Displaying items by tag: fracking
Watch this report by Global TV's Jas Johal, digging deeper into Premier Christy Clark's controversial Liquefied Natural Gas scheme. (May 1, 2013)
The Council of Canadians, along with the Transnational Institute and Corporate Europe Observatory, released a report this week examining the threat that a proposed Canada-EU free trade deal would have on a community’s ability to implement fracking regulations and fracking bans on both sides of the Atlantic.
Canada began negotiations with Europe on the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) in 2009 and hope to conclude the agreement by this summer. As Canadian negotiators visit Brussels this week to continue negotiations, the report, The Right to Say No: EU-Canada trade agreement threatens fracking bans, warns the proposed investment protection clauses in the agreement would jeopardise governments’ ability to regulate or ban fracking.
The report draws attention to Lone Pine Resources’ lawsuit against Quebec’s fracking moratorium under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Last fall, Lone Pine Resources, a U.S.-funded energy firm, filed a notice of intent to challenge Quebec’s moratorium on fracking under NAFTA and is asking for $250 million in compensation.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a controversial process that uses massive amounts of water mixed with sand and toxic chemicals to blast apart shale rock or coal beds to extract natural gas or oil. Fracking fluid can contaminate drinking water with substances that cause cancer and organ damage, and affect neurological, reproductive and endocrine systems. Safely disposing of fracking wastewater is incredibly difficult. Fracking has also been linked to earthquakes and methane leaks that exacerbate climate change.
“The Right to Say No” looks at how CETA threatens fracking bans, the North American companies already invested in Europe and the state of fracking in both Canada and Europe.
The report is timely as the County of Inverness in Nova Scotia voted Monday to pass a by-law banning fracking within county limits. Cumberland County in Nova Scotia has also passed a motion banning fracking. Burnaby, B.C., Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario and a number of Quebec municipalities have passed resolutions calling for the protection of water sources and provincial moratoria. Nova Scotia is not issuing permits until their review on shale gas is complete and Quebec has implemented a moratorium within the province.
With the growing community opposition to fracking, we’ll likely see more by-laws banning fracking in the coming years and it’s crucial that we protect communities’ right to say no to fracking. An appellate panel of the New York Supreme Court recently upheld municipal bans on fracking in the state of New York. So while it’s not a Canadian example, the New York Supreme Court decision is a strong precedent for respecting municipalities right to ban fracking in North America.
The EU and Canada must exclude an investor-to-state dispute settlement process in the agreement, or not only will they be hamerping communities’ democratic right to determine their own environmental laws but Canada and EU countries could also find themselves targets of CETA lawsuits.
The report is available in English and French.
Emma Lui is a water campaigner with the Council of Canadians based in Ottawa. Emma's work focuses on the Great Lakes, human rights, water privatization and the connection between energy and water.
Read this story from the Canadian Press on Monday's televised leaders' debate in the lead-up to BC's May 14 provincial election. The NDP's confusing position on fracking featured prominently. (April 29, 2013)
Green Party Leader Jane Sterk quizzed both Clark and NDP Leader Adrian Dix on their environmental policies and Conservative Leader John Cummins trolled for votes by pointing out the Liberals weren’t likely to win the election so casting a vote in his direction would send a message.
But the most hard-fought exchanges were between Clark and Dix, as they traded barbs over whose economic platforms were likely to leave the province in better shape.
The HST “damaged every business on the way in and on the way out,” Dix charged, throwing out early the issue that did more than any other to damage Liberal fortunes in the province and prompted former premier Gordon Campbell to resign.
Clark responded that she had kept a commitment to give British Columbians a say in the matter and instead tried to focus the discussion on what the Liberals regard as an NDP platform that does nothing to create jobs.
The NDP has made skills training a focus of its platform, saying the Liberals have cut money for those programs.
“Instead of investing in skills training, the government has cut skills training,” Dix said.
Retorted Clark: “In your plan, Mr. Dix, you’re talking about training people and giving them the education they need to go find jobs in Alberta.”
As the midway point of the election campaign dawns Tuesday, the television debate raised the stakes.
In the lead-up to the television appearance, the Liberals attempted to pin Dix on his party’s stance on natural gas fracking, noting that while Dix has promised to allow fracking to continue while a review takes place, one of his candidates has instead promised a two-year moratorium.
Such a moratorium, the Liberals say, would dash the province’s hopes of the jobs and economic growth that would come with a head start in the worldwide race to develop liquefied natural gas.
The NDP, in turn, seized on a comment made by Clark last week during an all-leaders’ radio debate, when she was asked why her government cancelled funding to an arms-length body that conducted evaluations of drugs for PharmaCare.
