On March 10, 2015, British Columbia gas utility FortisBC filed a petition with the British Columbia Supreme Court against the District of Squamish. FortisBC claims that the Squamish Council unlawfully refused to issue a development permit when they rejected FortisBC’s application to study the feasibility for a natural gas export pipeline in the area.
FortisBC had applied to obtain the permits in question in order to conduct “investigative work” related to rock and soil conditions on FortisBC’s $520 Million Eagle Mountain pipeline. The proposed pipeline would involve the construction of over 52 kilometers of 24” natural gas pipeline from Port Coquitlam to the Woodfibre site located just southwest of Squamish. The pipeline would parallel an existing gas pipeline and would be built to serve Woodfibre’s proposed LNG export terminal.
FortisBC worked with Squamish district staff in completing the permit application. Ultimately, the staff members had recommended approval, however the permit was ultimately denied for “technical” reasons by the Council. FortisBC maintains that all statutory requirements of obtaining the permit have been met, that Squamish’s decision was based on extraneous and irrelevant reasons, and that as such, the permit should have been, and should be, issued.
As is often the case, the process surrounding this permit has raised larger questions about the LNG industry, including issues related to the effects of LNG development, environmental concerns and the viability of pipelines. Opponents include the mayor of Squamish, who has stated that she does not believe that the Woodfibre LNG plant is in the best interests of the District of Squamish.
It is interesting to note that this will not be the first time the District of Squamish has found itself defending its decision to deny a development permit in front of the Court. In April 2011, the District of Squamish defended its decision to deny a development permit based on an application of the District’s guidelines. Ultimately, the BC Supreme Court found that the District acted without jurisdiction in rejecting the permit.
The BC Supreme Court has yet to set a hearing date to determine this matter.