Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Book Review “The Patch”

with 5 comments

Alex McLean Oilsands 11 Suncor site, Alberta, Canada 140407-0617_0

The People, Pipelines, and Politics of the Oil Sands

by Chris Turner

Written by Stephen Rees

September 10, 2017 at 4:27 pm

There Will Be Spills

leave a comment »

o-PIPELINE-facebook

My opposition to the TransMountain Pipeline expansion is that it will be redundant sooner rather than later. But if course that is not taken into account by any regulatory process. The pipeline has been approved and the new BC government seems to rewinding its pre-election promise to stop it. It will not just feed the export terminal in Burnaby, it will also feed the oil refineries in Washington state. It is also very unlikely that much of dilbit will be exported to Asia: most of it will go to the US refineries that can cope with heavy crudes. This will inevitably lead to the extirpation of the resident orca population in the Salish Sea already suffering due to the lack of salmon that they depend on. The rest of this post is taken from a Greenpeace press release. Once again I doubt that the corporate media will do anything but soft shoe shuffle around this issue and perhaps bleat again about jobs (just as they did with LNG) even though the employment prospects for renewables are far better than fossil fuels.


New report reveals one spill a week in US from three tar sands pipeline companies

3 August 2017 (EDMONTON) — A map and policy brief released today by Greenpeace detail a legacy of spills — roughly one every week in the United States since 2010 — from three companies proposing to build four tar sands pipelines. The map plots the location and size of 373 spills from pipelines owned by Kinder Morgan, Enbridge, TransCanada and their subsidiaries, totaling 63,221 barrels of hazardous liquids in just seven years.

These “Dirty Three” of pipeline companies, two of which are Canadian, are at varying stages of building four controversial oil pipelines from Alberta’s tar sands across North America. Data in the map and brief covers spills in the United States, where TransCanada is attempting to re-ignite the Keystone XL pipeline and Enbridge is in the late stages of permitting for its Line 3 Expansion pipeline, which would travel over 1,000 miles, crossing North Dakota and Minnesota to its destination on Lake Superior in Wisconsin. Kinder Morgan hopes to begin construction on the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline in British Columbia this fall, while TransCanada has restarted the approval process for its Energy East pipeline, which would pass through six provinces.

Key findings in the brief include:

  • Despite industry claims, pipeline spills have remained a steady problem, with significant spills of crude oil and petroleum products increasing over the last several years across many states along the three companies’ pipeline networks. The companies’ 373 spills since 2010 account for a total of 63,221 barrels of hazardous liquids, the largest being Enbridge’s 20,082 barrels of tar sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River.

  • Extrapolating from current rates of incidents, Kinder Morgan can expect 36 significant spills (see Note 2 below), Keystone XL can expect 59 significant spills in its lifetime and Line 3 Expansion can expect 51.

  • Along with being far more carbon-intensive than conventional crude, diluted bitumen has been shown to be much harder to clean up when spilled in water. Both Line 3 Expansion and Keystone XL make multiple water crossings and run near key watersheds and wetland habitats.

“This data exposes these tar sands pipeline companies’ worrying safety records. There’s good reason for concern among Indigenous Peoples and communities living along these companies’ pipeline routes on both sides of the border — it’s their lands and waters that would be directly contaminated by an oil spill. With these three companies and their subsidiaries creating one spill a week in the US, it’s not a question of ‘if’ there will be a spill, but ‘when and how big’ that spill will be,” said Mike Hudema, a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada.

Financial support for these pipelines is being provided by banks including TD, RBC, CIBC and JPMorgan Chase. Credit union association Desjardins has also provided financial support, but recently announced a moratorium on oil pipeline financing and investments in response to concerns about the threats pipelines pose to the environment and Indigenous rights. Greenpeace Canada and Greenpeace USA are part of an international coalition of civil society and Indigenous organizations campaigning to urge financial institutions to pull their investments in tar sands pipelines given the high financial, reputational and environmental risks they pose.

