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Book Review “Blowout” by Rachel Maddow

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Published by Crown 2019

ISBN 978-0-525-57547-4

Ebook ISBN 978-0-525-57549-8

I am very fortunate to have a neighbour who likes to buy hardback books and then rather than keep them looks for someone who might like to read them. Even though $40 Canadian is, I suppose, not out of reach, it is still a delight to get my hands on an almost new book, for free. In this case, covering the history of the oil and gas industry is mostly familiar territory, although there is quite a lot here that I seem to have managed to miss at the time, or had perhaps just forgotten. And just because it is three years old does not mean it is out of date since nothing much has changed since it was published.

For any kind of life to continue on earth, the oil and gas industry must, as a matter of urgency, be brought under control. Its trajectory is still to expand the production of the fossil fuels that have now produced the unprecedented threat of the climate crisis.

“The oil and gas industry, as ever, is wholly incapable of any real self-examination, or of policing or reforming itself. Might as well ask the lions to take up a plant based diet. If we want the most powerful and consequential industry on our planet to operate safely, and rationally, and with actual accountability, well make it. It’s not mission-to-Mars complicated either, but it works”.

Maddow’s book is mainly concerned with the United States, of course. Not that matters in Canada are any different. We too pour subsidies at both federal and provincial level into oil companies whose profits have been growing exponentially. We used to get considerable revenues from the royalties levied on these companies. Now that is next to nothing and, at the same time, the favorable tax treatments and supports are in the billions on dollars. Yes billions with a B. Maddow does not mention how Norway has been treating the oil and gas industry – it is not even listed in the index – but that might have been a welcome sign that reform is possible. But probably not very likely as long as Republicans still dominate Congress. Though there was one shining moment that she does mention when both parties and both houses got together to ensure that Trump could not unilaterally cancel sanctions on Russia. Which was a very definite objective of Putin’s campaign to get him elected.

There is much detail of the recent activities of the industry, including of course the Deepwater Horizon – which got so much coverage at the time – as well as a second Gulf drilling rig leak which went on for much longer and was even worse but got hardly any attention. The Taylor oil spill started in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan struck. It remained a secret until 2010, and by 2018 was still leaking seven hundred barrels of oil into the Gulf every single day. The industry still has little more than paper towels and dish liquid to clean up spills and very little oversight to ensure that spills don’t happen. “For every 1,000 wells in state and federal waters, there’s an average of 20 uncontrolled releases – or blowouts – every year.” (US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement)

Then there is the tale of fracking and the damage to water resources, homes, farms and businesses from a vast earthquake “swarm”. Again Maddow has plenty on this but misses the way that the industry has been very much aware that it loses vast amounts of methane (a far worse greenhouse gas than CO2) but simply regards that as a cost of doing business – and not something that it highlights as in many cases the methane gas they do manage to capture is simply flared, as liquid fuel for motor vehicles is by far the greatest source of demand for the industry’s output. Outright lying, and obfuscation, is naturally the industry’s preferred method of dealing with this issue. Though they do have a commitment to increase the use of methane – “natural gas” – which is claimed to be the cleanest fuel when in reality it is anything but. It is only recently that I have seen mainstream media picking up the story that gas appliances in the home – mostly stoves – are responsible for indoor air quality to be worse than anything that would be permitted industrially. And in this region Terasen (which used to be BC Gas) is proposing a large LNG export terminal in the Fraser estuary at Tilbury. There is already a smaller terminal there and it is also the case that in the US, where ports get more oversight from local authorities than in Canada, would be very unlikely to be permitted due to the proximity of many other businesses and even residential development. LNG production and transportation in general is also bedevilled by methane leaks that are underreported and difficult to control.

