Squamish council members were shocked this week to learn that FortisBC no longer needed to obtain development permits from the District.

District of Squamish (DoS) staff presented letters to council this week from FortisBC that effectively said the company did not need to obtain additional development permits from the DoS for proposed work.

The letter, from FortisBC Eagle Mountain – Woodfibre Gas Pipeline Project Manager Art Kanzaki stated; ‘As a result of the approval that FortisBC has received for the Eagle Mountain – Woodfibre Gas Pipeline Project (EGP Project) pursuant to the Utilities Commission Act, FortisBC is not required to obtain in addition a development permit from the District of Squamish (DoS) for the proposed work.’

The letter referenced Section 121 of the Utilities Commission Act, listed below:


Relationship with Local Government Act

121  (1) Nothing in or done under the Community Charter or the Local Government Act

(a) supersedes or impairs a power conferred on the commission or an authorization granted to a public utility, or

(b) relieves a person of an obligation imposed under this Act or the Gas Utility Act.

(2) In this section, “authorization” means

(a) a certificate of public convenience and necessity issued under section 46,

(b) an exemption from the application of section 45 granted, with the advance approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, by the commission under section 88, and

(c) an exemption from section 45 granted under section 22, only if the public utility meets the conditions prescribed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2) (c), the Lieutenant Governor in Council may prescribe different conditions for different public utilities or categories of public utilities.


The letter went on to say that; ‘As the British Columbia Utilities Commission has exercised its jurisdiction to approve the EGP Project, the DoS cannot supersede or impair the Commission’s approval of the project through the exercise of its own jurisdiction under the Local Government Act.’

Council was surprised and confused by the FortisBC statement this week. Mayor Patrica Heintzman says; “We were surprised that the Utilities Commission overrides what our processes are”. The DoS sought clarification prior to presentation to council this week on the matter, and FortisBC informed them that the Utilities Commission had issued an exemption for the EGP Project. Heintzman said “We’re just looking into it to, you know, make sure that things are being done properly.”

Community group My Sea to Sky claims FortisBC is using ‘bully tactics to drill in Squamish estuary’. Tracey Saxby, co-founder of My Sea to Sky says, “This is not how a good corporate neighbour should behave. This is completely disrespectful of the community’s concerns. Squamish has already said no, our estuary is sacrosanct. It is shameful that a public utility can do whatever it wants and disregard Municipal government, and the values of our community.”

Saxby says they’re questioning whether FortisBC are actually abiding by the Utilities Commission Act. She say’s it’s not clear whether they’re acting in that capacity as a utility at the moment. My Sea to Sky is currently seeking legal advice to see if the Act does apply.

Spokesperson for FortisBC’s EGP Project Vivana Zanocco says they did meet with the Mayor and staff on Oct 3rd to let them know this was happening. Zanocco says ‘I gather they were surprised… we did let them know that we were coming forward and this was going to happen’. She says DoS did ask for clarification and FortisBC did provide it, and that information was shared at the Council Meeting.

FortisBC say they still want to be good neighbours and let the DoS know what they are doing, even though they fall under the Utilities Commission Act.

Filed under: Eagle Mountain, FortisBC, My Sea to Sky, Pipeline, Squamish, Woodfibre