Dix’s news conference on the Therapeutics Initiative was overshadowed by comments made by Charlie Wyse, the NDP candidate in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, who said his party wants a moratorium on fracking.
“The position of the NDP is that there will be a moratorium put on fracking for the next two years while the science will be brought together to find out the effect, if anything, that fracking has on the water table,” Wyse said during an all-candidates’ meeting Friday. A recording of his comments was provided by the Liberals.
Dix said simply Wyse misspoke.
“We don’t support a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. We do support a review,” Dix said.
“We are concerned around issues of water use and we will conduct (such a review) should we be elected based on the science. That’s been there for a number of years. There won’t be any moratorium. We’ll be awaiting the results of that review.”
The Liberals have repeatedly pointed out what they say are discrepancies between the NDP’s official platform, as outlined by Dix, and what some of his candidates have said in the past.
They point to George Heyman, the former executive director of Sierra Club B.C., who was opposed to fracking and is now the NDP candidate in Vancouver-Fairview. Heyman has said he now adopts the NDP position.
NDP energy critic John Horgan said earlier in the campaign that though a moratorium is not what the NDP is pursuing, “you don’t put in place a review if you’ve predetermined the outcome,” and he noted he has not seen any evidence to suggest a moratorium is necessary.
Read this story from The Kamloops Daily News on Rafe Mair and Damien Gillis' recent presentation in the community, titled "WATER + POWER: The Future of BC's Energy, Environment and Democracy." The event drew a crowd of a hundred to the Desert Garden Seniors' Centre Tuesday night. (April 24, 2013)
B.C. isn't confronted with just two pipeline proposals but a matrix of energy-related developments crisscrossing the province and amounting to an unprecedented drain on finite water resources, Rafe Mair and Damien Gillis told a gathering on Tuesday night.
That means voters need to familiarize themselves with B.C.'s position in what they referred to as the "carbon corridor" vision for Western Canada.
"I think we're literally at a watershed point in our province," Mair said, adding that the course of events in recent years has changed his views. The former Kamloops lawyer, MLA, author and radio commentator has been collaborating with Gillis, a documentary filmmaker.
They maintain an online environmental journal called The Common Sense Canadian, based on their belief that mainstream media are not telling the full story of B.C.'s systematic environmental degradation.
And they've hit the campaign trail to spread their message to Interior residents in the run-up to May 14.
"I'm not here shilling for any political party," Mair said. "I'm campaigning because I'm an old man and I think we're literally at a watershed point in our province."
With this election, voters have a last chance to alter the course of the province's energy developments — including pipelines, the proposed Site C dam and independent power projects — to ensure that economics don't undermine the essential quality of life, he said.
Gillis said there has been little mention of the full costs of the vision for liquefied natural gas development in B.C.'s northeastern corner, touted as a long-term solution to provincial debt.
"We believe there are a lot of holes in this theory and also a lot of tradeoffs," said Gillis, whose family farmed in the Peace for a century before it was flooded in 1966. "It's going to be a boondoggle. It's going to be highly subsidized and it's not going to work."
Hydraulic fracturing used to extract the gas poses environmental risks, uses vast amounts of water and is energy-intensive on its own, he said. He showed clips from Fractured Land, a film he's producing on the issue, suggesting strong community resistance to the energy agenda.
Read more: http://www.kamloopsnews.ca/article/20130424/KAMLOOPS0101/130429938/-1/kamloops/power-projects-said-to-undermine-future
Read this story from The Vancouver Sun on Environment Canada's call for the oil and gas industry to ratchet up the standards of its "voluntary disclosure" of the chemicals it uses in natural gas "fracking" operations. (April 12, 2013)
Environment Canada wants oil and gas companies to come clean about the unidentified fluids they inject deep underground to extract natural gas.
In newly released correspondence obtained by Postmedia News, the department's top official told the main Canadian oil and gas lobby group that the government needed more information about the industrial process commonly known as fracking: fracturing shale rock formations underground with fluids to extract the gas.
Paul Boothe, the former deputy minister, wrote that a new industry voluntary disclosure program was a "positive step" toward improving environmental performance, increasing transparency and the "use of fluids with the least environmental risk."
But his letter to Dave Collyer, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, also suggested the environment department, which has authority to regulate toxic substances under existing environmental laws, wasn't satisfied.
"Environment Canada would like to work with your organization and others to ensure that the voluntary disclosure is structured so that we can determine the environmental impact of these substances," wrote Boothe in the March 13, 2012 letter, released using access to information legislation.