Maddow has a very engaging style and the book reads very easily. There is a substantial (nearly 20 pages) of Notes on Sources. With, of course, copious links to information available online. And there is also a very careful analysis of the mind set and ambitions of Russian dictator Putin, including exactly why he has such a vast and successful social media presence and which has done so much damage to democracy and public discourse. It well worth the read. Both the book and the audiobook are currently available at the Vancouver Public Library but there is a short wait list for the ebook.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 2, 2022 at 12:20 pm

British Water

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This morning I got an email from The Guardian, a British newspaper that I subscribe to. This is a lightly edited extract from their newsletter – about how they get “scoops”.

<blockquote>… reporter Sandra Laville came across something rather curious that made her think ‘that’s funny’. In her case, it was a statistic. 

“I came across this figure that only 14 percent of waters in English rivers were of good ecological standard,” she recalls. “I thought ‘that’s really low’.”

She started asking questions – of officials, scientists at the Environment Agency, and crucially of campaigners determined to improve the quality of their local environment. 

The big breakthrough came when she secured data from water companies on when and where sewage had been released into rivers. When she totted up the answers it came to a total of 1.5m hours of dumping in a single year

“I remember swimming in the sea 25 years ago when there was a big scandal about sewage being poured into the ocean,” Sandra tells me. “I couldn’t believe this was happening in rivers too.” 

The revelations have put pressure on the authorities to come clean on the locations and instances of sewage discharge; on the water companies to take action and invest; and on the regulator to ensure that everyone improves their game. “Nothing will change overnight – this is a massive underinvestment in infrastructure,” Sandra says. “But this has really exposed what they have been doing.” 

</blockquote>

One of the leading reasons why I came to Canada was that I no longer wanted to be an Economic Adviser to the British Government. We were shared between the Department of Transport and the Department of the Environment, and I was going to be moved from looking at London Underground investments to Water Privatisation. And I did not want any part of it. In 1988 water in the UK was controlled by a network of Regional Water Authorities. They were very effective and a distinct improvement over the earlier patchwork quilt of Water Boards. In fact the reorganisation of those was also a significant factor in my earlier career at British Waterways Board in the early 1970s but that isn’t relevant.

Mostly I wanted to work on public transport issues. There did not seem to me to any justification for the privatisation of water. Indeed, it seemed to me that the only way it could be justified was that it would reduce “public spending” (i.e. using taxation revenues) and rely of private funding. For the private sector to make money they would need to find a way to create a profit margin in what was, at the time, absent as it was not needed by the public sector. It simply did not occur to me then that new water companies would seek to cut costs by dumping untreated wastewater in rivers and the sea – but that is what they have been doing.

One of the remarkable shifts in recent years has been the steady rejection of Hayek’s philosophy pursued by Margaret Thatcher and other right wing ideologues. Nearly every policy change introduced in the name conservatism has been shown to be fallacious. The claimed outcomes of better services at lower cost are never achieved in reality – though there has always been quite a bit of “clever” bookkeeping to make it look good. But it also seems that no matter how strong the evidence, when ostensibly left leaning, “progressive” parties get into power they fall into the same mire. Both BC NDP and federal Liberals are pursuing policies that are obviously designed to benefit the few over the broader public interest. This is most clearly true in the case of energy policies. Instead of picking the cleaner, more economically affordable renewable options, our governments are still choosing to support fossils – coal, oil and fracked gas. In transportation we still opt for more freeways and road expansions even though it is clear that this has never ever cured traffic congestion and can’t due to simple geometry. That we still have a mid twentieth century commitment to extending urban sprawl indefinitely which experience shows simply increases costs in general and “externalities” that we mostly try to ignore.

Today we heard the Throne Speech from Ottawa. What we needed to hear was that as a country we are going to change direction in view of the clear and present danger now posed by the climate crisis. For a long time governments at all levels have refused to face up to this challenge and pretend that business as usual can continue. We saw exactly that at COP26 in Glasgow. We got more of the same today from Justin Trudeau. The CG did not announce the end of fossil fuel subsidies and the cancellation of TMX. There was no mention of the export of US thermal coal through Canadian ports – which only happens because no local port community in the US will allow it. Canadian ports are only lightly managed – and that is a federal jurisdiction where local concerns account for nothing. There is a lot about cleaning up the most recent messes – but not very much about what needs to be done to cope with future issues which will inevitably be even worse, as the greenhouse gases that cause these disasters have already been emitted. Too many tipping points have already passed. Too little has been achieved through carbon capture and storage – except increasing the production of oil and gas. There are no offshore wind farms around here, very little geothermal power generation (despite huge potential) and not much in the way of energy storage or improvements to the grid to accommodate renewables. And there won’t be any time soon.

