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Squamish First Nation conditions can be met, just need time to work out the details

The Squamish First Nation has postponed a vote over a proposed $1.6 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in its traditional territory while it negotiates with the project’s backers during an environmental review. The Squamish Nation is undertaking an independent environmental assessment, which will be legally binding, reports CTV News.

The First Nation group says that the review is the first of its kind in British Columbia and that the project’s backers, Woodfibre LNG and FortisBC, have agreed to participate. Last month, the Squamish issued 25 conditions it wants met before it grants its own environmental certificate.

Woodfibre is licensed to export about 2.1 million tons of LNG per year, for a period of 25 years, according to the company. The company expects the project will provide 100 full-time jobs at the facility during operation, and about 650 jobs per year for the two year construction period. The LNG plant is expected to create an estimated C$83.7 million in tax revenue during the construction phase of the project and $86.5 million in tax revenue per year while in operation. Woodfibre’s partner, FortisBC, is proposing a 47 kilometer (about 29 miles) pipeline to supply natural gas to the project.

The nation is asking the company not to fuel tankers in Squamish territory, to provide more details about its seawater cooling discharge system, to only use the facility for natural gas liquefaction and export and not to expand it without its approval, among other things.

Byng Giraud, vice president of corporate affairs, said Woodfibre LNG believes it can meet the conditions but still needs to hammer out the details of how they are implemented.

Woodfibre is a subsidiary of Pacific Oil & Gas Ltd., part of a Singapore-based group of companies called Royal Golden Eagle. Giraud said the owners are “highly sensitive” to the company’s approach to the Squamish Nation.

“They’re fully apprised to the importance of including First Nations,” he said. “We know that if we didn’t do this, things would get off on the wrong foot. It’s actually been a refreshing process.”

FortisBC spokesman Trevor Boudreau said the utility would continue engaging with the nation on its demands – including that the pipeline route avoid cultural and wildlife sites – but no decision has been made yet.

Moving forward on LNG in B.C.

Last week, the government of British Columbia approved the Liquefied Natural Gas Project Agreements Act after a special summer session. The bill gives the province authority to enter into LNG project agreements, including a $36 billion deal with Pacific NorthWest LNG, to encourage further LNG development in the province.

Under the deal, B.C. will compensate PNW LNG if taxes on the industry are raised, natural gas tax credits are reduced or new carbon taxes targeting the LNG sector are imposed for the next 25 years. The agreement will not protect the company from increases in provincial sales and corporate taxes. After the bill was signed, B.C. Premier Christy Clark said the bill sets the stage for “unprecedented levels of investment, job creation and economic activity.”

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