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Woodfibre LNG withdraws from District of Squamish process on floatel

Workers to be housed in floatel in Howe Sound following provincial order.
Council discusses the TUP application from WLNG being withdrawn, at its meeting on Tuesday, June 18.

Woodfibre LNG has withdrawn from the Temporary Use Permit (TUP) process with the District of Squamish (DOS) for its floatel worker accommodations.

The move follows an order from the provincial Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) on June 17 for WLNG to house its workers on the floatel by June 21.

The withdrawal pulled the rug out from under the District of Squamish and council plans to further discuss the TUP at the committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday.

The TUP has been a bone of contention between council and the company, with four meetings on it and a public hearing in the last three months.

Council had originally rejected the TUP in April, before deciding to reconsider it in May. 

At a further meeting, they added additional questions for WLNG to answer, and it was at the June 18 meeting that those questions would be discussed. 

"Given there is no longer an active application, staff have nothing further to present," said Kate Mulligan, who is the DOS's director of major projects at the June 18 meeting at Municipal Hall.

Responding to Mulligan's brief update, Mayor Armand Hurford said he disagreed with WLNG's actions.

"This order has been interpreted by the proponent to supersede the jurisdiction of the District of Squamish, and here we differ in opinion," he said.

"This order, in our assessment, directs them to resolve the issues and work through the TUP permitting process. They've chosen to withdraw from that process. Where that leaves us at this point is disagreeing on the interpretation of this, and as to next steps, they remain to be seen."

The order from the EAO came from its compliance and enforcement branch on June 17. It stated that an investigation had shown that WLNG workers were being housed out of compliance with the WLNG Environmental Assessment Certificate (EAC), which said that all non-local workers associated with the Woodfibre project must be housed on the floatel,  moored offshore of the Woodfibre location.

The EAO investigation had found that workers were being housed in the community, at Port Mellon, and "elsewhere," and ordered that all of those workers be housed on the floatel, which would be moored in its permitted location in Howe Sound by 5 p.m. on Friday, June 21.

Hurford said that he believed the TUP process with the DOS in permitting the floatel still had to be followed, even with the EAO order, which he said was not a mechanism to override the local government.

"At this point in time our position is that this order does not explicitly override the District of Squamish's authority. 

"The province does have the authority to do that, and there are specific mechanisms available for them to achieve that—this is not one of them."

Coun. Jenna Stoner agreed with Hurford's comment.

"If the province were to try to supersede us on this, there are other mechanisms which can do that, but an order by the Environmental Assessment compliance and enforcement branch specifically, is not that."

WLNG says it will work with DOS

For its part, Woodfibre LNG spokesperson Sean Beardow said that the company withdrew the application “following discussions with District and provincial government staff.” 

“Woodfibre LNG withdrew the temporary use permit application (TUP) in recognition that the District’s issuance timeframes and process for the TUP were inconsistent with the order received from the BC Environmental Assessment Office and that the proposed TUP conditions were no longer applicable,” he said in a statement to The Squamish Chief. “Compliance with regulatory conditions is a core priority for the company, and preparations are underway to move the floatel to [the] site to accommodate [our] workforce as mandated by the order, “ he added.

“The company will continue to work closely with the District of Squamish, and had already provided a package to meet District information requests when the order was issued. If the District wishes to issue a TUP in the circumstances where an order already applies, Woodfibre LNG will work with District staff on next steps.”

On June 18, council voted unanimously to receive the report from staff summarizing the current situation. 

The staff report that was to be discussed at the June 18 committee of the whole included answers from WLNG on a $10 million security to the DOS, which had been agreed to be raised from $2 million. As the TUP is no longer being applied for, the fate of that security amount is not known.

Other questions were around a hazard assessment of Henrietta Lake, a report of cumulative impacts of the Woodfibre project and associated pipeline, and a written summary of compliance with the EAC. Each question had been asked of WLNG at the June 4 meeting, which was itself a reconsideration of a previous rejection of the TUP.

 More to come...