Smithers town council will write to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) to oppose the location of the proposed Pacific Northwest LNG processing facility at Lelu Island, near Prince Rupert.
Council voted 6-1 in favour of sending the letter, with Coun. Frank Wray opposed, at last night’s general meeting in Smithers.
The letter (see below) was written by Coun. Phil Brienesse in response to the CEAA’s draft report into the possible environmental impacts of the project.
He raises concerns specifically about the location of the proposed facility and its potential impact on juvenile salmon habitat at Flora Bank.
The CEAA’s draft report concluded the project would not have significant negative impacts on Flora Bank’s fish habitat, and fish habitats in general, as long as the proponent completed mitigation works.
But Coun. Brienesse’s letter questions the CEAA science, referring to studies by Simon Fraser University, Skeena Fisheries Commission, SedTrend Analysis geologist Patrick McLaren and a 1973 report by the federal fisheries and oceans department.
He also writes that building the facility would put the Northwest economy at risk, with possible impacts to commercial fisheries, sport fishing and food security for First Nations.
“While the Town of Smithers recognizes the potential for employment and economic benefit to the region this project may bring, we feel it is out-weighed by the likely detrimental effects to other established and important sectors of our economy, our residents’ quality of life, and bio-diversity (sic) of the Skeena River system,” the letter reads.
Coun. Brienesse told The Interior News it was within council’s role to support or oppose projects that could impact the Smithers economy.
The Town of Smithers previously wrote a letter of support for Seabridge Gold’s KSM Project, a proposed gold and copper mine located 65 kilometres northwest of Stewart.
Coun. Brienesse said he expected public reaction to council’s decision would be mixed.
“Sometimes when you do these more controversial ones people will say ‘Well I don’t think they have the unanimous support of the public, they shouldn’t be making this sort of a decision,’ ” he said.
“We don’t have the unanimous support of the public on anything.
“Really anything that we make a decision on, somebody is going to be happy with it and somebody is going to be unhappy with it so I’m sure there will be both opinions in the community.”
Coun. Frank Wray, who voted against sending the letter, disagreed that councillors should weigh in on the subject, saying they were not qualified to interpret science.
“From what research that I could do in the limited time that we’ve had, makes me suggest there’s a lot of BS from both sides and I couldn’t sort through it,” he said.
“I have a good BS metre but when it’s going off on both sides I don’t know what to believe so this is the kind of thing where I think that it’s best that we stay out of it.”
He was also concerned the letter would send a message to the public that Smithers town council opposed the project itself, not just the location.
The 30-day public comment period for the draft CEAA report ends on Friday.
For more on council debate and reaction to the letter, see the March 16 edition of The Interior News.