How bad does it have to get to see changes in policy? It has taken Britain 50 years to acknowledge that shutting down railway branch lines was short sighted and ineffective. The mess of water privatisation has also taken a similar amount of time to be acknowledged. In Canada our governments seem even more determined to refuse to change. But then we are still digging up asbestos to export – even though its use here is banned.(Even so, asbestos is still the number one cause of claims for worker compensation in BC.) We know what we are doing is not working. There was no major announcement about reductions of oil and gas extraction so now we know that big business is still calling the shots and humanity is doomed.

As Seth Klein just tweeted: “This #ThroneSpeech was an opportunity post-election, post-COP, post-floods to announce additional climate emergency initiatives & measures. The government took a pass. An exceptionally boring speech.”

In Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en… reconciliation and climate justice?

The following is a Newsletter I just received from the Be The Change Earth Alliance. Comments, pingbacks and trackbacks have been disabled for this post. If you want to do any of those things please use the links below. I regret that the way WordPress now handles a simple cut and paste command wrecks the HTML of the original. Despite the cranky formatting that results I trust this is still readable.

SPECIAL EDITION NEWSLETTER: Our newsletter this month is dedicated to supporting Wet’suwet’en land defenders and protesters, in solidarity with Indigenous rights, title and climate justice. Climate justice is at the heart of our work at Be the Change.

The concept of climate justice highlights how environmental and social justices issues intersect and are often inextricably linked. One such intersection, deeply rooted in the essence of Canada’s Nationhood, relates to reconciliation and the long history of colonial institutions promoting, protecting and expanding large scale resource extraction projects on traditional Indigenous territory. It’s important to recognize that these land intensive projects are consistently upheld by violence toward Indigenous peoples and direct ignorance of Indigenous rights and title to unceded, unsurrendered land sought out by our government and fossil fuel giants for profit.

 Climate justice and reconciliation go hand in hand.

Recently, our Provincial and Federal governments and RCMP forces have been criticized for a string of injunctions and invasions of Wet’suwet’en people and protesters, which are alleged to have broken Wet’suwet’en, Canadian and International Law. Indigenous protesters have been blocking Coastal Gaslink from accessing their territory to construct the single largest private investment in Canadian history- a 6.6 billion dollar fracked gas pipeline that would extend 670-kilometers from Dawson Creek, B.C. to the coastal town of Kitimat, where LNG Canada’s processing plant would be located. 

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Each clan within the Wet’suwet’en Nation has full jurisdiction under their law to control access to their territory. 

Under ‘Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law) all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en 

have unanimously opposed all pipeline proposals and have not provided free, prior, and informed consent to Coastal Gaslink/ TransCanada to do work on Wet’suwet’en lands.” (Unist’ot’en

Coastal Gaslink has also yet to receive approval from the province’s Environmental Assessment Office they require to begin work. Outside Wet’suwet’en law, the hereditary chiefs’ land claim is backed by a 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision.

Free, prior and informed consent is a human rights requirement under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which ironically, BC recently became the first province to have enshrined it into law. 

Local RCMP have been condemned for a number of actions at the blockade sites.

 Over the last month and a half following an injunction to remove Wet’suwet’en people from their own unceded territory, Police forces have been documented arresting Indigenous Matriarchs in ceremony, dismantling healing structures, including a ceremony for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, sawing through a sign reading “Reconciliation” and were exposed to have been prepared to use lethal force on Indigenous protesters and violating freedom of the press.

