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November 6, 2023

 

An Open Letter To Harley Chappell & Phillip Arbary :

 

As you are undoubtedly aware, the Clean Air Alliance is a grassroots effort, a coming together of concerned citizens from both sides of the border. It was initiated as a result of community members learning, most recently, that a proposal has been in the works for over four years, to erect an Andion biofuel facility on Semiahmoo First Nation land just outside our residential neighbourhoods and alongside the Little Campbell River.

 

As we raise awareness, there is a clear and definitive outcry escalating around our grave concerns for our environment, the health and wellbeing of our families, particularly those with vulnerabilities and our children, and life as we know and enjoy it in the outdoors all year long.

To date, we have over 7800 petition signatures opposing the biofuel facility and at our recent rally at Peace Arch Park, approximately 500 people stood together in protest of this development and listened as experts divulged the facts around the detriment of this to all who call this area home.

 

While we have certainly been vocal, at every turn, the focus of this entire Clean Air Alliance (CAA) has been on the facts as we research and know them, consulting with experts, communicating with respect for all parties, while exercising our democratic right to speak out. We have included in the conversation, and extended invitation to discuss the issues, directly and numerously with, all levels of government and, most consciously with the Semiahmoo First Nation (SFN) people for whom we have the utmost respect. This has been to no avail unfortunately. We truly believe that there can be a resolution for the betterment of all and we sincerely desire to work together.

 

The comments made by SFN Chief Chappell and Philip Abrary, CEO of Andion, in the media recently, speak to a tactic to discredit the conscientious efforts of our concerned citizens, the facts as they are and the essential questions that remain unanswered. As such, we feel compelled to respond to each area with the truth and raise the outstanding questions that dispel the position made.

Point/Quote #1:

“A new biofuel facility proposed for Semiahmoo First Nation Land is a good thing for the community,”according to SFN chief Harley Chappell.

 

“[The project] is true sustainability, it’s local sustainability – it’s not just ... taking our waste and shipping it off, becoming someone else’s problem, so we’re able to manage that and do that locally and ultimately, provide for the residents of South Surrey when it comes to putting the natural gas back into the grid,” Chappell said Monday (Oct. 30).

 

CAA Rebuttal:

• In fact, as has been reported, the waste coming into the plant is not from our community, rather 70 000 tonnes of waste will be trucked in nightly from across Metro Vancouver. Currently, Surrey’s waste is kept local as it is processed at the Surrey Biofuel plant on the industrial lands in Port Kells and thus does not become someone else’s problem. The proposed plant’s operational plan suggests that other cities will be “taking [their] waste and shipping it off”, I suppose with the intent to become Surrey’s problem.

 

Point/Quote #2:

Chief Chappell has a history of being an advocate for good stewardship of the environment and growing fish populations. He has said that the Nation has done its due diligence with the project.

  

“We wouldn’t, obviously, have the approval from (the) First Nations Health Authority and Fraser Health when it comes to air quality, so it is kind of troubling that these citizens are coming forward and some of the things they’re saying,” he said.

 

“It’s preposterous to think that we’re not going to take into consideration all the environmental impacts, both positively and negatively.”

 

CAA Rebuttal:

  • We are unaware of any evidence to support the statement that environmental impacts have been taken into consideration. We do not know of the environmental parties who have approved of this project. Reports remain incomplete and information has not been shared.

  • What is “troubling” is that it appears that progress towards the plan continues without completed environmental assessments. Based on this fact alone residents are concerned with the above statement and are examining the ability to confidently “take into consideration all the environmental impacts, both positively and negatively”.

  • Currently, the Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), and Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) have not concluded their environmental assessment determination as to whether there will likely be significant adverse environmental effects arising from the proposed project. The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) states, as this is “an active environmental assessment process, the environmental consultants are already working on components such as wildlife, Species at Risk, air quality, wastewater, and odour, among others. They must provide an analysis of anticipated impacts and consider several factors such as adjacent communities when conducting their analysis”.