(1) In Canada, pipeline spill reporting falls under a combination of federal and provincial jurisdictions, leaving Canadians without a central, up-to-date set of data due to discrepancies in the transparency, quality and user-friendliness across jurisdictions. One of the most comprehensive spill databases in Canada was actually compiled by Global Television, which showed that Alberta (the epicentre of tar sands production) averaged 2 spills a day for the 37 years covered by the dataset. [Note that the map linked to in this paragraph only covers Alberta.]

(2) PHMSA data for crude oil pipelines shows 0.001 significant incidents per year per mile, so assuming the U.S. rate for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline, we would expect to see 0.001 sig spills/yr/mi x 715mi x 50yr = 36 significant spills in a 50 year lifetime.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 3, 2017 at 10:22 am

How Industry is Constraining Canadian Climate Action on Methane

leave a comment »

methane

Flares burn off excess methane at oil and gas refineries, landfills, and other industrial plants. Flares are used to control release of methane into the atmosphere but recovery options are also available that capture methane for use as fuel. source: http://www.pnnl.gov/

This is a guest post by John Jeglum. He is a retired peatland scientist who worked at the Great Lakes Forestry Centre, Natural Resources Canada, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, until 1994, and then at the Swedish University of Agricultural Science, Department of Forest Ecology and Management. He retired from Sweden in 2005, and returned to BC, first in Victoria, now in Duncan.

Much of the material in this post comes from a webinar run by the Climate Action Network in May of this year. It was originally sent to Fraser Voices as an email that included attachments. When these came from internet sources, I have substituted links.


 

You will recall the recent decision by the federal government to delay the institution of new procedures and regulations to reduce methane emissions in fracked natural gas and oil operations by 2 to 3 years. Part of this delay was owing to objections by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) to high extra costs for methane reductions (see Oilpatch accused of using ‘myth’ to delay Canada’s Climate Action  Carl Meyer 2017), and part owing to the new Trump administration, especially with new EPA head Scott Pruitt, which may delay the application of procedures and regulations in the USA.

Recently (18 May 2017), the Climate Action Network sponsored a webinar “How industry is constraining Canadian Climate Action on Methane.” Attached are three powerpoint presentations, and two sets of notes taken from oral presentations. The presenters are five knowledgeable persons with first hand information about the progress the industry/government’s program of constraining release of methane in the gas industry.

Andrew Read (Pembina)

Drew Nelson (EDF)

Keith Stewart (Greenpeace)

Dale Marshall (ED Natl. Prog. Manager) ‘Addressing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.’ Notes–audio presentation

John Werring (Suzuki Foundation). 3 summers of field work on methane, Montney Play, NE BC. Notes — audio presentation

Read’s presentation gives information on methane gas leakages from a number of pieces of equipment / structures / practices —fugitives (33%), venting (23%), pneumatics (20%), compressor systems (9%), well completions (1%), other (13%). The other presentations give their interpretations for the delay. Especially interesting was the final presentation by John Werring, which noted an absence of in-the-field inspection and monitoring. Monitoring of methane release has had rather little serious attention in NE BC.

In the listing of known methane leaks, what is missing is an assessment of the methane leakage owing to leakage from the vertical and horizontal well bores. The vertical well bores consist of one or several nested steel pipes, sealed on the outside surfaces with cement. The cement surrounds each pipe, including the outermost pipe, and is meant to keep the fracking water, and returning water and contained liquids, inside the pipe. The horizontal steel pipe has holes exploded through it to allow for the water containing fracking fluids to be forced under tremendous pressures out into adjacent shale layers. When the forced injection of fracking fluid and sand (or other propping material) is stopped, the fracking water, containing methane and other carbonaceous liquids from the surrounding shale parent material, moves into the bore and travels up to the surface. It is not clear how far the the cement casing extends from the vertical along the horizontal bore. So probably not all the fracking water plus dissolved organics gets back into the horizontal bore pipe. Some may escape through discontinuities in the parent material or by travelling along the outside of the bore pipe to the surface. This results in loss of desired methane and other gas and liquid materials, which may bubble to the surface at the well, or at distance from the well into aquifers, surface waters and water wells. Fracking wells have demonstrated this kind of uncontrolled loss of methane, increasing for several years after fracking well abandonment  (Ingraffia et al. 2013 and others, e.g. Cherry, Dusseault, Jackson).

