B.C. first nation postpones vote on natural gas facility
FILE - B.C. Premier Christy Clark, centre left, tours FortisBC's existing Tilbury LNG facility in Delta, B.C., on Tuesday October 21, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
SQUAMISH, B.C. -- The Squamish First Nation has delayed a vote on a proposed $1.6 billion liquefied natural gas plant in its traditional territory while it negotiates with the project's backers during an unprecedented environmental review.
The nation says its independent assessment is the first of its kind in British Columbia because it is legally binding and Woodfibre LNG, FortisBC and the province have agreed to participate. Last month, the nation issued 25 conditions it wants met before it grants its own environmental certificate.
Chief Ian Campbell said Tuesday that the nation has not yet reached agreements with the project's proponents on the conditions. Council will vote this fall on any such agreements before it issues the certificate.
"The nation really holds a lot of values and principles that are traditional and innate to our culture. For many thousands of years, we have held our lands and waters intimately close," said Campbell.
"These conditions go above and beyond the western colonial view of the lands."
The plant, proposed for a former pulp mill site southwest of Squamish, would produce between 1.5 and 2.1 million tonnes of LNG per year, according to Woodfibre LNG.
FortisBC is proposing to add 47 kilometres of new pipe to an existing pipeline from Coquitlam to the Squamish site to supply the natural gas. Three or four LNG tankers would travel up Howe Sound each month.
The nation issued its conditions in late June after it commissioned an environmental review by an independent consulting group. More than half of the conditions apply to Woodfibre LNG, while the remainder applies to FortisBC and the province.
Shortly after the conditions were issued, the B.C. government granted Woodfibre a suspension of its provincial environmental assessment in order to give it time to review the conditions.
The nation is asking the company not to fuel tankers in Squamish territory, to provide more details about its seawater cooling discharge system, to only use the facility for natural gas liquefaction and export and not to expand it without its approval, among other things.
Byng Giraud, vice-president of corporate affairs, said Woodfibre LNG believes it can meet the conditions but it still needs to hammer out the details of how they are implemented.
The organization is a subsidiary of Pacific Oil & Gas Ltd., part of a Singapore-based group of companies called Royal Golden Eagle. Giraud said the Asian owners are "highly sensitive" to Woodfibre LNG's approach to the Squamish Nation.
"They're fully apprised to the importance of including First Nations," he said. "We know that if we didn't do this, things would get off on the wrong foot. It's actually been a refreshing process."
FortisBC spokesman Trevor Boudreau said the utility would continue engaging with the nation on its demands -- including that the pipeline route avoid cultural and wildlife sites -- but no decision has been made yet.
Among the nation's conditions for the B.C. government are that it not authorize the transportation of oil through the pipeline and that it work with them to develop an emergency response plan for the area.
The province passed legislation last week that allowed for the ratification of its first LNG agreement, signed with Malaysia-led consortium Pacific Northwest LNG. The local Lax Kw'alaams First Nation has refused to support the US$36-billion facility on an island near Prince Rupert.