LNG shocker- Squamish council rejects LNG pipeline builder's drilling permit

LNG shocker: Squamish rejects pipeline builder’s drilling permit

LNG shocker- Squamish council rejects LNG pipeline builder's drilling permit
Squamish council rejects Fortis BC application for test drilling (Instagram/ Dan Prisk)

In a surprising show of municipal political power – even in a region that has demonstrated strong misgivings regarding proposed LNG development – Squamish council has rejected Fortis BC’s controversial permit application for test drilling in a Wildlife Management Area.

The vote came at Tuesday night’s council meeting, which revisited an earlier discussion regarding Fortis’ planned pipeline expansion to feed the Woodfibre LNG plant near Squamish, proposed by Indonesian billionaire Sukanto Tanoto.

Plan gets bogged down in sensitive area

Proposed Woodfibre LNG plant

The application – which sought permits for drilling in a sensitive ecological area – stoked vocal opposition in the community when it was first debated by council 2 weeks ago. With close to 200 citizens packing the council chamber, the local government set its decision aside until this week’s meeting.

The Tuesday vote fell 4-3 against the plan, which would involve test drilling for a pipeline to be routed under the Squamish River, through an estuary and Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Council instructed representatives of gas pipeline operator Fortis to come back to it with a plan that avoids the estuary and WMA and doesn’t involve a compressor station being located in the middle of town. Such a route would likely need to involve building the pipeline around the north end of the community, which Fortis complained would be too costly, lengthy and challenging.

A strongly-worded letter from the Squamish First Nation objecting to the company’s proposal appears to have helped sway council.

Back to the drawing board

Despite the heavy attention the issue received during the recent municipal election – which saw an anti-LNG mayor defeat a sitting mayor who favoured the Woodfibre project – and strong opposition from local grassroots groups, the decision came as a surprise to many in attendance.

Retired KMPG partner and My Sea to Sky member Eoin Finn – a leading public critic of the project – predicts that Fortis will now have to withdraw its proposal from the Environmental Assessment process and start from scratch with a new version, “as Fortis had baked in the rejected routing in their application to the BCEAO.”

Local governments get involved

The move by Squamish council is just the latest example of a growing trend of municipal governments inserting themselves into the energy planning process around BC – from Burnaby and Vancouver’s strong stances on Kinder Morgan, to various councils that have stood against the proposed Enbridge pipeline, and a long list of Sunshine Coast and Howe Sound councils which have voted against the proposed Woodfibre project.


About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

16 thoughts on “LNG shocker: Squamish rejects pipeline builder’s drilling permit

  1. Good on the council of Squamish. I sure hope that they continue to turn down further projects – big money just cannot be allowed to walk over everyone.

  2. Just when we are seeing whales and dolphins return to the Sound we see industries attempting to undo the healing. There is no place for tankers in the Sound or anywhere in the Salish Sea. The value of this area is in Tourism. One would have to be blind not to recognize that Howe Sound is one of the most exquisitly beautiful areas of the planet. Save it and keep it clean.

  3. Wow! Squamish council grew a spine.
    And Fortis wanted to route the pipeline THROUGH the town with a compressor pumping station!?!?!?!
    Gee no risks to the population there ……….
    I notice the council has left the door open if Fortis changes the route.
    This aint over yet. Im sure the Feds and the Province isnt about to sit around and let a town council quash this application.
    Poor Christy is gonna need gallons of hair dye to cover the grey hair this long drawn out saga is going to cause.
    Interesting times.

    1. Everyone speaks of grass roots and the need to involve the citizens in a process of self determination and then when they do governments and corporations seem overwhelmed and resort to tired practices of bullying and discrediting these initiatives. We seem to be experiencing a real change in the dynamics of social contract, one that is horizontally directed and not vertically. That is the way biology manages itself and that has functioned well over time.

      1. If that were true you would have no electricity as no dams would have been built. Certainly can’t build one today.

        1. Im not too sure about that Rick. If BC were experiencing “brown outs” on a regular basis then perhaps the construction of a new dam my be a tad more palatable to the general pubic.
          But even then, flooding prime farm land in northern BC would still be a hard sell and even the old “Site Z” proposal of the 1960’s by BC Hydro was quashed due to environmental concerns.
          The days of flooding perfectly good farm land or damming up salmon spawning rivers isnt the easy “pass” it once was. The “jobs,jobs,jobs” mantra is losing its appeal especially when one considers a great deal of those jobs will go to temporary foriegn workers.
          Which raises the question ” Who ARE the politicians trying to impress with these mega projects? Voters? Or their potential corporate employers that are AWARDED these multi billion dollar construction contracts post political office? No conflict of office there.
          Let me venture a guess that Christy Clark will be appointed to several boards of different corporations after she is so deservedly booted out of office. A figurehead earning millions. And whomever replaces her will look at that gravy train and do the exact same thing.
          The democratic political process in this country (and many others) has created a legion of greedy, self serving opportunists that care nothing for the voters, the environment or the economy. It’s all about them and what they can do to further themselves.
          Rant over.

          1. I really don’t think Christy Clark is intelligent enough to get appointed to a board of a major corporation….unless she’s there as a reward or a figurehead. She says and does some things that aren’t very smart, although she is good with a quip. Quip’s don’t take you very far though, except, unfortunately, in government.

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