Government expects decision on Squamish LNG plant in 2015

B.C.’s deputy premier expects a decision will be made about the Woodfibre LNG plant sometime in 2015. 

Minister of Natural Gas Development Rich Coleman, left, at the government's Science World LNG seminars in Squamish Dec. 17.  Photo by Christine Endicott/The Squamish Chief

B.C.’s deputy premier expects a decision will be made about the Woodfibre LNG plant sometime in 2015.

Rich Coleman also said local support for building a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Howe Sound near Squamish is “on par” with other towns in B.C.

“We haven’t heard a lot from the Squamish community,” Coleman said in an interview with The Squamish Chief following a visit to the LNG Science World event. “I know there’s some opposition in West Vancouver, and there will be opposition from people who don’t understand it,” said Coleman, who is also the minister of natural gas development. “But I think once they understand it and realize how safe it is… a lot of that education helps.”

The “Clean LNG” event in conjunction with Science World was held Dec. 16 and 17 at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park, where a group of protesters fluctuating from two to 15 people were picketing outside in the rain on both days to oppose the Woodfibre plant and what some called ‘propaganda’ to students.

But Coleman said it was about education.

“What we are trying to do is going all over B.C. and going to young people to educate people about LNG,” he said.

“The challenge is to get people to understand what it is and what it isn’t, and at the same time, give the kids an opportunity to see the Science World, see the LNG and have an opportunity to touch and feel trades.”

He said the event was also intended to inform local business people about opportunities.

If five LNG plants are built in B.C., $1 trillion will be added to the province’s gross domestic product and provide more than $100 billion in tax revenues, according to information distributed at the event.

“It’s going to pay for the new school you want in your community and highway improvements and hospitals, all of that, because it’s a significant revenue source,” Coleman said.

The deputy premier would not provide odds on the LNG plant being built in Squamish, however. “No, I wouldn’t handicap these. There’s 18 of them,” he said of the proposed plants.

But the chance of the Woodfibre LNG plant project moving ahead in Squamish is “pretty good,” Coleman said. “They have to get through their environmental assessment process and we’ll see how that goes… but they seem confident of the project. But it will still come down to bankability. What is the price you are going to sell your gas for? Does it cover your costs and make a return on investment? Because even on this project, it’s probably $1.5 billion-ish to do a small one, so it is a huge, significant investment so they will have to make sure their numbers work.”

Coleman said he expects the numbers for the Woodfibre plant here will be considered sometime in 2015.

“They’ll cost out the plant and the pipeline relationship with Fortis… then they will look at the numbers,” said Coleman.

Earlier, when the deputy premier spoke to an audience that included many municipal councilors, he said the B.C. LNG plants will be “the cleanest LNG operations in the world.”

Replying to a question from Squamish Councillor Karen Elliott about greenhouse gas emissions, Coleman said, “The trouble is how to balance being the cleanest in the world and actually bringing economic development jobs to provide the other things that British Columbians want. So that’s why we have been bullish.”

Squamish Chief