Fears over potential liquefied natural gas tanker traffic in the Saanich Inlet have prompted the District of North Saanich to hold a meeting of area municipalities, First Nations and more.
Councillor Jack Thornburgh asked that the District support a town hall meeting to get more information about a proposed LNG plant proposed for the Bamberton area on the west side of the inlet — directly across the water from North Saanich and other Peninsula communities.
Thornburgh said he wants the proponent of the project, Steelhead LNG, to be represented at the meeting to provide information. The company has partnered with the Malahat First Nation to create Malahat LNG. Natural gas would be transported to the facility from elsewhere in B.C. — by tanker and by pipeline — where it would be liquefied and exported, presumably to Asia.
The project is still in its early stages and was granted an export license by the National Energy Board in October 2015. Still to come are provincial and federal environmental assessments and public consultation throughout 2016 and 2017.
According to Steelhead LNG, a final decision on whether to proceed with building the plant would occur in 2017 or 2018,
In his motion, Thornbugh addressed the concerns that have been raised by the public since the announcement of the project in August of last year. He said he expects the meeting to not only have the proponent, but opposition groups as well — with strict rule sin place to ensure people’s good behaviour during the meeting.
Mayor Alice Final said she likes the idea of the meeting, in order to get a feeling from the community on where it stands on Malahat LNG.
Coun. Heather Gartshore added she would like an invitation extended to Central Saanich and Sidney — as the project does impact them as well as to see about sharing the costs of such a public open house. Coun. Celia Stock said that might become more important as security at the meeting might come into play, as people’s passions over the issue might take over.
That passion was evident as resident John McDonald stepped to the podium during council’s debate over the issues. He said he is an opponent of the project and presented council with an unattributed map, depicting the alleged danger zones of potential LNG tanker spills.
McDonald and other residents had many questions, re-affirming North Saanich council’s thought that people need to know more about Malahat LNG’s plans.
Thornburgh had asked that the meeting be held in North Saanich prior to March 1.
However, after realizing the scope of the town hall session might be larger than anticipated, councillors agreed to allow municipal staff to organize the meeting and come up with a date as soon as possible.