Monday, September 22, 2008

Pond takes the point on pipelines and oil exploration

Staking out his position on the potential advent of oil tankers and oil and gas exploration on the North Coast, Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond seems to have come down rather firmly in the camp of Liberal leader Gordon Campbell when it comes to the development of transportation resources and oil exploration around the region.

Prior to his departure for the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention which got underway in Penticton today, the Mayor gave a few words of support to Kitimat Mayor Rick Wozney, who is in the process of trying to get a natural gas transfer point built in Kitimat. A pipeline head end that originally was supposed to bring natural gas into BC, but now is apparently being reconfigured as an export terminal.

Regardless of the progress of that project, Mayor Pond offered up his voice as part of a "combined Northern voice" trying to stress the need for more development in the North and hoping to gain support for Rupert specific projects down the line.

Pond entered the debate suggesting that much of the opposition to any of the development projects involving oil and gas has come from southern environmentalist interests and he believes that the north should be the ones to assess the issues and decide, not outside interests.

It makes for an interesting framing for his attendance at the UBCM, and will raise a few eyebrows locally, suggesting that he may have a change in political direction on the horizon.
With his comments dovetailing rather nicely with much of the Liberal platform on oil and gas and tanker traffic in the north, you begin to wonder if maybe this will be Mayor Ponds last session at the UBCM convention as Mayor of Prince Rupert and if he may not have another political level in mind for the near future.

The Daily News featured his thoughts as the front page, headline story in Monday's paper, while Kitimat's Northern Sentinel provided some background on the support of the northern mayor's to Kitimat's cause.

Prince Rupert mayor joins other mayors in urging development of northern projects
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Monday, September 22, 2008
Pages one and three

Mayor Herb Pond is on the coastal tanker and pipeline bandwagon.

On Friday, Pond said he would support Kitimat Mayor Rick Wozney and Prince George Mayor Colin Kinsley on a number of pipeline and port expansion projects in the North, including the controversial Kitimat-to-Summit Lake natural gas pipeline project that still hasn't found its way to market two years after it was proposed.

"I think that it is a matter of a project that is developing steam and I was invited to comment on it and I did," Pond said of the timing of the comments.

The $1.1 billion natural gas project was given an environmental assessment approval by the province in June and is now awaiting federal approval. The federal government in May said that project needed a comprehensive study before it could get going.

Pond, along with Wozney and Kinsley, commented in a press release that they support and encourage more work to be done in developing the "tens of billions of dollars worth of projects" waiting to go ahead in northern B.C., claiming they will have economic benefits for people in the North.

The three also said that opposition to pipeline and coastal tankers are driven by southern B.C. environmental groups, with Pond going as far as to say that it was time the "northern voice" was heard on the issue.

"It should not be left to bunch of people in the South, it shouldn't be left to other people in Canada; it really should be up to the people of the North Coast who really look at the information and together make informed decisions about their area,' said Pond.

However a Victoria-based group that has been against the idea of tolerating coastal oil tankers is furious at the accusation that they are speaking from strictly a B.C. point-of-view.

"That is completely not true," said Dogwood Initiative executive director Will Horter.

"When Pierre Trudeau placed a moratorium on the coastal tankers it was because people in the North along with First Nation leaders stood and said 'over our dead bodies.'"

Horter was pointing at a moratorium placed in 1972 when the Government of Canada decided against crude oil tanker traffic through Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, and Queen Charlotte Sound due to concerns over the potential environmental impacts. He emphasized that the Kitimat-Summit Lake pipeline has significant opposition in the north.

Pond said that as far as Prince Rupert went, he did not expect this to bring long-term economic spin-offs for the city but said his support was strategic, hoping for future support on Prince Rupert-specific projects.

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