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Federal funding for proposed Surrey biofuel project withdrawn

News leaves opponents ‘cautiously optimistic’

Natural Resources Canada is no longer involved in a proposal to build a biofuel facility on Semiahmoo First Nation land in South Surrey.

The move, shared Thursday (Feb. 29) in an update posted to the Canadian Impact Assessment Registry website, means $14.4 million in federal funding that was announced last summer, has been withdrawn.

“As of Feb. 16, 2024, Natural Resource Canada is no longer a Federal Authority for the Semiahmoo RNG Project as it will not be enabling the project,” the update states.

“Thus, NRCan no longer has a role in the assessment of environmental effects of the project under s.82 of the Impact Assessment Act.”

The project – an “anaerobic digestion facility” that would convert food waste to energy – was made public in June 2023, with news of NRCan’s funding support.

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

At the time, the project was a partnership of SFN and Andion Global Inc., proposed 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.

Andion has since become Taurus RNG, an entity company officials in December said was simply the sale of an 80 per cent interest in its North American subsidiary to a team of its executive management, resulting in a “healthy, debt-free, stand-alone business.”

“We stand 100 per cent behind, and will continue to develop all of our projects including the Semiahmoo RNG project,” the company’s marketing head, Ashley Brookes, told Peace Arch News in December.

READ MORE: Questions raised in South Surrey by Andion corporate changes

The proposed facility has been a source of angst among area residents from the get-go, whose efforts to quash it have included a petition and a rally. Concerns include the potential impact of pollution, traffic and noise.

Opponents earlier this year questioned the impact of the corporate changes.

In a statement shared Saturday (March 2) morning, South Surrey-White Rock MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay noted that “Taurus (Andion) can apply for funding in the future but would have to re-start the process.”

Members of the Clean Air Alliance have said they are “elated” about the latest federal funding decision, but they are not yet waving a victory flag.

NRCan was one of three government funding sources, spokesperson Suzanne Smith explained Monday (March 4); two remain, as well as private funding.

“It’s the wonderful outcome that we wanted… but we have tempered enthusiasm because there are still other agencies involved,” and because the project came together “in secret,” Smith told PAN, referring to news last fall that discussions had been underway for around four years before it became public.

At the same time, “it was exciting that our voice finally was heard.”

Alliance members are hopeful the federal-funding update will prompt other funding partners to also reconsider.

Smith encouraged those with concerns to continue reaching out to Metro Vancouver and Indigenous Services Canada. The alliance is also planning to host a townhall meeting in early spring, the details of which have not yet been finalized.

PAN has reached out to SFN and NRCan for comment.

Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

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