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BC's gas towns feeling 'consultation fatigue'

The national organization that represents major oil and gas companies in B.C. is planning a summer of "community relations outreach" across the province; but finds itself faced with towns that might be tired of meetings.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) hired a dispute resolution graduate student from the University of Victoria to reach out to municipal and first nations leaders and set up 30-minute meetings. According to the email sent to CAPP contacts the purpose of the meetings are "to discuss the oil and gas industry and any expanded oil and gas plans that we might see within B.C."

CAPP's media manager Geraldine Anderson said they are still working on the list of B.C. communities they'd like to visit. In an email, she told The Tyee that CAPP and its member companies engage with British Columbians on an ongoing basis.

"We think it is important to have ongoing conversations in order to lead to better understand of each other's perspective," wrote Anderson. "We do plan to visit some communities where natural gas is being developed, communities along proposed oil or natural gas pipeline right-of-ways, proposed terminals, and communities which have businesses that supply the oil and gas industry."

Anderson added, "We realize that some communities have consultation fatigue and we are cognizant that many stakeholders have spent a considerable amount of time with project proponents directly, and/or participating in regulatory processes."

Consultation fatigue? Fred Banham, chief administrative officer of the Peace River Regional District (PRRD), can relate.

"I have to agree with the concept of it," he said. "There are so many projects out there on the go right now."

Banham told The Tyee the PRRD is involved with 15 environmental assessments at the moment, and that's just in the unincorporated areas. Projects that happen within incorporated municipalities of the regional district are left to those local governments, said Banham, because "we've got enough on our plate already."

In addition to consultation required for an environmental assessment, Banham said the regional district regularly meets with Encana, Spectra, Shell and other companies active in the region. "The list goes on and on," he said.

Banham told The Tyee he's not aware of any upcoming meetings between the PRRD and the CAPP, but he did say the PRRD very recently sent a letter to minister of energy and mining, Bill Bennett, about the need to assess the cumulative impact of individual oil and gas projects in the region.

Colleen Kimmett is a senior editor at The Tyee.

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