Council asks pipeline company for support

Committee of the whole meeting sees councillors reaching out to TransCanada for political help in swaying provincial government

A PRESENTATION updating Terrace city council on one of the area’s proposed natural gas pipelines concluded with council saying the company should become involved in advocating for a revenue sharing agreement that would help pay for upgrades of transportation infrastructure and housing in the northwest.

Council heard a presentation from Joe Zhou, project manager for the proposed Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project, a subsidiary company of TransCanada that is proposing a 650-kilometre pipeline to carry natural gas to an LNG processing facility in Kitimat, at the committee of the whole meeting Oct. 22.

Zhou told council that construction crews would be in and out of the Terrace area over three years sometime within the planned 2015 to 2020 construction period.

Zhou said there will be 2,000 seasonal construction jobs for the entire pipeline that passes north of Prince George, crosses Highway 16 near Fraser Lake on its way to a Shell majority-owned processing facility proposed for Kitimat called LNGCanada.

Camps will be located close to the right-of-way and will have anywhere from 50 to 1,500 hundred workers in them, said Zhou. The closest the pipeline will come to Terrace is 50 kilometres.

He said the impact on local infrastructure of this particular project would be minimal, but couldn’t speak to other projects and the impact they might have on top of this.

“We might place some stress on the infrastructure on roads to get to the sites,” said Zhou, but stressed that TransCanada’s goal is “to be self-sufficient instead of relying on the community to house workers.”

Several council members wanted more commitment of support for the regional bid to forge a revenue-sharing agreement with the provincial government.

Councillor James Cordeiro said municipalities have been “lobbying to have a revenue sharing regime put in place similar to other areas in the province, and I know that one of the things that council has been hoping for is not only the support from our communities, which I think we have, but also the companies coming in to do these projects …”

“Our communities are already facing these stresses,” councillor Stacey Tyers told Zhou, citing the Kitimat Modernization Project and Northwest Transmission Line as drivers of high housing costs, creating a shortage of affordable housing.

“We have no roadmap, we have never been there,” added councillor Brian Downie of a future where the northwest becomes a major energy corridor. “If we’re not ready for it, it’s literally riding out the storm. We want to prepare for it, not react.”

“As you know we have been very depressed for many years,” councillor Marylin Davies told Zhou and his colleague, community relations advisor Ian McLeod.

“We don’t in any way want to discourage business,” she said. “But you are not responsible for the next 20 years. We are.”

Earlier this year, Terrace, in conjunction with the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, released a revenue-sharing report that highlights the region’s growing social and infrastructure needs in face of dozens of proposed projects from various industries.

This document has formed the basis for recent negotiations with government for transportation upgrades in the area, including a new overpass in Terrace, as well as plans to increase housing options.

Zhou did recognize the stress on road infrastructure and spoke ofcommunications with the Ministry of Transportation related to TransCanada’s traffic management plan.

“Our camps are designed to accommodate all the workers,” he said, speaking to the demand for housing.

In terms of a revenue sharing deal, he said afterwards that he suspects “this probably is not something TransCanada company would be actively involved in, as it is really between the provincial government and the municipal government.

“I am aware of the proposal put forward by Terrace and also aware of the provincial government initiating the process,” said Zhou. “We don’t know enough about this initiative to take a position as a company yet.”

Zhou said the nature of construction work is that it “comes and goes”, but that TransCanada wants to leave lasting benefits, citing $1 million already invested in B.C. communities.

The support includes a $10,000 donation to the Terrace Community Foundation on the request of mayor Dave Pernarowski with the promise of more money to come, and 10 used laptops to the Terrace and District Community Services Society, as well as sponsoring the closing ceremonies for the 2015 Winter Games in Prince George.

They have also invested $200,000 in First Nation communities over the past year-and-a-half, said Zhou.

He said local companies that want to be part of the supply chain can declare their interest through the project website, but that ultimately it will be a general contractor doing the hiring.

He said there will be an emphasis on hiring from communities along the pipeline route, but that workers would need the necessary certification and training in advance.

TransCanada has two other pipelines proposed for northern B.C., one of which, The Prince Rupert Transmission Project, would pass on an approximately 750-kilometre northern route through the Nass area north of Terrace and swing down to a proposed processing facility in Port Edward run by Pacific NorthWest LNG.

Zhou said Coastal Gas Link hopes to submit their application for the provincial environmental assessment in early 2014, and will be back in Terrace for the public consultation process, that is part of the assessment, next spring.