The municipality will hear a delegation from Woodfibre LNG next month to discuss the liquefied natural gas facility being constructed outside Squamish.
The company requested a presentation at an upcoming council meeting to talk about the project, located at the site of the former Woodfibre pulp and paper mill southwest of the town. In a letter to Bowen Island Municipality the company says they’re “committed to contributing to a net-zero future, driven by innovation; ensuring meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous people; and providing positive socioeconomic benefits for Squamish and neighbouring communities, including Bowen Island.”
The multi-billion dollar facility being built on Howe Sound will employ about 100 workers and produce millions of tonnes of LNG a year once fully operational. Final cleanup is expected this year, with construction beginning in 2023 and an anticipated completion date of 2027.
“2022 will be a milestone year for the company and we would appreciate the opportunity to provide a comprehensive update on our project to Bowen Island Mayor and Council,” wrote Julia Diamond, Woodfibre’s senior manager of government relations.
But not everybody was eager to roll out the welcome mat. “My first reaction to this letter was quite negative,” said Coun. Maureen Nicholson during the March 28 meeting. “The last time the LNG roadshow came to Bowen Island was – from my perspective – a particularly unpleasant visit.”
But Nicholson said after speaking with community members, “the response was basically, ‘bring it on’.”
“People are interested in hearing what was happened in the 6.5-7 years since Woodfibre spoke with us. For the delegation, I hope there actually will be an opportunity for the public to put forward their questions,” said Nicholson.
The strongest opposition to the visit came from Coun. Sue Ellen Fast. “We need to spend our limited time at council meetings on significant business for our community, and not going over business that we’ve already made decisions about,” she said.
“Since February 2015 council has been passing motions of non-support of that Woodfibre LNG proposal,” said Fast, pointing out as recently as two years ago council voted to “direct staff to communicate to the Provincial Environmental Assessment Office that Bowen Island Municipality continues to not support the Woodfibre LNG project.” (Councillors Michael Kaile and Alison Morse opposed this directive, according to the minutes for the May 25, 2020 meeting.)
“So I think we should just receive the letter, but tell them we’ve done lots of work on it. They don’t need to take up our time at a council meeting about it,” continued Fast. “If they want to come and hold an open house or put an article in the Undercurrent, there’s lots of other venues.”
But consensus seemed to be hearing from the company was for the best.
“I get Coun. Fast’s comments. On the flipside I think it’s important that we are in the loop and know what’s going on,” said Coun. Rob Wynen. “Even if we don’t support this project, I don’t see any reason why us knowing what is happening there is a hindrance.”
“I know some people have had questions about that operation, and it would be a chance for us to ask those questions and clarify anything we want to clarify… I think we should be open minded,” added Morse.
Council voted to have staff schedule a presentation date, with Fast the lone councillor in opposition.