to address, and the other half are directed at government or regulators.
The official response outlines about 18 conditions from the district.
Conditions include that the EAO require Woodfibre LNG to provide more information on other cooling systems that were considered and reasons why they were not in the current plans, and that the company minimize noise that may have an impact on marine life. Another request is that the EAO encourage the provincial and federal governments to conduct more research into the impacts of hydraulic fracturing and enact higher standards for natural gas extraction in B.C.
The district also wants to lead a socio-economic impact study on the projects.
As with the first draft, this version also includes requests that the EAO improve the EA application process to facilitate more meaningful engagement from citizens.
The final revisions will be worked into the report and the document will be sent to the EAO on April 30 and posted on the district’s website thereafter, according to district staff.
Once the EAO has all the input from stakeholders, including the District of Squamish, then an assessment report is made up and the EAO provides government ministers in charge of deciding on the projects with recommendations on whether to issue an Environmental Assessment Certificate to the companies or not.
The district will have an opportunity before July 13 to give one more final letter to the EA just prior to the assessment report being handed over to the ministers, according to district staff.
Ministers can decide one of three things: to issue an environmental assessment certificate with conditions, to refuse to issue the certificate, or to require further study or assessment.
A final decision is expected in late summer.