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David Black holds town hall to discuss oil refinery

David Black spoke to approximately 100 people at Thursday
David Black spoke to approximately 100 people at Thursday's town hall.
— image credit: Martina Perry

David Black of Kitimat Clean Ltd. held an informal discussion in Prince Rupert about his plan to build a made-in-B.C. oil refinery to process Alberta crude before it is shipped to Asian markets.

Roughly 100 people attended the conversation at the Lester Centre of the Arts, with plenty of discussion for and against the proposal taking place.

The event started with Black talking about the project, and why he believes it's a viable solution. Afterwards members of the public had an opportunity to ask questions and state their concerns, with many taking the chance to do so.

"It was a pretty clear exchange of views. [Some] people came with strong opinions and kept them, but we heard each other out," Black said in an exclusive interview after the event.

Black has four reasons for wanting to build a refinery; there would be no possible chance of a bitumen spill offshore, there would be around 6,000 jobs created in the construction phase of the project, there would be approximately 3,000 new jobs associated with the refinery, and finally the jobs and construction work would mean more money going back to the government to go towards schools, hospitals, etc.

"I do worry that our kids don't have the job opportunities we do," Black said.

Additionally, Black said another positive of the refinery is that, combined with Enbridge's pipeline, it would be an all-Canadian project with all the profits staying in the country.

The potential refinery would be the first built in Canada in decades and would ship gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel to markets rather than tanker ships filled with diluted bitumen.

Black mentioned that in Canada there is only one other oil pipeline that transports both crude oil and refined products. This line is the Trans Mountain Pipeline System, which runs from Edmonton, Alberta to marketing terminals and refineries in B.C. and the U.S. Black argued that this pipeline has been in operation since the 1950's and there hasn't been a major environmental issue with it, though there have been a few leaks throughout the years.

Black said today's pipelines are safer because of decades of technological changes and if the refinery were to be built it would have higher green standards than if built in other countries. Black said there would be no down side to the project, although many members in the audience disagreed.

"Most folks have lost faith in Enbridge," Black said, adding he believes the Northern Gateway Project won't go ahead in its current form.

"I don't want to be involved with this if we can't build that pipeline safety."

Black thinks that British Columbians will be more comfortable with the Enbridge project if the risk of an offshore spill is taken away, and that's the point of the refinery. Black started looking into the project one year ago, and says he has gotten plenty of support for the idea from many, including oil companies and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Black met with chiefs in Haida Gwaii earlier in the week, and says he hopes to talk to more Aboriginal chiefs in the future.

Furthermore, Black Press conducted a telephone survey asking 1,400 British Columbians at random seeking their opinion on the Northern Gateway Project with a refinery. Black says the results of this poll showed 72 per cent either were in favour or were "somewhat supportive" of the refinery. In northern BC 65 per cent of people surveyed said they were in favour.

However numerous members of the audience stated their disbelief in the statistics, saying they haven't heard of anyone who supported the idea and called for a more extensive survey.

"I don't know who you surveyed, but all of the people I've talked to say no [to this project]," Jeff King, a Nanaimo resident who is currently working in Prince Rupert, said, with Prince Rupert resident June Lewis echoing him.

"I have a lot of friends up and down the coast, and they're all against the pipeline," she said.

Audience members also expressed concerns with the project doing damage to the environment, including Prince Rupert resident James McNish.David Black answered questions and concerns from the public on Thursday.

"It's an accepted environmental fact the use of fossil fuels is causing climate change, and that's going to have a detrimental impact to the industries that really sustain us here in Prince Rupert," he said.

While some voiced their support for the project, citing jobs for youth in the northwest and the value-added nature of the project, others suggested Black should put his money into more green-energy, including Prince Rupert city councillor Jennifer Rice.

"I was wondering if you were interested in the new green economy and creating a project or a series of projects or proposals that would help us transition off of fossil fuels, which is a finite resource… I would like to see you use your power, money and influence for the big transition. For the hair brained idea of a new economy," she said.

Black said he worries about greenhouse gases, but in the mean time there is no alternative to oil. He did acknowledge that the refinery would cause CO2 gas to be released into the atmosphere.

"By not doing this we're not reducing the greenhouse gases released into the world at all because other countries will provide this oil, so why not build the jobs for our kids?" Black asked.

The site Kitimat Clean Ltd. is looking into building the refinery on is half way between Kitimat and Terrace, in the Kitimat Valley.

 

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