Nelson councillor Candace Batycki says it will take more than an onshore oil processing facility in Kitimat to ease her concern about the environmental risks associated with the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline.
Batycki, the councillor who brought forward a successful motion in council last month to see Nelson officially oppose the pipeline, was referring to Black Press owner David Black’s ambitious proposal to build a $13-billion oil refinery near the Northern BC end of the pipeline.
“It’s an entertaining proposal, but it does nothing to address the concerns I, along with tens of thousands of British Columbians, have about the pipeline itself,” Batycki said, citing the environmental damage resulting from the pipeline’s construction through Northern BC wilderness and First Nations land, as well as the risk of leaks in the pipeline after its constructed.
Black’s refinery would turn the heavy oil, known as bitumen, pumped from the Alberta oil sands into diesel and gasoline, which is safer to transport through ocean waters to overseas consumers. It would also mean 3,000 permanent jobs at the refinery — and 6,000 temporary construction jobs while it’s being built — and tax revenue for various levels of government.
Batycki agreed the jobs would benefit the province, but again worried about the environmental risk.
“Anytime you can retain value closer to home that’s a good thing,” she said.
“But do we really want a refinery in Kitimat? That’s a pretty interesting thing to think about, in terms of the environmental impacts of that.”
In a question and answer section on his website, kitimatclean.ca, Black acknowledges that the refinery will emit 7 million tons of CO2 per year, but pointed out that CO2 is also used to process alternative fuel sources.
“For one rather startling example, corn ethanol plants actually emit more CO2 than oil or gas plants do,” he wrote. “I am concerned about the environment, just as most British Columbians are. I worry about pollution and the production of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels, just as most Canadians do.”
The proposed refinery will be subject to an environmental assessment, which Black intends to spend millions of dollars of his own money on, if no industry partner steps forward to support him.
Black built his personal wealth by running the Nelson Star‘s parent company Black Press, which also has over 150 other titles across Canada and the US. He was president and CEO of Black Press until last month, when he passed that role onto his second in command Rick O’Connor. Black remains the majority shareholders and board chair of the company.
“The fact that he has put me in as the CEO of Black Press affords him the time and the ability to pursue this other passion,” O’Connor explained.
On the Kitimat Clean website, Black addressed the issue of the potential conflicts of interest arising with his newspapers covering the controversy surrounding the Northern Gateway Pipeline, given that he is banking on that project going ahead.
“I have not been involved in [pipeline] coverage to date and I have no reason to become involved in the future,” he wrote.
O’Connor said the refinery proposal is something Black is pursuing as a private citizen and a successful businessman.
“He’s definitely an entrepreneur, I don’t know a lot of people who would put themselves out there with this concept,” O’Connor said. “He’s done very well in his life and he thinks it’s time to provide leadership so that the next generations can benefit from his vision, I think that’s really what drives him in a lot of ways.”