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LNG concerns rile Howe Sound residents

Opposition groups working together against energy export plant



As Woodfibre LNG prepares to submit documents to the federal and provincial Environmental Assessment Offices, opposition to a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant on Howe Sound is increasing.

Tracey Saxby is opposed to the construction of any such facility. She describes herself as just one de facto leader of a grassroots movement coming together to ask tough questions about the LNG proposal for the Woodfibre lands on the western side of Howe Sound, just south of Squamish. Saxby has sacrificed time she would have dedicated to her job to research the proposed project. She and a group of other people are organizing efforts to prevent construction of the export facility.

West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy announced in the legislature last week that he supports the LNG sector and spoke favourably about the work done so far by Woodfibre LNG. That statement from Sturdy prompted Saxby to declare that the game is on.

"We've been connecting with all of the other communities within the Howe Sound air shed that will be impacted by this," said Saxby.

Saxby's group has connections with people on Bowen Island, in Lions Bay, West Vancouver and on the Sunshine Coast who are concerned about the proposed LNG plant.

"We're still trying to figure out what this is going to look like and how we're going to be working together," said Saxby. "The goal is to ask these key questions and then to start working with government to ask for more regulations on what industry in the sound looks like. We want to ask whether we want to have industry on the sound."

Saxby's key questions concerning the LNG plant include the impact the plant would have on Howe Sound air quality, water quality, the number of jobs the plant would create, how much tax it will pay and how it will impact the tourism industry.

Lions Bay resident Gillian Smith and other Lions Bay residents with the group, called Save Howe Sound, have similar questions. Smith is worried about the cumulative impact on the region if all the industrial developments proposed for Howe Sound move ahead.

"There is also a gravel mine proposed, and there's clear cut logging that's also being proposed on Gambier Island," said Smith. "And then we've also got possible waste-to-energy incineration that may happen at Port Mellon. When we start to look at all of these industries and the possible combined impact ... as they go through environmental impact assessment, they are treated in isolation as opposed to together."

Smith wants the provincial government to consider all the development proposals together.

"We have international attention, we've had a resurgence of marine life in Howe Sound that is certainly very promising, and lots of taxpayers have put literally millions of dollars into cleaning up Howe Sound," she said. "It's really taking a step backwards to now industrialize the area."

Sturdy said he is getting correspondence from constituents on the issue and many are forming their opinion about the project based on limited information.

"I'm not sure that we're doing as good a job as we need to do in terms of perhaps providing the range of perspective on this," Sturdy said on Monday, March 31. "It's a bit awkward because it's not really the government's job to sell this project."

A discussion about LNG is planned for Tuesday, April 8 at Quest University. Saxby said the event includes a panel of speakers made up of people from all sides of the issue.

On March 27, just days after Sturdy's statement in the legislature, Premier Christy Clark released a statement reconfirming her vision that B.C. will become a global LNG export leader.

Four long-term liquefied natural gas export licenses have been approved so far in B.C. by the federal government and more are currently under consideration.


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