Friends of Morice-Bulkley

B.C. publisher delays environmental review for ‘green refinery’

November 16, 2016

OTTAWA — B.C. newspaper publisher David Black has asked the federal government to suspend – just weeks after it was launched – a federal environmental panel review of his ambitious plan to build a “nation-building” $18-billion oil refinery near Kitimat.

The proposed project has generated considerable publicity, and at least an equal amount of scepticism, since it was first floated in 2012.

Black, who is seeking a $10-billion federal loan guarantee, pitched his “Kitimat Clean” project as a cleaner and less-controversial alternative to Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

The Enbridge project, in jeopardy due to stiff First Nation and public opposition and a pending northern B.C. coast crude oil tanker moratorium, would involve the shipment of diluted bitumen via pipeline to Kitimat. There it would be put on tankers that would go through the Douglas Channel to Asian markets.

Black suggests a refinery —he proposes technology to sharply reduce carbon emissions — that would instead process rail-shipped bitumen in B.C. That would create far more jobs than the Enbridge proposal, while producing refined petroleum products – like diesel, jet fuel and gasoline – that his proposal says would be less environmentally risky than the gooey bitumen.

The idea got the enthusiastic backing of B.C. Premier Christy Clark. Both provincial and federal bureaucrats travelled with Black to China to seek investors.

But more than a half-decade later the idea appears to be still in its infancy.

Black’s Oct. 2 letter suspending the environmental review was sent to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in response to the CEAA’s Sept. 9 decision to set up a panel to study his proposal.

Black told Postmedia News this week he is still pushing for the project, but said he couldn’t personally afford to pay the estimated $5-million cost for the environmental review.

He said he wants to strike an accord with local municipalities and First Nations, including the Haisla. That kind of local support would give him a better chance of finding investors who would finance the environmental review phase of the project.