"To further inform this work, information such as all chemical additives used, their volumes, and their storage and disposal methods would be required."
Environment Canada and the industry association were not immediately able to respond to questions about whether they had made progress in sharing information about the fluids since last year.
In an email, an association spokesman said it had asked members to respond to a voluntary government questionnaire, but did not track results.
Environment Canada also sent an email to say it was still working with other governments and companies to get information, but declined to provide details of any results.
Shale gas is considered to be a "game changer" that dramatically improves energy supplies and reduces consumer costs, while at the same time prompting environmental reviews and protests over concerns about potential water contamination.
NDP leader Tom Mulcair last June accused the same industry lobby group of "pulling a con job" when it suggested fracking processes were regulated, while refusing to disclose the content of their fluids that, he said, have "known carcinogens and other very dangerous substances."
Boothe, an economist who left Environment Canada to direct a policy centre at the University of Western Ontario's business school last summer, warned Environment Minister Peter Kent that water consumption and contamination topped the list of environmental concerns related to fracking.
Read this story from the Climate Desk on gases escaping from fracking operations, costing the US gas industry an estimated $1.5 billion a year, while adding to climate change. (April 5, 2013)
Of all the many and varied consequences of fracking (water contamination, injured workers, earthquakes, the list goes on) one of the least understood is so-called “fugitive” methane emissions. Methane is the primary ingredient of natural gas, and it escapes into the atmosphere at every stage of production: at wells, in processing plants, and in pipes on its way to your house. According to a new study, it could become one of the worst climate impacts of the fracking boom—and yet, it’s one of the easiest to tackle right away. Best of all, fixing the leaks is good for the bottom line.
According to the World Resources Institute, natural gas producers allow $1.5 billion worth of methane to escape from their operations every year. That might sound like small change to an industry that drilled up some $66.5 billion worth of natural gas in 2012 alone, but it’s a big deal for the climate: While methane only makes up 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (20 percent of which comes from cow farts), it packs a global warming punch 20 times stronger than carbon dioxide.
“Those leaks are everywhere,” said WRI analyst James Bradbury, so fixing them would be “super low-hanging fruit.”
The problem, he says, is that right now those emissions aren’t directly regulated by the EPA. In President Obama’s first term, the EPA set new requirements for capturing other types of pollutants that escape from fracked wells, using technology that also, incidentally, limits methane. But without a cap on methane itself, WRI finds, the potent gas is free to escape at incredible rates, principally from leaky pipelines. The scale of the problem is hard to overstate: The Energy Department found that leaking methane could ultimately make natural gas—which purports to be a “clean” fossil fuel—even more damaging than coal, and an earlier WRI study found that fixing methane leaks would be the single biggest step the US could take toward meeting its long-term greenhouse gas reduction goals.
What’s more, the solution to the problem doesn’t rely on some kind futuristic, expensive technology: It’s literally a matter of patching up leaky pipes.
Read more: http://climatedesk.org/2013/04/frackers-are-losing-1-5-billion-yearly-to-leaks/
Yesterday, I joined several thousand British Columbians in submitting my comments to the environmental assessment process for the proposed Site C Dam in northeast BC. While it will likely take a few days for the most recent submissions to be registered on the government website for the process, judging by early indications, this was one of the largest-ever responses by the BC public to an environmental assessment - a clear sign of how much this issue matters to British Columbians.
The Sierra Club and civic engagement driver LeadNow teamed up to facilitate online submissions and are reporting over 3,400 comments filed by yesterday's deadline - none of which appear yet on the official review panel website. That's on top of the close to 1,000 comments already logged prior to that campaign, which kicked in during the final couple days of commenting. So we can expect to see a final tally of well over 4,000 submissions, comparable only to the highly contentious Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal.
Herewith my own letter, addressed to Linda Jones, Panel Manager for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency:
Dear Ms. Jones,
As someone whose family settled in the Peace Valley a century ago, before losing our home, Goldbar Ranch at 20 Mile, to the first big hydro project on the Peace, I take very seriously this latest threat to the valley - Site C Dam.
Peace country is home to some of the best agricultural land in the province and critical fish and wildlife habitat. The unique soil and topographical conditions of the valley yield one of the longest growing seasons in BC. My family grew all manner of fruits, vegetables and grains there decades ago - until that sustainable way of life was taken away from us. I never got the chance to work my family's land.
Today, we face a food security crisis in BC, producing just 40% of our total needs. We do not have an energy self-sufficiency crisis. I direct you to the work of my colleague, the independent economist Erik Andersen, who has clearly demonstrated that we have plenty of power for the foreseeable future...Unless, that is, we ramp up fracking operations, mines, and build 5-6 massively energy intensive Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plants on BC's coast.
