BC approves Woodfibre LNG enviro approval over huge local opposition

Howe Sound and Squamish looking out to the Pacific. Photo by Rich Duncan, and provided by My Sea to Sky.

The B.C. government has granted the controversial Woodfibre LNG plant in Squamish an environmental permit, despite a loud chorus of opposition from Squamish citizens, and local municipal governments around Howe Sound.

Environment Minister Mary Polak and Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman issued the environmental assessment certificate to Woodfibre LNG Ltd. on Monday afternoon, before the Squamish mayor had seen any of the details.

"It’s been a controversial project in the community.  There’s a lot of vocal opposition to it, and to a lesser degree, vocal support,” said Squamish mayor Patricia Heintzman late Monday.

“I think it will be a divisive issue in the community.  It does worry me as the mayor.”

The province says the decision was made after considering a review led by British Columbia's Environmental Assessment Office. The ministers have issued the certificate with legally enforceable conditions that "have given them the confidence to conclude that the project will be constructed, operated and decommissioned in a way that ensures that no significant adverse effects are likely to occur," said a statement.  

“Receiving environmental approval in British Columbia is not only an important milestone for the Woodfibre LNG project, but it means the people of Squamish and the region are one step closer to realizing the opportunities that an industrial project like Woodfibre LNG can bring,” said Byng Giraud, vice president of Woodfibre LNG Limited, in a statement.

West Vancouver's council also voted against the project and the increase in tankers that would result.

Mayor Heintzman said she was not surprised by the approval —the B.C. Liberal government has been keen to use the small-scale LNG project as a demonstration project for larger LNG proposals on the B.C. coast, that have been thrown into question by plummeting gas prices.

No Woodfibre LNG protesters Squamish City Hall in 2014 - Mychaylo Prystupa

More than 100 local residents crashed a Squamish council meeting last year to oppose the Woodfibre LNG project. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

The export project still requires the Trudeau government to give its final environmental assessment, even though the provincial-federal reviews were streamlined.  The Squamish Nation provided its conditional environmental approval on Oct. 14.  The plant will be located on its traditional indigenous territory.

The B.C. environmental permit is a major step forward for the project, that would pump fracked natural gas, through a proposed FortisBC pipeline, for liquefaction and export to Asia. 

Squamish District council meetings have been loud and packed over the LNG project from the start.  The council itself voted four-to-three against the project, and the mayor herself was elected with a strong view against the facility.  

Mayor Heinztman said there will be an up side of more tax revenues, but concerns remain about the location of compressor stations, and the impacts of the project on the eco-tourism economy, and the now-recovering marine environment seeing a return of whales.

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