Big industry needs to take advantage of local knowledge

Prosperity cannot buy us pristine wilderness

Dear editor,

Douglas Channel Watch was formed in 2008 with the stated goal of protecting the land, air, waters and diverse creatures in the Douglas Channel watershed. We are longtime Kitimat residents, from many occupations and we consider ourselves to be responsible citizens.

As responsible citizens we have a major role to play in the coming years as change comes to our community. We recognize that very large industries and even some smaller projects can bring many good things to Kitimat – new people and money chief among them.

Prosperity is a wonderful thing – it can buy us many things but it cannot buy us pristine wilderness, pure air or clean water. Those things we have begun to lose already. Kitimat is considered by many outsiders a “brownfield” location for development. Further erosion of these qualities in the coming years is the price we pay for prosperity.

We have the right and responsibility to ask pointed questions about that price and about what is happening in our community and why it is happening. We need to ask ­­­­— is it worth the long-term cost to the community? Most importantly we need to ask — is it truly best practice?

Now more than ever, we need to hold all companies to account for their actions. With climate change becoming a fact of life we need to think ahead to the world our grandchildren will inherit. U.S. federal scientists and the U.N. have again issued reports warning that the world is on track for 3 – 5 degrees of warming.

While LNG Canada may be the cleanest plant in the world it will still emit huge amounts of C02 into the atmosphere and Kitimat composting isn’t going to compensate for it. We are not happy with the current practice of secondment, which has government employees who are supposed to see that environmental standards are met, put on industry’s payroll for the duration. Experience shows that they will not be able to stand up to the onward roll of big industry bent on doing exactly what they want.

Neither are we happy with the practice of “professional reliance” where government officials accept at face value, data provided by industry contractors without doing their own studies.

One of the reasons this happens is to save the taxpayer money but we think we’d be better off cutting some of the many subsidies our province gives to industry and using the money to pay more environmental officers. In this world of free enterprise, we fail completely to understand why we, the taxpayers, have to give such huge industries so many tax breaks.

Over the years, Douglas Channel Watch has spoken out clearly on many environmental issues in the Kitimat Valley and in the process we have become local experts on a number of issues. We have learned how to search out best practices for industrial development and how to bring issues forward when standards are not being met.

Industry has done well in the past five years to open channels of communication with various community groups. However, even though we received a great deal of information, questions were not always answered and plans were not adjusted. And we weren’t always consulted unless we proactively asked for information.

Community groups such as ours require open and direct consultation channels with industry. We need to know what to expect and we should be called in early and often to advise on plans to avoid pitfalls that only local knowledge can recognize.

Douglas Channel Watch remains open to meeting with and continuing our conversations with industry of all kinds. We care about our community and industry needs to heed our concerns.

Liz Thorne

Board member – Douglas Channel Watch

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