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New West opposes proposed Tilbury LNG expansion in Delta

Project would “blow a hole” in regional greenhouse gas-reduction efforts
Tilbury - contributed to Delta Optimist
New Westminster is the latest city to oppose a proposed expansion at the Tilbury LNG plant in Delta.

New Westminster is the latest community to oppose the proposed expansion of the Tilbury liquefied natural gas plant in Delta.

At Monday’s meeting, representatives from the Council of Canadians and the Wilderness Committee urged New West to follow the lead of Vancouver, Richmond and Port Moody, which have voiced their opposition to FortisBC’s plan to expand its Tilbury LNG plant on the Fraser River.

New West resident Andrew Murray, a member of the Council of Canadians, said it is tantamount that communities step up and be climate leaders – particularly after witnessing the summer of 2021.

“Think back to that last week in June, the intensity of that heat. Think back to the literally hundreds of people who lost their lives during that period, and how they lost it: heat exhaustion, dehydration, alone in their apartments, their condos,” he told council. “I ask you to connect the dots to that event and to this project, and I ask you to reject it outright.

Murray applauded the city for its declaration of a climate emergency and its adoption of Seven Bold Steps for Climate Action

“When we are talking about emergencies and climate leadership, what we really need is climate leadership from our elected officials. We don’t live in a bubble here in New Westminster. At 226,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from this one plant, which is only about three or four kilometres downriver from us, it will make any efforts we make within our city futile,” he said. “We are asking you tonight to step up.”

Council unanimously approved a motion by Coun. Patrick Johnstone to stand in support of the cities of Richmond and Vancouver in opposing the continued expansion of LNG at the Tilbury facility and to opposes Phase 2 of the expansion project that’s currently undergoing provincial and federal environmental assessments. Council will also write to the City of Delta, the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada to convey the city’s opposition to the project.

According to FortisBC, the Tilbury expansion project will ensure the province has the natural gas supply its customers need and will help meet demand from overseas customers. The project will include the construction of a new storage tank that can hold up to 142,400 cubic metres of LNG, which would more than double Tilbury’s current storage capacity, and a new liquefaction unit with capacity of up to 2.5 million tonnes per year to produce LNG for marine fuelling or overseas export.

FortisBC’s website states it has submitted information to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada and the BC Environmental Assessment Office.

Murray urged New Westminster to say no to a project that would pump 226,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into local air shed annually for the next 40 years.

“There is no carbon capture involved in this project, which violates the 2017 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recommendation for any growth around LNG moving forward,” he said. “It also is in violation of the global industry guidelines, which call for LNG not to be placed on narrow inland rivers close to major populations.”

Peter McCartney, a climate campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, said the United Nations secretary general said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “code red” report in June must sound a “death knell for fossil fuels” before they destroy the planet.

“What is being proposed at Tilbury is an expansion of the fossil fuel infrastructure that is destroying the planet and killing people,” he told council Monday night.

McCartney said LNG is problematic for the environment on numerous fronts, from the fracking process to the liquefaction process that’s used to make the fuel.

“When they talk about the emissions of this plant – 200,000 tonnes – they are only talking about the direct emissions from the facility in Metro Vancouver, completely ignoring upstream effects of fracking, where the vast majority of that carbon is released,” he said. “Fortis will have to measure, but the best available estimate from independent analysis is that it is actually to 1.98 to 2.67 megatonnes. That’s about as much as the entire city of Vancouver. Really, all the work we are doing here at a local level can be undone by just one of these facilities and the massive expansion of fracking that they would enable.”

McCartney said one of the arguments in favour of LNG is that it “replaces coal so it’s not as bad” but he said in a lot of cases it’s worse in terms of emissions over a 20-year timeframe. He said one of the worst aspects of this project is that construction of this type of infrastructure provides equipment that will last for decades.

“Tilbury LNG would do the exact opposite of that,” he said. “It would increase gas production at a time when we need to be lowering it.”

In July 2020, Richmond city council voted 8-1 to oppose the expansion project, citing risks to the Fraser River, wildlife and air. Last month, Vancouver opposed the expansion of the Tilbury LNG plant in Delta, saying the $3-billion project would undermine Vancouver's work in addressing the climate emergency. 

Johnstone said the project represents “a pretty massive expansion of LNG storage and export” in the heart of the Fraser River estuary.

“It’s going to put, as you heard, 200,000 tonnes of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases into our local air shed. Putting aside even the upstream emissions, that blows a hole in all of our local regional greenhouse-gas-reduction goals,” he said. “We have just gone through a harrowing summer of wildfires and hundreds of deaths from unprecedented heat waves. The climate emergency is here, and we need to be leaders.”

Johnstone said the project is being proposed at a time when New Westminster is working on an updated community energy and emissions reduction plan.

“This one facility will actually produce more greenhouse gases annually in Delta, never mind the upstream impacts or downstream impacts, … than all the cars, trucks, houses, businesses, industries, buildings in New Westminster combined,” he said, “so I don’t think we can stay silent in these decisions that are being made in our region.”

In a statement to the Record, FortisBC stated the Tilbury Phase 2 LNG Expansion would strengthen the resiliency of the Lower Mainland energy system and provide LNG as a lower-carbon fuel for local and international customers interested in displacing higher-carbon fuels such as coal or marine fuel.

“The project is early in the environmental assessment processes led by the federal and provincial governments. These processes will include a robust review of the potential impacts of the project, and provide many more opportunities for Indigenous groups, stakeholders and the public to learn more and provide feedback,” said the statement. “We look forward to continuing our engagement with the City of New Westminster, Indigenous groups and stakeholders as the project proceeds through these processes.”