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MLA growing wary of LNG plan on the shores of Fraser River

Original concept sounded good, but changes have independent nervous

When FortisBC first visited my office, it was to advise that it was building a larger storage tank. It would supply the new LNG-run ferries; transition the domestic trucking fleets to LNG from diesel; and use tanker trucks to supply a developing market in the Yukon (which still uses the dirtier diesel and oil).

Since Fortis has been producing LNG at Tilbury for a long, long time - and would be using the existing footprint - it all sounded good to me. Not to mention that it was a good business plan for Fortis.

Then Fortis visited again - to say that plans were evolving. A U.S. company called WesPac was applying to the National Energy Board to export LNG and planned to ship the fuel from the Tilbury plant. It would be shipped via LNG tanker or barge to smaller markets that couldn't accommodate the larger LNG tankers.

The tankers would be in the 60,000 to 90,000 m3 range (not the 260,000 m3 tankers that would be moving LNG out of the north). The tankers had a low-profile and appeared smaller than many other ships already on the Fraser River.

WesPac would have to build a marine jetty at the Fortis location and the jetty itself would be subject to environmental assessment. Again, it sounded to me like a good business plan: producing more LNG on the existing footprint and exporting it to small markets that were using diesel and oil. Good idea.

The only catch was the huge volume of LNG WesPac was seeking approval to export. It was pretty obvious that Fortis would eventually have to expand not only storage, but also the size of its plant. That's when I found out it had already purchased the adjacent land.

How large would the new plant be? Maybe the same size, maybe bigger. Would the ships get bigger? Didn't think so: the width of the river would determine the size of tanker. Had they asked for the new bridge to be higher? No, they were working within the height of the Alex Fraser.

So while I thought the initial plans were good business, I was beginning to be a little nervous about the future. It also turned out there was a cabinet order in council permitting Fortis to expand from 5,000,000 standard cubic feet per day (scfd) to 33,000,000 scfd and then to 66,000,000 scfd. That's a pretty big jump.

And then last week FortisBC visited again. It would need more power. And that meant another transmission line, a line right through agricultural land. And right through the same farms that had been hit so hard by the South Fraser Perimeter Road. I said it was the straw that could break the camel's back. Because it cannot happen. There can be no more taking of agricultural land. There can be no more industrial harassment of our farming community.

My office has received over 1,000 emails objecting to the export of LNG from Tilbury. Fifty or so correspondents live in Delta - many of whom I know. Until now, I didn't share all their concerns: the initial business plan made so much sense.

But I don't think I trust that plan anymore.

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