Steelhead LNG: Not for the Saanich Inlet or the Salish Sea

In August 2015, Steelhead LNG announced their Malahat floating LNG natural gas liquefaction terminal proposal for Bamberton in the Saanich Inlet. In our climate constrained world, we must be making every effort to move towards green, clean energy as rapidly as possible. Projects like Steelhead’s LNG project that take us in the wrong direction, are impossible to accept.

The proposed terminal would liquefy six million tonnes per year of fracked gas from northeastern B.C. for up to 25 years, filling about 2 Asian-bound carriers each week.

The project would also require building a 53 kilometre-long pipeline from Sumas to Cherry Point in Washington State, and a 75 kilometre sub-sea line from Cherry Point through the Gulf Islands to the Saanich Inlet. This “Island Gas Connector” was proposed in the early 2000s but failed as the “Georgia Straight Crossing”.

The Saanich Inlet is a unique deep-water fjord that is home to eelgrass beds, spawning salmon, and recently welcomed returning humpback and orca whales. The floating terminal plans to return warm “processed” (i.e. chlorinated) water back into the inlet. But in the Saanich Inlet, the water only flushes out completely about twice a year, meaning even slight changes in temperature would have serious impacts on marine life. Also, terrestrial life and the surrounding community would have to deal with air, light and noise pollution, which would also pose serious economic impacts on thriving real estate and tourist markets.

On March 1st, 2016 the Chiefs of the four WSANEC First Nations on the Saanich Peninsula (Chief Rebecca David – Pauquachin, Chief Don Tom – Tsartlip, Chief Harvey Underwood – Tsawout, Chief Tanya Jimmy – Tseycum) held a press conference where they unequivocally stated Steelhead LNG “does not have the consent to operate in our territory and must cease operations immediately.”

Furthermore, they told the National Energy Board and Province that the “export license was issued last year to the proponent without even notice to us, let alone engagement seeking our consent. We stand together to also put the government of British Columbia on notice that they do not have jurisdiction to interfere with the continuity of our treaty rights and will incur liability and put any LNG project at significant risk of cancellation should they choose to provide permits and authorizations to the proponents without our consent.”

Grassroots groups are also coming together to oppose this project. The Saanich Inlet Network has been working to get people informed of the threats posed by this proposal.

LNG is not the solution that our government claims it to be—not for B.C. and not for Asia. When the business and environmental cases are examined, there are no good reasons to build these expensive, unneeded fossil fuel projects, especially in sensitive habitats like the Saanich Inlet or Lelu Island. It’s important that we continue to support the opposition to these projects, for the climate burdens around these projects make our climate targets totally impossible to meet, while not providing the jobs that proponents use as justification. Meanwhile, rather than helping the developing world transition to green energy, we’re locking them into decades of greenhouse gas emissions.

Featured image by Wilf Matchem