Point/Quote #3:

“When we look at different opportunities with the limited capacities that we’re given, then we’re not always able to do all the projects that we hope to do – we’re a little bit handcuffed when it comes to that,” Chappell said.

 

“We are looking to do more public engagement and we’re hoping to meet with local politicians and local governments, just to again, address some of their concerns or issues. I’ve asked our administration girls at the (SFN) office how much has the community reached out? Has anybody reached out? And there’s been very little... I heard one of the local councillors had something to say and she hasn’t reached out to us at all. It’s kind of troubling when nobody’s reaching out to the nation.”

 

CAA Rebuttal:

• As per The Overview of the Impact Assessment Act there is a requirement “to include early, inclusive and meaningful public engagement” however, the residents were not even aware that the facility was being proposed until September 2023 when the Peace Arch News published an Environmental Protection Notice, listing the emissions this project is seeking permission to pollute and discharge air contaminants consisting of Nitrogen Oxides, Sulphur Dioxide, Volatile Organic Compounds, Ammonia, Methane and Hydrogen Sulfide.

  

  • Residents later learned this proposal has been in process for over four years. The local community was excluded entirely. Immediately upon gathering additional information, a small group of concerned community members went to work educating area residents. Numerous efforts have been made to initiate communications between the concerned stakeholders and Chief Chappell of SFN receiving no response.

  • A Facebook group was created which welcomes anyone who seeks further information on the issues and includes those in favour and opposed to the facility; we are aware that some of the 1661 group members are indeed a part of SFN.

  • Most recently, a rally was held at Peace Arch Park. This was a peaceful event with the intention of educating the public on the issues, hosting expert speakers and supporting concerned citizens. It was intentionally respectful of the SFN community, direct invitations were extended to Chief Harley and his members with no response, and, in addition, the event was open to everyone.

Point/Quote #4:

“As our territory’s been developed, we were never at a place – whether it’s local, provincial or federal government – we were never at a place to come and have a conversation or even a discussion with Indigenous communities and even with regional growth strategies and Metro Vancouver’s planning – we were never included in those as reserves,” he said.

 

“The SFN are at a place now where they are looking to expand and bring economic opportunities into their community for many different things,” Chappell explained.

 

CAA Rebuttal:

• We understand the urgent need for the SFN and we are eager to assist, should that be welcomed. The good that has come of this situation is that professionals within the surrounding communities are keenly desirous of proposing alternative, viable solutions for Chief Chappell to consider. Perhaps in this, an opportunity will arise that protects the land, our people and supports the stability of which the SFN are undeniably deserving.

 

 

Point/Quote #5:

“For us, we see this as a positive thing. One of the biggest contributors for CO2 emissions in South Surrey is both the border crossings that we’re right here at. We’ve dealt with that – that was land that was expropriated from reserve lands to make the highway, to make the border, and obviously now we deal with those repercussions,” he noted.

“So, for a neighbour to come from across the way and say, ‘Oh my goodness, this is such a horrible thing’ – we’ve been living with this for generations, and we continue to.”

 

CAA Rebuttal:

• The Clean Air Alliance agrees that the border traffic does contribute to air pollution, however the proposed biofuel plant’s contribution would be far greater: over 40 tonnes of pollution each year. To quote the public figures reported, that’s “contaminants per year for 8,760 hours a year for the next 20 years.” That’s every hour, all day, every day, for 20 years.

 

This would impact not only the immediate environment around the facility, but well beyond, and for the entire duration of the facility’s operation. Based on this information alone, we believe it is certainly enough to consider the repercussions out of concern for current and future generations. Respectfully, the way to address pollution that has been escalating for generations, is not to add more fuel to the fire, but to find a way to counter it, douse it, together.

