Storm of opposition against Howe Sound LNG plan gathers in West Van
“It's an exciting day for British Columbia, another milestone in the hunt to make sure we are first in getting to the natural gas market.”
The moment Premier Christy Clark’s recorded speech reached the 250 people gathered at the Gleneagles Golf Course Club House in West Vancouver, a blaring boo ripped through the room, drowning out the premier's voice.
In the recording from 2013, Premier Clark announced her plans to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Squamish, British Columbia to China. Most of the crowd gathered on Wednesday was there to oppose those very plans.
The three-hour discussion was hosted by the Future of Howe Sound Society. David Suzuki Foundation's Howe Sound campaign lead Stephen Foster, retired KPMG partner Eoin Finn, representatives of the Squamish Nation and ethnographer Wade Davis expressed concerns over the Howe Sound LNG project.
If approved, Woodfibre LNG would build an export terminal approximately seven kilometres southwest of Squamish.
Among the concerns discussed during the event was the disruption of the ecologically sensitive Howe Sound, which is home to dolphins, eagles, salmon and bears.
Around 40 LNG tankers will transit alongside the Sea-to-Sky highway every year, if the proposed LNG plant, slated to produce between 1.5 and 2.1 million tonnes of LNG annually, becomes operational. The terminal would also produce some 142,000 tonnes of climate-warming greenhouse gases per year, according to Dr. Finn.
“It is a desperately, dangerous and very foolish decision by our premier, who is putting a lot of British Columbians in jeopardy,” said Roger Sweeney, one of the attendees.
Representatives from the Squamish Nation opened the conference. Photo: Carlos Tello
Explosions and earthquakes
In addition to the concerns about the disruption of the Howe sound by the LNG tankers that would transport natural gas, environmentalists, experts and grassroots organizations are worried about the location of the proposed LNG plant and the consequences of an accident.
My Sea to Sky, a grassroots organization that opposes the LNG project, claims that the plant would be located over two fault lines. The group believes public safety could be at risk if Woodfibre LNG builds a natural gas processing plant in a moderate-to-high earthquake risk zone.
My Sea to Sky also argues that the LNG tankers would create high-risk danger zones in Bowen Island, Bowyer Island, Anvil Island, Passage Island, Porteau Cove, West Vancouver, and parts of the Sea to Sky highway. In the event of an accident, people within the risk zone would risk death by asphyxiation, fire or explosion, the group's representatives said.
Tell us your thoughts about LNG project: Liberal MLA
West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy was present at the event. Woodfibre LNG sponsored a fundraiser for Sturdy two months ago.
He didn’t address the crowd, but in an interview after the conference, he said that he’s been following and attending many similar events to the one organized by the Future of Howe Sound Society in an effort to learn what the Howe Sound residents have to say about the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant.
“We encourage correspondence with our office to ensure that we understand what people are having to say and what people are thinking,” he said. “We’ll also certainly follow the outcome and the recommendations coming out of the environmental assessment process in months to come.”
When asked about his personal views on the LNG plant, Sturdy did not clarify if he was for or against the project. He said the province is working on a cumulative effects assessment framework to "monitor value components of the sound."
“The assessment framework tool will help guide our decision making because ultimately anything that takes place in the sound needs to contribute to the social aspect of life, the financial and fiscal aspects of our economy and the environmental underpinnings that we all rely on,” he said.
Two-and-a-half hours into the discussion, audience members started passing around the mic. At the time—around 9:00 pm—about half the audience had left to catch ferries home. Among those who stayed, the question recurred: what can we do to stop the project?
Stephen Foster (left) and Dr. Eoin Finn (right). Photo: Carlos Tello
The public commentary period for the proposed plan closed last week, so the members of the panel encouraged Howe Sound residents to talk to their friends and neighbours and to continue applying public pressure. They also encouraged residents to call and write to their respective elected officials.
One attendee suggested civil disobedience in case the building of the plan is allowed, which was met by applause and cheers.
“I'm sure that this will be put down and that the plant will not go forward,” said Herb Johnson, who has lived in Lions Bay for 38 years, said after the conference. “It's such a ridiculous idea.”