The deputy minister leading British Columbia’s natural gas strategy resigned last week, telling colleagues the province is well placed to balance natural resource extraction and job creation with its environmental goals.
As deputy minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources, Dave Nikolejsin oversaw the decision to proceed with the LNG Canada project at Kitimat, but also bumped up against politicians and political staff in other ministries who felt he was pushing projects at odds with the government’s overall direction.
A B.C. government employee since 1989, Nikolejsin’s jobs had included being the province’s Chief Information Officer and heading the Environmental Assessment Office before leading the Ministry of Natural Gas Development starting in 2015.
When the new government folded that ministry back into energy, mines and petroleum resources in 2017, Nikolejsin was named deputy minister.
“It was a very interesting time to go from the heady days of an LNG ‘gold rush’ mentality, to scrapping to stay in the game as the worldwide LNG market grew from its nascent beginning,” Nikolejsin wrote in a June 4 email to ministry staff announcing his departure.
He pointed to the LNG Canada deal as a big achievement. “That project embodies the triple-word score of being net good for the environment, good for the economy, and embraced (largely) by First Nations.”
The world needs B.C.’s natural resources, Nikolejsin wrote. “If those resources don’t come from a place like B.C. that has extremely strong environmental standards, they will come from somewhere else. This is why CleanBC is such an important plan.”
Announced in 2018, CleanBC sets out a plan to get the province most of the way to meeting its carbon emission reduction goals while still allowing industrial development.
“I have spent a lot of time talking to industry about the importance of being ‘clean and green’ if they want to locate in B.C.,” Nikolejsin wrote. “This will be very important in the future. As the world becomes increasingly aware of climate change and consumers care about the raw materials that go into their devices, the bona fides that companies get from operating in B.C. will pay off.”
Ministry staff will have the “difficult job” of balancing development with the government’s broader goals so companies see the value of investing and people benefit from good jobs and government revenue, he said. “This is a monumental balancing act, but one I know that the EMPR [Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources] team and colleagues in other ministries can and will continue to do so.”
Nikolejsin had in the…