For evidence of this, you need look no further than our own premier's recent comments. Ms. Clark told Global TV last week, "You can't power up these huge [LNG] facilities without more power, so BC Hydro's going to have to build Site C - we're in favour of making that happen." Last year, she acknowledged to a crowd in Fort St. John that just one of these proposed plants - Shell's joint project with three Asian partners - would eat up the entire load of Site C, that being 1,100 megawatts.
Incidentally, how is the public supposed to take seriously this process when the outcome has clearly already been decided by our political leadership?
Despite the premier's Orwellian assurances to the contrary, fracked natural gas, converted to LNG, then shipped halfway around the world to be decompressed and burned is not in any way, shape or form "clean energy". Nor is a massively ecologically destructive mega-dam to power this gas development. In this era of climate change and drought conditions, I do not support using taxpayers' and ratepayers' dollars to subsidize the fossil fuel industry - nor to divert, contaminate and destroy billions of litres of precious fresh water, which is what these projects will do.
I respect Indigenous peoples' rights and voice, as I respect the farming families still tilling the yet unspoiled land of the valley. I take very seriously the unified, unambiguous opposition of the Treaty 8 First Nations and farmers in the region to this project.
Moreover, I take the forced removal of the BC Utilities Commission from its role as the public's watchdog in evaluating this project as patently undemocratic.
The lack of review of the project from a meaningful cumulative effects approach is also deeply troubling - especially in light of a recent report from the David Suzuki Foundation showing that over 65% of the region has already been marred by heavy industrial impacts - dams, roads, logging, mining, oil and gas.
This process, this project, and the draconian values that underpin them are deeply flawed.
I am steadfastly opposed to the $8 Billion-plus subsidy of the fossil fuel industry, the destruction of vital ecosystems and farmland, and the trampling on First Nations and citizens' democratic rights that the proposed Site C Dam represents.
I urge you to do the right thing and reject this project.
Premier Christy Clark wants BC citizens to subsidize the oil and gas industry with a $10 Billion taxpayer-funded dam. Though she won't put it quite like that, that's precisely the implication of the policies she's promoting in the run-up to May's provincial election.
Clark confirmed her vision for powering a new, much-ballyhooed Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Industry to Global TV last week (a must-watch). The premier has promised in recent months a $100 Billion windfall of provincial revenues from the yet-to-be-developed LNG industry, a boast which has drawn justified ridicule from pundits.
LNG requires enormous amounts of energy to super-cool gas in order to liquefy it and load it onto tankers. Numerous global energy companies - including Shell, Chevron, and a number of big Asian players - have lined up over the past year to build LNG plants in Kitimat and Prince Rupert, in order to access Asian markets which are currently paying significantly more for gas than the North American market.
Clark acknowledges the province doesn't have enough electricity to supply the demands of multiple proposed LNG facilities. Her solution? Flood an 80 km stretch of the fertile Peace Valley in northeast BC to build a new dam. Dubbed Site "C" because it would be the third dam on the Peace River, the project would flood some 20,000 acres of high quality agricultural land and wildlife habitat.
Clark was blunt with Global TV reporter Jas Johal: "You can't power up these huge [LNG] facilities without more power, so BC Hydro's going to have to build Site C - we're in favour of making that happen."
The statement came as the window for public comments to the environmental assessment process for Site C winds down, drawing to a close Thursday, April 4.
Last year, at a press conference in Fort St. John, near the location of the proposed dam, Premier Clark spoke to the need for Site C to power LNG. She acknowledged that just one of the 5 or 6 planned LNG terminals on BC's coast - a proposal by Shell and its Chinese, Korean and Japanese partners - would eat up the entire 1,100 megawatt output of Site C.
So even with this new dam - which won't be up and running until 2020 at the earliest - BC has nowhere near the energy required to power the energy-hungry LNG industry. To that end, Premier Clark created a loophole in the Clean Energy Act to allow gas companies to generate power for their plants by burning their own natural gas. Which begs the question: why the continued need for Site C?
Perhaps it's because the power from Site C would be offered to gas producers at a steep discount, which is the standard for large industrial users, who typically pay less than half what residential and small business customers pay for hydroelectricity in BC.
When pressed by Johal on the taxpayer subsidy issue, Clark brushed it off - "That's not part of what we're negotiating...We aren't going to ask residential taxpayers to subsidize this."
