Woodfibre LNG has cleared another hurdle.
On Oct. 14, the Squamish Nation (SN) voted to approve an Environmental Assessment Agreement (EAA) for the project.
"This decision is one step in a multi-stage process, and just to be very clear, it's not an endorsement of the project," said Chief Ian Campbell of the SN.
"It's a tool that the nation deemed important as a way of enforcing our conditions."
In June, the SN laid out 25 conditions that would have to be met before the project could move forward. In July, Woodfibre publicly agreed to meet the 13 conditions that apply to its part of the proposal.
Under the EAA, Squamish Nation has significant decision-making powers concerning the choice of cooling technology and approval of management plans.
They also have the option of pursuing legal action if the conditions aren't met.
"In all of our discussion with government, we've certainly been advocating for a framework which would include government-to-government decision making, economic participation, as well as environmental stewardship," Campbell said.
"Those three pillars are very important to us."
In an emailed statement, Woodfibre LNG's vice president of corporate affairs Byng Giraud called the EAA an important step in the process.
"At Woodfibre LNG Limited, we believe that by working together with First Nations, we can build a better project; one that brings responsible economic opportunity to the region and protects traditional land, water and heritage resources," Giraud said.
"Achieving an environmental assessment agreement with Squamish Nation and receiving provincial and federal regulatory approvals are important steps toward making a final investment decision on the Woodfibre LNG Project."
Provincial and federal government decisions on the project are expected later this year.
Separate discussions concerning an Environmental Certificate for a Fortis BC pipeline that would supply Woodfibre LNG are ongoing.
"They've indicated a willingness to accept all of our conditions that pertain to their part of the project, and it looks like they're going to be committing to implementing all of the SN's conditions," Campbell said.
After news of the agreement broke, community group My Sea to Sky — which has been opposed to the project since day one — issued a release of its own.
"While My Sea to Sky completely respects the Squamish Nation Council's decision on how to protect and manage their traditional territory, there is still much work to be done by way of witnessing the proponent's ability to meet the conditions during facility construction and operation," My Sea to Sky spokesperson Delena Angrignon said in the release.
The group expressed its ongoing concerns with the Fortis BC pipeline route, Woodfibre's seawater cooling method, fracking in northeastern B.C. and increased tanker traffic in Howe Sound.
But Campbell said the environment is still top of mind for the SN as well.
"Our membership have been very clear that they have some very serious concerns about the industrialization of Howe Sound," he said.
"We've seen the recent revitalization of the sound with whales and herring biomass... if this is going to be a reality for Howe Sound, we need to ensure that there are accountability and safeguards put in place that will protect this trend of revitalization."
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