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Diverse group of panelists discuss potential pros and cons of LNG in Prince Rupert

With LNG development being top-of-mind for many in the community, the CBC gathered a diverse group of panelists to examine the industry.

With liquefied natural gas development (LNG) development being top-of-mind for many in the community, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) gathered a diverse group of panelists at the Prince Rupert Library on Oct. 22 to examine just what the industry could mean for the North Coast.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice joined Prince Rupert Port Authority president and CEO Don Krusel, oceanographer Dr. Barb Fagetter, Bruce Watkinson of the Gitxaala Nation and BG Group community relations manager Herb Pond for a two-hour forum focussed on the potential pros and cons of LNG.

The evening started with each panelist outlining their thoughts on LNG. While some openly welcomed the industry, others took a more pensive approach.

“So, my thoughts on LNG are that we can greatly benefit from LNG providing that it includes express guarantees of jobs and training opportunities for British Columbians, that it gives British Columbians a fair return for our resources and that it gets the support of—and gives benefit to— First Nations and that it also has to operate in a way that protects our land, our air, and our water, including living up to our climate change obligations,” said Rice.

“On the one hand, we have a lot of economic promises about how LNG is going to bring money to our community. It’s going to help repair our failing superstructures that we have in here, our infrastructures. It’s going to help bring Prince Rupert back to where it was before, that we can all remember. On the other hand, I see a lot of other problems associated with LNG. As a scientist, I see of issues with environment,” said Dr. Fagetter, adding any terminal would have to be done in the right place and the right way.

Watkinson, however, said it was simply too early and there is not enough information being made available for the Gitxaala to form a definitive opinion on the industry.

“We still have a lot of questions that have yet to be answered. So I can’t sit here and be as positive as some of my colleagues, or negative. Honestly, I just don’t know yet … for my generation of Gitxaala citizens, this could be a defining moment for us in terms of some of those potential benefits and things that we could do for our community and for our culture. But at what cost? What are the impacts to our culture? What are the impacts to our way of life? What are the impacts to our rights and title?,” he questioned.

For Pond, a former mayor of Prince Rupert, LNG represents a way to reinvigorate the tax base to maintain the services and amenities people in Prince Rupert are accustomed to.

“It introduces a really healthy number of high-paying jobs and really can substantially bump the tax base … if you look across the north and look at what communities are healthy today, they’re the ones that have strong industrial tax bases. It’s just the way it is across the north of British Columbia. And so I see something that if it’s done right could be an incredibly good fit for this community and the surrounding regions.”

Krusel said that while the Prince Rupert Port Authority is “very fortunate” to be able to host LNG developments, the industry would be just another aspect of port business.

“LNG is really just simply another addition to our diversification of this port gateway. It will add significantly to the gateway economy that is developing here in Prince Rupert, and like any other development, it will contribute to the overall economic vitality of this community and the entire region of northern British Columbia,” he said, adding that not shipping gas would be “a great loss” due to potential job and tax losses from the existing gas industry in Northeastern B.C.

While those on the panel mentioned the need to find new customers for B.C. gas with the increase in production taking place in the United States, the idea of a streamlined environmental assessment process found no support from any participants. While Petronas has taken to the media to raise concerns about the length of time reviews are taken, most on the panel said the creation of these projects should be lengthy processes.

“The current EA process, whether it’s the B.C. government or the federal government, doesn’t consider the timelines for the First Nations governments to make their decisions … when we have these deadlines… oh, we’re going to have this chapter of the environmental assessment report out for review… you have 30 days to review, or sixty days to review it, it doesn’t always consider the timelines that First Nations governments run on,” said Watkinson.

“I talked about it being a good fit if it’s done right, and certainly I would say that it’s been our view that part of done right is taking that time in advance of starting the clock … I think the challenge for putting together any one of these projects is they’re incredibly large. And they are complex and they’re very costly. And so there’s a whole series of moving parts and pieces that have to come together in the right way at the right time,” said Pond.

In terms of responsibilities should an incident take place, Krusel said it would be the proponent who is leasing the land that would be responsible for both clean up and for decommissioning the site when the lease expires.

In terms of what would make the LNG industry a success, the panelists all agreed that success would be something judged based on what is left for future generations based on the actions of today.

“We need to be able to take the time to gather the information to make those decisions properly, so that we end up down the road without the wrong decisions happening to us … we need to make sure that we give ourselves the leeway so that still, 50 years or 100 years down the road, we are not suffering from bad decisions made today,” said Fagetter.

“If the LNG industry creates good-paying jobs, not just any jobs, but good-paying jobs … if the local people here are able to get the skills training or the education that they need to stay in the community and to participate and thrive within the industry, it’s a measure of success,” said Rice.

“It’s finding that balance where everybody in 10 years, 15 years from now looks back at the decisions that were made today and says ‘Those were good decisions, and they’ve made Prince Rupert, have made this region a better place to live’,” added Krusel.