Squamish First Nation negotiates $225M in benefits from Woodfibre LNG plant

Last week, the council voted to support the project, eight to six, while also requiring the project to meet 25 legally binding environmental conditions, a statement from Squamish First Nation said.

Council votes 8 to 6 in favour of project, which will need to meet 25 binding environmental conditions

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

The Squamish First Nation has approved a benefits agreement with Woodfibre LNG that could see the First Nation receiving over $225 million in cash over 40 years.

Woodfibre is a $1.6 billion project planned for the site of the old pulp mill in Squamish, which will process and liquefy natural gas shipped by pipeline from northern B.C. for export to Asian markets.

Last week, the nation's council voted to support the project, eight to six, while also requiring the project to meet 25 legally binding environmental conditions, a statement from Squamish First Nation said.

"Communities are sometimes faced with difficult decisions and it is recognized that this was a difficult decision for many," Squamish councillor and spokesperson Khelsilem said in the release.

"Next steps will be holding the proponents accountable for the life of the project and beyond; that includes the construction, operation and eventual decommissioning of Woodfibre LNG."

The benefits package also includes the opportunity for businesses owned by the First Nation or its members to bid on more than $872 million in contracts for the project.

The approval comes despite many members of Squamish's new council speaking out against the project.

Environmentalists oppose project

In a statement, Woodfibre vice-president Byng Giraud said the company was happy to be moving forward.

"As a company, we are pleased to have fulfilled another key condition of the Squamish Nation's environmental certificate," Giraud said.

"We believe the Squamish Nation process and the resulting conditions are an important pathway to economic reconciliation."

But the details of the deal prompted a Howe Sound environmental group to restate its opposition to the project.

Eoin Finn, chair of My Sea To Sky, said he and others in his group are concerned about the climate impacts of the project, the possibility of industrial accidents and the impacts of ship traffic on marine life.

"This is a sunset industry. It's a fossil fuel industry which is going to kick out, all told, about seven million tonnes of greenhouse gases," Finn said. "That's not something we should be encouraging, let alone subsidizing with public money taxpayers money."

He also expressed skepticism over the possible economic benefits of the project.

Listen to the full interview with Eoin Finn:

Last week, the council voted to support the project, eight to six, while also requiring the project to meet 25 legally binding environmental conditions, a statement from Squamish First Nation said. 8:41

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast