A SECOND proposed oil refinery for the Kitimat area is being sent to an independent review panel by the federal government.
The decision regarding the Pacific Future Energy Corporation project was announced by federal environment minister Catherine McKenna, “after considering its potential to cause significant adverse environmental effects and concerns expressed by the public and Indigenous groups in relation to those effects,” indicates a release by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
Pacific Future envisions bringing in crude on three to four long trains a day from Alberta to the Dubose Flats area 32 kilometres north of Kitimat, refining up to 200,000 barrels a day into various products.
Project backers are calling it a green refinery, highlighting the burning of wood waste to produce the energy to power the refinery.
Up to 1,000 workers would be housed in the proximity of Dubose Flats at the peak of construction.
Exactly what environmental effects the project could cause as expressed during a public comment phase earlier this year have yet to be released by federal regulators.
Also unknown is how refined products would be sent to Asian customers with the company saying that kind of detail is up to the purchasers of the products.
But project backers foresee the construction of two pipelines running from Dubose Flats to an export terminal in the Portland Canal area on the coast north of Prince Rupert.
Spanning that distance would involve pipelines either crossing or running underneath the Skeena River.
Based on federal timetables, the review panel will be established within 90 days of the Oct. 7 decision to order the review.
The timeline for the review panel to submit its report is 16 months from the date of the establishment of the review panel and McKenna has five months after that to make a decision to approve or reject the project. The above timelines do not include the time Pacific Future takes to complete its work or gather information required for the assessment.
The Pacific Future review decision follows a similar one made in September for another planned oil refinery near Kitimat to be built by Kitimat Clean.
Crude would also be shipped to this proposed refinery by rail and it does involve a marine export terminal to load refined products on large tankers using the Douglas Channel as a route to the ocean.
In documents released about this project by federal regulators, various First Nations and government agencies pointed to the need for an environmental review.
One of the First Nations to do so is the Haisla near Kitimat which indicated the proposed Kitimat Clean project falls within its traditional territory.
“The Haisla Nation has not yet fully considered the proposed project and potential impacts from the project with a view to identifying potential concerns,” wrote then-Haisla chief councillor Ellis Ross to federal environmental officials in May.
“What is clear, however, is that the project will require the use of land to which the Haisla Nation has avery strong aboriginal title claim,” he continued.
“This use will infringe the Haisla Nation’s right to proactively use and manage the land, to choose how the land is used, and the right to the future long-term economic benefit of the land.”
The Kitsumkalum First Nation also registered its worries, pointing out emissions and increased industrial activity among other items.
“The assessment of this project needs to include the rail and road corridors that will carry the raw material to the site,” wrote a consultant hired by the Kitsumkalum to federal officials in May. “Train traffic has already increased during the past few years through Kitimat industries and the Prince Rupert Port expansions.”
The train tracks parallel the Skeena River and tributaries (and through Kitsumkalum territory) and then the Kitimat River system. It is critical that a risk assessment associated with the delivery of raw material via rail be conducted and that the scoping of the assessment and discussions about possible mitigation must involve Kitsumkalum at every stage,” the consultant wrote.