Read this story from The Vancouver Sun on the call from Voters Taking Action on Climate Change for Port Metro to reverse its recent decision to allow a doubling of coal traffic through the Neptune Bulk Terminal in Vancouver. (Feb. 14, 2013)
Port Metro Vancouver should rescind its decision to allow North Vancouver-based Neptune Bulk Terminals to double its coal capacity because it misrepresented both the public support for the expansion and the opposition to it, an environmental group says.
Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, described as a group of apolitical volunteers opposed to coal expansion, noted the port said it had received 640 emails and letters from people concerned about possible environmental and health impacts of coal, but that the vast majority of those were sent in “form letters.”
In fact, VTACC said, 378 of the 640 submissions were sent in form letters, and there were five separate letters.
At the same time, VTACC said, the port failed to note that all but 15 of the 375 comments in favour of the project were on identical form letters, and were sent on a single day, Jan. 16 — a week before the port made its decision on Neptune’s $200-million expansion.
As a result, the volunteer organization, which obtained copies of the public comments submitted to Port Metro Vancouver before it made the Neptune decision, claims the port authority “misrepresented the nature of comments both for and against” the proposal.
“There’s a fundamental issue of fairness,” said VTACC director Kevin Washbrook. “The port didn’t make any effort to inform the public. We have this huge unaccountable organization in our midst.”
The group has also asked West Coast Environmental Law to conduct a review of the port’s decision-making process and the Neptune Bulk Terminal’s coal export approval to determine if there is any basis for a legal challenge of the decision.
Washbrook said if the port authority wants to be a good neighbour to Metro Vancouver communities, it should “hit rewind” on the coal export proposal and do a full and transparent public review.
Read this story from The Edmonton Journal, based on leaked documents which show Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was made aware that tailing ponds in the Alberta Tar Sands are leaking and contaminating groundwater. (February 17, 2013)
OTTAWA — Tailings ponds from oilsands production are leaking and contaminating Alberta’s groundwater, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was told in an internal memo obtained by Postmedia News.
The memo, released through access to information legislation, said that federal government scientists, including Quebec City-based research geoscientist Martine Savard, had discovered evidence of the contamination in new research that rejected longstanding claims that toxins in the region of the Athabasca River were coming from natural sources.
“The studies have, for the first time, detected potentially harmful, mining-related organic acid contaminants in the groundwater outside a long-established out-of-pit tailings pond,” said the memo from deputy minister Serge Dupont, dated June 19, 2012.
“This finding is consistent with publicly available technical reports of seepage — both projected from theory, and detected in practice.”
The study was published by Savard and 18 other co-authors and posted to an online government database in December. It concluded that some acids from the tailings ponds “may be reaching the river, but only in very small amounts (non-detectable).”
Environment Canada describes groundwater contamination as a serious problem since aquifers can remain contaminated for decades or centuries, leaking into lakes, rivers or streams, while potentially creating costly water supply problems.
Other peer-reviewed research, published last fall, has also found evidence that contaminants from oilsands air pollution are collecting on the bottom of lakes that are up to 100 kilometres away, raising concerns about anticipated expansion over the next decade.
Travis Davies, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the information about leaks from tailings ponds was not a surprise, adding that the new research confirmed these contaminants had not reached the river.
Read this story from TheMontreal Gazette on Quebec Premier Pauline Marois' receptiveness to a project that combine a converted gas pipeline and a new stretch of pipeline to carry diluted bitumen from Alberta to Eastern Canada. (Feb 18, 2013)
MONTREAL — Quebec would be open to having an oil pipeline pass through it to bring crude from Alberta to New Brunswick as long as the project served the interests of Quebecers, Premier Pauline Marois said in a statement Monday.
After meeting with her New Brunswick counterpart Monday, the Quebec premier for the first time said she wouldn’t be opposed to the $5-billion dollar project, which also needs the approval of other provinces before going ahead.
Until now, Quebec was the only holdout among provinces between Alberta and Atlantic Canada that appear open to shipping western Canadian crude east. All premiers now appear onside, as long as the environmental concerns can be addressed.
Marois said a working group has been set up to examine what the technical, environmental and economic implications of the project would be for Quebecers.
The project would mean transforming an existing natural gas line from Alberta to Montreal, then extending the line to Quebec City or Saint John.
