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Energy minister, mayors look to build common ground

Peace Country pride and building sustainable communities were just some of the takeaways for new Energy Minister Michelle Mungall following her visit to the region last week. Mungall had two jammed back-to-back days Aug.
Energy and Mines Minister Michelle Mungall with natural gas industry reps, local service providers, and Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead.

Peace Country pride and building sustainable communities were just some of the takeaways for new Energy Minister Michelle Mungall following her visit to the region last week. 

Mungall had two jammed back-to-back days Aug. 11 and 12, meeting with local officials and First Nations, touring oil and gas sites, and taking in the Dawson Creek Stampede.

The trip began with a meeting with Mayors Lori Ackerman and Rob Fraser, who emphasized the importance of prioritizing local economies when attracting investors to the province, Mungall said. 

“So it’s no surprise given one of our four conditions for the natural gas industry, for the LNG industry specifically, is that local communities are getting the benefits, and that British Columbians are getting a fair rate of return for their resources,” Mungall said.

Mungall also met with Oil and Gas Commission officials, and took in tours of Encana and ARC Resources work sites both on the ground and from the air. The sense of pride shared by workers is what struck home the most, she said.

“Workers would start off with, ‘I’ve grown up here my whole life,’ though there’s plenty of workers who haven’t as well,” Mungall said.

“This industry is employing people from all over Western Canada, but the people who came from the community were so proud they would tell me their life story.”

In terms of industry, Mungall was impressed by the use of recycled water in hydraulic fracturing operations. 

“The actual fracking is being done so far below from where we pull our own potable water from, it was very interesting to see,” she said.

“I had read about that, but it was interesting to see it up close, what’s going on.”

Still, a scientific review of the practice remains an NDP commitment and will take place, she said.

While her visit coincided with an announcement that the province will seek legal status in challenges against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Mungall stressed the difference between that project and the natural gas infrastructure currently being built or proposed for the northeast.

“One is for the Alberta tar sands, one is for B.C. One is about bitumen, one is about a completely different product, that’s a really important thing to remember,” she said.

“For the condensates, for the liquids, one of the challenges we have in B.C. is getting those products to market. Right now, our market endpoint is going to be shifting in the next few years from the U.S. and the rest of Canada to Asian markets. So those are one of the challenges we need to start thinking about today, so we are planning for that market shift to come in five to 10 years.”

Mayor Lori Ackerman shared with her fellow councillors on Monday that her discussions with Mungall were productive and centred on the importance of local hiring and business opportunities when it comes to industry development. 

“We talked about how we understand energy is not just a commodity, it’s a responsibility,” Ackerman said, noting the meeting took place in the city's passive house.

Plans are in the works for a multi-minister meeting with city officials in Victoria in November, Ackerman added. 

Mungall said she also met with Blueberry River Chief Marvin Yahey, and West Moberly Chief Roland Willson. She also had a roundtable discussion with elected officials from Dawson Creek. Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge, and Pouce Coupe.

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