Kitsumkalum chief councillor Don Roberts says he’s unhappy with the way the Pacific Energy Future Corporation has gone about introducing a plan to ship oil by railcar to a planned oil refinery between Terrace and Kitimat and then pump gas and diesel in two pipelines north across the Skeena River to an export terminal at Portland Inlet on the north coast.
He says the company went public with the plan before he had a chance to respond to the project.
“We are annoyed at having our name as a consultation band,” said Roberts. “Kitsumkalum is not in support of raw bitumen moving by pipeline or train, or something of that nature.”
He added that he received the project description not long ago and feels it was “a short period” in which to respond.
Pacific Future Energy officially released its project description last week at the same as it was submitted to provincial and federal authorities.
“I don’t want to go there,” said Roberts about the prospect of pipelines crossing the Skeena River in some fashion west of Terrace which is within Kitsumkalum traditional territory.
He said he feels the Kitsumkalum are “stuck in the middle”, finding the typical way project proponents deal with First Nations – speaking to them individually and offering money to one but perhaps not another – in what he calls a “divide and conquer” strategy.
“My views here is it involves everyone in the Tsimshian Nation,” said Roberts.
Kitselas First Nation chief councillor Joe Bevan said last week Pacific Future Energy also contacted the Kitselas about its project, adding it would take at least another year for the First Nation to evaluate the proposal.
Pacific Future Energy’s proposed refinery, which would cost an estimated $11 billion, is within Kitselas traditional territory.
SkeenaWild Conservation Trust executive director Greg Knox said the idea of one or more pipelines crossing the Skeena River, as well as the atmospheric disturbances in the Kitimat Valley caused by a large oil refinery, are a worry, but he doubts coastal refinery projects makes sense economically.
Knox said that while it’s true that refined products such as gas and diesel evaporate rather than sink like raw bitumen in the case of a leak, spilled gas would will mix in the turbulence of the water column and be lethal to young salmon.
“Because the turbulence in the water is mixed, some of the materials will evaporate relatively quickly but have an immediate impact,” said Knox.
Still, Knox said concentrating on Pacific Energy Future is a priority for SkeenaWild given the world-wide glut of petroleum products.
“All of the economic analysts are predicting the low oil price is here to stay for a long time, and we just saw sanctions being lifted with Iran, and therefore it makes it easier for Iran to add to world production now,” said Knox.
“There are so many energy, natural gas and oil proposals out there that we try to figure out which ones are most likely to proceed and which ones bring the biggest threats and put our energy there,” he added.
Knox said one focus right now is organizing the Salmon Nation conference in Prince Rupert this weekend which is to draw attention to the threat that the Pacific Northwest LNG project could pose to Skeena salmon stocks.