Read this story from The Vancouver Sun on new figures from BC's Oil and Gas Commission which show a high degree of environmental violations from the natural gas fracking industry, but without disclosing the violators or much detail on the incidents for which they've been nominally fined. (Feb 18, 2013)
Hundreds of deficiencies were discovered during the course of 4,223 inspections conducted in the oil and gas sector last year, according to statistics provided to The Vancouver Sun by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission.
But it’s not possible to find details of the violations, or which company is responsible, because the commission will not provide that information.
The inspections conducted include those at natural gas drilling sites that use the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
The process involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals deep underground at high pressure to fracture rocks, allowing the trapped natural gas to flow and then be pumped to the surface.
Of the more than 800 deficiencies found by the Oil and Gas Commission, 80 resulted in charges, largely under the provincial Water Act for the non-reporting of water volumes and a smaller portion under the provincial Environment Management Act. Another 13 resulted in orders under the provincial Oil and Gas Activities Act, 22 in warnings, 76 in letters requiring action and three in referrals to other agencies.
While the commission released figures for last year’s inspections at the request of The Sun, older information is publicly available on the commission’s website.
Its 2010-11 annual report shows that in more than 5,000 inspections, nearly 700 instances of “non-compliance” including six instances of “serious” or “high” level issues were found.
Increased water demand and waste and contamination issues were investigated most frequently, said the report.
In response to The Sun’s request for more details of the 2010-11 enforcement information, the commission said it issued 15 penalty tickets with fines of $575 (the maximum allowed for tickets) or less, which included unlawful water withdrawals and failure to promptly report a spill.
Court prosecutions included a $20,000 fine for a Water Act stream violation, $10,575 for another stream violation and $250,0000 for a sour gas release. Convictions can carry fines as high as $1 million, in addition to six months in jail.
The commission would not release the names of the companies convicted.
The B.C. Ministry of Environment and B.C. Crown agencies like WorkSafeBC have for years reported names of companies penalized and details of those penalties.
“There’s a lack of transparency, there’s no question of that,” Brian Derfler, president of the northeast B.C. -based Peace Environment and Safety Trustees Society, said regarding the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission.
“We would like to see a report card system — we’ve been very vocal about that — so we can actually identify which companies are doing a good job and which aren’t,” said Derfler.
Paul Jeakins, the commissioner and CEO of the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, acknowledged its reporting of inspection and enforcement results “is a bit of a gap.”
He said the commission will be working to address its enforcement reporting in the next couple of months.
Jeakins stressed that rules introduced under the Oil and Gas Activities Act in 2010 and enforcement measures provide the means to monitor fracking and protect the environment.
“I think we have reacted very quickly, very well in this province. I think we do have very good regulations and I think we have great people working on it,” said Jeakins.
Canada’s environment commissioner last week raised alarms when he called for industry to tell Ottawa what chemicals are used during fracking.
Scott Vaughan said the information is important to determine the health risks of the practice.
In B.C., companies are required to report the chemicals and amount of water used during fracking, at least partly fulfilling Vaughan’s demand.
In 2012, 86 per cent of the 476 wells drilled in northeastern B.C. used fracking.
Environmental concerns include the vast amounts of water necessary to frack and the potential for contamination of water sources below and above ground.
Read this story from The Vancouver Sun on the oil and gas industry's plan to seek $2 Billion in tax breaks from the federal government to stimulate liquified natural gas (LNG) in BC. (Feb. 8, 2013)
The Canadian oil and gas industry is asking Ottawa for subsidies that could be worth $2 billion in tax savings to encourage the development of liquefied natural gas plants in British Columbia.
Giving the industry a tax break would make the LNG export industry more competitive and influence investment decisions favourably, David Collyer, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, argued in an appearance last fall before the standing committee on finance. The committee was holding pre-budget consultations in advance of the 2013 federal budget, expected to delivered next month. It has since recommended “that the federal government expeditiously encourage and support the development of infrastructure in relation to liquefied natural gas exports.”
Collyer said the industry wants to see a change in the tax treatment of liquefied natural gas plants regarding capital cost allowances. LNG plants are considered to be part of the gas transmission process, and receive an eight-per-cent-per-year capital cost allowance. CAPP wants them to be reclassified as manufacturing plants, which would receive a 30-per-cent capital cost allowance when they are built.
The change would mean they could write off 90 per cent of their investments in seven years, rather than the 27 years it takes under current tax regulations, Collyer said.
