City council leery of refinery plan
TERRACE CITY council hasn’t shifted its stance on Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project despite a recent oil refinery announcement.
The idea of a refinery, proposed Aug. 17 by Black Press owner David Black (The Terrace Standard is a Black Press newspaper) would be built 25 kilometres south of Terrace and is estimated to employ roughly 6000 workers in its construction phase.
Black said he wants the refinery to take crude from Enbridge’s proposed pipeline, turning the heavy oil into refined products like gasoline prior to shipping it in tankers.
But even if the refinery comes to fruition, gains exclusive rights to Alberta crude oil being transported by the pipeline, and makes tanker traffic safer because refined products are less risky to the ocean, most councillors say it doesn’t change their anti-pipeline stance.
“We’re always in favour of investments,” said councillor Marylin Davies after the announcement. “[But] we really don’t have any details. We have a pie-in-the-sky idea.”
Davies added that a refinery near here doesn’t change concerns about the pipeline proposed to feed it.
“I have a real problem with running the bitumen,” she said, pointing to a recent forest fire near Copper River Road where firefighting crews couldn’t initially gain access. “What would happen if that was an oil spill?” she said.
Councillor James Cordeiro agreed that a refinery doesn’t change the pipeline project.
“The proposed refinery in some way might mitigate marine risk, however, the burden of proof still remains on Enbridge as to the safety of the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal,” he said.
“At this time I have yet to see anything from Enbridge that would alter my position.”
Cordeiro said the refinery proposal is so hypothetical that considering it as viable in the Northern Gateway debate isn’t worth it yet.
But councillor Brian Downie said he thinks of the proposal as another piece of information in the process.
“I was one that supported following a process (before forming a stance on the pipeline project),” he said.
“The announcement of the pipeline is essentially putting out some other ideas about how a petro chemical industry could develop this area,” he said.
Councillor Stacey Tyers said development needs to be weighed with risk.
“I get that we need jobs, but at what cost?” said Tyers. “It doesn’t change the bitumen travelling through our watershed which terrifies me.”
Councillor Bruce Bidgood agreed.
“I think that the whole discussion about building a refinery here does nothing to address the risks involved with pumping oil across the province of B.C.,” he said. “Is any amount of money or jobs worth having an environmental disaster?
“I think our position [as city council] has remained unchanged,” he said. “But I think we’re probably going to have some discussions about this on council just to reconfirm that our stance hasn’t changed.”
City council’s opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline came about in a two-part motion in a January council meeting.
The motion asked council to declare support for two Union of British Columbia Municipalities motions: “B140 Opposing the shipping of tar sand oil in pipelines across northern B.C. for loading onto crude oil tankers,” and
“B139 Opposing any expansion of bulk crude oil tanker traffic in Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound, B.C.”
Councillor Lynne Christiansen is ill and could not comment.
Mayor Dave Pernarowski, who is out of the country, responded via two emails, saying the city is “always open to new business and job creation opportunities.
“Mr. Black is a highly respected and successful businessman in B.C. and, as the owner of one of our key media outlets, The Terrace Standard, he is a valued member of our growing business community.
“At this time, we don’t know enough about the project to comment one way or another about it, but we look forward to working with Mr. Black in the future and engaging with our citizens regarding any major investments that could create jobs and help grow our amazing city,” the mayor said.
Still, he concluded, council’s anti-pipeline stance hasn’t changed.