Rafe: All hands on deck for Howe Sound as LNG storm brews

Boaters raise the alarm over plans to re-industrialize Howe Sound (Future of Howe Sound Society)
Boaters raise the alarm over plans to re-industrialize Howe Sound (Future of Howe Sound Society)

Howe Sound needs the help of all British Columbians and it needs it now. The proposed Woodfibre LNG plant in Squamish has got some very powerful allies.

Both governments support it. That means that there’s no point in citizens seeking help from their MP or MLA, who in fact are the vanguard of the enemy forces.

Industry group spews hot air in LNG PR

Industry is of course in favour and their stalking horse is a bunch called Resource Works which I exposed here last week as a group quite prepared to completely distort the words of a Supreme Court judge, to have phoney baloney TV interviews, and to twist adverse findings by a scientist and make them appear as if they actually favour tanker traffic in Howe Sound!

Resource Works has not refuted these charges, even though their Executive Director, one Stewart Muir, has since published an op-ed piece on the organization in the Vancouver Province.

Corporate media backs Woodfibre

We also have the Vancouver Sun and Province almost deliriously in favour of Woodfibre LNG, having just printed four consecutive articles in rapturous support including a blowjob by former premier Mike Harcourt who states that Woodfibre is “engaged in a rigorous and independent environmental review”. Can you believe that naiveté from a former premier! On any reasonable interpretation of the Peter Principle, Mikey achieved his “level of incompetence” when he was an alderman in Vancouver.

Gordon Wilson flip-flops on LNG

Then, of course, we have the “call boy” of BC politics, Gordon Wilson.

[quote]The most compelling reason to be concerned about relying on this golden goose (LNG) is the fact that the markets we are told will buy all we can supply may not materialize as we think, and even if they do, the price they are prepared to pay for our product may be well below what is anticipated.[/quote]

That was Gordon Wilson the fiscal skeptic talking but there is more. Here’s what Wilson the environmentalist had to say:

[quote]Expanded LNG production also comes with a significant environmental cost.

The impact of an expanded hydrocarbon economy will certainly speed up global warming and cause us to build a dependency on a revenue stream that originates form processes that are poisoning our atmosphere.[/quote]

Then, shortly after his newfound heroine won the May 13, 2013 election, Wilson, stout opponent of LNG, received his pay-off through a job with the government at $12,500 per month to support LNG!

This contract has since been renewed and continues.

‘Jewel of Lower Mainland’ on the mend

When I say Howe Sound needs all of our help, I am talking about the entire province of British Columbia.

Howe Sound is the jewel of the Lower Mainland and it belongs to all British Columbians. It is our most southerly fjord and is breathtakingly beautiful. It has recovered from the horrible abuse we have heaped on it with the pulp mills and, of course, the old Britannia mine. The salmon runs are returning; the herring are back; the whales are back; the flora on the ocean bed has returned. We have recently discovered that Halkett Bay contains the rare and very fragile “Glass Sponge”.

It is indeed a glorious rebirth we are witnessing and we are about to put it all at severe risk.

I’m only going to speak of one of those risks today, which is in no way intended to minimize the others. Let me just talk about LNG tanker traffic.

LNG tanker safety issues

Industry and their handmaidens, the two senior governments, deny that there can ever be a problem with tankers which, of course, is nonsense and defies the simple laws of probability by which we are all governed. Just as the flipped coin must turn up heads sometime, there will be an accident with the odds increasing with the traffic. The damage will be horrific.

There are standards that have been devised by scientists who have studied this matter.

Because I want to give every benefit of the doubt to the LNG industry, let’s deal with the standard set by Dr. Mike Hightower, a world-renowned expert on LNG tanker operations at Sandia International Laboratories. It is considered by most environmentalists as far too “conservative”. Some world-recognized LNG hazard experts, such as Dr. Jerry Havens (University of Arkansas; former Coast Guard LNG vapour hazard researcher), indicate that three miles or more is a more realistic Hazard Zone distance.

Here are the dimensions of Howe Sound, including the aforementioned recommendations of Dr. Hightower, from an expert on the subject, Commander Roger Sweeny, Certificate of Service as Master Foreign Going, Qualified Master Home Trade, Commander, Royal Canadian Navy (Ret.), 3rd Generation BC Coaster and longtime owner of Mickey Island in West Howe Sound:


The upper reaches of Howe Sound are about 2700 m wide. The outbound channel narrows to 1600m east of Anvil Island. Thereafter, ships proceeding down Queen Charlotte Channel east of Bowen Island are restricted between Bowen and Bowyer Island (2400m), Bowen and West Vancouver (2050m), and at Passage Island (2450m), or, if down Collingwood Channel west of Bowen, between Bowen and Gambier Island (1900m), Keats Island(2100m), Ragged Island (1500m), Mickey Island(1600m), and Worlcombe Island (1700m).

Dr Hightower, a world renowned expert on LNG tanker operations at Sandia International Laboratories, has defined for the US Department of Energy three hazard zones of 500m, 1600m (1 mile) and 3500m surrounding LNG tankers. The largest zone represents the minimum safe separation between tanker and people. Other LNG hazard experts have indicated that 4800m (3miles) or more is a more realistic hazard separation distance. In this context it is worth remembering that the heat stored in a 50,000 tonne cargo of LNG is equivalent to several dozen Hiroshima bombs.