Read this story from BloombergBusiness Weekon new numbers from the US Environmental Protection Agency which show oil and gas production is the number two source of the country's greenhouse gas emissions. (Feb 8, 2013)
Natural gas and oil production is the second-biggest source of U.S. greenhouse gases, the government said, emboldening environmentalists who say tighter measures are needed to curb the emissions from hydraulic fracturing.
In its second-annual accounting of emissions that cause global warming from stationary sources, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the first time included oil and natural- gas production. Emissions from drilling, including fracking, and leaks from transmission pipes totaled 225 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalents during 2011, second only to power plants, which emitted about 10 times that amount.
Gas and oil production “is an area where we have technological answers to our problems,” Michael Levi, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said in an interview. “We know how to fix many of these problems; we just need to make the decision to do it.”
The EPA yesterday released on its website details of emissions from about 8,000 factories, power plants and refineries. Two coal-fired power facilities owned by Atlanta- based Southern Co (SO). topped the list, followed by one owned by Energy Future Holdings Corp (TXU). of Dallas.
In total, power plants emitted 2,221 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2011, down 4.5 percent from 2010, according to the agency. The EPA report showed the benefits of fracking, as it attributed the reduction to cuts in coal use and increased use of gas as fuel by electricity generators. There was also an increased use of power from renewable sources such as solar and wind, the agency said...
The EPA has already proposed regulations to curb emissions from new power plants, setting a standard that would preclude the construction of new coal-fired facilities that don’t capture and sink underground the carbon coming from their smokestacks. Once those rules are finished in the coming weeks, the EPA must move to establish similar rules for existing power plants.
Environmental groups have asked the agency to establish standards to prevent methane leakages from the drilling, fracking and transport of oil and gas. The boom in that production in states such as Pennsylvania and North Dakota means that those rules are necessary, according to environmental groups.
Methane’s lifetime in the atmosphere is much shorter than carbon dioxide, but it’s more efficient at trapping radiation, making its short-term impact 20-times greater than carbon dioxide, according to the EPA.
“Reducing fugitive methane emissions is a top priority because they are so powerful” a force for global warming, said Mark Brownstein, managing director of the Environmental Defense Fund in New York. “You want to make sure the goose is laying what approximates golden eggs.”
Read this story formThe Vancouver Sun on new government figures breaking down the value of different fisheries, which shows that revenues from recreational fisheries outstrip those from commercial fisheries, aquaculture and fish processing combined. (Feb 11, 2013)
British Columbia’s recreational fishery is worth as much to the provincial economy as commercial fishing, aquaculture and fish processing combined, according to a new report from BC Stats.
The report, the first major economic review of the sector since 2007, estimates overall B.C. fisheries and aquaculture sector revenue at $2.2 billion for 2011 including $936 million contribution from recreational angling.
That boils down to a $325 million contribution to gross domestic product from the recreational sub-sector — not including spending on angling gear, boats and other vehicles — compared to $340 million in combined GDP from the commercial, aquaculture and fish processing sub-sectors including commercial boats and gear.
Within the recreational fishery, saltwater activity accounts for just over half of GDP with the remainder going to angling in lakes and streams.
Employment across the entire sector reached 13,900, 8,400 of whom worked in recreational fishing.
The B.C. Wildlife Federation, which speaks for a provincewide aggregation of sport fishing organizations, trumpeted the data as evidence that both the provincial and federal governments need to give more weight to the interests of recreational anglers and species such as salmon, halibut and trout when they’re making decisions about fisheries resource management.
Read this column from Mike Smyth in The Province on the BC Liberal's Throne Speech and the outsized promises it made to wipe out BC's debt with a $100 Billion windfall from a yet-to-be-developed Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) industry. (Feb 13, 2013)
If a political party’s desperation is directly proportional to the scale of its election promises, then Christy Clark’s Liberals are about as desperate as you can get.
Pay off the province’s debt. Eliminate the provincial sales tax. Pour billions into health care and education.
All were floated Tuesday as potential benefits of a $130-billion “Prosperity Fund” fuelled by a booming natural-gas sector in the province’s north.
With a government capable of this many miracles, the Liberals had better keep all this stuff secret from the Vatican. If the conclave of cardinals gets wind of this, they might elect Christy Clark pope before she gets re-elected premier.
Just think how huge this all is.
