LNG: coming soon to the Georgia Strait?

With the rush to develop BC’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry, new projects seem to get announced every week. They have been mainly confined to the north coast – until now.

Photo: www.globalsecurity.org

Alongside the Discovery LNG project in early stages of development in Campbell River, and rumours of a potential export facility in Port Alberni, the Woodfibre LNG project proposed for Howe Sound has now progressed to the stage of consultation and environmental assessment.

Woodfibre proposes to build an LNG processing and export facility seven kilometres southwest of Squamish. If approved, the project would bring 40 LNG tankers through Howe Sound each year, carrying BC gas to global markets.  An associated proposal, by FortisBC Energy, would see a 52-kilometre pipeline built from Coquitlam, across the Squamish Estuary, to bring gas to the Woodfibre plant.

You can find out more about the project at a series of consultation sessions being run by Woodfibre in the Squamish area in February; you can also submit comments online any time up to February 28th.
We’ve been hearing a number of concerns from community members about the project, including:
  • The risks of an collision, spill or other accident in the handling and transport of a hazardous material like natural gas, particularly in the narrow confines of a fjord like Howe Sound
  • The day-to-day noise disturbance and other impacts of increased tanker traffic on endangered orca, humpback whales, grey whales and other marine species, many of which are only recently returning to Howe Sound following decades of environmental abuse;
  • Foreshore and recreational impacts in a significant tourist destination from the wake of the large LNG carriers that are proposed
  • The cumulative impacts of the Woodfibre facility in combination with other industrial projects proposed for the region

Residents have also been outraged about the way that government consultation has been carried out so far. The first major opportunity for public input took place over the Christmas holidays, from December 17 to January 6, while many were away from their computers and enjoying time with family – almost as if it was intended to slip past without anyone noticing. You can read comments submitted by those who were able to make the deadline here, which provides a good sample of community concerns.

Concerns about the Woodfibre proposal are part of a much wider conversation that needs to happen about the current push to hang BC’s economic future on LNG. How can we develop LNG at the pace envisioned and still meet our targets for combating climate change? If supplying gas to new LNG facilities leads to an increase in fracking – with its associated water contamination, air quality and health impacts – is that something British Columbians can live with? What about pollution of the air and marine environment around the terminals themselves?

This conversation has been going on for much longer in northern BC, where a dozen LNG proposals are on the table and residents are coming together to express their concerns. The time has come for communities on the south coast to educate ourselves, get organized, and start talking about whether we want new LNG developments in the Georgia Strait.

If you have thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them! Get in touch at alexandra@georgiastrait.org

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