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AltaGas updates city council on REEF project during March 25 meeting

Firefighting and health care strains main worries for Prince Rupert city councillors
AltaGas construction manager Shawn Campbell (right) and senior director of external affairs and Indigenous relations Jennifer Osmar provide an update on the Ridley Island Energy Export Facility (REEF) project to city council during its committee of the whole meeting March 25. (Screenshot)

AltaGas representatives were quizzed over the potential impacts of the Ridley Island Energy Export Facility (REEF) project during a Prince Rupert committee of the whole meeting on March 25.

REEF’s construction manager Shawn Campbell and senior director of external affairs and Indigenous relations Jennifer Osmar updated council on the major Ridley Island project while also detailing what the project could be like for the community.

The liquid petroleum gas (LPG) project is being undertaken by the Calgary-based AltaGas and Dutch energy company Royal Vopak, with site clearing for the project nearly complete. A positive final investment decision is expected from AltaGas and Royal Vopak in the coming months.

Campbell assured council the project did have a nurse practitioner for the project’s construction phase amid continued concern surrounding the closures of the emergency room at the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital.

The potential dangers associated with such a high industry presence in the area and the strain an accident could have on an already-strained healthcare system was a concern for Coun. Barry Cunningham.

Campbell said the long-term health and safety plan for the LPG project is still being sorted out with Northern Health.

Coun. Teri Forster asked about potential concerns over the city’s firefighting resources being overwhelmed by the major project, and asked for clarity over the project’s reliance on the city’s firefighters.

Osmar pointed to AltaGas’s fire training investments in the presentation, which included support for a new Port Edward fire truck and training in multiple Northwest communities. She said there is also a “site-specific” emergency plan for the project.

Cunningham worried that the nature of the project — which he deemed a “borderline refinery” — would mean firefighters would need extra training paid for by taxpayers.

“That type of training and extra personnel is going to put a bit of a burden on our taxpayers to top up the quality and level of our firefighting department, which is already stretched because of the industrialization around here,” he said.

“Are you in any way going to be upping the ante as far as contributing to our fire department?” Cunningham asked.

Osmar said the company will meet quarterly with local communities to figure out issues and “find ways that we can make a difference and contribute where we can.”

She also commended Cunningham for his pressing queries.

“I’m just grateful that you’re asking us the hard questions — because you should be,” she said.

“We as industry recognize that it’s our responsibility to recognize what the pressure points are.”

Campbell confirmed there is a 150-person onsite work camp on Watson Island that is currently in operation and will continue into operation of the site.

Coun. Wade Niesh, standing in as chair in Mayor Herb Pond’s absence, lauded AltaGas — which does not benefit from the controversial provincial port tax cap — and their tax contributions.

“Thank you for your contribution to the taxes,” Niesh said, bringing some laughs to the meeting.

AltaGas said they have received letters of support from Mayor Herb Pond and Knut Bjorndal, mayor of Port Edward, where the company also gave an update to the community on March 13.

About the Author: Seth Forward, Local Journalism Initiative

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