Woodfibre LNG: Shady PR, lobby violations, fraudulent, eco-criminal owner…Is this the kind of business BC wants to welcome?
The war against an LNG plant in Squamish is heating up, and as the late singer Al Jolson said, “You ain’t seen nothin yet.”
Know that on this issue, I am not in any way independent. Along with thousands of others, I’m in this fight to the finish.
On the side of the LNG plant is all the money, the company itself and its crooked multi-billionaire owner, the federal government, the provincial government, the LNG lobby, the fossil fuel industry, the tanker industry, the corporate media, and the right wing in general. Shilling for Woodfibre LNG, as readers will know, is an outfit called Resource Works, funded in part by the BC Business Council and, one suspects, Woodfibre LNG itself – although that’s not been admitted or proved.
Incidentally, Woodfibre LNG and Woodfibre Natural Gas are the same company.
David a good match for Goliath
One would think that the forces against us who are fighting this battle to save Howe Sound are such that we should throw up our hands in surrender and be good little boys and girls and obey our “betters”.
Au contraire – the odds are perfect because we have two allies who are invincible, the Citizens and the Truth.
Because we have the facts, telling the truth comes easy to us.
For the same reason, it is impossible for Woodfibre LNG, its acolytes and apologists to do the same. Their streams of half-truths and untruths come naturally, such that they no longer recognize truth from fiction. They also carry with them the conviction of missionaries that what they are doing is God’s work thus is good for the people.
Do I exaggerate?
Woodfibre’s spin machine
Let’s take a look at the credibility issue from several points of view.
Woodfibre LNG, has two PR agencies, one of which is Hill and Knowlton, one of the worlds largest. Here are a couple of their business adventures over the last few years.
A number of the firm’s clients over its history have been involved in most unsavoury practices. These include:
- The tobacco industry in the 1950s and 1960s
- The Bank of Credit and Commerce International from 1988–90 (about which Time Magazine said, “Nothing in the history of modern financial scandals rivals the unfolding saga of the Bank of Credit & Commerce International (B.C.C.I.), the $20 billion rogue empire that regulators in 62 countries shut down early this month (July 1991) in a stunning global sweep. Never has a single scandal involved so much money, so many nations or so many prominent people”)
- The Government of Kuwait in the lead up to the Gulf War
- The Church of Scientology from 1987–1991.
- The company has also been famous for polishing the image of governments seeking to hide their human rights violations such as Indonesia, Turkey, Maldives, and Uganda.
- Hill an Knowlton is one of a number of firms engaged by fracking interests in recent years.
When our governments are called upon to approve applications of Woodfibre LNG and the public to support them, we’re asked to rely upon carefully prepared words. I know from personal experience that the likes of Hill and Knowlton ensure that every public word their client speaks has been carefully laundered and approved. Any resemblance to the truth is strictly coincidental.
How confident are you, under these circumstances, that you’re getting any truth, let alone the whole truth, when you hear from Woodfibre LNG’s president Anthony Gelotti, who has worked in the development of LNG projects all over the world for Chevron, Shell North America, Enron and Mobil?
How about your confidence in the veracity of Woodfibre LNG’s vice president and constant spokesman – about whom more in a moment – Byng Giraud?
Woodfibre VP oversaw regulatory affairs for Mount Polley
Giraud joined Woodfibre Natural Gas Limited in April 2013 and this may interest you – immediately before was vice-president corporate affairs for Imperial Metals, owner of the Mount Polley mine which, in 2014, caused massive destruction in Quesnel Lake, Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Cariboo Creek, and the entire Quesnel and Cariboo river systems right up to the Fraser River. As vice-president, Giraud was responsible for regulatory affairs and communication with regulators.
Woodfibre flacks lie to lobbying commissioner
Woodfibre LNG also uses a Canadian PR firm, Global Affairs Inc.
Now hear this!
In order to lobby the federal government, each of them was required to register with The Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, pledging that their clients are essentially independent of any control from outsiders. Needless to say, they are expected to be truthful.
Here’s what they did:
First, Hill and Knowlton Strategies’ lobbyists Mark Cameron and Ryan Kelahear – in both their client information segments – state that their client “is not a subsidiary of any other parent companies” and that “The activities of Woodfibre Natural Gas Limited are not controlled or directed by another person or organization with a direct interest in the outcome of this undertaking”.
Meanwhile, Global Public Affairs Inc. lobbyists Katherine Preiss and Dan Seekings gave precisely the same undertakings to the Commission.
These are, to put it bluntly, barefaced lies.
Here is the truth – Woodfibre LNG, the proponent of the Squamish project, is a subsidiary of Singapore-based Pacific Oil & Gas Limited, part of the Singapore-based Royal Golden Eagle group.
Royal Golden Eagle was founded, is owned and controlled by Sukanto Tanoto, a business tycoon with a personal wealth estimated at $2.3 billion US; he is considered one of the richest men in Indonesia.
Indonesian billionaire’s long record of fraud, eco-crimes
But does this really matter? Aren’t these just pieces of paper that the bureaucracy loves to have and tuck away in some obscure spot?
The answer to that is an unequivocal YES it matters a great deal! This information is of vital importance and here is a good example of why – here’s the actual track record of Sukanto Tanoto the PR companies are obviously trying to bury.
