Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for the ‘greenhouse gas reduction’ Category

Growing Smarter

leave a comment »

growing-smarter-webThis is the title of a new report. Actually the title is longer than that but I like to be snappy when I can. The publisher adds “Integrating Land Use and Transportation to Reduce GHGs” which you may be sure is right up my alley.

Two things before I go further. This report was published on September 27, and I have only just learned of it. I thought I had spent quite a bit of effort making sure that I kept on top of this topic since it is specifically addressing BC. It was not until today that I saw a tweet from Charlie Smith which linked to an article in the Georgia Straight by Carlito Pablo.

Secondly, the report was commissioned by The Real Estate Foundation of BC. Now my association with Real Estate in BC had lead me to create a mental link between realtors and the BC Liberals. During the campaign against the expansion of Highway #1 there were credible sources saying that the then Minister of Transport, Kevin Falcon, was holding fundraising breakfasts for the realtors in this region and the Fraser Valley and promising that highway expansion would enable them to continue to build and sell single family homes. As opposed to the denser forms of development that tended to support transit. The implication being that RS1 supports right wing voters.

The other important thing to note is that you do not have to rely on my opinion or that of Carlito Pablo. You can download the full report for yourself from the link above.

But I am going to copy here the list of recommendations

Recommendations include:

  1. Bolster regional government authority and integrate transportation planning with land use in ways that support climate action.
  2. Strengthen the Agricultural Land Commission’s authority to protect farmland and limit non-agricultural use of protected land.
  3. Strengthen coordination amongst key agencies, ministries, and orders of government and support collaboration through the Climate Action Secretariat and the Local-Provincial Green Communities Committee.
  4. Use market-based tools to more fairly share the costs of transportation infrastructure and expand transportation choice.
  5. Update tax and fee structures to support sustainable financing of civic infrastructure.
  6. Help establish a Low Carbon Innovation Centre in the Lower Mainland.
  7. Create long-term transportation financing agreements between local, provincial, and federal governments.
  8. Update community GHG reduction target requirements and provide provincial support to help meet these requirements.
  9. Establish GHG impact assessment standards for local and provincial transportation projects and planning agendas.
  10. Reinvest in BC’s Community Energy and Emissions Inventory (CEEI) system to provide defensible transportation sector data.

The report was commissioned by the Real Estate Foundation of BC as part of its research on sustainable built environments in British Columbia. The report was prepared by Boston Consulting, in consultation with the Smart Growth Task Force, with contributions from MODUS Planning, Design and Engage

This all looks very promising, and I am going to download it myself before I type anything else.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 5, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Jagmeet Singh on Transit

with 4 comments

I am not a member of the NDP and haven’t really been following their leadership race, but congratulations to Jagmeet Singh for securing the leadership. He says (on his blog)

a Jagmeet Singh-led government will:

Adopt a National Public Transit Strategy: Canada is still the only country in the G8 without a national transit program and people across Canada are looking for more affordable, reliable, and accessible public transit options. Congestion in our urban centres is hurting both our economy and our environment. A Jagmeet Singh-led government will implement a National Public Transit Strategy that will provide the long term and predictable funding for public transit that cities and communities across the country are seeking.

This appears under the “Carbon Emission Reduction” section. Good.

Now perhaps some of the dippers who read this blog can explain to me how a leader can impose his will on the rest of the party. I come from a UK Labour Party background where policy commitments of this kind have to be endorsed by the annual Party conference (convention in North American parlance). While a leader can espouse a policy, it is the membership at large which determines policy. And if you have a taste for such things try a search for “Clause Four” to see where that leads to.

I am, as I said, heartened by this commitment. But to what extent is this reflective of what the party rank and file actually want? Aren’t the big supporters of the NDP the union members in the car industry?  Isn’t that where most of the big bucks come from in the national party? 

