Prince Rupert city councillors Barry Cunningham and Wade Niesh participated in the Dec. 3 public hearing.

Prince Rupert city councillors Barry Cunningham and Wade Niesh participated in the Dec. 3 public hearing.

City of Prince Rupert passes LNG zoning despite significant opposition

Despite many voicing opposition, the City of Prince Rupert has zoned a piece of city-owned property to be used for an LNG terminal.

Despite many voicing opposition, the City of Prince Rupert has zoned a piece of city-owned property to be used for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal.

“We heard extensively from the public and this was a difficult decision for the community. However, given our present state of infrastructure decay, assurances that environmental concerns will be addressed in the environmental assessment process and the $18 million to help with the city’s finances, the council was prepared to vote unanimously in favour of this zoning,” Mayor Lee Brain said.

“This action opens up an opportunity for the community to envision a more sustainable future.”

The decision was made at a special meeting on Dec. 3, following a public hearing on incorporating District Lot 444 (DL 444) into the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP), and zoning the easterly portion for LNG development and the westerly portion for public use.

The event began with presentations by city planner Zeno Krekic, city manager Robert Long and environmental engineer Dr. Barb Faggetter, who spoke about her report on potential air and watershed impacts.

Donna Parker, WCC LNG project manager, also provided an update on investigative work the group is undertaking. WCC LNG received an export permit from the National Energy Board in March to export up to 30 million tonnes of LNG per year and anticipates commencing the environmental assessment process in late December or early January.

Both concepts currently being considered, an onshore facility and barge-mounted facility, include plans for five LNG processing trains, each having capacity for six million tonnes per year.

“We would start with an initial development of potentially two trains and build up to 30 million tonnes annum,” Parker said, noting the terminal would have three marine berths at full build out.

Approximately 60 people attended the hearing, with several highlighting their concerns with the project and LNG industry in general.

Carol Brown, who resides in both Dodge Cove and Prince Rupert, said she has “grave concerns” with LNG tankers coming into Prince Rupert’s harbour.

“Anyone that navigates on the water in all kinds of weather and also knows the history of ships going aground in our harbour knows that these 300 metre plus vessels in such close confines … will demand a large no public access zone, and a very big interruption in mariners’ travel in the harbour,” said Brown.

Brown also cautioned the city to consider the impacts the WCC LNG project would have on people in the rest of the province.

“This is a sure route of dividing people of the north … are you prepared to turn your backs on the people and animals in northern B.C., who will suffer the most from contaminated water, leaks and emissions that already exist?” she asked.

This apprehension was reiterated by Prince Rupert’s Barbara Kuhl, who said she understands the financial position the city’s in, but asked council to take its time with a decision.

“We’ve heard it’s time sensitive, but really what is the rush? We’re not planning for the Christmas party. We need to acknowledge we’re planning for the next 40 years,” she said.

Arnie Nagy, a lifetime resident of Prince Rupert, said he has made his living from the ocean and hopes future generations can do the same.

“This is the last untapped area [that hasn’t been destroyed by] natural resource extraction or used to pimp out the dirty pollution that they want to send to China to line their pockets and bank accounts,” Nagy said.

Tara Dias said her family moved to Prince Rupert a number of years ago because of the community’s natural beauty and air quality.  Of particular concern are the potential emissions, as Dias said she has a child with asthma, asking council take time to deliberate the subject.

“I can’t count on the provincial or federal government, but I am counting on you,” she said.

Coun. Wade Niesh said he understands the challenges with industry, but the city can’t survive without it.

“People talk about wanting to leave town if things like this go ahead, but we may all have to leave town if it doesn’t go ahead because we will have no water to drink, no sewer lines to use, and no roads to drive on,” said Niesh.

There were also a number of Rupertites who spoke in favour of the proposed zoning designations for DL 444, including Prince Rupert’s Shawn Petriw.

“I for one welcome this development … it’s simple to say ‘no, no, no’, but what we need to do is find a way to say yes. I believe there’s enough people here who are smart enough to make that happen,” he said.

John Farrell, president of the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce, stated the group supported the zoning of DL 444 and praised the city for its work on the project proposal.

In the end, council agreed to include DL 444 in the OCP and zoned the land under the LNG industrial and public use as suggested. Council also approved a number of required undertakings any proponent must follow in order to utilize the land. All members of council voted in favour, aside from Coun. Nelson Kinney who was not present.

“To say no to options, I don’t believe is a luxury we can afford,” said Brain.