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Updated: Provincial regulator orders WLNG workers onto Squamish floatel

WLNG has been waiting on a temporary use permit from the District of Squamish; company says it is preparing to move the floatel to Squamish, as ordered.

The ante has been upped in the Woodfibre LNG floatel saga. 

The provincial Environmental Assessment Office has issued an order for Woodfibre LNG to relocate all its workers currently housed at "unauthorized locations" to the marine-based work camp by 5 p.m. on Friday, June 21.

The EAO says an inspection on June 10, found approximately 350 workers for the project were residing elsewhere, and subsequently issued an order on June 17 for those workers to be housed on the $100-million floatel within four days.

Woodfibre LNG has been waiting on a Temporary Use Permit (TUP) from the District of Squamish to move the floatel, moored in Nanaimo, to its worksite location seven kilometres from town on the shores of Howe Sound. 

The permit was first effectively rejected by council, and then brought back for reconsideration.

Most recently, at its June 4 meeting, council referred the TUP back to muni staff to gather more information. 

Staff is to come back to council—it is on the docket for Tuesday's committee of the whole meeting—with information from the proponent on four points; an increase to the security deposit from $2 million to $10 million; the risk (if any) that the Henrietta Lake poses to the floatel; for WLNG and FortisBC to work together in identifying cumulative impacts resulting from their projects; and "an understanding of current compliance with project conditions."

But the provincial regulator has stepped into the fray ahead of that meeting, noting in its inspection report that as part of WLNG’s Environment Certificate, it had to house any worker who did not reside in the District of Squamish prior to Sept. 20, 2023, on the floatel.

According to the report, 300 project workers are being housed at a construction camp in Port Mellon and 30 workers at a local hotel in Squamish.

An additional 87 workers are housed elsewhere.

"The EAO continues to monitor the site to make sure all requirements are being met and will re-inspect for compliance," reads the release.

Woodfibre LNG moving floatel

In response, a Woodfibre LNG spokesperson said in a statement that the company has received the order from the BC Environmental Assessment Office, and "views compliance with all regulatory conditions as a top priority."

"The company will prepare to proceed with moving the floatel to the project site to ensure compliance with the order and our regulatory conditions, and to use the floatel for workforce housing as had been intended," the statement said.

The floatel will ultimately house 650 members of the LNG export facility's construction workforce.

District response

A spokesperson for the District of Squamish told The Squamish Chief that the municipality has been informed of the EAO’s decision. The spokesperson referenced council's June 4 decision to refer the issue back to staff for more information.

 "The District is assessing this new development and next course of action," the spokesperson said.

My Sea to Sky reacts

My Sea to Sky, an environmental advocacy group that has fought the construction of the Woodfibre LNG's export facility for a decade, called on the company to press pause on construction in light of the order.

"Instead of waiting [un]till all the required permits and approvals were in place, Woodfibre LNG knowingly broke the conditions of its Environmental Assessment Certificate by unlawfully housing hundreds of workers in our communities," said My Sea to Sky executive director and co-founder Tracey Saxby, in an emailed statement.

"This demonstrates, yet again, that Woodfibre LNG cannot be trusted to do the right thing and is willing to put our communities at risk to enable its unrealistic construction timelines," she said.

"Woodfibre LNG must press pause on construction until it gets all the necessary permits and approvals required for its proposed floating work camp. That includes the Temporary Use Permit from the District of Squamish for the “floatel," she added.

"Every regulator from every level of government has an obligation to do its due diligence and properly assess the impacts of the Woodfibre LNG project and all its component pieces. This latest infraction must be taken into account as the District of Squamish reconsiders the Temporary Use Permit for Woodfibre LNG’s floating work camp."

This story has been updated to include a comment from Woodfibre LNG, the District and My Sea to Sky as those comments came in. We also updated the story to clarify that the floatel is currently in Nanaimo, not in Vancouver, as WLNG first mistakenly said.

~With a file from Scott Tibballs/The Squamish Chief