The last bit has been deleted in response to a comment.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 1, 2017 at 7:34 pm

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

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

Enough with provincial misinformation

with 3 comments

Transportation Minister Todd Stone did a presentation recently to the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. The government then put out the following Fact Sheet

Fact-Sheet-Massey-Replacement-Myths-Mar-2016

I must admit that when I read it I became almost incoherent with rage. I think Myth #3 is the one that really did it for me. But then I have written more often about induced traffic more than any other topic I think. Seems that way to me. But fortunately I have found a fresh voice on these issues.

I am not going to take credit for the following letter to the editor which has been submitted by N. Herman of Richmond. He has generously allowed me to publish it here in case the mainstream media decide to ignore it.

No one disagrees that the Massey Tunnel is a traffic bottleneck. In many respects however, choosing the right solution can be a “life or death” proposition.

To replace the Massey Tunnel with a bridge has been a questionable proposition recently, and in fact (not a “myth”), it contradicts the same provincial governments own previous, public decision to add another tunnel. And make no mistake, the bridge is huge, in fact (not a “myth”), it will be the biggest bridge of its kind in North America. Think you are going to enjoy a quiet summer BBQ in the backyard ? How about a quiet night’s sleep? Aside from diesel particulate and other pollution blown down on your property, the din of bridge traffic noise, elevated above the river, may be heard miles into Richmond and Delta, and it will be relentless, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Stability of the bridge? It will be built in an area that is proven to have the highest risk of liquefaction during an earthquake. Think the “Fast Ferries” were a disaster? This liquefaction risk alone could turn $3.5 billion into worthless rubble in minutes. Has the provincial government completed its soil analysis ? Of course not, but its already spending your hard earned taxpayer money installing pilings.

We should also be clear that the real purpose of the bridge is to allow massive ocean going freighters to ship carbon based fuels on the Fraser River, which they cannot get access to now because of the tunnel. And contrary to Minister Stone, it is not a “myth” that the Port of Metro Vancouver repeatedly petitioned the provincial government to raise the bridge for this purpose. And what of those fuels? First we have LNG. Not a “myth” as claimed by Minister Stone, did you know that placing an LNG plant so close to a populated area is actually illegal in the United States due to EPA safety rules? If any LNG is spilled on the Fraser, the explosion radius can be measured in miles. If the USA has made it illegal, and it is against international industry regulations, why is the provincial government putting your life and the lives of your loved ones at risk?

And what about coal? Well as it turns out, it’s not even Canadian coal. The coal will be shipped from Wyoming in the United States. Again ask yourself “why” when Seattle and Portland both have good ports. Again, the answer is simple. Coal dust is carcinogenic: coal trans-shipment is banned in both those states. It’s not a “myth” that Premier Clark and Transportation Minister Stone seem to think its “a-ok” to put your life at risk doing something that is so dangerous, that it’s illegal in the USA. It currently appears that the Port further intents to pave over 2,500 acres of the Gilmore Farm right beside Steveston Highway in Richmond. So much for healthy local food.

[moderator: the location and size of the Gilmore Farm is the subject of some questions on another forum where Harold Steves clarifies: “The Gilmore Farm in East Richmond was bought by the port for port expansion. It is about 218 acres not 2,500. The Gilmore Estates is 324 acres south of Steveston Highway and has nothing to do with the port. Port Metro Vancouver wants 2,500 acres for port expansion and the Gilmore Farm is part of it.” ]

Then we have an expanded “jet fuel” tanker farm near the #6 Road entertainment complex, serviced by barges. So let’s ask ourselves what pervasive reason exists to use barges instead of just pumping the fuel from the Cherry Point refinery in Washington State? Again, it is a task of looking behind the real “myth” perpetrated by the provincial government. The moment fuel enters a pipe at the refinery, it must be paid for. When shipped by barges, it is not paid for until off-loaded. This allows the Airport consortium to therefore play the commodities market on fuel, which can amount to millions of dollars of profit a year. With no on-site personnel, and no dedicated fire station, how long do you think it will take for a disaster such as a massive firestorm to occur while they profit from playing the markets? Again, call your Liberal MLA and ask them why they think that’s ”a-ok” for the government to put our lives at risk.

