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Community members protest planned biofuel plant near Peace Arch border

Protestors gathered at Peace Arch Park Sunday afternoon in opposition to a biofuel plant that is slated to be built on First Nation reserve land close to the border crossing.

Protestors gathered at Peace Arch Park Sunday afternoon in opposition to a biofuel plant that is slated to be built on First Nation reserve land close to the border crossing.

The Semiahmoo First Nation and Andion Global — a company that specializes in “organics-to-renewable energy” — are partnering up to build the proposed plant, which is expected to be operating by 2025.

The protesters, who were carrying signs reading “Don’t be Bio-Fooled” and “Good Ideas Wrong Location,” say the plant will hurt the environment, and they’re worried about the pollution, smell, and potential traffic.

Jeffrey Rebiffe, who has lived in the neighbourhood for 24 years, says a biofuel plant is a good idea, but the pollution the plant will emit worries him.

“I just can’t fathom why this would be considered an appropriate location,” he said. “My biggest concern is clean air and air quality. We sleep with our windows open all year round and always have.”

The protest included a speech from Surrey City Councillor Linda Annis.

“All the problems that come with it — the pollution, the noise — are not acceptable close to a residential neighbourhood,” Annis said.

Wildlife biologist David Hancock says the pollution from the plant will harm local wildlife.

“From my point of view, as someone who has been studying these things for 70 years now, we have over 150 bald eagles that feed in this area,” Hancock said.

Annis says it is critical that the Semiahmoo First Nation consults with the residents and the city.

But First Nation Chief Harley Chappell says he and members of his community have spent the last five years looking into the environmental impacts the plant could have, before the project was greenlit.

“It is borderline disrespectful what some of these protesters are saying,” Chappell said. “Our responsibility as Indigenous people is to protect our Mother, to protect Mother Nature, and to do everything we can. And as we have done our due diligence, and as we have learned more and more about the project, we have walked through with the regulatory bodies. We have had assistance from Indigenous Services Canada, Metro Vancouver, and Fraser Health.”

Chappell says 30 families — including his own — live on the reserve where the facility will be built. He says he would never approve a plant that could potentially harm members of his community.

“It is bold for them to say that we are not ensuring that every environmental box is ticked,” he said.

Rebiffe says Andion Global has invited him to a public meeting to learn more about the project.

“On Nov. 9, they sent me an invitation,” he said. “Sadly, it is a Zoom, so I don’t think any of my questions will be answered.”

The Semiahmoo First Nations expects the biofuel plant construction to begin early next year.

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