 

 

Point/Quote #6:

Chief Chappell has stated that he and the SFN will continue to look for every opportunity to improve environmental conditions within their territory, as that is their responsibility and always has been Many local environmental groups have expressed their alarm at this proposal due to potential harm to the environment. Chief Chappell’s view appears in direct contradiction to traditional SFN values.

“We need to look at the data. We need to look at the science. We need to look at the approvals from multiple different levels of government and the support from multiple different levels of government given to get to this point,” he said.

CAA Rebuttal:

  • The data to date may be suspect, given where the information is being sourced. TetraTech, the firm commissioned to complete the air modeling data has a history of fraudulent practices1 in multiple jurisdictions2. Reports provided by Tetra Tech are questionable at best and we demand our government seeks a second opinion from an independent and reputable company.

  • The Clean Air Alliance learned at the rally (October 29, 2023) that some levels of government were blindsided by the news about this facility particularly the length of time it has been in the planning stages, while others were learning for the first time of potential risks associated to the area residents and environment.

     

Point/Quote #7:

“There are concerns and that’s fine, but from our lens, this is a good opportunity. We can bring this into the community, we can do some good. We can have this time to be able to really support our neighbours,” [Chappell stated].

 

CAA Rebuttal:

• Local residents have articulated, on social media, via written communication and in person, their support of the Semiahmoo First Nation and the economic vitality of the band. As stated above, the community is keen to collaborate with the SFN and identify a project that actually will “do some good”, one that will create significantly more employment and socioeconomic benefits to SFN, and the broader community as a whole, than the current proposed project.

 

 

Point/Quote #8:

Andion CEO Phillip Abrary told Peace Arch News earlier this month that the proposal has “gone through the ringer,” and that expert analysis has determined anticipated emissions are not “anything to be concerned about.”

 

CAA Rebuttal:

We respectfully request an itemized summary of what “the ringer” consisted of because based on the reports currently available the determinations are limited and there are several reports and expert analysis (including the environmental impact) which are not yet complete.

 

 

Point/Quote #9:

Asked if any in-person meetings will be held, an Andion spokesperson explained that a virtual event was chosen, in part, due to several “insulting to threatening messages” received from the public by “the Andion team.”

 

While the offending messages “are not representative of the vast majority of messages from the community,” they did prompt a report to Vancouver Police Department, the spokesperson said.

 

“Increasingly, messaging from the public includes insulting language (name calling, accusations etc).”

CAA Rebuttal:

• The Clean Air Alliance unequivocally denounces any form of abuse including insulting language, name calling, and accusations. We have worked hard as a lead team to remind people that their position is only as credible as their ability to maintain professionalism and respect for all parties as we work toward a resolution. The rally held at Peace Arch Park was peaceful and respectful of the SFN and this will be maintained.

 

 

Point/Quote #10:

The Andion spokesperson said another key factor in the decision to hold a virtual meeting was in order to “accommodate the most number of people, and make it widely accessible.”

 

CAA Rebuttal:

  • The only valid reason that Andion could possibly have for holding a Zoom meeting is the very large number of people who wanted to say something. If this is the case, they should hold a series of in- person meetings.

  • With a large portion of the population not versed in utilizing Zoom as a communication tool, the meeting is not accessible for all. In the name of democracy, we deserve the right to have our concerns addressed in person, our specific and direct questions answered, by all decision makers.

    We recognize and honour that the land is operated by the Semiahmoo First Nation, but the air that will be polluted, carrying toxins to our families, the elderly, our children, to us all, belongs to us all, feeds us all, and is collectively ours.

    We see the opportunity as the SFN sees it, we recognize that the financial gain in this is extensive for their people, but we ask you, “At what cost for our collective communities, now and for all the generations to come?” Once complete this cannot be undone. Let us not regret this time in our history but work together for the betterment and benefit of all.

     

References:

  1. Courthouse News Service, “Judge likely to approve settlement over shipyard cleanup fraud”.

  2. Reuter’s, “Quebec anti-corruption police raid unit of Tetra Tech”.

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