After well abandonment, the cement casements can develop cracks owing to natural ground movements, probably caused by earthquakes which are stimulated by fracking (Ingraffia et al. 2014). The degree of cracking increases over time after well abandonment, such that 40% or more of the wells develop leakages of produced water with methane other gases, carbonaceous materials, and fracking chemicals. These compounds can rise upwards and are the ones often reported as spilling over at the well sites, and contaminating groundwater aquifers, wells used for animal and human consumption, and surface waters. As part of the environmental assessment, methane and other compounds escaping from the drilled wells need to be assessed to get a complete picture of fugitive methane and potential groundwater contamination. Very few human and livestock groundwater wells are being monitored in NE BC for methane and other fracking contaminants, before, during and after fracking and gas production. The release of methane and other materials from the drilled well, increasing with time, is a major characteristic of fracked wells (ibid.). As fracking is presently conducted, the fugitive methane leaking from the gas wells, as well as the rest of the sequence of gas capture, processing, and pipeline transportation, wipes out any benefits that may be obtained by low emissions at final burning of the gas (Romm 2014). Many authors have noted that owing to large gas leakage, it is highly doubtful that natural gas can act as an effective bridge fuel (Magill 2014).

With the rate of rising temperature associated with rising GHGs, can humankind really afford to put off serious and immediate action to minimize fugitive emissions of methane, a serious global warming gas? I don’t think we can afford to put off even by three years serious action on reducing fugitive emissions, establishing reasonable rates of carbon pricing, and lowering or removing subsidies to industries for fracking.  The temperature curve is rising steeply, and knowledgeable climate scientists indicate that we need to start immediately a wartime level effort to reduce emissions. Dr. James Hansen declares that we need to start reducing the emissions by 2-3% yearly, immediately, to have any chance of keeping temperatures below 2 degrees (see new temperature chart by James Hansen).

 

David Suzuki Foundation: New Science Reveals Unreported Methane from B.C.’s oil and gas industry threatens Canada’s international climate commitments.

Ingraffea, Anthony. 2013. Lethal Gas-Oil Wells in Pennsylvania, Seminar in NY State Seminar with illustrations. , 13Dec2013– “Lethal Gas/Oil Wells in Pennsylvania” (TEDx Albany 2013 via YouTube)

 

Written by Stephen Rees

August 2, 2017 at 4:41 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delta

with 6 comments

Mouth of the Fraser aerial 2007_0710_105838AA

“This week, share a photograph that signifies transitions and change to you.”

This is an aerial shot from a plane leaving Vancouver on its way to Toronto in July 2007. I had to do quite a bit of work to edit the original – removing the mist that bedevils aerial photos, and correcting the colour, as well as adjusting the frame. Note that I have left the horizon tilted. I usually straighten that but in this case the plane is climbing steeply and turning eastwards. The plane leaving Vancouver took off over the Strait of Georgia, westwards, into the prevailing wind then turned towards the east.

The delta of the Fraser River is under threat from industrialisation. It is some of the most fertile soil in British Columbia, and one of the few places where vegetables can be grown. The river is still one of the most important ecosystems in the province with the remaining salmon runs threatened both by urban sprawl and climate change. Add to that the determination of the port to expand its activities – especially for the export of fossil fuels – and the storage of containers, which mostly come into the port loaded but have very much less utility for our exports, and we face a huge challenge.

I was very surprised to read in the original challenge “the current growing louder and faster before it spilled into the sea” which is exactly the opposite of what happens in this river delta – and almost certainly every other. The river’s current is much faster inland, where it rushes through the Fraser Canyon. The restriction of Hell’s Gate was one of the greatest challenges facing the Europeans when they started to exploit this part of the world. In building the Canadian National Railway they succeeded in blocking the river with their explosives, and the indigenous people carried the salmon upstream in baskets to help ensure the continuation of the species. The river turns westward at Hope and, as the valley widens, slows and begins to meander. The amount of silt that the water can carry drops as it slows, building the gravel beds that the gold prospectors pounced on, and the rich soils of what became farmland. In its natural state as the valley bottom opens up and flattens out the river would constantly move north and south seeking the sea between the mud banks and silt layers. We have of course put a stop to that with dykes and embankments to prevent flooding – that is actually the natural state – and constant dredging of the shipping channel to keep it open and, contentiously, to allow for larger ships.

