Opinion by Region

Poll finds support for B.C. refinery

David Black's proposal for Kitimat oil refinery given positive consideration

Kitimat Clean Ltd. has applied for environmental assessment of a proposed oil refinery, after commissioning a poll that found nearly three out of four B.C. residents support the idea.

A province-wide phone survey conducted during September found 78 per cent of respondents were aware of the proposal to build a large refinery at Kitimat to process Alberta heavy crude oil. Provincially, 72 per cent either favoured or were “somewhat supportive” of the proposed $13 billion refinery, which would ship gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel to market rather than tankers of diluted bitumen.

Kitimat Clean president David Black said he was pleasantly surprised that so many people have heard of the refinery proposal, and that most support the idea.

“Obviously the concept has struck a chord with the public,” he said.

Black remains chairman of Black Press Ltd., and formed Kitimat Clean as a separate company to pursue the refinery project. He is financing the provincial environmental assessment for it, which he expects to take two years and cost several million dollars.

Black first proposed the refinery to the B.C. government seven years ago as chairman of the B.C. Progress Board, an advisory panel set up to examine economic and social development of the province. His interest was renewed when Enbridge Inc. applied for federal approval to build the Northern Gateway pipeline from northern Alberta’s oil sands to a new tanker port at Kitimat.

The Enbridge project has met strong opposition from communities, aboriginal groups and environmentalists, much of it based on the threat of a tanker spill on B.C.’s North Coast. Black argues that a refinery not only reduces the spill risk, it means 6,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent employees to run it.

Since he announced the Kitimat Clean project in August, Black said he has been contacted by Korean and Chinese people looking for more information. Earlier discussions with Enbridge and other Canadian oil companies did not produce financial support to reverse a decades-long decline in B.C. refinery capacity.

The poll was conducted by non-editorial Black Press staff during September. It gathered 1,400 responses from the Cariboo, Kootenay, Northern B.C., Lower Mainland, Thompson-Okanagan and Vancouver Island regions. The margin of error is estimated to be plus or minus 2.62 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

More information on the project is available at www.kitimatclean.ca