Squamish Nation council votes to support LNG benefit agreements 

Impact benefit agreements with Woodfibre LNG, FortisBC, and the provincial government approved in close vote by Nation on Wednesday night

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO DAVID BUZZARD/ WWW.MEDIA-CENTRE.CA - Squamish Nation swearing-in at Totem Hall in April. The new council has approved benefit agreements with the other major players in the Woodfibre LNG project.
  • File photo David Buzzard/ www.media-centre.ca
  • Squamish Nation swearing-in at Totem Hall in April. The new council has approved benefit agreements with the other major players in the Woodfibre LNG project.

It is a significant milestone on the road to Woodfibre LNG becoming operational.

Squamish Nation council voted in favour of impact benefit agreements with Woodfibre LNG, FortisBC, and the provincial government on Wednesday night.

"Approving the impact benefit agreements was a step in the Squamish Nation’s process for assessing the impacts and benefits of this project," read a Squamish Nation news release on Friday afternoon.

"The approval by the Squamish council includes compliance by the project proponents with legally binding conditions issued under the Squamish Nation's environmental assessment process."

The specific details of the agreements were not available.

Such impact or economic agreements provide benefits to First Nations in exchange for the Nations' support of a project and are seen with significant developments including mines, dams, pipelines and the like.

"Revenue collected from this project will go to the Squamish Nation and contribute to programs and services it operates for its members. In addition, there will be jobs and training opportunities and spin-off business opportunities for members," read the Squamish Nation release.

The Nation acknowledged that it was not an easy decision for some on council.

"Communities are sometimes faced with difficult decisions and it is recognized that this was a difficult decision for many."

The vote was contentious and tight, according to Squamish Nation spokesman and councillor Khelsilem (Dustin Rivers).

The final result was an 8 to 6 vote in favour of each of the agreements.

This is the first major development involving the Nation and Woodfibre since the new council — with eight new members and eight returning members — was sworn in on April 22. Some of the new members said they did not support the project during their election campaigns, so there was some speculation in the community about whether these agreements would ultimately be supported.

Khelsilem said in a tweet prior to the vote that an agenda item to consider sending the Woodfibre LNG Impact Benefit Agreements to a referendum had been taken off the agenda.

"A majority of Council voted to have the agenda item removed. We won’t be discussing doing a referendum with our members on Woodfibre LNG," Khelsilem tweeted.

The Squamish Nation has close to 4,000 members, approximately 3,000 of which are eligible voters. The Squamish Nation traditional territory includes 6,700 square kilometres with 23 village sites and 24 reserves.

On Friday, the local anti-LNG group My Sea to Sky said while they respect the decision of Squamish Nation council regarding the benefit agreements, they were disappointed. "Scientists have warned us that we have 12 years to limit climate catastrophe," said Tracey Saxby, a marine scientist and executive director of My Sea to Sky on the organization's website.

"People are scared about the very real consequences that climate change is already having on our communities. We cannot build new fossil fuel infrastructure when we are facing a climate crisis that threatens the future of our planet."

On Oct. 14, 2015, after its own independent assessment, Squamish Nation council approved the Woodfibre LNG Environmental Assessment Agreement.

Byng Giraud, country manager and vice-president of corporate affairs with Woodfibre LNG Limited, noted in a statement to The Chief that the $1.6-billion Woodfibre LNG Project is the first industrial project in Canada to be awarded an environmental certificate by an Indigenous government.

"We believe the Squamish Nation process and the resulting conditions are an important pathway to economic reconciliation," Giraud said in a statement to The Chief.

There are other of the Nation's 25 conditions — 13 of which impact Woodfibre LNG directly — that the company is still working to meet.

"Next steps will be holding the proponents accountable through the construction, operation and decommissioning of the Woodfibre LNG Project,' read the Squamish Nation release.

"As agreed by the proponents, we will be co-developing management plans for the project and will have our own monitors on the ground to report any non-compliance with the conditions."

On June 27, 2015, the Nation set out their 25 conditions that needed to be met for the LNG facility and associated pipeline to go ahead. On July 24, 2015, Woodfibre LNG publicly announced it would meet its share of those requirements.

A FortisBC representative said the company isn't able to make a statement at this time.

A comment was not immediately available from the provincial government.

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