The debt of the province stands at $56 billion and is projected to soar to more than $60 billion in the next few years. Yet Clark is talking about wiping out the entire debt with just six years’ worth of natural-gas profits.
The provincial sales tax? Appropriately set to return on April Fool’s Day, the PST brings in more than $5 billion a year to government. But that massive burden on B.C. consumers could also be lifted by the Prosperity Fund miracle.
Billions for health and education? Incredible for a government that’s currently so broke it can barely afford to pay its $15-million partisan advertising bill.
Amazing, isn’t it? The only surprise is the government didn’t throw in world peace, a cure for cancer and a solution to global warming for good measure.
That’s not to say the potential profit from liquefied natural gas is anything to sneeze at. British Columbia is well positioned to take advantage of Asian demand for LNG and Clark is absolutely right to push hard to make it happen.
But Tuesday’s throne speech left me looking for an ice-scream scoop to go along with all the pie-in-the-sky being served up.
It was all very reminiscent of an earlier premier with the same last name, who once promised voters the streets would be paved with gold on the strength of B.C.’s natural resources.
“Three — count ’em — three aluminum smelters!” Glen Clark promised back in 1996.
But exactly zero — count ’em — zero aluminum smelters eventually materialized.
With the election looming in May, get set for lots more of this kind of excessive tub-thumping.
Read this article by A. Siegel at Daily Kos which details "reasons why Keystone XL is a reckless, dangerous, and counter-productive project that should not be allowed to proceed." Included is a video of an excellent presentation by photographer Garth Lenz describing the environmental damage done by the tar sands project.
VICTORIA – Birds, bats, butterflies and fish are among the diverse range of wildlife species destined to suffer habitat destruction from BC Hydro’s proposed Site C hydroelectric project in northeastern British Columbia, says the environmental impact statement filed by the Crown corporation.
Hydro’s Site C environmental spokeswoman Siobhan Jackson said Tuesday the Crown corporation has proposed plans to reduce and prevent harm to area wildlife and ecosystems, but there will be home losses for the Bay-breasted warbler, migratory bull trout and Drummond’s thistle.
Among Hydro’s measures to reduce the potential loss from its proposed $7.9 billion project are special protective crossings for amphibians, slower turning turbines that allow fish escapes and fish-free wetlands to permit safer breeding for dragonflies.
Hydro also bills the dam’s proposed 83-kilometre, 9,300-hectare reservoir as the Peace Country’s newest tourist attraction, a huge instant lake with at least three separate boat launch areas and well-stocked with fish, with Hydro estimating a 230 per cent increase in fish habitat for rainbow trout.
The environmental impact statement also forecasts flooding more than 5,000 hectares of land, of which at least 3,800 hectares is agricultural land. The project will also flood First Nations heritage sites and force up to 20 families — many life-long ranchers — to move.
“Ultimately, the environmental assessment considers the project benefits and the project effects and balances the two in reaching their decision on whether an environmental assessment certificate should be granted,” said Jackson, who was in Fort St. John briefing local residents about the Site C environmental report.
A decision on the environmental viability of the proposed Site C project by the federal and B.C. environmental regulatory bodies is expected by next year.
Hydro says if the project is approved, it will be in operation by 2021.
Jackson said Hydro identified in its environmental impact statement what it called 22 valued components that are expected to undergo some level of change due to the project.
They include agriculture, transportation, outdoor recreation and tourism, air quality, noise and vibration, heritage resources and human health.
Jackson said Hydro determined four valued components will endure losses due to the project — fish and fish habitat, vegetation and ecological community, migratory birds and traditional use of heritage areas by First Nations.
Hydro’s environmental impact study found populations of three local fish species — Arctic grayling, migratory bull trout and mountain whitefish — could be lost due to the dam’s construction.
But Hydro’s study suggested those fish may be found in tributaries located upstream and downstream from the proposed project.
The study found Site C will result in the loss of bird habitat for Cape May and Bay-breasted warblers, Yellow Rail and Nelson’s sparrow owl.
Ecological impacts from the reservoir project include the loss of old and mature flood plain forests located near the reservoir and the loss of rare plants, including Drummond’s thistle and little bluestem.
The creation of the reservoir also means the loss of First Nations cultural areas at Bear Flats, Farrell Creek and Attachie, the study said.