Dozens of peaceful land defenders have been arrested locally.The violence in Unist’ot’en sparked National protest, with railway and shipping roadways being blocked in Vancouver, Delta, Hazelton (BC) Toronto, Belleville (Ont), Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton, which have shut down rail transport across the country. There have also been a number of rallies and occupations of government offices in BC and other provinces– all in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en.

If you are a teacher, you may see that BCTF has also released a letter of support. Protest seems to be working, as the RCMP have begun to leave the area, as Canadian officials feel the economic pressure of halted railway networks and seek talks with hereditary chiefs. The Canadian government has also postponed bringing an UNDRIP motion to the table in response to the crisis.Source: https://www.ubyssey.ca/news/Indigenous-student-groups-to-fundraise-for-legal-fund/

Reconciliation is not a destination, it is a road that we walk.

It means listening openly, learning and owning the responsibility we have to mend the past and build Nation-to-Nation relationships moving forward- even when it feels inconvenient. It means showing up with resources to offer and acting in solidarity against injustices toward indigenous peoples. Wet’suwet’en also offers us the opportunity to see and feel climate injustice, as we watch another indigenous community fight for their inherent rights and title, while fighting to protect land and climate for all of us, as our Canadian governments attempt to push through another fossil fuel megaproject. Climate justice means changing this story.

We invite you to use this as a learning moment on a continued legacy of violent oppression of Indigenous Peoples and on the importance of respecting the varying perspectives and beliefs of First Nations who refuse to align with Canada’s colonial interests not true to their people. Let’s also remember the reason Indigenous rights are being violated- to protect and uphold the production of fossil fuels at a time when we have only 10 years to rapidly cut our global emissions in half.

Indigenous Peoples are leading the environmental movement. Together, we can collectively step into this space and hold it, own it, and change it.   What can you do?There are a number of resources you may use to teach others or take action, including this toolkit produced by the Unist’ot’en resistance (visit for more info and actions). Some actions requested by Unist’ot’en resistance are:DONATE/FUNDRAISE Donate to Gidimt’en Access PointDonate to Unist’ot’en Legal FundHold a fundraiser to help the Unist’ot’en with the prohibitive legal costs designed to be in favour of industry.  Follow the Solidarity Fundraiser Protocols. EDUCATEHost a film screening of the new documentary, Invasion. Create a lesson on reconciliation and its connection to climate justice for students. (BCTF and the BC Curriculum now have resources for teaching Indigneous education)Sign up for the Unist’ot’en Camp Newsletter.Share posts on social media, talk to your community, keep eyes on the Unist’ot’en and Wet’suwet’en!BUILD SOLIDARITYAnswer the Callout for Solidarity Actions in your region!Sign the Pledge to support the Unist’ot’en.Source: https://raventrust.com/2020/01/07/act-now-in-solidarity-with-wetsuweten-tell-coastal-gaslink-to-uphold-indigenous-rights/
Be The Change Earth Alliance
http://www.bethechangeearthalliance.org/Be The Change Earth Alliance · 949 W 49th Ave, Vancouver, BC V5Z2T1, Canada

Written by Stephen Rees

February 28, 2020 at 9:36 am

Posted in pipelines, politics

Canadians sign petition to Trudeau in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation

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Almost 30,000 Canadians across the country have united by signing an online petition – Solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation 2020 – started by Indigenous Solidarity Ottawa.  Canadians signed in support of members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation who have been “stewarding and protecting their traditional territories from the destruction of multiple pipelines”, including Coastal GasLink’s (CGL) liquified natural gas (LNG) pipeline.

 The petition addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, John Horgan, Premiere of B.C., and Mike Farnworth, B.C. Public Safety Minister asks that the following demands are met:

  • Stop colonial violence: stop using the RCMP or any other force to harass and criminalize Indigenous peoples from protecting their land, water, air and cultures, as well as dispossess Indigenous peoples of their traditional unceded territories;
  • Immediately remove the RCMP from the Wet’suwet’en territory;
  • Respect the sovereignty as well as the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples as stated in the UN Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples – which Canada has signed and BC has put into provincial law – which includes respecting the refusal of pipelines and other resource-extracting projects that are damaging to the environment and for which the Wet’suwet’en nation have not given free, prior and informed consent to;
  • Stop violently supporting those members of the 1% who are stealing resources and condemning our children to a world rendered uninhabitable by climate change.

