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.
Read more: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/kokish-river-power-project-approved-by-government-despite-scientists-concerns-1.64932
Read this story from The Globe and Mail on the looming showdown over the proposed Liquified Natural Gas industry for BC. (Feb. 5, 2013)
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.
Read more: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/showdown-looms-over-bcs-gas-exports/article8281337/
Read this story from the Canadian Press on the National Energy Board's decision to grant an export licence to a proposed Shell-led Liquified Natural Gas project in Kitimat. (Feb 4. 2013)
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.
Read this story from The Vancouver Sun on the NDP's projection of a billion dollar loss for BC Hydro over the next four years due to overpriced private power contracts. (Feb. 4, 2013)
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 more: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/projects+billion+dollar+loss+Hydro/7917408/story.html
Read this story from the Kelowna 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.
Read more: http://www.kelownadailycourier.ca/front-page-news/may-says-no-way-to-pipeline-12813.html
Read this opinion piece by former ICBC CEO Robyn Allan on TheTyee.ca bursting the "bitumen bubble" argument coming from Tar Sands promoters to push new pipeline infrastructure. (Jan. 29, 2013)
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 more: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2013/01/29/Canadian-Oil-Producers/
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 more: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/01/24-5
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.”
Read this Associated Press story on the Nebraska Senate's decision this week to approve and alternate route for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. (Jan. 23, 2013)
WASHINGTON - More than half the Senate on Wednesday urged quick approval of TransCanada's controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, ramping up pressure on President Barack Obama just days after he promised in his inaugural address to respond vigorously to the threat of climate change.
A letter signed by 53 senators said Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman's approval of a revised route through his state puts the long-delayed project squarely in the president's hands.
"We urge you to choose jobs, economic development and American energy security," the letter said, adding that the pipeline "has gone through the most exhaustive environmental scrutiny of any pipeline" in U.S. history.
"There is no reason to deny or further delay this long-studied project," said the letter, which was initiated by Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and signed by 44 Republicans and nine Democrats. Another Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, supports the pipeline but did not sign the letter.
Calgary-based TransCanada is seeking approval for a $5.3-billion pipeline that would carry crude from Alberta's oilsands and U.S. shale formations to Steele City, Neb.