How one Black Press paper covers David Black's refinery proposal in Kitimat

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      Most media workers in B.C. are aware of publisher David Black's proposal to build a $13-billion oil refinery in Kitimat.

      They also know that the idea has not received a ringing endorsement from those knowledgeable about this industry, mainly because oil refining is a brutally competitive enterprise.

      To satisfy my curiosity, I ventured onto the website of the Black-owned Terrace Standard to see how this issue is being covered in one of his papers in B.C.'s northwestern region.

      The first story by Black's legislature reporter Tom Fletcher on August 17 featured three video clips of his boss and lots of comments from him. That's not surprising, given the magnitude of the announcement. Near the bottom of the article, there were dissenting remarks from Coastal First Nations executive director Art Sterritt and NDP energy critic John Horgan, which didn't take up a lot of space.

      There was a story the same day with the skeptical response from local NDP MLA Robin Austin, another quoting NDP MP Nathan Cullen, and subsequent articles concerning reactions of other prominent citizens of the region.

      Today on the Terrace Standard site, there was an editorial acknowledging that the refinery was going to be a difficult sell.

      It highlighted the rampant opposition to the Enbridge pipeline, along with the claim that Black was "putting the cart before the horse" by bringing this forward before the Northern Gateway Project has been approved.

      Here's how the editorial ended—and make no mistake, the endings of editorials are often what's most important because that's what's left in the reader's mind.

      Significant economic benefit derived from the pipeline could sway popular opinion, especially [for] people living through hard times in northern B.C., but probably not enough to tip the scales.

      Black and Enbridge will have a tough time convincing residents in southern cities that the potential of thousands of jobs in the northern oil sector is worth the risk of a pipeline leak or a tanker running aground on B.C.’s coast.

      In other words, Enbridge and Black would create thousands of jobs and significant economic benefits, but it's those southerners who just don't get it.

      Black promised earlier this month that his papers would cover this issue in an unbiased manner. This particular article fails to acknowledge the potential economic downside of shipping oil for those whose livelihoods depend on fishing and tourism in northwestern B.C.

      NDP Leader Adrian Dix and many aboriginal leaders, on the other hand, have been trying to drive home the economic risks associated with Enbridge's project for people living along B.C.'s central and northern coast.

      Another story written by a "staff writer" today on the Terrace Standard website quotes Gitxsan land-claims negotiator Elmer Derrick's support for the refinery. He was given far more column inches than Sterritt received.

      I couldn't find any mention on the site of a recent article in the Economist magazine, which refers to oil refining as a "miserable business".

      Nor could I locate any comment from the Kent Group, which is a Calgary-based consulting group that has raised a red flag about the economic prospects of building an oil refinery in Kitimat.

      For that information, northwestern B.C. residents will have to consult this taped interview with vice president Michael Ervin on the CBC website.

      "The fact is the trend of refineries in North America is of closures, not openings," Ervin told CBC. "You know, that really illustrates why Mr. Black's idea is not likely to ever come to fruition."

      There wasn't even a comment from anyone with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which has expressed skepticism about the Kitimat refinery proposal.

      The overall impression I've gleaned from the website is that it's okay to publish articles that quote local critics of the refinery plan, but don't run anything that might make readers question Black's business acumen.

      Nor is there any look at Black's proposal as public-relations hocus-pocus done in cahoots with the Liberal government to persuade more British Columbians to support Enbridge's Northern Gateway Project.

      I'm hoping that an enterprising SFU communications student conducts a more complete content analysis of how Black Press papers have covered this $13-billion refinery proposal by the company's owner.

      It would make for fascinating reading—particularly if it examined self-censorship by journalists who don't want to rile the boss after one of their colleagues was thrown overboard.

      Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at



      SPY vs SPY

      Aug 25, 2012 at 12:09pm

      David Black's statement about a $13 Billion Dollar Refinery is something like the Chocolate Topping on a Bullshit Ice Cream Cone.

      It is designed to manipulate the emotions of BC Citizens into thinking about the Benefits of The Enbridge Pipeline instead of the Hazards.

      David Black has not stated who will put up the $13 Billion for the refinery, The Government of China ???????

      When the Government of China wanted to buy the Entire Peace River Tar Sands, the plan was to build a Tar Sands Mining Complex, complete with Chinese Workers and a Barbed Wire Security Fence surrounding the Complex. The fence was to keep the Chinese workers in and Canadian OUT.

      Then build a Crude Oil Loading facility near Kitimat, complete with Barbed Wire Security Fence surrounding the Complex to keep the Chinese workers in and Canadians OUT.

      The decision was NO WAY!!!!!

      Oil refineries are very dirty business and they contaminate the surrounding area. One Refinery in Alberta has had to buy up all the houses in an entire neighbourhood, because the area has been rendered unsuitable for human habitation.

      Hans Goldberg

      Aug 25, 2012 at 12:54pm

      This whole issue is some asinine publicity stand. Why ship dangerous dilbit through a pipeline to Kitimat and than refine it? Why not just refine it in Alberta?