Read this story from The Times-Colonist on new documents obtained by the Wilderness Committee which reveal serious internal concerns from Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientists regarding a proposed private river power project on the Kokish River on northern Vancouver Island. These concerns of significant fish impacts were watered down in a final memo to the minister, who went on to approve the project last year. (Feb 1, 2013)
Federal scientists struggled to protect fish in the Kokish River from potential adverse effects of a hydroelectric project, but concerns of on-the-ground staff were watered down by the time a final memo reached the desk of the fisheries minister, documents obtained by the Wilderness Committee show.
The progression unfolds through more than 1,000 pages of memos and emails obtained by the wilderness protection group through an access to information request. Fisheries and Oceans staff negotiate to get better conditions and water flows for fish. Then, the tone of memos to senior staff changes, and at least one biologist objects to his name being on a memo.
“We have a river with incredible fish values, and the memo shows the people with boots on the ground didn’t want it to go ahead. Then politics took over, and it was given the green light,” said Gwen Barlee, Wilderness Committee policy director.
“That memo gets kicked upstairs and it is massaged and changed. … This is what happens when you have politics getting in the way of science.”
The Kokish, located on northeast Vancouver Island south of Port McNeill, is home to five species of wild salmon, two endangered runs of steelhead, cutthroat trout and eulachon, so the proposal for an independent power project was controversial from the start.
The plan by Kwagis Power, owned by Brookfield Renewable Power and ‘Namgis First Nation, was opposed by groups such as the B.C. Wildlife Federation and Steelhead Society of B.C., but was approved by Fisheries and Oceans in April 2012.
The $200-million project — which will divert part of the river into a nine-kilometre pipe and create up to 45 megawatts of electricity — is now under construction. Its turbines, turned by water rushing over a 20-metre drop, will provide power for close to 13,000 homes.
A staff memo prepared for DFO regional director general Sue Farlinger in February 2012 concludes: “Despite agreement on an altered flow regime, the remaining components of this project, including upstream and downstream fish migration over the intake weir, ramping rates, operational malfunctions and shut downs, pose a continued high risk to the Kokish River fish populations.”
The memo continues, “Based on projects recently built and/or recently commissioned, it’s been DFO’s experience that project failures, malfunctions and errors will occur.”
DFO’s South Coast Habitat Management Unit said risks to fish habitat were high and the precedent-setting project was unacceptable.
Later, the tone changes, with habitat management regional director Bonnie Antcliffe asking what should be done to manage risks and referring to “socio-economic considerations” and the amount of money spent by the proponent.
The final memo to the minister, written in April 2012 and signed by deputy minister Claire Dansereau, notes the project has the potential to pose a high risk to important fish populations. But, it says, “it is likely that, through proper mitigation, [habitat] compensation and monitoring activities … that this project can proceed without significant adverse effects to fish and fish habitat.”
That was supported by an Environmental Assessment Act review, said Fisheries and Oceans spokesman Tom Robbins in an emailed statement.
Fisheries and Oceans twice required partial redesigns to keep sufficient water flows in the river, he said.
Billions of litres of water a year. Thousands of expensive wells. New roads. Many hectares of trees felled and land cleared. Camps to house thousands of workers.
At the same time, the West Coast export of Canadian natural gas carries the promise of so many billions in new revenues that its government has taken to comparing it with Alberta’s oil sands. Some of the final regulatory obstacles to large-scale gas exports have been settled, and recently a small project called BC LNG said it had signed gas sales agreements that could allow it to start construction soon.
But the province has spent less time discussing the scale of industrialization that will be required, for many decades, to enable those exports of gas from B.C.’s northeast to ship to Asian customers. Natural gas is promoted as a clean-burning fuel – but getting it out of the ground remains a potentially messy process. The spectre of large tracts of boreal forest carved up by intensive gas drilling has already prompted one local first nation to prepare to do legal battle against new gas pipelines.
It’s an early warning that, like oil, natural gas exports stand to prompt a showdown over the environment.
“We are not going to let them get away with it,” said Lana Lowe, director of land and resources for the Fort Nelson First Nation, whose traditional territory encompasses much of the Horn River shale gas play, which is likely to serve as a major source of gas for export. She added: “The major concern is what happens in five years when it’s all systems go and we have 10 oil companies drilling our land and taking all our water.”
It comes down to the size of development that is being proposed.