The concerns for safety addressed in this petition are widespread. Video footage of an RCMP officer pointing his firearm at Indigenous land defenders was posted to the social media account of the Gidimt’en clan (one of five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation whose hereditary chiefs oppose the pipeline). It shows police moving into the clan’s camp on the Morice West Forest Service Road near Houston, B.C. on February 7. The RCMP defended the actions of their officers.

RCMP also arrested 28 land defenders and matriarchs during the enforcement of the interlocatory injunction approved by Justice Church. One person remains in custody. Charges are pending as CGL has requested Crown intervention. The rest of the land defenders are to appear before the Supreme Court in Prince George in late April 2020.

In his address to Parliament on Tuesday, Trudeau described the situation as “a critical moment for our country and for our future.” Trudeau says his government remains open to discussions.  He has said that he will not forcibly remove the blockades, but economic pressure builds.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who joined other First Nations leaders in Ottawa on Tuesday, said “Our people are taking action because they want to see action. When they see positive action by the key players, when they see a commitment to real dialogue to address this difficult situation, people will respond in a positive way.”

 The below quotes are from petition signers across the country:

“RCMP invasion of Indigenous territory is wrong on every level, not to mention embarrassing. The RCMP is helping a foreign fossil fuel consortium build a pipeline to transport the very fuel whose extraction is ruining northern ecology and ultimately, our water supplies. The RCMP is protecting one of the most damaging industries on the planet.” – Carole Tootil, Nanaimo, BC

“Time to abide by the law and find another route, even if it costs more money. A mistake was made by not honouring the original land rights and only going to band councils. Time to fix it and not continue the mistakes of the past.” – Raisa Jari, Toronto, ON

“I am Wet’suwet’en and after 150 years enough is enough! My child and my family use this land for cultural activities and everyone made this decision except us. We can’t even return there anymore. By the time they have left their construction zone in their wake my boy will be a young teen. The rest of his childhood will be displaced from our favourite and most loved places. Not to mention the issues of climate change.” – Carla Lewis, Burns Lake, BC

“I’m in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation and other land protectors. Stop extracting and fracking, stop building pipelines and invest in alternative energy projects, and involve First Nations in that pursuit.” – Dr. Thilo Joerger, Sackville, NB

“I feel the Wet’suwet’en people are protecting land that is rightfully theirs.” – Doreen Mason, Windermere, ON

“There is so much injustice in the provincial government and Coastal gas not considering the Wet’suwet’en proposal for an alternate route and sending in the RCMP to unlawfully occupy their land. They should have the right of all nations to have consent to use their territory as they wish and not suffer violence and externally imposed laws forced upon them.” – Fiona Lee, Vancouver, BC

“Canadians are standing up for what they want. This is not going away. Canada, let all voices be heard.” – Jane Rathbun, Waverley, NS

For more information please see: https://www.change.org/wet-suwet-en

Written by Stephen Rees

February 20, 2020 at 10:43 am

Posted in pipelines, politics

Fighting the climate wreckers

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The article that I am going to point you to is concerned about the fight against fossil fuel companies in the United States.

“The Climate-Wrecking Industry—and How to Beat It” appears in Sierra Magazine copied from The Nation

While acknowledging that there is strength in numbers, some legal observers say the magic number for success is one: A single judgment against the oil companies would be enough to change their political calculus about the value of continued intransigence. “I think, in some respects, it’s less about how many cases are filed, [and more about] whether a judge rules in favor of a city or county or state. That will open the floodgates,” says Ann Carlson, a professor at the UCLA School of Law who has followed the climate-liability cases closely.