This “photograph that signifies transitions and change to you” is one that I have used a lot on this blog as part of the campaign that challenges the present plans to expand the port and build a new, huge bridge at the leftmost edge of this picture, where the soil of the river banks is 2,000m or more of silts and sands, prone to liquefaction in the case of earthquakes (another imminent threat in this region) let alone the damage to Pacific flyway, the eelgrass beds, the habitat of many sensitive life forms and, of course, Burns Bog. You can read more about these issues in both this blog and at Fraser Voices.

And, by the way, the name of the municipality in most of this picture is Delta.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 28, 2017 at 10:36 am

“It’s our environment and our economy”

with 3 comments

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-9-22-37-pm

A guest post by Andy Shadrack

If Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Trudeau think that they can dictate to British Columbians on the basis of whose economy and environment is more important, then they need to think again.

We have an important sport and commercial salmon fishery, and a coastline that is the envy of every tourism operator in the country. And yet Ms Notley and Mr Trudeau think we should sacrifice our economic interests for theirs.

First, no amount of money could fix a crude oil spill. Just ask the Alaskan fishermen and First Nations people impacted by the Exxon Valdez spill. So we are not talking about exporting twinkies, lumber, natural gas or even coal. We are talking about a substance that could severely damage or destroy our marine ecosystem.

BC has only one marine ecosystem and no amount of money could help rebuild it. Question: why are Alberta and Ottawa not supporting refining tar sands crude where it is being mined?

That way we could all benefit from purchasing Canadian refined oil products and end the importation of foreign oil. The answer I keep getting is that it is too expensive and not a viable economic solution.

Well, guess what, exporting crude oil through BC’s fragile marine ecosystem is not a viable economic alternative either. Nor do we want to be held hostage to Alberta’s economic needs.

We in BC have as much right to protect our environment and economy as Albertans. So, Ms Notley, a little less of “it’s our right” and “the federal government has made adecision”, as Mr Trudeau also promised us that the impacts of resource extraction would be balanced against the needs of protecting the environment.

It’s our environment and our economy that’s at stake here, so please start by respecting us and that fact. After that, we can negotiate as equal partners in confederation and not from some subservient position of just because you mined it, you have a right to export it.

Andy is someone I met when I joined the Green Party of BC. He posted this on his facebook page today. I decided to copy and paste it here.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 13, 2017 at 5:25 pm

You can’t handle the truth

leave a comment »

There was a hard hitting article in the Globe and Mail, which I didn’t read because it is behind a paywall and the Grope and Wail is predictably right wing, especially where climate change is concerned. Then Pamela Zevit posted a link on facebook to an article on boereport which both provides a neat summary and some trenchant discussion.  I am not sure if the link provided in that article actually will get you to the original as it points to pressreader – which I don’t use either.

Anyway here is the summary

Four simple points are made that should be enough to derail the current monolithic environment industry and start a new revolution, but they will have a hard time because the media couldn’t have cared less.

The article’s four pertinent points are: that only a fraction of the population is motivated by the health of the planet; that more information does not lead to more action; that scare tactics don’t work; and that environmental products have to be desirable before they become adopted. Each point is supported by logical and balanced reasons that are hard to argue with, which explains why the article was pointedly ignored by even its owner.

The piece is a refreshingly clear statement about where the environmental debate should be going.

And at this point my thoughts turned in quite a different direction. I do not think that individual action is going to change anything very much, because the amount of difference that makes is tiny. Now, if you want to make changes in the way that you do things in order to save the planet, you go right ahead. But in the meantime there is a group of people – actually a tiny minority of the world’s population – who could indeed make a quite extraordinary  difference. They are the decision makers, the far less than 1% who control most of what happens in modern western societies, and who continue to seek out short term profits rather than long term security. And some of those people include politicians in our society who seem to be doing things that are simply contrarian to any scientific reality about this question. Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau come top of my mind right now, but there are plenty of others.

