British Columbia

Proposed $5.6 billion petrochemical plant criticized by Prince George residents

A proposed petrochemical plant and industrial zone just outside Prince George, B.C. was subject to fierce criticism from local residents at a city council meeting on Monday.

Calgary-based West Coast Olefins is set to make an investment decision on the project in 2022

Numerous Prince George citizens spoke out against a proposed petrochemical and plastics facility in Pineview, southeast of the city, at a city council meeting Monday. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

A proposed petrochemical plant and industrial zone just outside Prince George, B.C., was subject to fierce criticism from local residents at a city council meeting on Monday.

Calgary-based West Coast Olefins is set to make an investment decision on the $5.6 billion plant next year, with the facility including natural gas liquids extraction and separation plants, an ethylene plant, and a third-party-owned polyethylene plant, which would make plastics for Asian markets.

The project has faced opposition from environmental lawyers — who called for an independent review on the grounds that it posed significant environmental risks — and First Nations in northern B.C.

On Monday, Prince George city councillors heard from numerous residents who were part of a delegation to council.

"All water and the land pollution from such industries harm the health of people who live up to 35 kilometres around them. They could use chemicals that are carcinogenic, mutagenic and cause endocrine disruption," said Marie Hay, a retired pediatrician, at the meeting.

Hay is part of a group called Grasslands Not Gas Lands, which has petitioned against the project and called for a holistic review that includes public hearings. The petition has been signed by over 1,500 residents.

"Who's going to want to buy our produce, our hay or beef from us with, you know, being right beside a gas plant?" said Gary Woods, a farmer who owns land within a kilometre of the proposed plant site in Pineview, a few kilometres southeast of Prince George.

The proposed industrial zone just outside Prince George is set to include natural gas liquids (NGL) extraction and separation plants, an ethylene plant, as well as a third-party-owned polyethylene plant, which would make plastics for Asian markets. (West Coast Olefins Ltd.)

Woods said he has been sending impact statements to West Coast Olefins and city council, and that he fears the project will lead to more industrial activity in the area.

Prince George council has said their involvement with the project is limited. The site also overlaps with the jurisdiction of the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George. 

"We haven't really received much information from WCO on the status of this project. ... The community is desperate for more information," said Prince George councillor Cori Ramsay.

"It seems there's really a lot of confusion over what is and isn't happening with the project, what is and isn't being zoned."

City staff are expected to draft a report in partnership with the regional district and present it to council at a later date.

With files from CBC Daybreak North and Kate Partridge

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