​Squamish proposes climate emergency conditions on Woodfibre LNG

Image: Woodfibre LNG

The District of Squamish is considering a motion to declare the Woodfibre LNG project is not welcome unless the project can meet greenhouse gas reduction requirements set out by the United Nations.

On May 12, council voted in a 4-3 decision to provide that feedback to B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Office, or EAO.

The office is currently considering a five-year extension for the project's environmental certificate, which will expire in October.

A final vote at a special business meeting – expected to be in the coming months – will be held on the motion.

Those on council who supported the motion said it was consistent with the district's policies, namely, the climate emergency declared last year, which opts to bring the town’s emissions in line with the targets specified by the IPCC.

“We are well aware that our work on our climate change file is not just going to be led by the District, but it’s going to require every single one of us in our community — that’s individuals, corporate citizens — to start thinking and working in this direction,” said one councillor.

“And this is a clear message that Woodfibre is one of those businesses that will need to start working in this direction as well. It does not specifically preclude them from receiving an environmental certificate extension, it just means they have to have a plan in place. And I don’t think that that’s unreasonable to be asking of a company of this size.”

Coun. Eric Andersen said the municipality’s recently-adopted climate action plan has already acknowledged heavy industry like Woodfibre is outside of the plan's scope.

“We’ve just gone through a community climate action plan exercise, and there were two elements in that, that the process couldn’t really do much about... for measurement and action plans,” said Andersen.

“And that is for highway commuting and Woodfibre. And there were others as well. But we did have that opportunity and forum to address these issues and I look at them the same.”

Too little notice was given, which didn't allow council and staff to check into the background facts that support the motion, argued one councillor.

A prominent local activist group applauded the decision.

“We are really pleased that the District of Squamish is raising the concerns about the climate impacts of Woodfibre LNG and how the District is going to meet their climate targets if this project goes ahead,” said Tracey Saxby of My Sea to Sky.

She said the decision to extend the EA certificate is dependent on taking into context new information that has arisen since the original certificate was first granted in 2015.

“It’s our position that we do not believe Woodfibre LNG should receive an extension to their environmental assessment certificate because of these changes in economic context, the changes to local, provincial and federal policies and a new and emerging scientific understanding,” said Saxby. “That includes the new information that was released in the IPCC report in 2018.”

The head of Woodfibre LNG said he was “surprised and disappointed” to read the resolution put forth by District council.

President David Keane said Woodfibre has been an active member of the community for seven years and “has consistently gone above and beyond to engage with council and residents.”

“We all agree that climate change is an urgent global issue. That’s why we committed early on to reduce our emissions by 85% by using renewable electricity. We have recently received new data on our project’s climate change impact, which we look forward to sharing with the public soon. One figure we have learned is that the annual emissions offsets that will be achieved when our gas replaces coal in Asia will be equivalent to 76 years of Squamish’s emissions,” said Keane.

“Finally, at a time when families, businesses, and non-profits in the Sea to Sky region are hurting from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Woodfibre is a project that holds the promise of hundreds of direct jobs, thousands of indirect jobs and millions of investment dollars into our community. We hope that council will consider these positive impacts when debating this resolution.”

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, set out targets to reduce carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050.

– Squamish Chief

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