APTN National News
VANCOUVER–A proposed refinery to handle Alberta bitumen pitched by a British Columbia businessman is just “another pipe dream” and a “ruse” to increase support for the Northern Gateway pipeline according to a spokesperson for an all alliance of First Nations along the province’s northern and central coast.
Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations, says the refinery, pitched by newspaper tycoon David Black is a “shot in the dark” to try and revive flagging support for the Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline.
“All kinds of people are having pipe dreams out here,” said Sterritt. “We look at it as another ruse to try to get support for Northern Gateway.”
Black, who owns Black Press Ltd., announced Friday he would be willing to pay for the environmental assessment of a $13 billion refinery, but needed financial backers to make the project a reality. The proposed refinery would be built near Kitimat, B.C., which is the endpoint for Enbridge’s proposed $5.5 billion pipeline.
Black told the Vancouver Sun that the refinery would solve concerns over having bitumen-laden tankers moving through the environmentally sensitive Douglas Channel. He said the proposal would soften First Nations opposition to the pipeline by erasing the environmental threat to the coast of B.C.
Sterritt, however, said Black never really consulted with any First Nations about the project before announcing it on Friday and the proposal would do nothing to mitigate the threat of a ruptured pipeline which would still cross several major watersheds on its trip from Alberta’s tar sands.
Sterritt said already existing refineries in the Vancouver area have reduced their capacity because it’s more lucrative to ship raw product overseas. The existing Kinder Morgan pipeline was constructed 40 years ago on the promise of jobs created by refining activities.
“We already have a pipeline that is going to the Vancouver harbour, but those people shipping bitumen and other crude oil have decided they can make more money overseas than refining and they have shut down refining in B.C.,” he said. “Historically, this pipeline was built on the back of the refineries, so the people of B.C. said, ‘We’ll allow the pipeline to go through, we need refined product in B.C.’ Since then, they’ve backed off.”
Haisla First Nation Chief Councillor Ellis Ross said Black contacted one of his advisors on Thursday to inform the Haisla about the planned announcement. Ross said Black has toyed with the proposal for some time, but the Haisla have never been consulted on the issue or seen anything official on paper about the refinery project.
“It was unofficial contact, there was nothing on paper, no consultation it was just a concept,” said Ross. “What I made clear is the idea that our people have mandate to have absolutely no bitumen or crude oil on Haisla territory.”
Ross, however, said he hoped Black’s proposal would finally focus the debate about the Enbridge pipeline on the lack of existing refining capacity in the country versus shipping off raw product overseas only to buy it back later at a higher price.
“It’s the white elephant in the room. The focus has entire been to get the product to Asia,” said Ross. “It’s like shipping raw logs to Asia and buying back the product at 10 times the price.”