The Squamish Nation (SN) has laid out its conditions for approval of the Woodfibre LNG plant, and it's now up to the proponents to address them.
The First Nation was to have handed down a decision on the plant at the end of July, but instead announced the vote would be delayed until fall so further discussions could take place.
"They're not unexpected," said Woodfibre LNG's vice president of corporate affairs Byng Giraud, of the 25 conditions outlined by the SN last month.
"There are some strong conditions there, but our first review is we think we can find a place where we can meet them. We entered into this process voluntarily about two years ago, and we knew they would come out with something different than what the provincial or federal regulators would come out with."
The project will not move forward unless the conditions — which include further studies on the impacts of marine life, access for SN members through the Controlled Access Zone to allow for the practice of aboriginal rights and no fuelling of LNG tankers in Squamish territory — are met.
"I don't think any of them are unreasonable," Giraud said. "Right now I'm feeling confident that we'll be able to meet those conditions but we still have more work to do."
In a summary of its independent environmental assessment, SN Chief Ian Campbell said the nation wouldn't consider any economic benefits until all environmental and cultural issues have been addressed to its own satisfaction.
"When it comes to the Woodfibre LNG proposal, we must rely on our elders and members that use our land, along with facts, hard data and a thorough scientific review," Campbell said in a written statement.
"Over the past year, that is exactly what we have done, sharing that information with SN members and Council."
In his statement, Campbell touches on the work done in recent decades to revitalize Howe Sound.
"...in the '60s, '70s and 80's, mining effluent was joined by contamination and environmental degradation from chemical plants, logging and pulp mills. These turned the Sound into a dead and poisoned place where toxic mercury levels meant we could no longer eat the fish," Campbell said.
"There is much good news to report: the herring are coming back; so are the wild salmon, cod and Grey Whales; and, as recent sightings demonstrate, killer whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins are returning too."
Giraud said there's an advantage to being held to a higher standard.
"It shows our commitment to SN, shows that we have a commitment above and beyond standard regulatory practice to do better by the environment and by the people in the area," Giraud said.
The cooperation between the two parties goes beyond a single project, Giraud said.
"It's critical. Never mind Woodfibre and the SN and Howe Sound... this is something that we as industry, broadly speaking, have to embrace in British Columbia," he said.
"The landscape has changed. Industry and governments and the public have to be responsive to that changing landscape, and that changing landscape means a different arrangement with the indigenous peoples, with the first peoples of this province."
But Giraud and his team have their work cut out for them if Woodfibre LNG is to keep moving forward.
"Bottom line. If our lands and waters are not protected LNG plants or other industrial operations simply won't get built. Period," Campbell said.
A summary of the independent environmental assessment — including the 25 recommendations — can be found online at www.squamish.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/SN-WoodfibreUpdate-Summary-03.pdf.
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