Tracey Saxby: Is Woodfibre LNG worth the risk?

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      The environmental tragedies of the last two weeks have made one thing clear: accidents happen.

      On April 8, an estimated 2,800 litres of toxic bunker fuel was spilled in English Bay, and the black tar-like sludge has been washing up on Vancouver’s beaches. A little over a week later a dock fire at Squamish Terminals blazed out of control, with toxic smoke from the burning creosote pilings lingering over town.

      The details of the emergency response for these two accidents show that the provincial and federal governments don’t have the capacity to deal with these kinds of accidents. Even Premier Christy Clark admitted: “We don’t have world class spill response on our coast.”

      In English Bay, the emergency response was delayed by several hours because the Harper Conservatives closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in 2013, turning this relatively small spill into a major tragedy. Responders from the Kitsilano Coast Guard station could have been on site with the right equipment in six minutes, preventing a costly cleanup of Vancouver’s beaches.

      To add salt to the wound, the company contracted to clean up the mess in English Bay is more than 50 percent owned by Kinder Morgan. This for-profit company has the capacity to profit from any oil spill, which is a huge conflict of interest. The bigger the spill, the bigger the bill.

      In Squamish, the Coast Guard response was much quicker, potentially because of the political backlash the previous week; however the emergency response was still heavily reliant on volunteer firefighters fighting alongside career firefighters from Squamish, Whistler, and the City of Vancouver—who all worked around the clock and did a tremendous job despite limited capacity.

      How does this relate to Woodfibre LNG? Government cuts have created a situation where regulators do not have sufficient staff, knowledge, or money to effectively regulate the oil and gas industry, leaving industry to monitor itself. Remember Lac-Mégantic? What about the Mount Polley tailings pond spill? These accidents were never meant to happen.

      Negligent government oversight and a self-regulating industry, combined with a lack of emergency response capacity, can only mean that we will see more incidents like this in the future.

      Woodfibre LNG and its associated tankers, pipelines, and compressor stations pose an unacceptable safety risk for people in Squamish and other communities along the shores of Howe Sound. We need to stand up and say enough is enough.

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      25 Comments

      Lynn Wilbur

      Apr 22, 2015 at 8:01pm

      Tracey Saxny has it right......Woodfibre LNG is just not worth the risks....jobs and money don't offset the risks.....it's just not right.

      Angela Miller

      Apr 23, 2015 at 12:52am

      Industry touts these projects as safe until they are not. Even then they sweep it under the carpet as the Mt. Polley disaster is quietly pushed into the background. Why should British Columbians have to live with such risks and contributions to greenhouse gas emissions? Fracking is a dirty word and one that is untruthfully being touted as a safe process while people living close to the sites are complaining of health problems and polluted air and water. Do we really want 10,000 fracking wells in our northern province to ship LNG to China? Do we want a cooling plant in Howe Sound that we kill countless sea life? Shipping LNG to China will benefit very few Canadians. Doing business with an unscrupulous foreign business owner is morally bankrupt. Howe Sound is one of the most beautiful places in the world and absolutely must be protected.

      Glenne C

      Apr 23, 2015 at 9:28am

      What ever happened to the thought process of being proactive instead of reactive to dangerous scenarios?
      Oh ya - under the doctrine of balanced budgets and riches to the 1% , we see sacrifices by citizens, businesses and future generations.
      Shipping LNG through Howe Sound is the most ridiculous idea the governments of the day have come up with yet. Say NO to LNG. As West Vancouver, Lions Bay, Bowen Island, all have.

      Mat T

      Apr 23, 2015 at 2:59pm

      From now on I will stand up & say enough is enough! "MY SEA TO SKY" IS NOT MY SEA TO SKY!

      MAS

      Apr 23, 2015 at 3:02pm

      "Accidents happen" is not a reason to say no.

      By that logic, we should never drive, fly, rock climb (I mean, look at that rock slide in Squamish!), ride bikes, eat food, use sharp knives or leave the house. But, my house could burn down, so, better go outside . . . where a tree may fall on me ! Quick, into that cave . . .that may be shut by a rock slide !

      Her article is pure alarmist nonsense. How many fires of this magnitude has there been in Squamish? Can you remember one previous? Nope.

      MichaelK

      Apr 23, 2015 at 6:11pm

      It is not in the least bit unethical or improper for an oil company to own an oil cleanup company. They kind of have the relevant expertise! Second, a standalone oil cleanup company would probably starve, given how relatively rare spills are and the geographic spread. Ms. Saxby makes it sound like there's an incentive to spill... except there isn't. A major spill can cost millions or even billions, compared to the pittance one would recover in a cleanup operation. Tracey is just another attention hungry doomsdayer, in a long tradition of killjoys who latch onto causes and wave fingers at the transgressions of others. Enough. Back to Australia and take your negativity with you!

