As the Woodfibre LNG project makes its way through the Environmental Assessment process — the public comment period was recently extended to July 27 — the push for public engagement carries on.
On Wednesday, July 2, the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE) held its bi-monthly Green Talk, the focus of which, said guest presenter Eoin Finn, was "informing the public of the benefits and risks of the LNG plant in Howe Sound."
"This is not a business B.C. wants to be in, should be in, or needs to be in, in order to make a vibrant economic base for the province of B.C." Finn said.
"A smarter industrial policy would have us making stuff, doing secondary manufacturing out of the raw resources we have. This proposed LNG industry offers none of that."
During his presentation, Finn, a retired astrophysicist with a PhD in physical chemistry, talked about the environmental recovery of Howe Sound since the decline of industry in the area.
"We've seen recently the return of orcas, dolphins and sightings of humpback whales all feeding on salmon and herring, that have returned as the marine environment has improved," Finn said.
"I'd hate to see that turned around by a second phase of re-industrialization of Howe Sound."
At this stage of the environmental assessment process, public consultation is meant to identify "valued components" — the potential impacts that the public would like to see studied in regards to the project.
"That's really what the objective is at this stage of the EAO process," said West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy.
"To make sure that what needs to be assessed is being assessed."
Sturdy was in attendance at the Green Talk, staying afterwards to answer questions from other attendees.
"I've been attending a number of these talks just being there to make sure that I understand what the community concerns are with regards to this proposal," Sturdy said.
"There's a full range of responses and concerns around this proposal."
While the potential negatives have been well documented — possible safety hazards, environmental damage, harm to the tourism industry — some constituents have brought forward positive feedback as well.
"Just that this is an opportunity for the region, the province and certainly the district," Sturdy said, of some of the positive feedback he's received.
"Given the circumstances that are there — a deepwater port, a brownfield site, access to hydro, within municipal boundaries — all of these things present potential opportunities."
Opposition to the project is to be expected, but it will help improve the project in the long run, said Woodfibre spokesperson Marian Ngo.
"In B.C., any industrial project will automatically have people that are opposed to it. It's just the nature of the province, and that's fine," she said.
"My job is to listen to those concerns, listen to the community and listen to both sides of the story and see how best we can address that as we develop this project."
The end goal of the project is to be "the gold standard for development in B.C.," Ngo said.
"We're going electric (and) we've moved it on land," she said.
"We're going to go by best practices, and make sure that this is a project that is environmentally responsible and it meets the high standards of the corridor."
Public comments can be submitted on the Environmental Assessment Office's website at www.eao.gov.bc.ca.