Clearly the minimum 3500m civilian hazard zone extends at least 2 km beyond each side of all these restricted passages.   Virtually the entire Sea to Sky highway from Britannia to Lighthouse Park, Anvil, southeast Gambier, Bowyer, eastern Keats, Bowen, and all islands of the Pasley group fall within the zone. Furthermore, from Britannia to Porteau Cove, Bowyer, White Cliff, both coasts of Bowen and eastern Pasley group are also within the much more dangerous 1600m zone.

Howe Sound is no place for LNG tankers![/quote]

It is against this evidence, bearing in mind that it is “conservative”, that the two senior governments are prepared to proceed and have so indicated on every possible occasion. The public be damned.

What is sickeningly fascinating is that neither governments nor Resource Works make any effort to refute this evidence. In fact, they don’t deal with it. And that is of course a time-honoured political trick. Never admit that you’re wrong, never deal with the argument, simply attack on another front.

MLA takes money from Woodfibre

I have watched with interest and care the two politicians representing my constituency, West Vancouver, Sunshine Coast, and Sea to Sky Country.

Both of them have avoided, like the plague, getting public input in any meaningful way. John Weston has gone so far as to assault the West Vancouver Council for its official disapproval of the Woodfibre LNG plant.

All one need know about Jordan Sturdy, the Liberal MLA, is that his fundraiser was at the exclusive Capilano Golf Club of all places and was sponsored by Woodfibre LNG!

Our governmental system requires elected lickspittles and we have a couple of dandies!

The people of this constituency are politically abandoned. Clearly both the provincial Liberals and the federal Tories are prepared to write off the constituency which, when you think about it, really puts the onus on the rest of the province.

Time to ratchet up pressure

The only way political pressure can be brought to bear on the BC Premier and the Prime Minister, both of whom are in the pockets of industry, is to have that pressure applied in constituencies all over the province.

I have no doubt that the residents of our constituency will go as far as civil disobedience and that this will be necessary sooner or later. I believe that the good people of Burnaby in their fight against Kinder Morgan have inspired a lot of people in this area and that the fear of standing up to authority has all but disappeared.

The fact remains, however, that the LNG issue is province-wide. It’s rather reminds me of Churchill’s statement “everyone feeds the crocodile in the hopes that the crocodile will eat him last”.

The message from this is clear – British Columbians cannot afford to sit back and let others do all the fighting for an issue that belongs to all of us.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

19 thoughts on “Rafe: All hands on deck for Howe Sound as LNG storm brews

  1. Let’s all start replacing “LNG” with “LFG” (liquid FRACKED gas) every time we write and talk about this issue, explaining that there’s nothing NATURAL about it. Let’s avoid giving the industry “spin”. Many people think it just “flows” from the well head naturally. They need to be reminded of all the chemicals injected, water used. The industry knows that language matters and they pay big bucks to get it “write”. Let’s write them down: “LFG” every time.

  2. I believe we’re finally getting the message. Thank you Rafe. It is up to us to protect our environment and health. Greed has eliminated those we used to count on.

  3. Its time to stop fighting individual problems because each problem is part of a bigger singular problem; the deck is stacked against the people and favours those who are corrupt and hunger for wealth and power. It is an era of decline in so many ways.

  4. Don F. is bang on. Civil disobedience is the only thing these bastards understand. If we are not prepared to disobey, on a very large scale, we might as well get out now. For obvious reasons, hot air and handwaving is useless and tiring.
    In my view the people of Howe Sound are ready and will disobey, non violently. It belongs to all of us so lets everyone gird up their loins and get ready.

  5. What about the proponent of this disgusting WoodFibre LNG Project? Sukanto Tanoto??
    His company is responsible for mass deforestation in Indonesia.
    He has been convicted of fraud for tax evasion and has to pay back US$246 million dollars.
    Byng Giroud , now associated with Wood Fibre LNG, was previously involved with Mount Polly. His safety record would have to be questioned.
    Squamish has major earthquake activity.
    There are so many more reasons why this project should not go ahead, and the Citizens of Howe Sound will fight this project to the bitter end.
    West Vancouver Council, Lions Bay Council, Bowen Island and Sunshine Coast all along this Sea to Sky Highway are totally against this project. Listen to the people. This project will not go ahead.

  6. Unfortunately we seem to be living in a time when civil disobedience must be considered a viable if not only option. What other choice do people have when media work for governments and truth and common sense are elusive at best.
    When all reason doesn’t matter, right or wrong, we really are left with no choice if we are to save what we have and are responsible to protect.
    Now Bill C-51 is upon us, another radical move to silence, not well thought out unless they are willing to imprison thousands of innocents and at what cost? I don’t think the world is ready for that, Just yet!

  7. In Mike Harcourt’s bombast he gives another corporate fossil fuel propaganda spin…no mention of AGW, which is the most crucial issue of our time and possibly in human history. He is either downright uninformed or deceitful.

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