Steelhead LNG Opens Conversation with the Comox Valley

Delores Broten

Photo by Jón Ragnarsson , CC, cropped from original

Steelhead LNG made a polished and carefully non-specific information presentation to a packed audience at the Comox Valley Regional District board room on Tuesday February 5th. The presentation follows similar meetings Steelhead have held with First Nations and local governments up and down Vancouver Island.

The company was clear that they were speaking about two separate projects: 1) the Kwispaa LNG plant to be co-managed with the Huu-ay-aht First Nation on land owned by the Huu-ay-aht near Bamfield, and 2) the Steelhead natural gas pipeline, which would supply that plant with natural gas to be converted to LNG for export.

Steelhead made clear that the source of the natural gas, and the methods used to extract it (i.e. fracking), were not their responsibility, since they would buy it from producers in Northeastern BC and Alberta. Still, they appeared happy to suggest that their “clean” natural gas would be a boon to the world by easing Asia off coal and oil, and therefore congruent with the CleanBC plan.

Other points gleaned from the presentation and responses to councillors’ questions:

  • The Huu-ay-aht process showed consent through a referendum, and with the support of the hereditary chiefs, which was the level of engagement Steelhead sought from First Nations.
  • Starting near Chetwynd, the pipe would be 1000 km in length and four feet in diameter, and have a 32 metre right-of-way, with 10 metres of the right-of-way clear of vegetation through an undetermined Vegetation Management Plan.
  • Steelhead proposed two possible paths for the pipeline under the Salish Sea: one from Powell River to the Comox Valley along the existing Fortis pipe, and the other further south.
  • The company appeared to be scoping for paths of least resistance, although they called it engagement, to ensure there was consent and no ecologically sensitive areas in their path.
  • Local benefits of the project touted by Steelhead included property taxes as a utility, and “opportunities to support unique local initiatives,” although no such initiatives were specified.
  • A recurring theme was that “technology had evolved” since any of the pipelines that make the news by exploding were built. Their pipeline would be constantly inspected by “smart pigs,” and would withstand earthquakes, so local risks were minimal. The company would work to develop local Emergency Response Plans. They had promised the Huu-ay-aht they would fund one dedicated rescue tug at the Sarita Bay port.
  • Building the pipeline and the LNG plant would create thousands of temporary jobs.
  • Steelhead expects to have a full project description filed with the BC environmental assessment process by 2020, pass an environmental assessment, and make a final investment decision in 2021, to have the pipeline in service by 2025.

At the end of the presentation, representative Daniel Arbour asked why the company wanted to invest in last century’s technology instead of joining the move to renewables already underway in Asia.

As the Chair closed the presentation, some of the audience cheered, displayed protest signs, drummed, and gave impromptu and impassioned speeches about the impact of the project on their grandchildren’s future under climate change.

There will be a public forum Wednesday February 27th at the Florence Filberg Centre, 7. Pm, featuring speakers with information about LNG, Fracking and the impact of this project on Barkley Sound.

We received this letter of comment from biologist, naturalist, and educator Loys Maignon, who attended Steelhead LNG’s presentation to the CVRD on Feb. 5.

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