The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) made a special trip to the Comox Valley in an effort to ‘find a balance.’
Janet Annesley, one of CAPP’s vice-presidents, visited the Valley last week to talk to community members about what an expanded oil and natural gas industry could mean to B.C.
She and others knowledgeable in the industry — like a person knowledgeable about pipelines, and another about tanker traffic — met with Comox Valley citizens at a Find a Balance Community Café at Rocky Mountain Café in Comox. They also held an event at Filberg Park.
“What we’re exploring through this Find a Balance series is how to have better conversations,” said Annesley.
“There’s sometimes the tendency for conversations to break down into conflict, and that conflict is the enemy of trying to find a balance and actually reach a solution.
“Too much, we get bogged down in a polarity discussion, and there’s really no point in having a ‘he said-she said’ kind of conversation. So, we are here to try to get at what issues are and have a reasonable conversation.”
Annesley said the community café saw a strong turnout representing a wide array of opinions. Some people showed up to support the oil and gas industry, some had strong concerns about things like possible pipeline spills and tanker traffic along the coast, and some were on the fence and wanted more information.
“I would say that group made up the majority of the people who came,” she added of the people unsure of their stance.
She said questions were brought up about everything from safeguards and oil spill cleanup procedures to potential economic benefits from a liquified natural gas export terminal in Kitimat to questions about competition from other countries for Asian markets.
“Incredible questions,” continued Annesley. “For a community where there’s not oil and gas development right in your backyard, people here are incredibly informed on the issues.”
Annesley noted the event at Filberg was a partnership between CAPP and Shaw Media and was filmed for Global TV. Annesley, a pipeline industry representative, a Chamber of Shipping BC representative, Mayor Paul Ives of Comox, a local mother and a fisherman and river guide got together to ask questions of each other and share their opinions.
According to Annesley, the Comox Valley would be indirectly impacted by an expanded oil and gas industry. She pointed out the number of families with a member working in northeastern B.C. or Alberta, who bring their paycheques back to the Valley.
She also noted the natural resource industry contributed about $50 billion to government in 2011, which pays for services all Canadians use.
“Finally, clearly the point that we’re on an island and oil and gas products are used here and need to be transported safely is something that … from an energy education perspective that we are trying to draw awareness to,” she said, noting the recently announced new BC Ferries ships are expected to run on liquified natural gas.
“That ferry (to Powell River) could potentially run on a fuel that is produced in British Columbia, that is transported across British Columbia, and that is then consumed in British Columbia, so the entire value chain would be here.
“So, there’s an energy security aspect to this, again, and that we all use energy and we need to consider where it comes from, and where there’s an opportunity to get that energy from a local source is that not better than getting it from a distant source?”
On Black Press’ David Black’s proposed oil refinery in Kitimat, Annesley said the oil and gas industry wouldn’t have come up with the idea on its own, but is “very interested in the conversation it has generated about the prospect of having jobs related to the manufacturing of oil and gas and consumer products like gasoline and diesel in B.C.”
She added the industry will look at its economic feasibility, pointing out the most recent oil refinery in North America was built in the 1980s and many have closed down because they aren’t economically feasible.
“So, we are here to try to get at what issues are and have a reasonable conversation,” continues Annesley as she explains why she made the trip to the Valley. “If that, at the end of the day, leads to more people considering development or looking at societal problems or issues related to development in a different way, I hope it does … that if we are concerned about the environment, what kind of choices do we make as citizens — if we view that as a single lens for all decision-making or if we want to look at multiple lenses for decision making to include energy security and the economy then how does that conversation change.”