Council takes a stand on LNG in Howe Sound

This week’s municipal council meeting started with a plea to hold-off on a resolution made by councillor Sue Ellen Fast that recommended taking a position on the Woodfibre LNG project. Councillors learned that deadline for comments on the project’s environmental assesment has been extended by 15 days from the previous deadline of March 9. However, after a single presentation and some discussion, a majority of councillors voted to move forward with councillor Fast’s suggestion, and draft a letter of concern about the proposed LNG export facility to be built near Squamish.
Barinda Rasode introduced herself during the public comment session as a former councilllor with the City of Surrey, and the current director social responsibility at Resource Works, a non-profit organization that does research on the value of the resource industry in British Columbia.
“My work and my role as a mom has led me to believe that sustainability has three pillars, social, economic and environmental. And in my conversations with my children about their future, I have learned that these conversations need to be fact-based. I am here to humbly request that motion 5.1 that is before you, if I could ask you to defer that to a later date following a time when Resource Works could make a presentation to your council.”
Rasode said that her organization will be presenting in Squamish on March 3, and that if given the opportunity to present, they will provide all the information required for council to do due-diligence on the issue of the Woodfibre LNG project.
Rasode’s plea was followed by a larger presentation made by Bowyer Island resident Eoin Finn, who described himself as an accidental activist on the LNG issue.
“About a year ago I became aware of a project called Woodfibre LNG to be set-up on the Northern part of Howe Sound, and I didn’t know much about it at the time, but as I researched it, and I’ve been researching every since then, I became more and more alarmed,” said Finn.
In his presentation, Finn placed the Woodfibre project within the larger context of the re-industrialization of Howe Sound; the environmental and economic promises of the LNG industry; and the shipping technology and potential safety hazards.
On the subject of shipping liquified natural gas, Finn explained that the tankers that will travel past both Bowyer and Bowen Islands will be double the size of the largest BC Ferries, and will contain highly explosive materials to nearby populations.
Acting mayor Alison Morse allowed for a short question and answer period regarding Finn’s presentation.
Councillor Sue Ellen Fast asked Finn whether, in all his research he found any benefits that the Howe Sound Community would derive from the Woodfibre Project. He replied by stating that the number of jobs likely to be gained would be minimal, but the City of Squamish would add $2 million per year to its tax base. Councillor Maureen Nicholson asked Finn whether there might be any benefits to Bowen - to which he stated no, and that the tourism industry here was likely to suffer.
Morse proceeded to offer up a more specific line of questioning for Finn, asking him if he was aware of the size of a ship called the Diamond Princess.
“We have had these ships in the Sound and it is my understanding that they are the same size as these tankers,” said Morse. “My second question is about your comment about the Coast Guard study and what could happen. How big a hole does it have to be before that happens?”
Finn said a 15 foot hole in the tanker could result in the worst case scenario of liquified natural gas spreading 3,500 metres from the tanker and, with one small spark, erupting into a giant fireball.
“A fifteen foot hole, going at 5 knots in Howe Sound, would be highly unlikely,” said Morse.
Finn replied that it may be highly unlikely, but the consequence, however minimal, would be disproportionately large.
After several other statements questioning Finn, Morse suggested that council delay their decision to make comments on the Woodfibre project until after hearing from a delegation sent by LNG BC and the Chamber of Shipping. However, councillors Fast, Nicholson, Mason and Mayor Skeels voted to move forward on making comments. Speaking remotely from Palm Springs, Mayor Skeels added that he has so many problems with the project, that despite his dis-satisfaction of the wording of the motion put forward by councillor Fast on how to proceed, he would support it.
Councillor Gary Ander, who voted against moving forward on the issue immediately, says he was bothered by the feeling that proper process would require hearing from both detractors and opponents of the project.
 

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