As owner of Indonesia’s Unibank, he borrowed heavily and then managed to avoid repayment of $442 million US to customers.
In 2012, Tanoto was found guilty of tax evasion and agreed to pay over $200 million US in fines.
Animal lovers accuse Tanoto’s palm oil enterprise of causing orangutan deaths on a large scale and destruction of the habitat of the Sumatran tiger.
His critics, including Greenpeace, call Tanoto “Indonesia’s lead driver of rainforest destruction.” His companies and contractors routinely violate local laws and illegally expand palm and pulp and paper production into rainforests, national parks and community lands.
He has even been alleged to use violence in response to protests of his logging operations.
In 1988, a rupture occurred in an aeration lagoon at Indorayon, a pulp and paper mill owned by a subsidiary of Tanoto’s RGE, sending raw chemical waste into a river from which several villages drew their water.
Five years later, a boiler exploded, showering the countryside with chlorine and other chemicals. Thousands of people fled. Clearly there were alternatives to chlorine, but they would have made the production process more expensive.
Mr. Tanoto’s companies have a poor record of complying with government regulations.
Is this kind of neighbour Squamish wants?
This is the man upon whose reputation and credibility Woodfibre LNG depends when they come to our governments, and to us as citizens, and promise that they will obey our laws, not cheat on taxes, and be good corporate citizens – especially when it comes to our environment?
How do you feel about believing Mr. Tanoto, his employees and their public relations companies?
Squamish resident and My Sea to Sky co-founder Tracey Saxby put it this way:
Industry lobby uses deception, fakes interview
Let me now to take you back to recent articles I wrote here about Resource Works and their averment that that tanker traffic in Howe Sound was confirmed safe by Dr. Michael Hightower of Albuquerque New Mexico. In fact, this was a distorted statement from a phoney interview that was conducted by Resource Works. A sham!
When, after the so-called interview, Dr. Eoin Finn talked to Dr. Hightower it became quite clear that he was not referring to Howe Sound. Moreover, and this would be funny if it weren’t so serious, when you actually use Dr. Hightower’s calculations, there is absolutely no way tanker traffic in Howe Sound could be considered safe. This is more than confirmed by the fact that less conservative scientists than Dr. Hightower have set standards by which the safety boundaries actually go up on top of the Sea-To-Sky Highway!
You will no doubt remember that after this exposure by Dr. Finn and Commander Roger Sweeny, Woodfibre LNG panicked, held an emergency meeting and gave us a new route – which Commander Sweeny, in these pages, carefully analyzed, concluding “Only a certified numbskull would suggest option B.”
Giraud keeps spinning safety fibs
Now here is another critically important example of what I’m talking about when dealing with Woodfibre LNG’s lack of credibility.
Byng Giraud wrote the following in the North Shore News, along with other barnyard droppings, on April 12 last.
Here are the facts with respect to tankers in Howe Sound, where you may recall, Woodfibre LNG proposes to send its tankers – not LNG tankers at sea.
Minimum Safe Separation
Sandia International laboratories has defined for the US Department of Energy three hazard zones of 500m, 1600m, and 3500m surrounding LNG tankers. The largest, a circle of 3500m radius centred on the moving ship, represents the minimum safe separation between tankers and people. Other LNG hazard experts say at least 4800m is a more realistic minimum safe separation distance.
Channels too narrow
Almost nowhere in Howe Sound can a ship in mid-channel be more than 1600m from shore. North of Britannia Beach, the Sound is only about 2700m wide. The 3 possible outbound routes from there to the Salish Sea (one east and two west of Bowen) contain another 14 choke points, where the average width is reduced to just 1850m. Thus the Sandia 3500m minimum safety zone extends more than 2 kilometres beyond each side of all those channels. Virtually the entire Sea to Sky Highway from Britannia down to Lighthouse Park, Anvil, Bowyer, Bowen, eastern Gambier, most of Keats, and the Pasley Islands group, – representing many thousands of people – all lie well within the 3500m zone.
Dr. Finn and Commander Sweeny have interpreted these findings with overlays on charts of Howe Sound and the evidence is solid and final. The proposed Woodfibre LNG tanker route falls well inside these conservative limits.
You can see, I trust, why credibility matters so much.
When Mr. Giraud speaks of “LNG tankers at sea” it’s no slip of the tongue but a very deliberate misstatement. He wants you to think that that safety record includes narrow channels like Howe Sound and it clearly does nothing of the sort.
Opponents not going away
I leave you with this thought:
The Howe Sound Action Committee and the various organizations and citizens that are dedicated to fighting the Squamish LNG proposal realize that all of the money and the power is against us.
We also know that we have two things going for us – the citizens and the facts, and this gives us credibility.
On the other hand, Woodfibre LNG’s “case” is built on falsehood, starting with the question as to who they really are, and half-truths which will always come out and cannot stand the most cursory examination.
Howe Sound is not just the fight of those who live along its shores. This is a gem of nature, possessed by all British Columbians; we must, all of us, take up the cudgels and fight those who would destroy this fantastic natural asset that belongs to all 4 million-plus of us.
We who fight have been underestimated. Woodfibre has underestimated us, the governments have underestimated us, the mainstream media has underestimated us.
That will prove to be a very serious mistake. Let it be clearly understood that we intend to fight to the end and we accept that civil disobedience on a large scale will be required.
We are not going away and we won’t quit.