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‘A lot of questions’ remain around South Surrey biofuel proposal

Andion ‘keeping conversation open’
A community meeting held Sept. 27, 2023 regarding a biofuel facility proposed for Semiahmoo First Nation land drew around 120 people, including a few local politicians. (Contributed file photo)

A recent meeting with a major partner behind a biofuel facility proposed for Semiahmoo First Nation land in South Surrey did little to assuage concerns of neighbours.

“They left a far bit more questions unanswered than answered,” Jim Gouk, spokesperson for the nearby Summerfield neighbourhood, said of the Oct. 6 get-together.

“Some of the material that they did present left us with a lot of question marks.”

The plant is proposed – in partnership with Andion – for four acres of SFN land adjacent to Highway 99, approximately one kilometre north of the Canada-U.S. border and 40 metres back from the highway itself.

While Andion officials acknowledged in late September that they “misjudged” how the community would react to the proposal, CEO Phillip Abrary later told Peace Arch News that assessments conducted by experts in various fields have left him confident there is nothing to be concerned about.

Gouk and others – some 5,700 signatures have been collected on a petition opposing the facility – disagree, arguing the facility would be better-suited for an industrial area, or on the site of the Vancouver landfill.

Gouk said the site is about a kilometre from his home, and that air-dispersion modelling that has been distributed to show how far any odour from the facility might drift paints an unrealistic picture. It indicates it “nicely bends” around Douglas Elementary – where his granddaughter attends school – and stops “right at the fence” of the Hills at Peace Portal golf course, he said.

READ MORE: South Surrey community meeting on proposed biofuel facility draws 120

Appalled that the community is only now hearing about the proposal – Abrary confirmed talks began about four years ago – Gouk said it “has the potential to be extremely harmful” for the Summerfield, McNally Creek and East Beach areas, as well as the City of Blaine.

Residents are further frustrated that a deadline of Oct. 14 was set for written comments to Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), National Resources Canada (NRCan) and Canada Infrastructure Bank, for its review to determine whether the project is likely to cause “significant adverse environmental effects.”

Gouk said the date landed before “a ton of information, reports and studies” become available for public perusal.

Little Campbell Watershed Society’s David Riley wasn’t at the Oct. 6 meeting, but said so far, Andion has been “lacklustre” in its consultation efforts.

The pace of the process so far has also put the community on edge, Riley said.

“It all comes down to the speed at which this happens,” he said. “It’s a major, major project.

“Our position is, really slow the process.”

In a statement to PAN on Tuesday (Oct. 17), an Andion spokesperson said the concern of the community was felt at the Oct. 6 meeting.

“We are committed now more than ever to ensuring that people understand the process and technology as it helps to dispel many of their concerns,” the statement reads.

“We are keeping the conversation open.”

Efforts are underway to co-ordinate a date for a larger community-information meeting, the email notes.

Gouk said residents, meanwhile, are continuing to investigate their concerns, spearheading a letter-writing campaign to Metro Vancouver, and have reached out to local, provincial and federal officials.

Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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