The provincial government presented its official position in the ongoing debate over offshore oil and gas to the moratorium review panel in Prince Rupert last Thursday (April 15).
In contrast to islanders' opposition to lifting the moratorium, the province is very much in favour of exploration.
Energy and Mines Minister Richard Neufeld's presentation to the panel emphasized the importance of meeting the demands of the domestic energy market in BC.
The three-member review panel, set up by the federal government to gather public opinion about lifting the moratorium, embarked on a series of public hearings earlier this month. Panel members Roland Priddle, Don Scott and Diana Valiela have already visited Queen Charlotte and Masset.
In Prince Rupert, Mr. Neufeld told them that the revenue from oil is a means to develop a renewable hydrogen economy, and that the only way to 'fill in the scientific gaps' would be to lift the moratorium.
"As part of our provincial Energy Plan, (Energy for our Future - A Plan for BC), the government of British Columbia formed a dedicated offshore oil and gas team," Mr. Neufeld said. "The team has been actively working with the federal government, First Nations, coastal communities, educational institutions, and industry toward the development of BC's offshore oil and gas resources in a scientifically sound and environmentally responsible manner."
Mr. Neufeld said the government intends to work with First Nations to ensure that they share in the "benefits of development." In the written summary of the government's perspective, it says that, "First Nations will have a role in the management and regulation of offshore development." Although this 'role' is not specified, Mr. Neufeld's presentation stated, "development will occur in a way that minimizes impacts on traditional values and activities."
"An offshore oil and gas industry could bring significant public benefits," says the written perspective. "Despite the positive contribution of growing sectors like tourism and aquaculture in some local economies, it is clear that new economic drivers will be necessary to secure the long-term economic future of (British Columbia's) coast."
Written submissions can still be sent to the federal panel until the deadline, May 15.