Squamish Mayor Rob Kirkham has more questions than answers when it comes to Pacific Energy Corp.'s plans to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility at Woodfibre.
The energy company, based in Singapore, has expressed an interest in buying the former pulp mill site on the west side of Howe Sound to build an LNG facility. It's described as a small scale export facility by Ratnesh Bedi, president of Pacific Energy.
Kirkham said he met representatives of Pacific Energy a few weeks ago. He characterized it purely as an introductory meeting.
Kirkham added that the representatives confirmed that two subjects need to be removed before the company will complete the purchase of the land. One subject is completion of Pacific Energy's business plan and related agreements with FortisBC, said Kirkham. The other subject is completion of the environmental cleanup of the site imposed on the current owner by the B.C. government.
"They are doing business with China and Indonesia," Kirkham learned. "This is their first venture into North America. They are looking for a continuous supply within their own organization."
Based on the limited amount of information available, Kirkham said it is too early for the District of Squamish to take a stance on the proposal.
"At this stage of the game (I'm) just very excited that there's potential of a redevelopment of the Woodfibre site and clean up of the contamination over there."
Kirkham said he's looking forward to the possibility of jobs and tax revenue being generated for Squamish.
"As far as the feasibility of it, as far as the environmental impacts, these things are yet to be determined," said Kirkham.
The amount of tax revenue that will be generated if the project goes ahead is unknown as Kirkham said that would depend on the value assessed to the land by the B.C. Assessment Authority.
Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberals have put a significant emphasis on the potential of LNG as a key driver of the B.C. economy in the near future, believing it could generate a trillion dollars for the province by the middle of the century. They want three LNG facilities in operation by 2020.
"The safe recovery and export of our abundant supply of natural gas presents an opportunity for prosperity unlike anything we have ever seen before," said Premier Clark in a recent government news release. "British Columbians can secure tens of thousands of new jobs for decades to come by developing this clean energy resource, and protect this new wealth for the benefit of all of us today, as well as our children and their families, tomorrow."
While the premier calls it clean energy Jeff Gau of the Future of Howe Sound Society (FHSS) said his organization is worried about the impact an LNG plant would have on the shores of a body of water still recovering from the impacts of mining and pulp mill operations.
"The society and our coalition members are very concerned about the prospect of heavy industry returning to the sound and the social, environmental and economic impacts projects of this nature can have," Gau said. "We think that taxpayers should be concerned about all the economic development that has taken place. If you look at the direction that Squamish is moving in, clearly, they're pretty pleased with their success marketing themselves as one of the outdoor adventure capitals around the world."
According to Gau, any heavy industry proposal goes against the vision the FHSS has for the area. "I don't see how massive barges and kids in kayaks co-exist peacefully," Gau added.
Bedi said in an email statement that his company will meet or exceed all environmental requirements and maintain the improvements to Howe Sound.
If the purchase agreement is completed and Pacific Energy builds the facility they hope to have it constructed within the next five years.