      Pat Crowe

      Aug 25, 2012 at 5:06pm

      In other late breaking news the owner of Vancouver Island pizza conglomerate, Romeo's Pizza has expressed his interest in developing a series of zip lines from Alberta to Kitimat to transfer barrels of oil to the coast.
      Premier Christy Clark stated that, "since I've been elected by British Columbians I've discovered most of them like pizza." "Therefore this plan for zip lines in the words of Gordon Campbell is a great deal for all British Columbians."
      "Sara....SARA! Did that sound convincing? Can I have my gum gum back now and I don't wanna wear these stupid glasses anymore."


      Aug 26, 2012 at 8:16am

      Crude oils that are found in natural reservoirs like oil sands are principally derived from ancient algae and plant material. Oil is made from hydrogen and carbon is a natural product, generated from organisms that long ago used sunlight as their energy source through the process of photosynthesis algae, plankton, vegetation, and other carbon based lifeforms that are decomposing when buried in sand years ago. The resulting decomposed organic material is oil, in which is stored the energy generated by that ancient photosynthetic activity. The components of crude oil are a great source of energy, not only as fuel to power internal combustion engines, but also as food for microbes. It is not surprising that microbes have evolved the ability to use oil as their food source in other words, to metabolize or biodegrade the compounds for energy and use them as raw material for growth.

      Much of the Earth?s crude oil is trapped in underground reservoirs, but some leaks to the surface, and has been doing so for millions of years, and will continue to do so long after our species is extinct. It is estimated that about half of the oil entering the world?s oceans today comes from these natural seeps on land, and under water. The other half of the oil enters waterways everyday by the billions of humans that use oil products, the oil products spilled by humans that do not immediately evaporate are rinsed off roads, parking lots, and sidewalks from leaking vehicles, bicycle chains, spilled at marinas and discharged by outboard motors. A person may purchase a container of synthetic oil (oil sands derived) off grocery shelf and walk around with it in their grocery cart without having ill effects, and if some is spilled simply washing with warm, soapy water cleans it up.

      Microbes that use oil as their source of energy have been around for hundreds of millions of years long as this energy- rich substance has been available. In the Gulf of Mexico it is estimated that at least 500,000 barrels of oil per year leaks naturally through the seabed feeding a community of microbes that collectively changes all the different organic molecules into carbon dioxide and water, almost like soda pop. Oil consuming microbe communities are well established and diverse. Even where the background levels of oil are low, a few microbes with the capability of degrading oil always seem to be present.

      Forward thinker

      Aug 26, 2012 at 8:48am

      Propaganda has always been the main component of the approval process for this project. I just read a CTV report, which talks about the disagreement between Enbridges science and that of Federal Scientists. The result has been to cut the Federal research projects and muzzle the Scientists.
      The Nazis and Comunists have been expert at propaganda. Perhaps they have tutored Harper. First principle of propaganda is to coopt the press.


      Aug 26, 2012 at 12:54pm

      Mr. Black's idea doesn't address the main problem which is the pipeline. The pipeline just should not be built. A spill anywhere along its route would be unmanageable. The Skeena River has little or no industry along its course. Bitumen sinks in fresh water so booms, etc. are ineffective.
      If a refinery is to be built, it makes more sense to refine the tar at its source.
      I'm sorry Mr. Black but your idea is stupid to say the best of it.


      Aug 27, 2012 at 11:55am

      Black's refinery proposal does nothing to improve the safety of the pipeline, which will still run raw bitumen clear across the province. It does nothing to prevent a spill, clean up a spill, or reduce the damaging effects of a spill.

      And it doesn't in any way address First Nations land rights.

      Why is this even being touted as a possible solution, when it doesn't address any of the public's concerns?

      Salty one

      Aug 29, 2012 at 6:03pm

      I think you need to give the Terrace Standard a bit of a break Charlie.

      For starters it's a small community newspaper with limited manpower and resources. Swamped, overwhelmed, underpaid, having to do more with less. You know the deal.

      And you've been in the industry for a long time and have an idea where to access info and who to talk to. There, you're dealing with someone whose been on the job for a year and is still doing city council and school board stories. Reporters cycle in and out every couple of years and none have consistent local background knowledge to be familiar with the issue. Terrace is a place where reporters start out and not where they establish a life-long career.

      I examined their news site. A lot of local stories with little analysis and to be fair you can't expect an in-depth probe like you see in the Sun, Globe or even from the Straight.
      I also read the story about Elmer Derrick. The comments section after the story was wholly critical of him, something not mentioned.

      And I have to say that local critics of the issue should take precedence over outside ones. You wouldn't after all call Terrace critics of a Vancouver issue.


      Sep 3, 2012 at 5:32pm

      The editorial you mention looks like it is from Victoria and not written by the Terrace paper... Black Press stories get pushed around all of their sites, so maybe it just happened to land on the page the day you were there.