Estimates vary, but hundreds – and perhaps more than a thousand – wells will need to be drilled each year to support three mid-sized liquefied natural gas terminals, a number that seems a reasonable possibility given current global corporate interest. Three terminals – Kitimat LNG, LNG Canada and one in Prince Rupert, where both BG Group PLC and Petronas have projects – could handle roughly 4.5 billion cubic feet a day in gas.
Using current technology, the hydraulic fracturing extraction method required for each well sucks down roughly 20 million litres of water. At 450 wells a year, that’s roughly nine billion litres a year, enough to supply water to residents of a city the size of Calgary, with 1.1 million people, for more than a month. Companies such as Encana Corp.,Nexen Inc.,Apache Corp. and Devon Energy Corp. have already applied to the B.C. government for water licences totalling 11.1 billion litres a year – although the province says the largest of those, an Encana application for three billion litres, represents 0.024 per cent of annual runoff from the Fort Nelson River.
Still, B.C. needs to prepare before those volumes of water are pumped below ground, said Eric Swanson, a director with the Dogwood Initiative, a B.C. environmental group.
“Before any government gets too excited about [LNG development], they’ve got to sit down with the first nations and figure out what the pace and scale they’d like looks like and see how much water we actually have,” he said.
CALGARY - The National Energy Board has granted an export licence to LNG Canada Development Inc., a liquefied natural gas terminal proposed by Shell Canada Ltd. and three Asian partners in Kitimat, B.C.
Over a 25-year period, LNG Canada is allowed to export 670 million tonnes of natural gas, which will have been chilled into a liquid state, enabling it to be transported around the world via tanker.
Annually, LNG Canada will be able to export 24 million tonnes of gas.
The federal energy regulator says it's satisfied that the amount of gas to be exported doesn't exceed what will be needed within Canada.
The LNG Canada partnership includes Shell, South Korea's Kogas, Japan's Mitsubishi Corp. and China's PetroChina Company Ltd.
They have picked Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) to build a 700-kilometre pipeline connecting prolific shale gas fields in northeastern B.C. to the port of Kitimat.
There are several projects in the works planned for both Kitimat and Prince Rupert, B.C., to export natural gas to lucrative Asian markets.
The North American price of natural gas has been depressed in recent years, as advances in drilling techniques unlock huge supplies from shale formations across the continent, leading to a supply glut.
Companies hope by connecting that fuel to higher-demand Asian markets, their product will fetch a much better price.
Last week, pipeline firm AltaGas Ltd. (TSX:ALA) and a Japanese company formed a partnership to explore shipping liquefied gas to Asia.
VICTORIA — BC Hydro is on track to lose more than $1 billion over the next four years by paying private companies to generate electricity the province doesn’t need, New Democratic Party energy critic John Horgan said Monday.
“BC Hydro’s fiscal situation is dire,” Horgan told reporters, offering his assessment of numbers released by the Crown corporation last week, which projected an energy surplus for the next 10 years. For the coming year, Horgan pointed out, the surplus will be so large it could power 472,000 homes.
The Sun reported last year that British Columbians paid $676 million for IPP power in the year ending March 31, 2012 — more than twice the price of imported electricity at that time.
Horgan said the problem stems from contracts signed by the B.C. Liberal government that now force BC Hydro to buy energy from independent power producers at above-market prices, despite the fact the Crown corporation is predicting a 10-year energy surplus.
“That’s a tragedy for BC Hydro and it’s a calamity for ratepayers who have already seen their rates go up in the neighbourhood of 36 per cent over the past number of years,” said Horgan, adding the problem could lead to a price shock for consumers.
Read this story from theKelowna Daily Courier on a recent "People's Forum" dealing with proposed Emnbridge pipeline and other energy issues. The talk featured Green Party leader Elizabeth May, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, NDP Environment Critic Rob Flemming and Damien Gillis of the Common Sense Canadian.(Jan. 28, 2013)
Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline has no chance in British Columbia if Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has her way. May was in Kelowna Saturday to speak to more than 300 people at the First United Church.
"Has Enbridge made a case? No they haven't. They have failed miserably in even putting together the evidence," she said.
May was joined by filmmaker Damien Gillis, NDP opposition environment critic Rob Fleming and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip in arguing the case against the proposed pipeline at The People's Summit.
Organized by the Council of Canadians' Kelowna chapter, the event was created to educate people about the pipeline before the National Energy Board's hearing today in Kelowna.
If approved, the nearly 1,200-kilometre twin pipeline would carry about 525,000 barrels of petroleum per day from Alberta to the B.C. coast for shipment by tankers. The proposed pipeline has caused controversy because of its potential negative effects on B.C.'s environment.
