A proposal to construct a $13-billion dollar refinery in Kitimat by media mogul David Black as an end point for Enbridge pipeline bitumen has met with mixed reactions from local leaders.
MLA Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, says he sees the potential of such a project, though a lot needs to happen before such a proposal becomes a reality.
“I think it’s a very interesting proposal. Of course it will have to go through an environmental review, and we have to make sure corporate investors are on board,” he said.
He added he expects the addition of a refinery, should the project take hold, will change the conversation around the pipeline.
“It changes the dialogue of the conversation around the Northern Gateway Pipeline, especially when you get an individual such as David Black, who comes with real credibility, and who’s engaging in this project. I look forward to following it along and seeing where it goes.”
Bell said he knew Black was considering the project.
“Mr. Black has e-mailed myself and Minister (Rich) Coleman over the last bit of time,” he said.
“We knew he was thinking about this and thought it a was an approach to take in terms of adding value to the bitumen as well as mitigating some of the environmental risks in terms of transporting heavy oil on the ocean.”
Bell added it’s a bit to early in the game to speculate on what having a refinery in Kitimat will mean to northern B.C.
“There’s a lot of work to be done. I think we’re jumping a bit ahead. Mr. Black, however, suggested there may be upward of 3,000 jobs created,” Bell said.
“The notion of increasing capacity of refined product in B.C I think should be attractive to the consumer as well. Refining your own oil then selling it back as oil and diesel to the consumer is likely going to create a more competitive environment for automotive fuel.”
Bell added he’s disappointed by the NDP’s reaction to the announcement.
“There’s a whole bunch of real interesting things that come with this,” he said.
“It’s disappointing to me the NDP opposed it without knowing anything about it. I think that is worrisome. My interest and approach is ‘tell me more.’ I’m interested in knowing more about this and what it can do for us. I think their approach shows a real lack of respect for environmental process and a lack of understanding of what needs to be done to drive the economy. If they were to form government and just say no to every major proposal that comes forward there will not be a lot of jobs in B.C. Instead there will be a high rate of unemployment.”
The proposal brought forward by David Black is certainly ambitious, but it is unclear whether he will be able to commandeer the supply of oil from Enbridge and the foreign partners involved in the Northern Gateway Project,” said NDP energy critic John Horgan in a press release.
“It remains to be seen whether it’s a pipe-dream or if it is a credible plan with realistic price tags and capacity.”
Horgan said if it ever manages to get off the ground, it would still have to follow a rigorous environmental process and full consultation with First Nations.
New Democrat MLA for Skeena Robin Austin said seeing as there is no change to the level of risk with the pipeline, then the pipeline should still not move forward.
“There is nothing wrong with the principle of trying to add value or economic benefit to the project, but the potential for disaster with the pipeline is unchanged,” said Austin. “Northern communities know the risks are too great, and that’s why they oppose the project.”