The Regional District of Fraser-Fort George (RDFFG) board of directors has postponed making a decision on West Coast Olefins' natural gas extraction project.
RDFFG directors were tasked with deciding whether or not to forward the West Coast Olefins project onto the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) but could not come to a decision.
In order for the project to be approved it would first need to be sent to the ALC, who would then decide to either support or oppose it. If the ALC determined it supported the project, the application would then be brought back to the RDFFG for the rezoning process, which triggers a public hearing.
The controversial project is seeking an application to construct, operate and reclaim a natural gas liquids extraction plant and associated access road as non-farm use in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).
The subject property is 12.9 hectares located between McRinny Road and Lund Road in the Pineview/Buckhorn area.
In a committee meeting earlier in the day, and in front of a full audience of people, directors discussed the concept of hosting a public consultation period prior to deciding whether or not to even forward the project to the ALC to begin with.
Directors Lyn Hall, Kyle Sampson and Terri McConnachie spoke in favor of seeing the project through the process which would allow more discussion and information to come from those both for and against the project.
Whereas Director Bill Empey argued the committee should deny sending the project to the ALC entirely and Director Danielle Alan said the directors already had enough information to make a final decision.
Ultimately the committee voted on recommending the RDFFG postpone making a decision pending receipt of further information.
However, when that motion was discussed later in the afternoon at the RDFFG public board meeting, it was met with opposition from directors.
“I am clearly disappointed with the outcome of this morning’s meeting and I strongly oppose allowing this kind of industrial activity in an agricultural land area,” said Empey.
“I disagree with postponing this and we have had enough information from the proponent and those against it we should be able to make a decision on this.”
Directors Lara Beckett and Kevin Dunphy also spoke out against the project and postponing the decision.
“They have an opportunity to find some other lands that are already designated for industrial use. Just pursue that rather than build it in an agricultural area and I am really against this,” added Dunphy.
Whereas Director McConnachie advocated for a formal engagement process.
“There are still concerns and there is the opportunity for formal engagement and that includes people who are in support and not in support in a formalized project and that will provide a framework for fact-finding.”
When it came time to vote on postponing the decision to send the application to the ALC, the motion was defeated in a tie.
Director Kyle Sampson then moved that the directors send the application on to the ALC without a recommendation to approve the project, which would then leave the decision up to the ALC without input from the board.
“I so move we submit without recommendation to the ALC and do public consultation if it comes back as approved by the ALC,” said Sampson.
“It's more information to make the decision, at the end of the day, and I don’t think that hurts and it is a giving a fair shake to an applicant who has come to the board. It doesn’t mean I support the project but I support going through the process."
However, director Joan Atkinson argued it was the director’s responsibility to provide a recommendation.
“I recognize it is a controversial issue, but I think we can rise to the challenge and make a decision as to what should be done and not transfer that decision authority back to the ALC.”
When it came time to vote again, the motion to forward the West Coast Olefins application onto the ALC without a recommendation was once again defeated in a tied vote.
The regional directors then took a recess to consult with staff and upon returning announced the matter would be deferred to a future meeting.
“There will be a future meeting on the item you came to see this afternoon,” said RDFFG Chair Art Kaehn to those in the gallery.