"We're part of this big question that the planet faces - what kind of future do we want to have?" said Gillis. He said the pipeline would tarnish British Columbia's $14-billion tourism industry that prides itself on its natural beauty.
"It's contradictory. We can't be this and that and the new Saudi Arabia of the world," said Gillis.
May focused on environmental concerns surrounding the pipeline during her speech. She said Enbridge hasn't considered what would happen if there was a major spill.
"There is not one piece of evidence what the spill would do from a pipeline or a tanker in Enbridge's submission to the energy panel that deals with the product that they plan to move. They said what would happen if crude would spill, but not diluted bitumen which is a lot harder to clean up and does more damage." But according to Fleming, British Columbians have the power to stop the pipeline in the next provincial election. He said the equivalency agreement that the B.C. Liberals made with the federal government in 2010, which gives them the decision-making power for these projects, can be revoked.
"If you want to make the B.C. election in May a referendum on the Enbridge pipeline, be my guest. We can untie the hands of the province. If British Columbians don't stand up for our coastline, nobody will."
Major concerns about the pipeline have also been felt by First Nations communities.
"We, as people, realize the future of this planet depends on how we treat it," said Phillip.
Cenovus CEO Brian Ferguson, speaking at a Whistler investor's forum Jan. 24, 2012, claimed the double discount in crude prices from a lack of pipeline capacity is a "subsidization to the United States consumer by the Canadian economy" which he calculated is "$1,200 per Canadian."
The message he's sending? If each one of us wants to keep that $1,200 a year instead of providing income support for Americans, then get on the pipeline band wagon and become like him -- "in favour of all pipelines, going anywhere."
Ferguson's message is a variation of a theme we've been hearing from big oil for a couple of years -- echoed by the Canadian and Alberta governments. They get away with this tall tale because most of us do not understand how oil is traded and crude prices are set. Nor do we realize that the majority of crude oil produced belongs to integrated operations that own refineries too -- so if they lose on the one hand, they make it up on the other.
The narrative goes like this: resistance to oil pipelines like Keystone XL, Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain's twinning means an ever increasing supply glut in the U.S. Midwest, forcing the price of Western Canadian crude oil downwards as compared to the North American crude oil benchmark West Texas Intermediate -- WTI.
WTI is trading at about $96 US a barrel while key oil sands blended crude called Western Canadian Select -- or WCS -- is currently selling at a deep discount to WTI at $31 US per barrel. If Canadian oil could find its way to new markets it would command higher prices and improve producer revenues. But the problem, according to pipeline advocates, doesn't stop there...
Things have changed. Brent priced oil is selling at around $113 US a barrel -- a $17 US per barrel premium to WTI. When the oil sector talks about the double discount, this is what they are referring to -- WTI deeply discounted from Brent and WCS priced against WTI, deeply discounted again. They run the numbers as if western Canadian crude will command world prices once it finds its way onto new pipelines and into new markets -- even though they know this is false.
Oil sands crude takes more energy, and therefore costs more to process into finished products like gasoline, jet fuel and diesel. Even before there was any evidence of a glut in the U.S. due in part to the expansion of U.S. production from the Bakken, there was a natural discount for WCS related to product quality. Between 2005 and 2010 the discount of WCS to WTI ran at an average of $18 US per barrel.
Enbridge CEO Al Monaco told the Toronto Board of Trade last June that pipeline delays on projects like Northern Gateway is costing billions. He said our oil is "selling for $20 to$30 off world prices. If you do the math, that translates to lost value of some $60 million a day. A massive loss of value for Canadians." To get this figure, Monaco took Western Canada's crude oil exports by volume and pretended it captured Brent prices. The discount related to quality was ignored.
CIBC last March estimated the loss at $50 million a day or $18 billion a year. "We consider the current discounting of WTI vs Brent, and the more recent discounting of Canadian crudes vs. WTI (i.e., double discounted vs. global crudes) as a major issue."
Cenovus' Ferguson, in his talk to investors last week, pointed to the CIBC report and claimed "that number, I think is about double that given today's differentials" and raised the CIBC estimate to $36 billion a year.
But if you look at the differentials last March and compare them to today, they are almost the same. Last March Brent traded at about $124 US a barrel, WTI at $106 US and WCS at a discount to WTI of $31 US -- total double discount of $49 US. Awfully close to the current $48 US double discount Ferguson laments.
