The Sunshine Coast gave a sharp thumbs down to the Woodfibre Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project at Gibsons Heritage Playhouse on Feb. 29 in the last of three community meetings held across the riding by MP Pam Goldsmith-Jones.
Close to 200 people filled the seats and spilled over into the sides of the playhouse, all intent on having their concerns heard by Goldsmith-Jones, the Liberal MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country. A Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) official was also in attendance to answer some of the public’s questions.
“Our government is moving quickly to deliver on our promise to overhaul the federal environmental assessment review process and to restore public trust,” Goldsmith-Jones said.
“The new process will be based on these principals: public input will be sought and considered, decisions will be informed by scientific evidence, and indigenous peoples will be more fully engaged in reviewing and monitoring major resource development projects. The process will have greater transparency.”
More than 30 people spoke at the meeting, primarily about environmental concerns, which ranged from the fracking required to extract LNG to the dangers associated with exporting the gas on tankers travelling through Howe Sound.
Peter McCartney, a climate campaigner with the Wilderness Committee in Vancouver, addressed the climate impacts of operating an LNG facility.
“The emissions of LNG actually do 27 per cent more damage to the climate than building coal [plants] in Asia over a period of 20 years,” McCartney said. “The idea that this is clean energy is just false. Even if this plant were to run on grid electricity, there would still be emissions at every step of the process – from the methane that leaks out of the ground in fracking to the processing facility where they burn the gas to power it, all the way until it gets to the consumer in Asia where it is burnt for power.”
Eoin Finn, a seasonal resident of Howe Sound, has been a vocal critic of the Woodfibre LNG project since its inception.
“I had a [tanker] captain appointed by Woodfibre try to tell me that you could stop a tanker within its own length,” Finn said. “They’d be lucky to screech to a halt within three kilometres. That’s not very comforting if you’re in a kayak or a small boat in the middle of Howe Sound.”
Bill Soprovich – a councillor for the District of West Vancouver – was in attendance and also spoke against the project.
“We cannot afford to single out any one area of all the concerns, from economics to water to shipping – it’s all got to be together,” Soprovich said.
“The BC environmental review was flawed from the get-go. I was a member of it and I listened intensely – keeping an open mind – but I could not stomach the rhetoric that was coming from the proponents’ highly paid scientists,” Soprovich said.
One man in the audience who did not identify himself asked Goldsmith-Jones directly if she had heard from anyone in favour of Woodfibre. The audience answered with a resounding, “No,” before she had a chance to respond.
“There are definitely people in favour,” Goldsmith-Jones said. “That’s why this is so difficult. To be honest – and depending on where you go – it’s 50/50.”
The audience interrupted Goldsmith-Jones with their unanimous disagreement of her numbers.
“I am a huge proponent of us coming together and saying what we think. It’s very challenging for all of us to do that,” Goldsmith-Jones continued. “But I’m here to say, there are others who would disagree. I think we have to respect that, but you’re right in terms of the last three days – we’ve had hundreds and hundreds of people coming to express opposition to Woodfibre LNG.”
She added that there had been proponents of the project at the previous two talks.
The BC Environmental Assessment Office produced an environmental assessment report on the Woodfibre LNG project, which was made public last October. CEAA official Vivian Au said that report – along with an analysis of upstream greenhouse gas emissions, public comments provided to the agency, and input from these talks about the project – will all be taken to Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna for her consideration.
“If the minister decides that significant adverse environmental effects are likely, she would refer the decision to cabinet,” Au said. “If she decides it would not likely result in significant adverse environmental effects, she would issue her environmental assessment decision under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 and she would impose legally binding conditions on the proponent, including monitoring, follow-up and mitigation measures.”
It is not known when McKenna will make her decision. This was the third and last in the series of public talks with Goldsmith-Jones about the Woodfibre LNG project. The previous two took place over last weekend in Squamish and West Vancouver, where upwards of 300 people attended each.
In addition to these meetings, close to 9,000 people have signed the Howe Sound declaration on myseatosky.org, which is asking the provincial and federal governments to reject the Woodfibre LNG project.