Richmond Council yesterday unanimously passed a motion calling for a full environmental review on plans to run over 200 LNG vessels a year up the Fraser River. The move comes in reaction to attempts by proponent WesPac to skip a proper, public review of the its proposal for an LNG terminal on the Fraser River.
Richmond Council’s vote follows a strongly-worded op-ed by local Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington in the Delta Optimist last week, detailing how she changed he mind about the project. Initially, it was presented to her as a small upgrade to a longstanding Fortis BC-operated LNG storage tank. “Since Fortis has been producing LNG at Tilbury for a long, long time – and would be using the existing footprint – it all sounded good to me,” she began.
But flash forward to a whole shipping terminal proposed for construction on the Fraser by another company, WesPac, plus a tanker or barge every other day, and a new transmission line to power the project and Huntington was singing a different tune. She notes the huge public outcry she has heard since details of the quiet plan became public in recent weeks – amid a brief, flawed public comment window on the question of whether these plans even merit an environmental assessment:
[quote]My office has received over 1,000 emails objecting to the export of LNG from Tilbury. Fifty or so correspondents live in Delta – many of whom I know. Until now, I didn’t share all their concerns: the initial business plan made so much sense.
But I don’t think I trust that plan anymore.[/quote]
After taking a closer look at the project – which has already been awarded an export licence by the National Energy Board – Richmond Council decided to go on the record, with the following motion, passed unanimously yesterday:
[quote]An LNG plant is proposed across the Fraser River in Delta to serve fracking operations in north-eastern BC. Up to 120 LNG tankers and 90 LNG barges are expected on the Fraser annually. To date Richmond City staff have been unable to determine the full scope of this project.
It has been suggested that a federal environmental review may not be necessary. The Federal Government has given to June 24th for public input whether a federal environmental review is necessary.
Resolved that Richmond council request a full Federal Environmental Assessment and Review of the Delta LNG project; to consider effects on dredging a deeper and wider shipping channel; effects on dyking; effects on the habitat of the estuary and the Fraser River fishery; safety concerns; climate change and the industrialization of the Fraser River due to the cumulative effect of coal, jet fuel, LNG, and possibly oil shipments on the Fraser River.[/quote]
What began as a sneaky attempt run hundreds of LNG tankers and barges up the Fraser River has blown up into a loud public backlash. The process itself didn’t help. An export licence issued with zero public knowledge. A short public comment window on the need for an environmental review that almost slid by, were it not for citizen group Voters Taking Action on Climate Change stumbling across a notice on the BC Environmental Assessment Office.
Then, the federal government email to which the public was supposed to send their comments turned out to be broken and not accepting comments for what appears to be all or most of the duration of the comment window. Into this void stepped a website built for this purpose, Real LNG Hearings, which, according to founder Kevin Washbrook had already taken in over 1,000 letters from concerned citizens before the initial public comment window closed. Given the email cock-up, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Office extended the window for public comment until June 24.
As The Common Sense Canadian has reported on in these pages, these well-founded concerns are built on very real safety risks – not to mention the above ecological issues highlighted by Richmond Council. The width of the Fraser River does not come close to the minimum safety requirements for LNG tankers laid out by the leading authorities on the subject. Neither do those proposed to transit Howe Sound from the planned Woodfibre LNG plant near Squamish. The close proximity of these routes to densely populated communities is also a big no-no in the eyes of global experts on LNG tanker safety. Even Stephen Harper blocked LNG tanker plans on the East Coast over safety concerns.
Not that environmental assessments themselves can be taken seriously in this era of rubber stamps and kangaroo courts, but skipping even the show of one is a deep affront to the public. If, after well over a thousand calls from citizens, a local MLA and city council – on the basis of these very real safety and environmental concerns – the federal government does not change its stance and agree to hold a full environmental hearing, then it will provoke a public backlash bigger than it can imagine.
Think Burnaby Mountain on the Fraser River.