A lake in northern B.C. is being considered as a site for a new petrochemical plant, raising concerns among residents and a First Nation in the rural area.
West Coast Olefins initially planned to build a $5.6-billion plastic manufacturing facility in Prince George’s industrial area, which the company said would create 1,000 permanent jobs. But the idea was scrapped after backlash from locals concerned about air pollution.
Instead, the company has announced plans to relocate the facility to a rural area north of the city.
West Coast Olefins is considering five possible sites, including Summit Lake, 50 kilometres north of Prince George. Surrounded by forest and 12 kilometres long, Summit Lake is on the continental divide, and drains into both the Pacific and Arctic oceans.
West Coast Olefins plans to extract natural gas liquids, such as ethane, propane and butane, from a natural gas pipeline running through the area. Those byproducts would then be used to make materials like plastic and rubber for Asian markets.
Company president and CEO Ken James said the project does have support — from investors, construction contractors and the McLeod Lake Indian Band, a community 90 kilometres north of Summit Lake. But another First Nation with a connection to Summit Lake says it hasn’t been notified at all.
Chief Roland Wilson of the West Moberly First Nations says he first learned of the plan from a CBC News reporter.
Wilson says his community owns 23 acres of land on Summit Lake, right next to a proposed site for the plastics plant. He says his community has also been in talks with the government for 15 years to secure reserve lands at the lake.
“We’ve always been in that area …. and utilized that area extensively. So that surprises me that we haven’t ever been notified,” said Wilson, who added that he grew up at Summit Lake.
“We don’t really know what kind of impact this plastics plant has, or what the emissions of a project like this are. Does it create pollutants? We don’t know. We have absolutely no clue. Nobody’s talked to us about this,” said Wilson.
But James says his company has done a good job keeping people informed. If the community doesn’t want the plant, it won’t be built. But he says that doesn’t mean “everybody has a veto.”