Prince Rupert residents had an opportunity to ask questions about Vopak Development Canada Inc.’s proposed project to bring propane, diesel and methanol products to northern shores on Sept. 26.
Vopak, along with the Prince Rupert Port Authority and the BC Environmental Assessment Office (BCEAO), hosted an open house at the North Coast Convention Centre. It gave dozens of interested citizens an opportunity to meet with the officials studying potential impacts of the projects, give their feedback and voice their concerns.
There was another open house held at the Port Edward Community Centre on Sept. 25.
“Generally participants were engaged and curious about the project,” said Stefany Cortes, regional communications manager for Vopak. “Most of the questions related to project overall, job or contracting opportunities and steps included in the regulatory assessment.”
The project is currently undergoing a federal environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) 2012 Section 67 and a concurrent assessment by the province. If completed, 240 rail cars of liquefied petroleum gas, petroleum products and methanol would be transported to Ridley Island by rail car to be shipped to Asian markets.
Some of the open house attendees had questions about how rigorous the assessment would be to ensure that those large volumes would be transported safely.
Luanne Roth, a campaigner with the T.Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, said she was concerned about the risks of large panamax and diesel tankers being anchored in the harbour for long stretches of time. She said she wanted to see if those issues would be covered under the environmental assessments but didn’t get the answers she was looking for.
“Overall, I think the assessment process is pretty good, but I’m worried about some of the things they might be missing,” she said. “We’re asking for a full environmental assessment to make sure it’s covered.”
Jeannine Mitchell, another attendee, was also concerned about potential environmental impacts, but was hopeful the process would yield a positive result.
“Hopefully it will not be harmful to the area and will employ a lot of people,” she said.
If the project is approved, it would bring approximately 200 construction jobs over two years during the building phase and an addition 40-50 long term positions once completed, most of whom would be hired locally. For some at the open house, employment and economic growth were the primary priority.
“They know what they’re doing and they have the history,” said John Lessing, an engineer who was positive about the project. “I think this is a great opportunity, and we need to make sure we get good projects.”
Lindsay Luke, a project assessment manager with the BCEAO, said comments from the public will be gathered online and considered when weighing potential environmental impacts of the project.
“We always seek to be as transparent as possible and we love public involvement,” she said.
The public comment period opened Sept. 6 and will close Oct. 9.