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South Surrey community meeting on proposed biofuel facility draws 120

Public reaction to the project ‘misjudged’: Andion

Semiahmoo First Nation and Andion Global are sharing more information about an effort to build a biofuel facility on SFN land, including a promise to engage in “meaningful dialogue” with neighbouring municipalities and residents.

In a 25-page public information package shared with Peace Arch News Wednesday (Sept. 27) – just a few hours ahead of a public meeting organized by the local community to plan a “collective voice” against the project – a statement from SFN says such dialogue will occur “as we continue the process of finalizing the project.”

READ MORE: Call for ‘collective voice’ to block proposed South Surrey biofuel facility

At this time, it notes, the facility is in the process of development.

“We have established technical and financial feasibility for the project as well as having taken into consideration various environmental, federal, and regional regulatory requirements required for such a facility. We’re pleased to have received federal funding from (Natural Resources Canada) as it will help us move the project forward, but we have much to do before we get to a point where we are ready to break ground,” the statement explains.

“We want to ensure our neighbours and those concerned that we are adhering to the appropriate guidelines and environmental standards put forward by Metro Vancouver, the Province of British Columbia, and Indigenous Services Canada among others such as Metro Vancouver.”

Community meeting organizer Amanda Milford said Thursday (Sept. 28) that around 120 people turned out to the Sept. 27 meeting, including local politicians and stewards of the Little Campbell River.

She described the meeting as “emotionally charged,” and said a decision was made to form a task force to “help get the word out” about the biofuel plan.

She said the majority of attendees agreed the project does not belong in the area it is planned for.

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.

READ MORE: $14 million announced for Semiahmoo First Nation renewable natural gas facility

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), NRCan and Canada Infrastructure Bank have invited public comments ( as part of its review to determine whether it is likely to cause “significant adverse environmental effects.” The deadline to comment has been extended a number of times since early August. As of Tuesday morning (Oct. 3) it remained set to close on Oct. 14.

In the public-information package, SFN states a “process of extreme due diligence” was undertaken in choosing Andion to partner with, including visits to some of the company’s projects in Europe.

“We also have spent a great deal of time in performing due diligence in selecting a technology solution that not only is highly reliable and efficient in generating renewable energy but also ensures that the facility can comfortably co-exist within the existing community.”

SFN chose a renewable natural gas facility for both its environmental benefits as well as the ability to deploy the technology “right away.”

It’s estimated the facility will annually divert some 70,000 tons of organic food waste from area landfills and incinerators, eliminate around 55,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, generate 3.5 million gigajoules of RNG and help avoid the use of some 22,000 tons of chemical fertilizers.

The information package also includes information from Andion about RNG and anaerobic digestion; highlights economic benefits, including the creation of jobs for First Nations; and notes a “short” 25-year lease, after which the First Nation “will own the project entirely and can operate as they see fit,” or choose to decommission it.

Residents who have reached out to PAN in the months since NRCan’s funding support was announced have expressed concerns around the proposed location, potential odour and associated truck traffic. Some have also criticized the lack of public consultation to date.

Andion CEO Phillip Abrary told PAN Tuesday (Oct. 3) that he expects to meet with organizers of last week’s meeting in the coming days, and that a larger meeting for the general public will “absolutely” be planned, likely within the next two months.

Those interested may provide contact information to Andion so that they can be alerted when a date for the meeting has been confirmed. Email for details.

Regarding concerns around the plant’s potential air-quality impacts, Abrary said a “great deal” of time and money was spent having experts in the various fields conduct assessments. Based on those, “I, fundamentally, don’t believe there’s anything to be concerned about,” he said.

The statement released last week notes the SFN “went through extreme due diligence with us on these same issues, as they too were concerned about this negatively impacting their land and their lives.”

It also acknowledged they “misjudged the reaction from the community.”

Milford said the community wants to understand the process, and that Andion needs to be more transparent.

Abrary said there there has been no intent to conceal or hide anything.

“We had to do our work before we could inform people about it,” he said.

“You can’t be transparent about something you don’t have answers to,” he continued. “Now, we actually have facts that have been vetted. It’s gone through the ringer. We’re happy to be transparent.”

He noted those concerned will need “solid evidence” – more than “off-the-cuff arguments” – to influence any changes to the project.

Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

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