• Fernando Lessa
Fernando Lessa

Don't let FortisBC pollute Átl’ḵa7tsem / Howe Sound


1438 signed. Let's get to 2000.

FortisBC has applied for two permits to discharge wastewater into the Squamish River and Átl’ḵa7tsem / Howe Sound.

Anyone using the Squamish River, the estuary, or Howe Sound for recreation, fishing, or harvesting traditional foods could be negatively affected by the approval of these permits.

We need you to send a personalized letter to the BC Energy Regulator and share how you use these areas, so we can show how many people are directly impacted.

Although the public comment period ended on December 30th, all public comments received prior to the permitting decision will be considered, so please keep your letters coming!

What is happening?

FortisBC has applied to the BC Energy Regulator to discharge wastewater at both ends of its proposed 14-foot wide, 9-kilometre tunnel under the Squamish estuary: at the BC Rail site and at the Woodfibre site.

Woodfibre LNG has also applied to discharge 1,600 cubic metres (1,600 tonnes) of effluent per day at the Woodfibre site for over four years.

These three permits together could result in cumulative, long-term toxic effects for wildlife and ecosystems in Átl’ḵa7tsem / Howe Sound. There is also a risk of significant human health impacts from exposure to heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and persistent organic pollutants (dioxins and furans).

We need your help to document how people use the Squamish River, the Estuary, or Howe Sound for recreation, fishing, or harvesting traditional foods. Are you a business owner that uses this area for your business? Do you fish, swim, paddle, or do windsports here? You could be negatively affected by the approval of these permits.

Please take a moment to send a letter to the BC Energy Regulator and ask them to reject this permit application. Personalized letters are much more impactful.

Permission to pollute: FortisBC x2

FortisBC has applied to discharge wastewater at both ends of its proposed 14-foot wide, 9-kilometre tunnel under the Squamish estuary: at the BC Rail site, and at the Woodfibre site. Both sites are heavily contaminated from past industrial activity.

If approved, FortisBC's two permits would allow for effluent to be discharged at rates of 515 cubic meters every day during construction and up to 2,700 cubic meters per day during hydrostatic testing of the pipeline at the BC Rail Site. At the Woodfibre LNG Site, FortisBC wants to discharge 1,500 cubic metres of effluent per day for three years.

When combined with Woodfibre LNG's effluent permit application, the two companies together want to discharge a cumulative 3,615 cubic metres of effluent every day. Over a three-year period, that's over 1,000 Olympic swimming pools worth of effluent!

As FortisBC excavates the rock portion of the tunnel, they are proposing to store potential acid generating rocks in a stockpile at the upper quarry on the Woodfibre site. It is acid-generating rocks from Britannia Mine that once made Howe Sound one of the most polluted areas in North America.

The BC Rail site also has a history of toxic contaminants including hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), antifreeze, engine oil, and more. While some remediation has occurred, it is highly likely that as FortisBC starts construction on the tunnel these historic contaminants could be disturbed and runoff into the Squamish River, Squamish estuary, and Átl'ḵa7tsem / Howe Sound.

The cumulative impacts of these three applications have never been assessed.

Permission to pollute: Woodfibre LNG

Earlier this year, Woodfibre LNG applied for a permit from the B.C. Energy Regulator (BCER) to discharge millions of cubic metres of toxic construction effluent into Átl’ḵa7tsem / Howe Sound.

Thanks to the support of 93 generous donors, we hired Dr Vicki Marlatt, Associate Professor of Environmental Toxicology at Simon Fraser University to review Woodfibre LNG's application.

It is Dr Marlatt’s professional assessment that if this permit is approved, it could result in cumulative, long-term toxic effects for wildlife and ecosystems in Átl’ḵa7tsem / Howe Sound.

There is also a risk of significant human health impacts from exposure to heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants (dioxins and furans).

READ OUR LETTER TO BCER

READ THE FULL REPORT

A captured regulator

A recent investigation by the Narwhal has revealed that the BC Energy Regulator is failing to hold big oil and gas projects accountable for infractions that are directly impacting sensitive ecosystems.

The BC Energy Regulator (formerly known as the BC Oil and Gas Commission) has been described as a captured regulator, where "industry demands trump public interest."

With a revolving door between its staff and the oil and gas industry, the regulator has a history of failing to hold fracking companies accountable for building illegal dams; withholding information and suppressing reports; and undermining effforts to save caribou threatened by fracking infrastructure in northeast B.C.

This track record is extremely concerning as the BC Energy Regulator is responsible for oversight of many of the permits required by Woodfibre LNG and FortisBC. It has resulted in a loss of public trust in the public notification process, which is exacerbated by the failure of the BCER to meaningfull engage the public or to incorporate public feedback into policy decisions.

Public comment period open now

We complained to the regulator that FortisBC failed to adequately notify the public about the opportunity to comment on these permit applications in 2020. The BC Energy Regulator agreed, and has instructed FortisBC to re-do the 30-day public comment period. That public comment period started on November 30 and runs until December 30.

We received access to the updated documents and have made them available to the public for review here.

What can you do?

Submit a public comment asking the BC Energy Regulator to deny these permits. Let them know how YOU will be adversely affected by the proposed water discharge.

Example speaking points