Pipelines a potential cash cow for RDBN

The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) could almost double its tax base if five of the proposed pipeline projects go ahead.

The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) could almost double its tax base if five of the proposed pipeline projects go ahead.

In a memo to the RDBN board, financial administrator Hans Berndorff summarized the estimated tax impact of the proposed natural gas pipelines: Transcanada Shell Coastal Gaslink, Transcanada Progress Energy, Apache Corp. Pacific Trails and Spectra Energy and the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline project.

The five projects would contribute an additional $5.5 million to the RDBN’s general revenue, Berndorff estimated.

Last year, the total tax revenue for the RDBN was $7.2 million.

“The board would have to decide what to do with that, whether to reduce taxes for everyone else or to spend it on improving services,” Berndorff said.

“Whatever is done, it would have to be a board decision every year.”

The projections are based on 2012 tax rates. School taxes and other provincial property taxes are not included in the numbers.

But added tax money doesn’t necessarily translate into lower tax rates or more amenities for people in the region, cautioned Smithers Mayor and RDBN director Taylor Bachrach.

“We need to make sure we’re looking at the full picture,” Bachrach said.

“As several other communities in BC have shown, rapid industrialization rarely increases general affordability, despite increases to the tax base.

“This is for a number of reasons including increased housing costs and increased impact on infrastructure.”

Because the pipelines do not go through Town of Smithers boundaries, there would not be any direct impact to the town’s tax base.

All of the proposed pipelines run through the RDBN and are taxed based on BC Assessment rates, determined by the pipeline classification: production, transmission or distribution.

Distribution lines are assessed based upon the cost to build them, while all other pipelines  are assessed using rates determined in close consultation with industry stakeholders.

As enticing as a near-doubling of the tax base sounds, RDBN chair Bill Miller said it’s highly unlikely all of the projects would receive approval.

“Realistically, we’re not going to see all those lines,” Miller said.

“All those players realize that there’s not going to be five pipelines.

“We may end up with two, or one, or four, but not everybody is going to be there.”

The key for the future of the region, Bachrach said, is to find a balance between economic growth and environmental responsibility, something he feels the town has done pretty well so far.

“We’re fortunate to have quite a diverse, resilient economy here in the valley, it’s not boom and bust,” he said.

“We’re in a position to make smart choices based on community values, long-term thinking and good information.”

All five pipelines are in various stages of the approval process. Only Apache Corp. Pacific Trails pipeline has completed all environmental assessments.

– With files from Lakes District News.