Mass opposition to Squamish LNG plant sparks calls for citizens' vote

An early favourite to gain provincial approval, Woodfibre LNG may face a Kitimat-style vote over the future of its controversial Squamish-area LNG plant.

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Premier Christy Clark and Sukanto Tanoto owner of Woodfibre LNG

Premier Christy Clark and Sukanto Tanoto - the Indonesian billionaire owner of Woodfibre LNG -- during the Premier's Asia LNG tour in May --  BC government photo

Woodfibre LNG responds

The company, which hopes to create 600 construction and 100 long-term jobs from its project, seemed to expect this popular resistance: 

“Woodfibre LNG respects that people will have differing opinions about this project.  In British Columbia, it’s become quite common for industrial projects to face this kind of scrutiny, and we welcome the opportunity to answer questions, hear concerns, and correct misinformation,” wrote Byng Giraud, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Woodfibre LNG Limited.

“The LNG industry is safe.  From 1964 - 2012, there were more than 140,000 LNG carrier sea journeys without one incident of loss of LNG containment,” he added.

The company is controlled by an Indonesian billionaire Sukanto Tonato.  A woman claiming to be the mogul’s niece – Wendy Tanoto – publishes a controversial blog on her uncle’s rise to power.

Kitimat-like vote in the works?

The council did not decide on a referendum at the meeting, but councillor Heintzman said the idea is brewing. 

Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline proposal faced such a citizen’s vote in Kitimat in April and lost.  Fifty-nine per cent of residents voted against the oil sands pipeline, despite a huge advertising push, and corporate canvassers going door-to-door. 

Councilor Heintzman said a Squamish vote on Woodfibre LNG would not be binding, because the district does not have a regulatory say on the project. 

Regardless, she said, a vote would “definitely send a message… to local politicians, local leaders to the community itself, as well as hopefully the province as to where a community envisions where the future is going to go.”

Kitimat vote signs - Mychaylo Prystupa

Yes/No signs from Kitimat's plebiscite vote in April, that ultimately rejected the Enbridge pipeline project.  The federal government later approved it anyway in June.  Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.
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