Woodfibre LNG concerns aired

Environmentalists speak out against proposed plant

Speakers at a presentation in West Vancouver on the risks associated with the proposed LNG project in Howe Sound voiced concerns, Wednesday, over everything from environmental contamination to the risk of explosions from transporting natural gas.

Hosted at the Gleneagles Golf Course clubhouse by the Future of Howe Sound Society and in collaboration with MySeatoSky.org and Concerned Citizens of Bowen, the “Woodfibre LNG Is it right for Howe Sound?” event saw four speakers and area residents voicing concerns over the potential dangers the project could present if approved. The event saw an attendance of more than 200 people.

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“Canada doesn’t have a whole pile of rules about LNG because it doesn’t have a whole pile of plants,” said Eoin Finn a seasonal resident of Bowyer Island in Howe Sound, and speaker at the event. Finn holds a PhD in physical chemistry and is a close follower of the LNG project.

He said an LNG plant of this size has never before existed in Canada. He has concerns over the country’s lack of environmental regulations in place against this particular resource.

“There are no plants on the West Coast of Canada nor on the U.S. except a tiny one in Alaska but that’s 100 miles from anywhere and it’s about one-tenth (the size of) Woodfibre.”

When it comes to the risks associated with the proposed development, Finn said there are many, including emissions output, the risk of shipping accidents and the plant’s cooling system, which would use seawater.

“One of the big issues is that the plant will be cooled by seawater from the sound. This is pretty old technology that’s been dismissed and refused and abandoned in California and Europe.”

He said that the current proposed cooling system for the plant would suck in 17,000 tonnes of seawater (3.7 million gallons) per hour, and chlorinate it while it circulates through the system, before releasing it back into Howe Sound. 

Finn explained that any such practice would be “extremely damaging” to marine life and that similar systems down the coast in California have been banned.  

Although the plant will be powered by electricity, Finn said it will still produce emissions, including 140,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year.

Among Finn’s other concerns was tanker traffic associated with the project, which would see between six and eight tankers navigating through the sound per month.

He cited a risk of explosions associated with the ships, which could have potential negative effects on area property values. Large waves generated from those vessels could also be a problem for the area, something Finn compared to the BC Ferries Fast Cat situation years before.  

Wade Davis, Bowen Island resident and professor of anthropology, said the issue of whether or not the plant will go in place holds a deeper meaning than simply a local environmental danger.

“This is not simply about a local issue in Howe Sound, this is a metaphor for who we are to be as a people,” he explained to the audience. “If we are actually prepared to invest our lives in this way, the most glorious fjord in the world, what else in our country will be immune to such violations?” he asked.  

The meeting came four days after hundreds of protestors took to the streets of Squamish last Sunday to express their opposition to the proposed project.

Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish Nation said it’s too early for the nation, which has been conducting an independent review of the LNG proposal, to have an official position on the project.

“We’re certainly interested in the potential benefits and risks. We need to understand those very clearly in order to make an informed decision,” he said.
Campbell said the nation had no official involvement in either the protest or last Wednesday’s meeting.  

Byng Giraud, vice-president of corporate affairs with Woodfibre LNG Limited said in a statement that the company is committed to finding a project that works for the area.

Giraud said the use of seawater cooling is a “proven technology” that has been used in over half of LNG plants built since the 1960s.

Giraud also said that LNG shipping is “absolutely safe,” citing that in the past 50 years there has not been “one incident of loss of containment.”

Although the public comment process for the project closed the week before, speakers at the meeting encouraged concerned residents to spread word to friends and neighbours, share those concerns with their elected officials and to participate in future public events.

Woodfibre LNG recently announced the launch of an interactive website, askwoodfibrelng.ca, that allows for people to send questions they have about the project. The public can also review existing questions and responses.

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