And yet, the dam itself, pegged at $8 Billion but sure to balloon beyond that (a study of 70 large dam projects funded by the World Bank found that the average overrun was a whopping 27%), will be on the shoulders of taxpayers and crown corporation BC Hydro - already drowing in massive debt. And unless the plan is to make the LNG industry pay top dollar for this new power (which defeats the purpose entirely), then residential hydro customers will bear the full burden through much steeper power bills.
While Site C is a looming taxpayer boondoggle, it will also destroy precious farmland at a time when we produce just 40% of our own food in BC. And as this recent report from the David Suzuki Foundation shows, it will compound the enormous industrial footprint that has marred over 65% of the Peace Valley over the past half century - making it easily one of the world's most heavily impacted regions already.
A major source of those impacts is the natural gas industry, which relies more and more on environmentally risky "fracking" to extract the gas that would flow to these LNG plants through multiple new pipelines.
So Site C and LNG mean a major ramping up of increasingly controversial fracking.
Clark's opposition in the upcoming provincial election on May 14, the BC NDP, are showing signs of backing away from Site C. The party's Energy Critic John Horgan told the Vancouver Sun in February, "I’m confident that in the first two years of an NDP government we won’t be building Site C."
For more information on Site C and tools to help you submit your comments to the environmental assessment process by the April 4 deadline, click here.
Few places on Earth have been untouched by humans, according to a study in the journal Science. Satellite images taken from hundreds of kilometres above the planet reveal a world that we have irrevocably changed within a remarkably short time.
Although industrial projects like the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline or the recently defeated mega-quarry in Ontario typically grab the headlines and bring out public opposition, it’s often the combined impacts of a range of human activities on the same land base that threaten to drive nature beyond critical tipping points. Once those are passed, rapid ecological changes such as species extinction can occur.
For example, in British Columbia’s booming Peace Region, forestry, energy and mineral leases and licences are widespread and often multilayered in the same area. As various industries have exploited these “tenures”, a sprawling patchwork of large clearcuts, oil wells, dams and reservoirs, fracking operations and thousands of kilometres of seismic lines, roads and pipelines have come to dominate the landscape.
Today, more than 65 per cent of the region has felt the impact of industrial development, leaving little intact habitat for sensitive, endangered species such as caribou to feed, breed or roam. Degradation or destruction of habitat has convinced scientists that remaining herds in the region are no longer self-sustaining and are spiralling toward local extinction. First Nations, who have relied upon caribou as their primary source of food for thousands of years, can no longer hunt them. This is a clear violation of treaty rights.
This dire situation didn’t happen by accident or because of a laissez-faire approach to resource and land management. Numerous industries in the area have been operating legally and according to rules and regulations set by government.
But legal experts, such as those at the nongovernmental organization West Coast Environmental Law, believe a root cause of the problem lies in laws about land, resource and water management that are “hardwired” to fail communities and the environment. The narrow focus of those laws enables industries to operate in isolation from one another.
B.C., for example, has developed numerous individual laws, like the Forest and Range Practices Act, Oil and Gas Activities Act and Mines Act, alongside the regulated industries they enable. But the province lacks a legal framework to proactively and comprehensively manage the cumulative impacts of multiple resource industries operating within the same area.
Because of this, WCEL and its First Nations partners are engaged in a multi-year law reform project that aims to overhaul the way we currently oversee and regulate cumulative impacts, ranging from declining water quality that may arise as a result of multiple industries using a common resource, to emerging threats such as climate change.
A cumulative-impacts approach to governing resource development would upend the current management paradigm. It would focus on the management needs of the land, water, air, wildlife and indigenous communities that depend on them first, rather than the resources to be extracted. In practical terms, this would mean that, rather than focusing on what we should take from nature to create wealth and employment, we should first consider what must be retained in nature to sustain both wildlife and the well-being of local communities – such as clean air, safe drinking water and healthy local food.
At a recent symposium on managing the cumulative impacts of resource development in B.C., numerous speakers – from First Nations to academics to business leaders – stressed that effectively managing cumulative impacts will require new institutions and governance mechanisms, even new legal tools. More importantly, it will require our leaders to adopt a more proactive and holistic way of thinking about the world – one that recognizes that far from just being a place to extract resources like fossil fuels, timber and minerals, nature is our home. Nature provides our most fundamental needs and dictates limits to growth and so its protection should be our highest priority.
Managing our massive, growing human footprint on this planet more sustainably will require leadership, much of which is emerging from First Nations peoples who are on the frontlines of the day-to-day realities of cumulative environmental change. We need to look at the big picture rather than individual elements in isolation.
Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Ontario and Northern Canada Director-General Faisal Moola.