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Trudeau government approves Woodfibre LNG export terminal

The Council of Canadians was at this protest against Woodfibre LNG last year.

The Trudeau government has approved the Woodfibre LNG export terminal saying it “is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects”.

The Woodfibre liquefied natural gas plant is to be situated seven kilometres from downtown Squamish. During the process of chilling the gas to -160 degrees Celsius to liquefy it, a tremendous amount of heat is extracted. The plant would vent that heat by taking 17,000 cubic metres of sea water from Howe Sound every hour then discharging that water back into the ocean 10 degrees Celsius hotter than its original temperature. The gas would then be exported on tankers through Howe Sound. The area already has a legacy of pollution from the Brittania copper mine, pulp mills and chemical plants.

The National Observer notes, “Since its inception, the proposal has been hotly-debated due to the risk it may pose to local whale, dolphin, salmon, herring and shellfish populations, which have slowly returned to Howe Sound since the closure of the Woodfibre pulp mill in 2006 and the upgrading of waste water treatment plants at the nearby Port Mellon pulp mill and Britannia Beach mine site.”

Now CBC reports, “The federal minister of environment and climate change has approved the environmental assessment of a controversial LNG project near Squamish, B.C. The Squamish mayor and residents of the coastal town have repeatedly voiced their concerns and opposition to the proposed Woodfibre LNG project, which is expected to produce and export up to 2.1 million tonnes of LNG per year. …The project cleared its first hurdle last October, when it was granted an environmental assessment certificate by the B.C. government.”

In March 2015, the Council of Canadians made a submission to the B.C. Environment Assessment Office calling on the provincial government to reject the Woodfibre LNG project.

In that submission, our Vancouver-based water campaigner Emma Lui highlighted numerous concerns including: its public safety risks, the water and health impacts of fracking, climate change risks, the project’s lack of free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous peoples, the small number of jobs associated with the project, the weakened regulatory framework in B.C. for reviewing this proposal, and community concerns and resistance. Lui concluded, “The province needs a long-term energy plan that does not public public safety and water sources at risk. B.C. needs to be a leader in curbing climate change and it can do so by rejecting Woodfibre LNG terminal.”

Some of the other actions the Council of Canadians took to oppose the LNG terminal included:

– supporting a ‘LNG: Debunking the Myths’ public forum in February 2016 in West Vancouver

– joining with more than 500 people for a protest march to the Woodfibre LNG office in March 2015 in Squamish

– co-sponsoring a ‘LNG and Petro-State Politics’ public forum in September 2014 in Squamish.

The Council of Canadians is concerned about the cumulative impacts of LNG development in B.C. If just five of the twenty LNG terminals now being proposed were to be built, the facilities would release 13 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. The fracking and transport of the gas would generate an additional 15 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. The gas needed for five of these LNG terminals would also require an estimated 582 billion litres of water from BC’s rivers, lakes and streams. And just five LNG terminals could require an estimated 39,000 new wells by 2040, the majority of which would likely be fracked.

Citing Justin Trudeau’s statement that “governments grant permits, but only communities grant permission”, local groups have vowed to continue to fight the project. Global News notes, “A final investment decision has not been made by Woodfibre LNG.”