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Vopak Pacific Canada project granted provincial environmental assessment certificate

Press Release

VICTORIA – A B.C. environmental assessment certificate has been issued to Vopak Development Corporation for the proposed Vopak Pacific Canada Project, which is on federal lands within federal jurisdiction.

The provincial environmental assessment certificate contains required conditions regarding matters within provincial jurisdiction, should the federal government determine that the project can proceed.

The provincial certificate with conditions was issued following a decision by George Heyman, B.C.’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and Bruce Ralston, B.C’s Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation.

The Vopak project is a proposed new bulk storage facility for liquified petroleum gas (e.g. propane, ethane, butane), methanol, light diesel and/or gasoline on Ridley Island in the territories of Gitga’at, Gitxaała, Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams Nations.

The project would include unloading platforms for bulk liquid gas transported to the facility on the existing rail loop on Ridley Island and docking berths on a new offshore jetty for exporting liquid gas. Liquid gas products would be transported to the facility from across Western Canada via existing Canadian National railway lines.

In their decision, the ministers considered the Environmental Assessment Office’s assessment report and the chief executive assessment officer’s recommendation to issue a certificate. They also considered consultation and reviews by First Nations, input from public engagement and submissions from non-governmental organizations. In addition, ongoing federal approvals still required for the project to proceed and areas of primary federal and provincial jurisdiction were considered.

The project is required to meet specific conditions and design parameters under the environmental assessment certificate, if it moves ahead. The ministers have determined that with the certificate’s requirements, significant adverse effects are unlikely to occur with regard to areas under provincial jurisdiction.

The legally binding conditions include:

  • developing a greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan;
  • working with the local community and First Nations to address potential adverse effects on community services, infrastructure and well-being; and
  • participating in initiatives at the request of the Province to manage potential cumulative effects of this and other projects in the area.

Many of the concerns identified by First Nations and the public during consultation and engagement fall under federal jurisdiction, such as rail transport and marine shipping. Ministers have written federal regulators recommending concerns regarding the impacts of potential spills and increased rail and marine traffic be addressed in the parallel federal review process currently underway, or through other government actions.

A range of mitigation measures have been proposed by federal regulators to address impacts of the project. These cover air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, noise, visual quality and ambient light, marine and land resources, soils and terrain, freshwater fish and fish habitat, marine use and navigation, heritage and archeology, and human health.

The EAO examined potential impacts of the project on Indigenous rights and title, and consulted with Gitga’at, Gitxaała, Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams during the environmental assessment.

The EAO also engaged the public throughout the process, with three separate public comment periods, and required Vopak to report on how it was addressing public concerns.

As a result of feedback from the technical working group, the public and First Nations, Vopak made substantive changes to the project design during the environmental assessment. This includes excluding dredging from the project design and changing vessel mooring to minimize disturbance of the sea floor to reduce potential harm to local fish and marine life.

Vopak estimates that direct expenditures during construction would total $885 million over two years, with approximately 250 full-time equivalent jobs within B.C., 70 of them local to the site. Vopak estimates direct expenditures during operations of approximately $29 million per year within B.C., and the creation of approximately 39 direct jobs (30 local) annually within B.C.

The provincial environmental assessment of the project began in 2018 and was conducted under the 2002 Environmental Assessment Act.

The factors the ministers considered in their decision on the Vopak Pacific Canada Project can be found here: https://www.projects.eao.gov.bc.ca/projects-list (search: “Vopak”).

As part of British Columbia’s environmental assessment process, First Nations, government agencies, local governments and the public have input on decisions about major projects. Environmental assessments consider input on the potential environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects of a proposed project.

For more information on the environmental assessment process, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/eao

A backgrounder follows.

Contact:

Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Media Relations
250 953-3834


BACKGROUNDER

Environmental assessment of Vopak Pacific Canada Project

An environmental assessment certificate has been issued to Vopak Development Corporation for the Vopak Pacific Canada Project on Ridley Island in northwest B.C., a proposed new bulk storage and export facility for liquid gas products. Federal approval for the project is still required.

Provincial conditions of the environmental assessment certificate:

Vopak must meet a number of requirements as a condition of the provincial environmental assessment certificate, including:

  • developing a plan for greenhouse gas emissions reductions, to be prepared in consultation with the Climate Action Secretariat, taking into consideration the Province’s legislated emission reduction targets and related schedules and policies;
  • creating a project website that provides information such as current project status, how to submit questions or concerns, upcoming public engagement activities and descriptions of activities related to each project phase;
  • participating in initiatives to monitor, assess and manage the project’s cumulative effects, if requested by the EAO;
  • reporting at regular intervals its involvement with the Community Services and Infrastructure Committee, to address potential project effects related to economic conditions, community services and infrastructure and community well-being. The report must include consultation with First Nations and consider adaptive mitigations, if required.

Federal review process

The Vopak Pacific Canada Project is not subject to a federal environmental assessment, but the project’s physical works and activities are located entirely on federal lands, under the jurisdiction of the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA). It therefore requires an environmental effects determination under Section 67 of the 2012 Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Both the PRPA and Transport Canada are the relevant federal authorities in this process. The federal review, which is underway, assesses the significance of adverse environmental effects, including potential impacts to First Nations communities.

In addition, Environment and Climate Change Canada initiated a review under Section 82 of the 2019 Impact Assessment Act. Vopak is required to develop a credible plan to ensure the project produces net-zero emissions by 2050.

A key concern raised by First Nations, local governments and the public is the approximately 15% increase in rail traffic throughout the surrounding area. Transport Canada has jurisdiction over rail traffic and has advised that any risks associated with this increase can be managed through existing rail regulations.

Consultation with First Nations

The Environmental Assessment Office consulted with Gitga’at, Gitxaała, Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams Nations. The First Nations were invited to participate in the project’s environmental assessment working group, collaboratively develop and comment on environmental assessment documents, and meet directly throughout the process to discuss issues and concerns.

Concerns raised by First Nations regarding issues of marine transport and rail, areas of primary federal responsibility, were referred by the B.C. ministers of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation to the federal government to be considered and addressed.

Upon request, the EAO also engaged with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en and two Gitxsan Wilps, Gwininitxw and Luutkudziiwus, to better understand their concerns regarding potential impacts to salmon populations from marine or rail accidents/spills. As these issues fall under federal jurisdiction, the EAO shared information on their concerns with federal authorities.

An Indigenous Consultation Report details the issues raised by First Nations, and how those issues were considered, addressed or otherwise mitigated during the course of the environmental assessment process. It can be found here: https://projects.eao.gov.bc.ca/api/public/document/604f9028bba3620022b49089/download/20210222%20-%20VPC%20-%20Third%20Indigenous%20Consultation%20Report.pdf

Public engagement

Public engagement on the Vopak Pacific Canada Project included three public-comment periods with a total of 112 comments submitted. Two open houses were held, one each in Port Edward and Prince Rupert, with a total of 84 people attending. In addition, 133 people attended the two virtual information sessions. Public comments can be viewed here: https://projects.eao.gov.bc.ca/p/5b61e3726952ca0024cf687c/commenting

Contact:

Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Media Relations
250 953-3834

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: news.gov.bc.ca/connect

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