Well, we may just have seen that success here. The decision by The Federal Court of Appeal at long last recognises that the approval process for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was fundamentally flawed. The case did not, however, turn on climate change but on two other considerations – the failure to consult First Nations adequately and the impact of the project on the resident orcas of the Salish Sea. And it was not an American Company (Kinder Morgan) that lost, it was the governments of Canada and Alberta. In fact the Premier of Alberta was so angry that she withdrew her province from the federal climate plan. As though that makes any real difference.

Kinder Morgan of course is jubilant. Justin Trudeau bought their old, leaky pipeline and lumbered himself with the apparent obligation to complete an expansion which they long ago realised was not only very risky environmentally but also highly unlikely to be viable. They get pockets full of our cash and slide away from the liabilities.

Trudeau and Notley between them have both – in post decision speeches – announced their determination to proceed with pipeline expansion which immediately throws huge doubt on their ability to convince anyone that their subsequent commitments at the negotiations over First Nations rights and the long term survival of the orcas are being conducted in a fair or objective manner. It seems that they are adopting the negotiating tactic adopted by 45 over NAFTA known as Boulwarism. Whenever anyone sits down at the table to talk about the pipeline they will have to accept the precondition that the government has committed to seeing it built no matter what.

Sooner or later the realisation has to dawn in Edmonton and Ottawa that they are both wrong. There cannot be action climate change and tarsands expansion at the same time. The tarsands are one of the worst fuels in terms of emissions. Equally, just getting the dilbit to saltwater does not solve the issue of the low price that diluted bitumen achieves on the world market. There are plenty of other sources of petroleum that are easier to deal with and currently the market is over-supplied. In future the rapidly declining costs of solar and wind alone will make renewables even more attractive, and better technologies than burning liquid fuels are going to take over the transportation industry as well as many others. If other places do want heavy oils, there are better placed suppliers. After all, only relatively small vessels can load at Burnaby and get under the Second Narrows Bridge. The project plan was actually to tranship into larger vessels on the west coast somewhere – as though that were an attractive option for preserving fragile marine ecosystems.

Much of the current mainstream media is, of course, trying to play down the significance of the decision – and I am not going to point to any of it. The big players are all in the same game, and outlets like PostMedia recognise their dependence on big oil and the related organisations. These are the same people who maintain the fiction that we are dependant on fossil fuels.

the ultimate responsibility lies with the general public and its appetite for energy. The rhetorical sleight of hand perfectly captures the climate wreckers’ classic talking point: Since you can’t live without us, we’re innocent.

Actually we can live without you and many are already moving convincingly in that direction. It is sad that the Government of Canada has decided to invest so much in a pipeline that is not needed, but then governments both provincially and federally continue to subsidize fossil fuel production: we are just throwing good money after bad. Jack up the the royalties to the same level as Norway and insist on adequate protection of the sources of water that get destroyed by tailing ponds and fracking and the market would start to transform at a much faster pace. All that is happening right now is that North America is falling ever further behind the rest of the world (except Australia) which is showing us how we can tackle climate change.

We have had a terrible summer – and the fires are still mostly burning even if the local smoke has blown away for now. The ice is melting in places where we have never seen it melt before. The weather is getting worse faster than anyone predicted.  Even the oil companies themselves are asking government to commit to building dykes to protect the refineries which are actually creating the sea level rise they are worried about. Climate change is not a problem for the future, it is a major problem here, now. Yet we are currently committed to increases in greenhouse gas emissions – not the reductions we signed up for in Paris, which were anyway wholly inadequate to deal with the problem.

Perhaps the next court victory will actually deal with the broader issue of environmental protection rather than just the sorry state of the resident orcas. Because it seems clear that at the moment neither Notley nor Trudeau has a grasp on reality, and not only will the big fossil fuel companies be in court on these issues, but so will our governments.

Yes, that includes BC since we are still committed to Site C, which is designed mostly to promote LNG exports to Alberta to melt more tar.