The fact, not a “myth” is that Premier Clark, Transportation Minister Stone and the Port of Metro Vancouver have all flown to Ottawa to advocate for a project that according to a recent FOI request has zero documentation for a business case. Perhaps it was “triple deleted” or “verbal only”? Whatever happened to the provincial government’s pledge of honest disclosure and transparency? If a bridge is such a good idea, where is the report? Where is the independent environmental review”, and why should that even be an issue to them, if the idea is so good? The Mayors Council is demanding that the provincial government “come clean”, and stop this cynical illusion of public consultation that ridicules the publics intelligence with publicity stunts like the ” Debunking the Myths ” presentation that Minister Todd Stone tried to sell last week. Two pre- vetted “questions” were asked at the end of his presentation, and then he disappears faster than a magician.

People are “fed-up” of the government playing fast and loose with the truth. As the Transit Tax referendum results demonstrated, people are “done” with wasted tax dollars spent on pet projects to feed a political ego. The public is also “done” with false statements made regarding a bridge proposal with purported “massive public support” when investigative reporter Vaughn Palmer discovers that of 1,000 “consultations” only 140 were in support. This is as troubling as the Richmond Chamber of Commerce claiming “a majority of Richmond businesses support the bridge option” when they do not represent all businesses in Richmond, and another investigation reveals that in fact (not “myth”) over 80% of their members never even voted on the survey. Does every Mayor in the province realize that their own city’s budget for infrastructure has been slashed by 1/3 by the provincial government in order to build this one bridge? If not, they should be writing the Premier.

It is time to revisit the previous transit plan that Minister Kevin Falcon had developed that built a solid business case for an additional tunnel, and admit that a bridge has never been the best solution to relieve Massey tunnel traffic congestion. An expanded tunnel would economically, and with minimal environmental impact, allow for better traffic movement and an expanded rapid transit corridor.

The Province needs to listen and learn from the Metro Vancouver governments who are strongly united in their opposition to a bridge for good reason, and learn from them how best to create a transit corridor that will move us forward in a modern and effective way. The only real “myth” right now is the provincial government has been transparent and open. Enough of the Todd Stone flim-flam, and waste of our hard earned tax dollars.

Enough with unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats destroying the world heritage Fraser River with dangerous, life threatening over-industrialization that is illegal in other parts of North America. its time for citizens to take control of this foolishness before living in Richmond or Delta becomes a “life and death” situation.

Postscript : New Westminster Councillor Patrick Johnstone has now published a comprehensive debunking of the Ten Myths “Fact Sheet” on his blog – which in itself is well worth following

Written by Stephen Rees

April 10, 2016 at 11:16 am

Canada (and BC) can grow GDP and cut GHG at the same time

with one comment

I came across this story by clicking on link bait “Something else Donald Trump is wrong about” on Vox. But I decided not to simply retweet that, firstly because we have all seen far too much about that fake tan monster and secondly this is important in both a Canadian and a BC context. (And I thought the people I wanted to reach might be less interested in that attention grabbing headline – “here’s some good news about the planet” seemed better to me!)

The Sarah Palin of BC politics currently occupying the premier’s chair is convinced that LNG is both an economic saviour and a way to reduce GHG emissions. It is, of course, neither.

Our newly elected  Liberal government in Ottawa – elected on promises to reduce GHG and committing in Paris to hold global warming below 1.5℃ – is now wavering. Not only because they allowed the Woodfibre LNG plant to go ahead, despite the very obvious shortcomings of the current (i.e. previous Conservative, Harper driven) EA process. But also because of the re-election of Brad Wall, which was obviously what Catherine McKenna must have been worried about when she started talking about national unity as being more important than the survival of life on earth.

So what Vox did was reprint a table from the World Resources Institute which shows that 21 countries have managed to reduce their GHG since 2000 while at the same time as increasing their GDP.