Not only did Ferguson double the hit, he took the tragedy to new extremes by suggesting this lost opportunity is tantamount to each Canadian handing over a cash subsidy to U.S. consumers.
How is it he could simply double the total, call it $36 billion, divide it by the population of Canada, and claim its costing us each $1,200? Great headlines, but not remotely true.
Read this story from CommonDreams.org on the pressure coming from several US Senators to approve the controversial Keystone XL amid growing public protests against the project. (Jan 24, 2013)
Ignoring warnings from the world's most prominent climate scientists who say that pursuit of mega-carbon projects like development of Alberta's tar sands will lead to 'climate chaos' and irreversible tipping points, 53 US Senators signed a letter on Wednesday urging fast-track approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
The letter, spearheaded by Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), employed what has widely been called a false dichotomy by asserting that protecting the environment and moving away from a fossil fuel dependent energy system was incompatible with job creation or economic prosperity.
“We ask you not to move the goalposts as opponents of this project have pressed you to do," the letter read. "We urge you to choose jobs, economic development and American energy security."
The letter proves that a majority of lawmakers in the upper chamber of Congress have not been swayed by the sizable groundswell of environmental activism around the Keystone XL project and climate change more broadly.
Read this story from Mike De Souza of Postmedia on Environment Canada's choice to send warning letters to industrial polluters, instead of handing prosecuting alleged environmental violations. (Jan 26, 2012)
OTTAWA – The federal government has given warning letters to several oil, gas and pipeline companies across the country instead of trying to prosecute them for alleged transgressions that include polluting air and water, inadequate emergency planning and sloppy record-keeping.
Environment Canada sent the written warnings, released to Postmedia News under access to information legislation, to a range of companies in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec.
The warnings include letters to oilsands producer Devon Canada, and to Gibson Energy – a midstream company that manages pipelines and other related infrastructure – alleging that two separate oil spills at their respective facilities in 2010 were in violation of the federal Fisheries Act.
The violations are punishable by fines of up to $1 million or imprisonment of up to three years, said the warning letters.
Both companies said they had addressed the concerns raised in the letters, but Environment Canada also called out several other companies in writing, for failures to implement and test emergency plans and failures to properly report and identify the storage or management of regulated petroleum products.
Read this story from the Vancouver Sun's Larry Pynn on a long list of environmental incidents relating to private river power projects in southwest BC - unearthed through a recent freedom of information search by the Wilderness Committee. (Jan. 23, 2013)
The independent run-of-river power sector is in regulatory disarray, following inconsistent rules designed to protect fish and with provincial officials hard pressed to crack down due to lack of staff and resources, freedom-of-information documents show.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations states in a staff report approved by Julia Berardinucci, director of resource management in Surrey, there were 749 non-compliance incidents from a total of 16 hydro plants in southwest B.C. in 2010.
They included 313 incidents related to ramping (fluctuating water levels), 292 to not notifying government official of problems, 101 to not fulfilling mitigation requirements, and 43 to not maintaining in-stream flow rates.
Flow rates ensure there is sufficient water for fish downstream of power plants, while ramping rates (typically associated with the shutdown of a power plant for maintenance or an unanticipated failure) ensure water levels fluctuate gradually to not strand young fish.
“There has been a lack of resources (staff, database tools) … to track/monitor compliance at various facilities,” ministry engineering assistant Charlene Menezes writes in a freedom-of-information document dated March 29, 2012.
“Ultimately, there is limited compliance and enforcement of the water use obligations.”
Menezes’ report recommends, in part, a compliance monitoring program and a database to track incidents of non-compliance.
Gwen Barlee, the Wilderness Committee policy director who obtained the documents, said in an interview Tuesday that the documents confirm that the run-of-river sector “does not have proper oversight and can’t even meet low environmental standards.”
She described the 749 incidents of non-compliance as “mind boggling” and noted, for example, that non-compliance at the Furry Creek hydro plant near Squamish continued for 2.5 months but was reported as just one incident.
“This is the result of a government that has backed off enforcement … and the ability of government employees to regulate industry,” she said.
Paul Kariya, executive-director of Clean Energy B.C., which represents run-of-river projects, said the industry “is trying to do better … and where we can improve — and we’re always in a learning mode — yes, we’re all for it.”