Letter to Premier Clark: where's your due diligence on Woodfibre LNG?

Premier Christy Clark, Premier Clark, LNG, liquified natural gas
Photo of Premier Clark at LNG conference by Mychaylo Prystupa

Sukanto Tanoto is an amazing fellow. If you haven't heard about him, I won't say you must have just arrived from Mars, but you certainly don't live in the Howe Sound area. Tanoto owns the Woodfibre LNG project, which has the backing of the Clark government for an LNG plant in Squamish. 

I've called him some nasty names in other articles, which I justify by saying that they're true, and that I've never come across a person who's had so little good said about them. Indeed, prominent amongst his critics are his daughter and his niece, both of whom actively denigrate — if that's a strong enough word — his business practices.

To say that Indonesia's richest man has a checkered career is to give a whole new meaning to the term. 

In 2012, he was fined $200 million US after conviction for tax evasion. His companies are known to flout government regulations. He has set up a system of corporations in B.C. which are so designed that every dollar made can be skated to Singapore where there's no tax or royalty on LNG which under agreement with Canada, Singapore has the sole power to tax. No doubt he would deny such an intention.

Tanoto is infamous in Indonesia for rainforest destruction and illegally expanding his forestry and oil palm plantations into parks and community lands and is allegedly not averse to using violence to get his way. 

 In January this year Tanoto, far from denying his appalling environmental record, destroying jungles at a single swipe, promised that he had reformed. That was, we were told, the old Tanoto before the flash of light at Damascus.

Ah, but it seems that isn't quite what our hero meant but was more thinking of Saint Augustine when he famously prayed, "Lord give me chastity and continence, but not yet." It seems according to published documents that he intends to continue chopping everything down until 2019. Then, presumably, he will turn over that new leaf.

The environmental concerns for BC are very real indeed. WFLNG intends to sail at least 40 LNG tankers per year down Howe Sound – all things being normal that number will no doubt be much higher – and Howe Sound is simply too narrow. 

Says who?        

Dr. Michael Hightower is a distinguished member of the technical Staff in the Energy Security Center at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a civil and environmental engineer with 30 years experience in research and development projects. He has designed, for the U.S. Department of Energy, a "road map" indicating safe distances for LNG tankers to keep from other vessels and land. Howe Sound simply doesn't pass the test. Not even close. 

Dr. Jerry Havens, distinguished scientist at University of Arkansas and former US Coast Guard LNG Vapour Hazard Researcher, and the expert most seem to accept, has tighter standards than Dr. Hightower. Howe Sound flunks out badly.

The piece de resistance comes from The Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO), the association of virtually all the big players in the global LNG industry with some 50 years of experience.  They have developed a set of guidelines for the safe siting of LNG terminals. SIGTTO’s LNG Terminal Siting Standards are the internationally accepted industry standards. WFLNG is not a member of SIGTTO, no doubt because it can't come close to meeting its standards.

These standards, overlaid on a chart of Howe Sound, which are widely available, demonstrate emphatically that LNG tankers in Howe Sound are unsafe. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Now then, we come to the meat of the matter. Premier Clark is falling all over herself telling British Columbians what a wonderful deal Woodfibre LNG is for our province yet this corporation is tightly controlled by a man who cheats on his taxes, destroys the environment, and to put it charitably, is very economical with the truth. 

One has to ask a few questions of premier Christy Clark: 

Premier, don't you and your government care about these things? 

Don't we want honest taxpayers coming to BC? 

Don't we want people who respect the environment?

Are you afraid of "losing face" unless you place Howe Sound in extreme hazard to Sukanto Tanoto's LNG industry?

Premier, you lead, we're constantly reminded, a business-oriented government.  

Where the hell's your due diligence?       

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