The decisions behind the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline to export dilbit from Alberta are driven by what they see as necessary economically. Meanwhile in other places, the move away from fossil fuels is gathering strength and is already making a measurable difference. The use of solar panels and wind turbines has increased much faster than anyone anticipated, with the result that the costs of these technologies has fallen and is now competitive with fossil fuels. Not only that but the places that are getting on with changing how they produce electricity are increasing employment, and economic activity as well as producing worthwhile improvements to other issues such as air and water quality.

It isn’t actually necessary that the other 80% of the population is motivated by the health of the planet, because they are motivated by buying better, cheaper solutions to meet their needs. The taxi drivers who decided to buy a Prius instead of a second hand full sized IC car were motivated by a financial case. And the biggest savings came not so much from buying less fuel as needing fewer brake jobs. The people installing solar panels do so because their hydro bills go down – or they can stop using diesel generators. People like Elon Musk are selling electric cars because they are better than the IC equivalent.

There is a petition that I have seen recently aimed at a cruise ship line to try and get them to switch from using bunker C (the really gross residual oil from refining crude that is used in marine diesel engines). I am not going to sign it. Because it is unreasonable to expect one ship owner to switch fuels when no other shipping line is being pressured to stop doing the same thing. But one day someone will come up with a way of powering these engines with a renewable, cleaner fuel – for instance there is one promising process to use sewage to produce liquid fuel. Which will also help to lessen their local environmental impact.

When I was part of the team that wrote BC’s first Greenhouse Gas Action Plan, we did not expect anyone to change anything in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But we were able to identify plenty of things that could be done that would reduce energy use, and hence expenses, that would pay for themselves in two to three years at most. Energy efficiency is worth investing in for its own sake!  And I was really quite pleased when I saw that my daughter’s school installed ground source heat pumps when it built its new extension, something that would have been prohibited by the previous policy framework. BC Hydro’s Conservation effort cost $1.5bn but saved double what Site C will produce – and will cost over $9bn. (Source: BCUC Revenue Requirement hearings 2017 via facebook BC Hydro Ratepayers Association)

Actually energy efficiency is a much bigger productivity resource than is generally understood.

Energy_Efficiency_a_Bigger_Resource_May_2017

It really doesn’t matter if environmental pressure groups have little impact on popular opinion. Though something must be pushing people to vote Green in larger numbers. There are already many other groups that are organising things better and helping us become more sustainable, and reducing emissions at the same time. Making it possible for people to ride their bikes in reasonable comfort and safety is probably helping to reduce the number of car trips they take. Selling cold water detergent doesn’t hurt either. Capturing methane from landfills to replace fossil fuel gas – and also increase plant growth  with the CO2 is also a good idea. Closing landfills altogether might be better but is ways off. And somehow other countries seem to manage to raise awareness – a Swiss referendum (they have lots of them) chose to end use of nuclear power.

In the meantime the demand for the fossil fuels some in Canada want to export is declining – and the price for LNG, for instance, simply doesn’t warrant any of the huge investments we are being asked to subsidize. China and India are backing off from coal faster than expected – and making the sort of contribution to CO2 reduction that was thought impossible in the earlier climate change talks. Again, neither of these countries are driven by altruism: both are looking at the cost of the health impacts of fossil fuel burning on air quality.

And Bernie Sanders agrees with me.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 20, 2017 at 4:14 pm

Greenpeace launches worldwide campaign for free speech

leave a comment »

I am putting this here just to see how many mainstream media outlets actually give this coverage.  I will add links to their stories here as I find them.

Three so far

Winnipeg Free Press

Yahoo

Outside Magazine

PR Newswire doesn’t count

Globe and Mail (paywall)

Vancouver Sun

OK yes the mainstream media did follow up: the list will not be updated

I have kept the links visible at the foot of this press release so that you can read the full report. I would have liked to have included some of the illustrative materials but that requires registration and also formal permission from Greenpeace.

The following image is on flickr, posted by Boris Mann with a Creative Commons license. It illustrates a clearcut on Vancouver Island near Lake Cowichan taken on October 9, 2006. Its use here is simply to draw attention to unsustainable practices and does not imply that it has anything to do with Resolute Forest Products.