BC Budget 2018

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Thumbnail_Highlights

You can read the whole thing on the BC Gov website or Justin McElroy on the CBC ‘s summary. Basically a commitment to increase necessary spending in the right areas which is being funded by increases in taxes on the corporations and the wealthy. So I am generally in favour.

But what is missing is a much needed correction of former BC Liberal policies which saw a giveaway of our natural resources. Once upon a time oil and gas revenues from leases and royalties made a significant contribution to our provincial budget. That is no longer the case, and ought to have been corrected by the new NDP (+ Green) government.

Two reasons leap out. Horgan retains Christy’s silly obsession with LNG, as well as Site C (which will increase GHG emissions) and, quite possibly, given the federal Liberals commitment the potential TMX pipeline expansion too. Our emissions are not going down even though it is quite clear from the state of the Arctic ice alone that this is a problem we are not tackling. Melting permafrost, with consequent releases of methane and mercury, are immediate threats, not something in the future.

But secondly the whole budget rests on a somewhat hopeful outcome of the ICBC debacle. I think the idea that somehow economic growth and a reasonable approach from personal injury lawyers is going to be enough is overly optimistic. We are going to need the revenues from oil and gas royalties and leases sooner rather than later.

But also, the whole fight with Alberta over the pipeline starts to look a bit different  when you consider how much diluting bitumen for pumping down the pipe depends on BC natural gas and its condensate. (For that thought I acknowledge the twitter feed of Eric Doherty.) The entire project is based on a falsehood, that there will be a market in Asia for dilbit at a higher price than the US refiners are currently willing to pay. It becomes less attractive to the US market (where nearly all of the exports go now) if the BC fuels it depends on have to pay some fairer share of the costs on our local environment and the fact that the resource is not renewable. There is a real reason to fear the loss of jobs at the Burnaby refinery if TMX is all about exports. We need to make sure that we are getting money for value. That isn’t case at the giveaway prices set by Clark.

AFTERTHOUGHT

Yeah, well there was something else that wasn’t in the budget. It would have been really welcome if the NDP had reversed some of Christy Clark cuts to the Public Service Pension. Of course, when these were announced they came with the message “these changes protect your pension” but what they actually meant was that the government was going to stop picking up the tab for some essential health services – so the pension paid out now has to pay for the things that are no longer covered. First up was MSP, of course, but at least that will be going if not immediately. Then there was extended health care, where coverage is now distinctly chintzy. A couple of fillings today cost me $200. And I will need either a denture (over $2,000 – some coverage) or an implant (near $7,000  – no coverage at all) soon. More of that would have been covered under the old plan.

And of course many Canadians have no dental coverage at all.


“As announced in September, starting on April 1 the carbon tax will rise by $5 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. It will be the first of four annual increases and will bring the price on carbon to $50 per tonne of emissions in 2021.”

source: The Tyee

Written by Stephen Rees

February 21, 2018 at 3:58 pm

The National Interest

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“It is the national interest to move forward with the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and we will be moving forward with the Kinder Morgan pipeline.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, today, in Nanaimo

The national interest requires that we adhere to our international commitments. The rest of the world (with the notable exception of the United States) is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Canada signed on to the Paris agreement – which I thought meant that we shared that commitment.

“We don’t have a plan to meet Paris target, and reduction shortfall is about same as GHG growth from tar sands, which account for vast majority of national emissions growth”
Kathryn Harrison, Professor of Political Science UBC via Twitter (By the way, Jason MacLean of USaskLaw also chipped in to the Twitter conversation with this paper – but it is in draft and warns “do not cite or quote”)

To be clear, that idea that we can avoid a 2℃ increase in the global average temperature seems to be shrinking in the rear view mirror. If we were reducing emissions then perhaps that would not be the case but since we have now passed 400ppm it seems to me very unlikely. It is the “tipping point” that catches us. It really was a deadline, because once past that the permafrost starts melting and that releases more carbon than we have released since the industrial revolution. It is not clear if that can be stopped. We talk about this being a threat to human civilisation, but it is an existential threat to life itself as we know it. The planet will survive, and adapt. In aeons of time. But we won’t be around to see it and much of the life with which we share so much of our DNA will be gone. So will many low lying islands in the Pacific, and much of the current coastline. Because the methane from our fracking was ignored, our emissions weren’t getting better as we thought, but very much worse. And what has already been emitted is now the problem. And “carbon capture and storage” is mostly a pipedream. And the carbon contribution from oil sands extraction is not trivial even if we do not count burning the stuff we manage to export.

