Stephen Rees's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Enbridge

Northern Gateway Pipeline

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It is of no surprise to me that the Joint Review Panel concluded that the project should proceed – with many conditions. Let us not forget that the JRP is a creature of the proponent – and the National Energy Board is a regulator that is entirely captive to the industry it is meant to regulate. The federal government has already made it very clear that is supports the pipeline and the expansion of the Alberta tarsands, and has gutted the environmental rules and regulations that would once have ensured a more scientific analysis. The JRP is also not a popularity contest so the number of opponents appearing before it at public hearings has no influence on the outcome. Of course opponents greatly outnumbered those in favour. That is because the people who are going to ensure that this project is pushed through no matter what do not need to concern themselves about this process. The oligarchy that now rules this country – and this province – only maintains processes like this as a public relations exercise. A bit like elections.

Watching the coverage on the CBC News last night I thought it was interesting that as the program progressed, so the coverage added a bit more balance. First time up at 5:00 there was no mention at all of climate change – by 6:00 that has been corrected. Enbridge’s mendacious map which eliminated the islands between Kitimat and the open sea was in evidence again – but by 6:00 retiring news anchor Tony Parsons at least mentioned the islands in his voice over.

I have not read the panel report – and last night the twitter feed was full of complaints about how slow the web site was.  I do not see much point, since the panel is not at all concerned about the major issue for me. The bitumen should remain in the ground. Rushing to develop the tar sands is a very foolish strategy indeed since it is dumping far too much oil on a market that is already saturated thanks to the discoveries of much lighter crudes under the Bakken field. This is the crude which exploded so fatally in Lac Megantic. Moreover, the Chinese are switching their attention to other fuels – not least due to their dreadful local air pollution. Even the oil companies themselves are beginning to anticipate that international rules are going to have to be introduced which will add to the price of carbon fuels. And the EU is being pressured to pass a law that will label fuels according to how much carbon they emit over their entire wells-to-wheels lifecycle – which could make Alberta tar sands output unsaleable.

The Green Party position set out by Andrew Weaver and Adam Olsen does not, in my view, give sufficient prominence to climate change. I regard it as the number one issue facing all of us.  Yes I understand the political necessity of focussing on the economy and jobs, and the shortcomings of the way the JRP treats dilbit spills. No-one knows what will happen to the dilbit if there is a spill. It is not even agreed on whether or not the stuff will float! But we also know for an absolute certainty that we cannot hope to keep the current rate of increase in carbon emissions going any longer. The idea that a 2℃ limit on global warming is now possible has been recognized  as unattainable! I oppose the Enbridge expansion for the same reason I oppose coal terminal expansions in our port. Local environmental impacts – which are likely severe – are actually the least problematic aspect of both cases.
Global Climate Change NSA graph

Andrew Weaver leaves the following as his parting shot. If the idea of living on  a planet that is going to be hotter than at any time in the past when life was present does not scare you, then perhaps you will take comfort from this

 building a future economy based solely on the exploitation of a depleting resource will not steer us towards the low-carbon pathway that so many other nations are choosing to follow. That’s why British Columbia should seize the opportunity of promoting the expansion of our clean technology (cleantech) industry.

 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

December 20, 2013 at 11:38 am

“Doing Enbridge’s homework” by Elizabeth May MP September 12, 2013

This post appears today on Island Tides and her own web site. Because of its significance I am copying it here in its entirety, but closing comments. 

Elizabeth May MP

The very idea that the federal government, having slashed scientific research into climate change, freshwater science, ozone depletion and contamination of marine mammals (to provide an incomplete list) would be running a gold-plated research project called “the Northern Gateway project” is a stunner. The fact that $78 million is to be spent in 2013-14 on research as to how bitumen mixed with diluent will disperse in the marine environment, as well as better weather forecasting along proposed tanker routes in and out of Kitimat, with $42 million set for next year was shocking. The documents leaked from sources inside the federal government included numbers never made public.

I suppose I should not have been surprised that the response from Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was to say that somehow Dr Andrew Weaver, Green MLA from Oak Bay–Gordon Head and I had simply missed a public announcement of the funding.

It is marginally better than denying that what we revealed to the press was true. Instead, Oliver said we had not done our homework. He claimed this was all in the public domain, announced on March 18, 2013. I remember that press conference vividly. Natural Resources minister Joe Oliver and then Transport Minister Denis Lebel stood against the background of the Vancouver waterfront to announce their ‘World-Class Tanker Safety System.’ I actually watched their whole press conference on CPAC and had gone through the Natural Resources website to correct errors. It was bizarre to hear Joe Oliver claim that we had simply missed that the federal government was spending over $100 million on something called ‘the Northern Gateway project.’

I went back and reviewed that file. True, the press release said that ‘The government will conduct scientific research on non-conventional petroleum products, such as diluted bitumen, to enhance understanding of these substances and how they behave when spilled in the marine environment.’ In fact, the only substance they are studying is dilbit in the research programme called the Northern Gateway project – no ‘such as’ about it. The research is essentially a disguised subsidy to Enbridge which was supposed to have done this work and presented it to the Joint Review Panel. The key reason that the BC government submitted its objections to the project in the hearings was the failure of Enbridge to provide any evidence of the environmental fate and persistence of dilbit, either in a pipeline (terrestrial) or tanker (marine) spills.

Oliver managed to get a good chunk of media to accept that we were scandalized by something that was well-known. Nothing in the Vancouver event this spring suggested to those of us paying the most attention that the federal government was trying to fill the gaps in Enbridge’s evidence.

Nor was there anything in the announcement to suggest infrastructure investments in better weather forecasting for tanker traffic routes in and out of Kitimat.

We have placed the key documents on the Green Party of Canada website. I hope that people will go to the original documents and decide for themselves if this was something we all knew.

Hansard: June 6th, 2013

To the contrary, I asked very directly in the House if the Prime Minister planned to push the Enbridge project through:

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP): Mr. Speaker, in 2001, the Prime Minister wrote a famous letter to the former premier of Alberta in which he urged him to act “to limit the extent to which an aggressive and hostile federal government can encroach upon legitimate provincial jurisdiction”. Six days ago, the provincial government of British Columbia said no to the Enbridge project. It said that Enbridge had completely failed to demonstrate any evidence that it knew how to clean up a spill or even knew what would happen with the bitumen and diluent.

Will the Prime Minister confirm that under no circumstances will the federal government become the aggressive and hostile government that approves a project as long British Columbians say no?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the project in question, of course, is subject to a joint review panel process. Obviously, we believe in the rule of law and in adjudicating these things based on scientific and policy concerns. The government will obviously withhold its decision on the matter until we see the results of the panel and its work.

Many may conclude it was only prudent of the federal government to spend over $100 million on ‘world class’ work in support of a project which is subject to a review process not yet completed. On the other hand, I think Stephen Harper’s claim that (as he said twice) “obviously” he will wait for the panel recommendation before deciding about Enbridge is undermined by this spending. When one follows the money, it all leads to supporting Enbridge.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 12, 2013 at 8:18 am