      Elwira

      Apr 23, 2015 at 8:37pm

      It is exasperating when people try to use a disaster to make a political point about an unrelated industry without any consideration for the facts. There was a bunker C oil spill in the Vancouver harbor and a creosote (coal tar) soaked wood fire at the Squamish terminals. Both of these are very unfortunate events but have nothing to do with LNG. They showcase the environmental risks of oil but this simply cannot be extended to LNG.

      It is important to look for facts before making rash comments. LNG carriers are fueled by LNG and not bunker C oil. LNG is a liquid at -162C but will vaporize as soon as it is “leaked” into the atmosphere or onto the ocean. A LNG spill could not possibly cause any of the damage that you see from an oil spill for the simple reason that the LNG quickly dissipates as a gas. The worst case - but highly unlikely - scenario would be a natural gas fire on the surface of the ocean. This is significantly different than a creosote or bunker C oil fire. If you want to see how natural gas burns, look at your bbq, gas stove or the gas lamps on the balcony at “The Match” in Squamish. It is a very clean burning fuel. If you want to see what a coal tar or bunker c oil fire looks like, refer to the pictures in the Squamish news. So the facts are that if there ever was a fuel “spill” from a LNG carrier, there would be no need to clean it up and if there ever was a fire it would burn cleanly rather than making a toxic soup for us to be asphyxiated.
      .....

      Tom Dowad

      Apr 25, 2015 at 11:12am

      LNG is like nuclear. It is safe, most of the time. The likelihood of an incident is small, the consequences huge. So far the industry has managed to avoid the kind of big accident that was 3 Mile Island, then Chernobyl, then Fukushima. It will only take a couple of events for LNG to be viewed in the same light as nuclear. LNG ships and facilities are recognized as a terrorist targets, by the US government, and the LNG industry. Whatever one's feelings are about fracking, LNG plants and shipping should be a unanimous "no" for populated areas.

      Glenne C

      Apr 25, 2015 at 11:25am

      To the exasperated: If the politicians had thought about, or cared enough to activate smart risk process before promoting LNG industry, these kinds of concerns would not be required.
      As for facts, are you sure you have ALL the important facts, including those which have been ignored by the WLNG proponents? You are right - LNG is significantly different than Bunker C and creosote. But your limited vision of the LNG tankers being the only ship on the water is very incongruous with the shipping that goes thru Port Metro Vancouver zone and the Salish Sea. Imagine your LNG ball of fire rolling across the water. It certainly wouldn't be the controlled burn you refer to in bbq, gas stove, lamps. Imagine the knowledge you would gain if you took the time to research LNG as fuel in tankers. New ("MARSOL") regulations for Canada and the U.S. implemented in January, 2015 stipulate that ships use low-sulphur diesel and/or other low-sulphur fuels (LSD, LNG) INSIDE territorial waters (see http://www.imo.org/MediaCentre/PressBriefings/Pages/44-ECA-sulphur.aspx#... ) . This fuel is quite expensive, so ships now have to load up with at least 2 fuels to come in and out of Canadian ports - HFO and LSD. LNG carriers, if they have separate tanks for them, will now carry 3 fuels - the LNG cargo, HFO and LSD, and use a mix of these appropriate to the sulphur emissions regime in the ports of the country they visit. Which fuels a vessel uses inshore will, as always, be dictated both by cost and regulations. Offshore in open ocean, cost is THE key consideration, so most vessels will burn as much low-cost HFO (bunker oil) as possible.
      For many LNG carriers, that will mean burning a mix of LSD and LNG inshore, and a mix of HFO and boil-off LNG offshore and in Asian waters, which don't currently have any low-sulphur regulations.
      Instead drinking the kool aid, we respectfully ask that people
      read and apply objective thought process before determining whether LNG is right for Howe Sound or not.

      Monahb

      Apr 25, 2015 at 2:46pm

      Not mentioned here is the fact that the WLNG proposal would have the facility built over two thrust earthquake faults fed by a pipeline (fortisBC) that crosses several faults on its route to Woodfibre. Recently there was an earthquake in Squamish. According the the Woodfibre environmental assessment application Woodfibre and Squamish are in a moderate to high earthquake zone. Unless the people at WLNG have the gift of foresight there is no way to know when an earthquake will hit that is strong enough to dissolve the alluvial fan that the plant will be sited upon. That process will send the plant and the storage vessels into the sea. If there is a loading vessel in the way well that will just be too bad. The result would be a catastrophe. What would all of you who think it is worth the risk say then, "I never that would happen...."
      A massive leak of LNG travels like a fog over the water and land. As it heats up from the outside in it becomes susceptible to ignition. That could be as simple as someone lighting a cigarette or a BBQ. Result could be a forest fire, perhaps the compressor station proposed for Squamish could explode into flames. The point is that the risk is perhaps low that this would happen but the if it does the consequence would be massively high. That's why the international industry standards state that one has to think of worst case scenario when planning the siting of an LNG Plant. It is insane and irresponsible in the extreme to propose such a plant to be sited over two thrust earthquake faults and on an alluvial fan that could dissolve in an earthquake.