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Environmental process ‘better in the ‘80s’ says former biologist fighting Delta LNG expansion

Last Updated Jul 16, 2020 at 7:35 am PDT

FILE - A FortisBC employee walks past a storage tank and delivery trucks at the existing FortisBC Tilbury LNG facility before the groundbreaking for an expansion project in Delta, B.C., on Tuesday October 21, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Former fisheries biologist says Fraser River is ‘overstressed’ with industry

Development still assessed on case-by-case basis, not on cumulative effects, former biologist says

Deadline for public input on Tilbury LNG expansion is midnight Thursday

DELTA (NEWS 1130) — A new jet fuel terminal, the proposed Massey Tunnel replacement, Roberts Bank 2, and now FortisBC’s plan to expand its LNG terminal a second time are all just too much for the Fraser River to bear, says a retired fisheries habitat biologist.

Otta Langer says the combined federal and provincial environmental review process often amounts to greenwashing and he’s calling for a more holistic approach to decisions about future industry on the Fraser.

“The government seemed to think that if we had volumes of laws and regulations and we have years and environmental assessments, everything will be good. Well, that’s not the case. You cannot put industry in the middle of your most sensitive habitats and pretend you can mitigate all the damage. That simply is not going to happen,” says Langer, who is now head of the Fraser Voices Association.

Langer is speaking out and has been writing to B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman ahead of a midnight deadline for public feedback on FortisBC’s proposed expansion of its Tilbury LNG facility in Delta.

In a letter sent to the minister on July 10, Langer details his concerns about the expansion, which he says would only add to decades of overdevelopment that put world-class salmon runs and wildlife habitat at risk.

“We are now faced with the Fortis Tilbury LNG’s latest attempt at another BC EAO assessment when their first one began some six years ago,” he writes.

Heyman Tilbury LNG Extension request FINAL

“They are all connected but for some unknown reason EAO has allowed the multiple developments at this site to be split up into a piecemeal review (divide and conquer?) and now we are faced with two different environmental assessments. Why would we not have a single cumulative effects environmental assessment?”

‘Better off in the ’80s’

Langer says a decade of federal Conservative governance, under then-prime minister Stephen Harper, left fisheries and habitat protections gutted and not much has changed even with a shift in Ottawa five years ago, and an NDP government in B.C..

“And we expected greater things from a federal Liberal government, and the Victoria government, we don’t know where they sit on these issues other than we seem to have a lot of effort put into restoring and enhancing salmon runs. On the other hand, governments are almost doing everything to allow industry to park itself on top of some of the most fragile habitats we have in British Columbia and the West Coast,” says Langer.

In 2018, the federal and provincial governments established the Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, which has distributed tens of millions of dollars to help address the issue. Eight new projects were funded just this week.

Langer says all that cash is a waste without a big-picture plan in place for the Fraser River as it undergoes a “third-wave” of industrialization.

“The public is a bit overwhelmed. And I think they’ve almost ran into mental paralysis to some degree . . . The public is not being treated with any respect at all as related to their desire to protect the natural environment. We were actually better off in the 1980s than we are in the 2020,” he says.

Richmond councillor defends project

Earlier in July, Richmond city council voted 8-1 against the LNG project, citing concerns about people’s safety, the environment and air quality.

One councillor, Kelly Greene, pointed out the project would be double the size of Woodfibre LNG in Squamish and that a 3,500-metre hazard zone around the shipping route and terminal is recommended by the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators.

The single councillor who voted in favour of the project is Andrea Loo. She says her peers are making “irresponsible allegations” when it comes to how dangerous the project is.

Public comments can be submitted to the Environmental Assessment Office until 11:59 p.m. Thursday, July 16.