Let’s make sure this proposal is thoroughly reviewed.

Wespac, the US company that wants to build an export terminal on the Fraser River to deliver LNG under a contract between Fortis and Hawaiian Electric, has outlined what it thinks should be covered in its environmental assessment (EA) of the proposal.  Here is some of what’s missing from Wespac’s proposed EA:

The Big Picture: we need an all-in-one assessment of Wespac-FortisBC LNG export plans.

Wespac proposes to export much more LNG than FortisBC can currently produce at its Tilbury Island LNG liquefaction facility. Wespac’s plans will require a major expansion at the FortisBC site(1) and new high voltage power lines through Delta farmland.  Wespac is already in discussion with FortisBC about expanding LNG production to serve the proposed export terminal, so why assess the projects separately? Rather than allowing these projects to be presented to the public for review in a piecemeal fashion, the BC EAO should require the proponents – Wespac and Fortis – put forward a single application that encompasses the entire export project.(2) Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 10.51.46 AM

Upstream Regional Impacts: driling, fracking, methane emissions and more.

Plans by Wespac and FortisBC to export LNG will have major impacts in northeastern BC.  As the Pembina Institute explains here, more than a thousand new wells would be drilled and billions of litres of water used in the fracking process to meet the demand for natural gas created by this export proposal. Millions of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions would be released during the drilling, processing and transport of the gas to the FortisBC facility for liquefaction before handing on to Wespac.  Currently, Wespac gives no indication it plans to assess any of these impacts in its review, even though they would directly result from the project going forward.

Further, where will electricity to power expanded natural gas liquefaction at the Fortis facility be sourced? Will new hydro dams like Site C be needed?  Will new or expanded natural gas pipelines need to be built to supply gas to the project?

The BC EAO should require that all upstream impacts generated by this proposal are included in the environmental assessment.

Downstream Regional Impacts: pressure on marine mammals from vessel traffic, global warming. 

Ocean going vessels loaded with LNG will have to travel from the Wespac terminal through the heavily trafficked Salish Sea and Straight of Juan de Fuca on their way to export markets.  This will add to the cumulative impact of marine traffic on endangered killer whales and other marine life.  However, Wespac says that once the LNG is loaded on to ocean going vessels it’s not their responsibility anymore. Wespac doesn’t plan to assess any impacts beyond the mouth of the Fraser River.

The BC EAO should require the proponent assess all marine impacts out to international waters — and if the EAO refuses to do so, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency should rescind its substitution agreement with the province and conduct a full federal review of the project.

Further, once the LNG is exported and burned, it will make climate change worse, but Wespac does not intend to assess these impacts in its review either.  That’s not good enough.  The BC EAO should require a full assessment of downstream and end use climate impacts from this project.

Local Impacts: catastrophic accidents and deliberate acts, effects on property values.

One of the biggest concerns about LNG terminals and tankers is safety and security.  An accident, malfunction or deliberate act of destruction at a terminal or on an LNG tanker could have catastrophic and widespread impacts.  View an interactive hazard zone map for this project here.

Wespac gives no indication that it has selected its proposed terminal location based on international siting standards, nor that it has conducted a waterway suitability assessment to determine if it is appropriate to move LNG tankers down the narrow, winding and heavily trafficked Fraser River, past residential developments and through sensitive wildlife habitat.

In fact, it appears that Wespac has chosen this location simply because it is next to the existing Fortis LNG facility.  

Siting and vessel routing concerns must be carefully and explicitly addressed in a well developed, stand alone chapter of the environmental assessment for the project – as was done for the environmental assessment of the Woodfibre LNG proposal near Squamish.   Wespac proposes instead to address concerns about accidents and malfunctions on an issue by issue basis throughout the assessment, which does not allow for comprehensive analysis.  Wespac does not intend to address the possibility of deliberate acts of destruction at all, as required by LNG proponents in the United States. This omission is not acceptable.

The BC EAO should demand that Wespac develop a coherent overall assessment of safety risks and a comprehensive set of security measures to avoid those risks, at both the terminal location and along the marine route. The EA should include:

An evaluation of terminal location according to internationally recognized SIGTTO(3) siting standards;

Waterway Suitability Assessment equivalent to that required by the US Department of Homeland Security and US Coast Guard, including a 3.5 km hazard zone on both sides of the entire LNG tanker route;

An explicit assessment of risks posed by terrorist acts as required in the United States.

As part of the safety and security chapter of its EA, Wespac should also be required to demonstrate that it has insurance coverage adequate to cover the costs of a catastrophic event, and sufficient disaster response capability to deal with such an event.

Finally, Wespac says that there is simply no need to assess the impacts of shipping LNG down the Fraser River on nearby and downstream property values, even though LNG tankers would travel within 200 m of residential developments.  This is an untenable claim given public concern over the potential risks posed by this project.  The BC EAO should require that Wespac explicitly evaluate impacts on property values in their environmental assessment.

The public comment period on the scoping phase of the project environmental assessment is now closed.  Please check back or join our mailing list to stay informed further opportunities for public engagement around this proposal.

(1) Wespac outlines the need for further expansion at the FortisBC LNG facility in their application to the NEB for an LNG export licence (paragraphs 7 and 10). FortisBC summarizes potential, proposed and underway expansions here.

(2) The Fortis-HECO LNG export agreement represents only a portion of the proposed LNG exports put forward by Wespac in their project description to the BC Environmental Assessment Office.

(3) Note that while Wespac indicates that they are now an “associate” member of SIGTTO, the company gives no indication it applied SIGTTO standards to terminal site selection.