Centra Gas will be allowed to add another five propane storage tanks to its Nesters Road facility, but if the company needs more capacity it is going to have to build a pipeline to Whistler.
The tank farm expansion has caused considerable debate in recent weeks, with some questioning the safety of the site and the wisdom of locating such a facility in the middle of the valley, while others opposed the expansion because of its encroachment on the nearby wetlands.
Whistler council approved the expansion by a 4-2 vote, with Councillors Ken Melamed and Nancy Wilhelm-Morden opposing the move. Both said the Nesters Road location was inappropriate.
"I agree with what’s said," Councillor Ted Milner said, "but we need this gas. Are there any alternatives?"
Melamed responded that the additional five tanks would still only give Centra four days of reserves, which still doesn’t meet the industry standard of five days of reserves.
Administrator Jim Godfrey noted that the present arrangement only provides Centra with about 2 1/2 days of reserves.
"If we only have 2 1/2 days of reserves during a critical time in the winter, we’re in trouble," Godfrey said.
He suggested approving the expansion but including a caveat that no further expansions will be allowed.
Mayor Hugh O’Reilly added that with two new major hotels coming on line, Centra will have to build a natural gas pipeline from Squamish to Whistler if it expects to service those buildings.
"I look at this as a temporary position we’re moving into," O’Reilly said.
Melamed replied that council was not responsible for Centra’s business decisions or for any problems the company might have meeting its customers’ needs.
"They made the threat that if we didn’t support the highway pipeline route they would have to expand the tank farm. Council didn’t support the highway route, but I don’t accept that we’re responsible for any shortage to customers," Melamed said.
Centra had been planning to build a natural gas pipeline from Squamish to Whistler along the shoulder of Highway 99. Whistler council didn’t support the route because of the impact construction would have had on traffic. The Ministry of Highways didn’t support the route, either.
Council would like Centra to build a pipeline along a route that could become the Sea to Sky Trail. Centra has balked at the cost of such a route.
Meanwhile, an independent consultant reviewed all of Centra’s facilities in Whistler and found no major problems or safety issues, although a number of recommendations are made.