Digging up bitumen for export to Asia is an unlikely economic venture, since the market is currently awash in better, cheaper, easier to deal with oil. And other sources of energy have now proved to be cheaper than fossil fuels in many applications. But we are convinced, against all evidence to the contrary, that somehow expanding extraction of the oil sands is necessary for Canada’s well being. The current extraction is uneconomic. It would not be happening without billions in subsidies from us, the hard pressed citizens. Somehow, the profits of a few corporations are far more important than the well being of ordinary Canadians.

In the more immediate future, the local resident orcas will be gone. Even if we actually manage to stop the pipeline, the lack of salmon that they feed on is already an issue. I do recall when we were campaigning against freeway expansion that we lamented the lack of charismatic megafauna to feature in our arguments. (The Nooksack Dace didn’t quite fit the bill despite the “don’t diss de dace” plea.) Well, if the most intelligent mammals on the planet don’t fit that description, I don’t know what does. But apparently the survival of the resident orcas isn’t in the National Interest, even though tourism is one of the most economically significant issues of the Pacific coast – along with fishing – and the people who depend on the health of its ecosystem.

There will be a spill. There has already been one, but that was at the terminal, so that was actually cleaned up. Quite what happens when the spill is out in more open waters, in worse weather isn’t clear. The idea that somehow the diluent (condensate from natural gas) is going to hang around long enough so the rescuers can scoop up the bitumen seems far fetched to me. It wasn’t the case in the Kalamazoo River. And “world class spill response” that we have seen so far for other kinds of spills has been less than impressive.  Which is why the province is saying that we need to get that right before the spill happens, which seems only reasonable to me. Because, once again, once the bitumen hits the bottom of the sea it is almost impossible to recover and the long term impacts, while we cannot be precise, are not going to be good.

The pipeline crosses the traditional lands of several First Nations. Prime Minister Trudeau has made a large number of speeches about reconciliation. Apparently that too is a National Interest only for as long as it does not butt up against some generous contributor to party funds.

Justin Trudeau, Rachel Notley and John Horgan all share in the same ethos. They were elected because they represented change from former conservative governments. The conservatives were wrong about nearly everything. None of the outcomes they predicted for their policies have come about. Instead we have seen an increase in the wealth of very few at the expense of the many. Wealth did not trickle down from tax cuts. Wages remain stubbornly low – except for CEOs. Housing remains unaffordable for many. In too many places there are still totally unacceptable threats to clean air, clean water and edible food. We keep being told we cannot afford essential services like health, education and childcare. All three of these politicians, elected to bring about change, are stuck in the past, clinging to outdated ideas and technologies. The National Interest is that we join the leaders in clean energy and renewable resources. We can no longer simply cut down more trees or dig up more minerals when we need more money. We have a huge legacy from these outdated industries – asbestos, tailing ponds, poisoned land and water are problems in nearly every part of the country. Trains blow up in the middle of towns, cars continue to kill thousands every year, schools cannot withstand expected earthquakes – the list is long and daunting. Keeping jobs in the oil sands does not seem to be one of the best ways forward – especially in a week when one of the largest operators announces that it is laying people off and buying self driving trucks. Given these problems, clinging stubbornly to a failed philosophy seems to me to be indefensible.

It is really sad that the people who went to Nanaimo to bring these problems to the Prime Minister’s attention failed miserably – and are now charged with the worst imaginable Canadian sin. Being impolite.

For more about the National Interest and how NEB defends its decisions you should really read this oped by Elizabeth May  

 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

February 2, 2018 at 3:52 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

There Will Be Spills

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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