Decoupling_sparkline_graphic_v2

By the way, the stated reduction in US emissions is has been shown to be wrong, mostly because of the way they have counted methane.

You will notice, of course, that Canada is not among them. BC, of course, had been following a somewhat different track thanks to its adoption of the carbon tax. But that progress has been slowing, as the carbon tax has been stalled, and so much attention is now devoted to exporting fracked gas. Not only is the market for LNG now swamped, so that finding a customer for BC LNG will not be easy despite our generous tax and royalty regimes, but the way that methane leakage from fracking and LNG processing is measured has been updated with better data to show that it has little advantage over coal in reducing GHG.

There is no one answer to how this decoupling has been achieved – but there are some useful pointers in the article you just have to scroll down below that big table. But also there is, in BC, at present, a really good analysis of just how BC can improve its performance. And if you suppose that it might just be possible that none of the proposed LNG plants actually get built, and we elect a government in BC that is actually serious about reducing both CO2 and CH4 emissions – as opposed to just taking credit for past success – then progress does actually seem possible. Although if we try to do both, it’s very unlikely.

At the time of writing, there is still time to make yourself heard as part of the consultation on the BC Climate Leadership Plan. But even so, the table above ought to enough to silence the people who keep talking about growing the economy and saving the environment as though they were at odds with each other.

UPDATE From The Tyee interview with Nancy Oreskes, Harvard climate professor and co-author of Merchants of Doubt

Oreskes said Canada cannot seriously address climate change while also building more giant pipelines to deliver Alberta’s oil sands bitumen or British Columbia’s fracked natural gas to proposed export terminals on both coasts.

“If Trudeau can say we’re going to do all these things,” she said, “that says to me that they have not truly assimilated what is at stake here.”

Trudeau raised eyebrows when he told a Vancouver sustainable business summit last month that “the choice between pipelines and wind turbines is a false one. We need both to reach our [climate] goal.”

B.C. Premier Christy Clark similarly promotes liquefied natural gas as a climate solution: a “bridge fuel” to help China get off dirty coal power.

Oreskes called their positions dangerously “wishful thinking.”

Written by Stephen Rees

April 5, 2016 at 4:58 pm

Groups Call on Feds to Fund Transit, not Massey Bridge

with 3 comments

MasseyBridge_protest_Jan2016

Press Release from The Wilderness Committee and Fraser Voices

FV LOGO colour

Open letter urges government to review project and consider alternatives

RICHMOND, BC – Community and national organizations are calling on the federal government to launch an environmental review of the proposed Massey Tunnel Replacement Project and to withhold federal infrastructure funding from the project.

Resident group Fraser Voices, the Wilderness Committee, Council of Canadians and five other organizations representing over 160,000 members and supporters have sent an open letter urging the federal government to use the money it has promised for infrastructure to fund transit projects in Metro Vancouver instead of the new 10-lane highway bridge.

“This federal money gives Canadians an opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past and build a greener future,” said De Whalen, one of the founding members of Fraser Voices. “But the Massey Bridge is imposing the same old car culture from the 1950s.”

The federal government has said it will fund environmental and social infrastructure with its $10 billion per year stimulus money. Extra vehicles resulting from the Massey Bridge and will add about seven million tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere over 50 years.

“It is irresponsible to be building new highways during a climate crisis, especially when they do nothing to ease congestion,” said Peter McCartney, Climate Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee. “Even the mayor of Houston, Texas – with its 26-lane freeway – agrees it’s time to stop building highways and build transit instead.”

Community groups are hoping the federal budget next week will include funding for the Broadway Skytrain project and Surrey LRT instead. Along Highway 99, rapid bus service could ease congestion for a fraction of the $3.5 billion price tag of the proposed Massey Bridge.

application/pdf iconOpen letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mar. 17, 2016

 

Written by Stephen Rees

March 17, 2016 at 10:16 am