Clearcut

Montreal, 16 May, 2017 — Greenpeace has launched a new worldwide campaign for free speech today to stand up to Canadian logging giant Resolute Forest Products’ massive legal attacks on its critics, which threaten the existence of this global environmental movement. These meritless lawsuits are just the tip of the iceberg and part of a global trend of SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) litigation which aims to throttle civic advocacy.

Instead of focusing on fully adopting sustainable forestry, investing in healthy forests, and creating jobs, Resolute is trying to intimidate critics like Greenpeace with two massive multimillion dollar lawsuits that threaten free speech.Today, Greenpeace US is launching a new report, “Clearcutting Free Speech: How Resolute Forest Products is going to extremes to silence critics of its controversial logging practices”[1], presenting the implications of logging company Resolute Forest Products massive legal attack on its critics, which aims to redefine activism as criminal activity.

“Greenpeace has gained international recognition as an independent environmental watchdog because we raise our voices without fear. That is public interest advocacy, not a criminal activity. The voices of our supporters will not be shut down now because a logging company like Resolute wants to get away with logging in intact forests,” said Greenpeace International Executive Director Bunny McDiarmid.

If Resolute’s lawsuits succeed, the cases could set a dangerous precedent of shutting down advocacy groups and corporate watchdogs and embolden companies around the world to use similar tactics against their own critics.

In May 2016, Resolute filed a CAD$300 million lawsuit for racketeering and other claims in the United States against several Greenpeace entities, Stand.earth and individual activists. Prior to that, Resolute filed a CAD$7 million lawsuit for defamation and other claims against Greenpeace Canada and two of its staff in 2013, that is still ongoing. The company has also used intimidating legal and public relations tactics against other organisations including the Rainforest Alliance, an independent environmental auditor.

Greenpeace is calling on support from free speech advocates around the world, including    major international publishers such as Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette — who purchase paper from Resolute. Greenpeace is inviting them to join the call to protect freedom of speech and the collective rights to organise on issues of public concern, like forest conservation.

Greenpeace Canada Forest campaigner, Shane Moffatt, a defendant in the Canadian lawsuit, said:

“We want a healthy forest where Indigenous Peoples rights are respected, jobs are secured for communities and fragile ecosystems are protected. The only way to get there is with open dialogue and free speech so all parties can work together to make these solutions a reality.”

Greenpeace US Senior Forest Campaigner, Amy Moas, a defendant in the US lawsuit, said:

“If Resolute wins these lawsuits, not only could it mean a world without Greenpeace and the 45 year record of a movement to protect the environment, but a world where free speech becomes more restricted for advocacy groups, individuals, artists, journalists and publishers.

“Resolute aims to label environmental advocacy work as criminal activity in the United States and to set a precedent to silence rightful dissent across the board. Resolute Forest Products is not counting on the millions of people that make the environmental movement so strong. Together, our voices are vital for protecting our rights, our communities and the planet,” concluded Moas.

Despite the ongoing lawsuits, Greenpeace continues to have an open door for Resolute, to work together for lasting solutions in the boreal forest for all stakeholders involved.

 

-30-

Notes to editors:

[1] Click here to access the full “Clearcutting Free Speech: How Resolute Forest Products is going to extremes to silence critics of its controversial logging practices” report or copy the following URL in your browser: http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/clearcutting-free-speech

[2] Click here to obtain images, videos and other materials related to this release or copy the following URL in your browser: http://media.greenpeace.org/collection/27MZIFJJU3322

[3] SLAPP suits are a growing trend which corporations and anyone with enough resources to create legal claims without merit use as a way to silence any type of criticism, labelling advocacy organizations and their workers as ‘criminal enterprises’ and intimidating them through multi-million dollar lawsuits. Most damagingly, such SLAPP suits suck up time and energy that should be spent campaigning for important causes, such as protecting the environment. Only corporations with deep pockets benefit from launching such lawsuits, society and public interest suffers. Anti-SLAPP legislation exists in many provinces and states. Although Resolute is based in Québec, its lawsuit was filed in Ontario, which, unlike Québec, did not have anti-SLAPP legislation at the time of filing.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 16, 2017 at 9:29 am