British Columbia

LNG plant near Squamish clears first hurdle in environmental assesment

The Woodfibre LNG planted proposed for Squamish has cleared its first regulatory hurdle after being granted an environmental assessment certificate by the B.C. government.

Squamish mayor disputes projected benefits of Woodfibre LNG plant proposed for her community

A preliminary project configuration shows the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant, which would be in a boat-access-only area seven kilometres from downtown Squamish, B.C. (Woodfibre LNG)

The Woodfibre LNG planted proposed for Squamish has cleared its first regulatory hurdle after being granted an environmental assessment certificate by the B.C. government.

The certificate includes 25 conditions meant to mitigate the negative impacts construction and operation of the plant will have on things like marine life and water quality. 

Squamish mayor Patricia Heintzman opposes the Woodfibre project and says she has questions about the certificate, including the conclusion the plant will generate $21-million per year in municipal taxes.

"Our analysis isn't anywhere close to that so I'm not sure how they're doing that math," Heintzman told CBC. 

"There is significant potential for tax revenue, but our estimates are in the $5-million to $7-million range so I'm curious how the government based their decision on $21-million," she said.

However, a spokesperson for Woodfibre LNG says the mayor may be comparing apples and oranges and that the estimated annual economic impact of $21 million is for the entire province, not just the district of Squamish.

The certificate trumpets other provincial and community benefits including:

  • 100 full-time-equivalent positions during operations
  • construction expenditures of approximately $342-million that would be spent in B.C.
  • $80-million per year in provincial taxes
  • $98-million per year in federal taxes

 Heintzman noted that there is strong opposition to Woodfibre LNG throughout Howe Sound communities. 

Protesters say Howe Sound is a natural jewel and the wrong place for an LNG plant. (CBC)

"Everyone from West Vancouver to Bowen Island to Lions Bay and Gibsons," said Heintzman. "People see the marine environment in Howe Sound returning. They're concerned about super tankers in a narrow fjord."

Whales, dolphins, salmon, herring and shell fish have slowly been repopulating Howe Sound since the closure of the Woodfibre pulp mill in 2006, and the upgrading of waste water treatment plants at the Port Mellon pulp mill and Britannia Beach mine site.

The certificate's reasons for decision notes that the seawater cooling system proposed by Woodfibre LNG "has the potential to harm marine fish, particularly Pacific herring," but that "based on the available information, we understand that the effects to fish and fish habitat have been minimized to the extent practicable..."

The project still needs federal approval and a separate environmental assessment certificate for a 52 kilometer FortisBC gas pipeline to power the plant.

Heintzman describes her community as 'pretty divided' over Woodfibre LNG. 

"It's not a huge plant so there's not a huge amount of jobs here in Squamish," she said.

However, Woodfibre LNG says its project would create more than a hundred local jobs making it one of the larger private-sector employers in Squamish.

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