Now it is council’s turn to send in its response to the Woodfibre LNG and FortisBC proposals.
Squamish council received a report on the recent district public engagement process regarding the proposed Woodfibre LNG export facility and the associated FortisBC natural gas pipeline expansion at a committee of the whole meeting held Monday night at the Squamish Seniors Centre.
The report didn’t say whether the majority of the public response was for or against the projects, but instead categorized and organized the publics’ concerns and comments to help inform council’s ultimate response that will be submitted to the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) by the end of April, said the consultant, Vince Verlaan.
Verlaan represents Modus Planning, Design and Engagement, the consulting company commissioned to compile the report.
The district received more than 2,700 public comments from more than 500 citizens during the March 9 to 23 engagement period. About 85 per cent of respondents said they were Squamish residents, and the remaining 15 per cent were either from out of town or chose to remain anonymous, Verlaan said.
As part of the outreach, there were 15 informal briefings, an online discussion forum, paper and online questionnaires, and a roundtable meeting attended by 90 people, according to Verlaan.
The top concerns expressed about the projects, according to Verlaan, included impacts to the marine environment from sea water and from the discharge of warmer chlorinated sea water from the LNG site, the relationship of the two projects to fracking, and impacts to the estuary from the pipeline construction and operation. Other concerns included pollution from the LNG operations, impacts to air quality and other health-related concerns.
Some benefits to the projects were also noted. Comments on benefits included potential for jobs and tax revenue, according to the report. Other benefits were positive environmental impacts and regional and global implications. Some saw positive education, training and housing opportunities as benefits that could come out of the projects.
If the projects do go ahead, public commenters suggested ways to modify the proposals including changing the cooling system of the LNG facility and changing the location of both the compressor station and the pipeline, among other suggestions.
If the projects do not go ahead, participants suggested the limiting of heavy industry in the district and focus on attracting a different kind of business such as alternative energy.
Mayor Patricia Heintzman told the audience of about 45 people Monday night that the report is just one tool that council will use in forming its formal response to the EAO.
“This is just one piece of the input that we can tap into to create a formal response,” she said, noting that a community committee also provided input.
Reflecting on the public engagement process, Councillor Doug Race said the public’s lack of trust in government institutions was palpable throughout the process and something that might have impacted Squamish residents’ perspective on the projects.
“We have all heard of cuts to the federal government and we have all heard of cuts to the provincial government and the result is there is a lot of people with a significant feeling in the community… that people just don’t have the confidence that these governments will properly regulate anything, let alone this particular project and it impacts what might otherwise be a good proposal,” Race said. Heintzman said she was pleased with the report.
“I thought it was a good synthesis of getting sort of the basic concerns, the basic fundamentals outlined fairly clearly from a community perspective, and now it is council’s job with obviously the help of staff to coalesce it into a document that we can communicate to the Environmental Assessment Office,” she said.
“It is a complex thing, we have our work cut out for us.”
FortisBC’s Trevor Boudreau said after the meeting the district had done a good job trying to hear all the concerns.
“I really do think they have a big job ahead of them but they have more information to help them put forward an informed response to the EAO,” he said.
Woodfibre LNG spokesperson Jennifer Siddon said she appreciated the effort of the community. “From the beginning, we have been speaking with community members about our proposed project, and acting on their priorities, and the information gathered by the district engagement program will help us build a project that is right for Squamish,” she said in an emailed statement.
The Squamish Nation is also doing its own independent assessment of the project. A decision by chief and council is expected in late spring.
A report from the EAO on the Environmental Assessment Certificates for the projects is expected by the end of July, according to district staff. Federal and provincial ministers will then have 45 days will decide one of three things: to require further assessment, to reject the proposals, or to approve the project with a set of conditions.