Tag Archives: Enbridge

Oil cleanup continues after pipeline spill south of Regina

21 Jan

Jan.19.2014

Enbridge Inc. says it has restarted the Alberta Clipper pipeline after it was shut down briefly due to an oil spill in southern Saskatchewan.

The leak happened at the Rowatt pumping station just south of Regina on Saturday just before 11 a.m. CST. 

It’s estimated that about 125 barrels were released. That’s enough to fill a small tank truck.

Normally, about 449, 000 barrels per day flows through the pipeline. 

The company said most of the crude oil was contained to the grounds of the Rowatt station, but high winds sprayed some of the oil onto a nearby farm field. 

Provincial officials including emergency response crews were notified, Enbridge said. 

“There is no impact to the public, wildlife or waterways,” the company said in a statement released Saturday. 

The cause of the spill has not yet been determined, and is under investigation. 

The National Energy Board is also responding to the spill. An emergency response team is at the site to monitor and assess the company’s immediate response.

Republished from cbc.ca: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/oil-cleanup-continues-after-pipeline-spill-south-of-regina-1.2502725?cmp=rss

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More options for crude export in Canada may help Keystone XL’s case in U.S., consultant says

12 Apr

By Dave Cooper, Edmonton Journal April 9, 2013

EDMONTON – The push for tougher greenhouse-gas rules in Canada and plans for a new crude pipeline to Atlantic Canada may help make the case for the Keystone XL pipeline, says a Washington-based energy consultant.

In a research note, Robert Johnston of the Eurasia Group, said he expects approval of the northern leg of the Keystone XL between Alberta and Nebraska by late summer, despite the recent spill of Alberta heavy crude in Arkansas, which has been highlighted by critics of the proposed Keystone line.

Johnston said the bitumen spill on the ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline “created significant headline risk and could generate further delays” for U.S. federal approval. But this is balanced by recent proposals for stricter greenhouse-gas emission rules in Canada which are being pushed by the Alberta government, and further progress on TransCanada’s proposed “Energy East” pipeline which will deliver oilsands output to Atlantic Canada.

Johnston noted the Arkansas spill “has driven a strong response by the environmental community in Washington, which is virtually united in opposing Keystone XL.” He adds the spill “is being used to re-engage the administration following public comments by President (Barack) Obama in San Francisco last week that were interpreted as more favourable for Keystone XL approval.”

Johnston notes the Keystone will have a number of new “smart” systems to detect and respond to leaks, and will be built with better materials than those used in the 60-year-old Pegasus pipeline.

And the push for an eastern outlet, with TransCanada’s plans to convert one of its underused natural gas pipelines to carry crude and extend the line from Montreal to Saint John, N.B., with its large Irving refinery, has shown there is another option to Keystone XL.

That, in combination with Enbridge’s plans to reverse its existing line to Montreal so western light crude can reach the Suncor refinery there, will weaken the environmentalists’ argument that stopping Keystone will halt oilsands development.

“The Keystone XL alternatives are crucial as they underpin the argument that the GHG (greenhouse gas) impact of KXL itself will be neutral, as the oilsands will be produced and brought to market with or without the KXL project,” said Johnston.

However, using rail or the TransCanada line to the east are still not the best choices for many producers, since those options will be more expensive than using the Keystone line.

Eurasia notes the 45-day comment period on the draft of the U.S. environmental impact statement is set to expire on April 22 unless it is extended. If it expires, it will take an additional one to two months to prepare the final statement, which would then have to undergo an inter-agency review of up to 90 days.

“Sources contacted by Eurasia Group are divided over whether the White House would use most or all of that time. On balance, while approval remains highly likely, timing now looks more likely to be late summer versus late spring,” said the report.

Republished from the Edmonton Journal: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/business/energy-resources/More+options+crude+export+Canada+help/8218564/story.html

Enbridge Lawyers Question Opponents at Northern Gateway Pipeline Hearings

12 Apr

April 9, 2013 – CP

PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. – Lawyers for Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB) are getting their turn to question opponents of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline as hearings examining the project continue in Prince Rupert.

Enbridge spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht says company lawyers want more detail about research methods and evidence presented at the joint review panel hearings by groups critical of a twinned pipeline between Alberta and B.C.’s West Coast.

Giesbrecht says questions this week will focus on spill projections offered by environmentalists and First Nations, as well as the groups’ perceived impacts of the $6-billion project.

Enbridge wants to know more about how critics built their case against the 1,200-kilometre line, which would carry bitumen for shipment overseas, while condensate, a substance used to thin heavy crude, would be piped back to Alberta.

Lawyers cross-examined experts from the Gitga’at First Nation on Monday, questioning the group about the size of its population and how members believe the pipeline could impact their natural resources.

The joint review panel must hear interveners and federal government officials questioned under oath, in advance of final arguments slated for May. The panel report is due by the end of the year. (CFTK)

Republished from Yahoo News Canada: http://ca.news.yahoo.com/enbridge-lawyers-opponents-northern-gateway-pipeline-hearings-171011794–finance.html

Harper Government Touts Northern Gateway Benefits While Announcing Trade Mission

6 Apr

By Peter O’Neil, Vancouver Sun April 3, 2013

 
Harper government touts Northern Gateway benefits while announcing trade mission
 Douglas Channel, the proposed termination point for an oil pipeline in the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, is pictured in an aerial view in Kitimat . The coastal city is now on the forefront of the province’s energy boom, which has been predicted to bring $181 billion in investment in natural gas to B.C. between 2012 and 2035.

Photograph by: Darryl Dyck, The Canadian Press Files , Postmedia News

OTTAWA – The Harper government touted the benefits of Enbridge Inc.’s proposed $6.5 billion Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline to Kitimat while announcing in Vancouver Wednesday the launch of a new trade mission to Asia.

Trade Minister Ed Fast, speaking at the Pacific Energy Summit, said he and Minister of State Alice Wong will lead a mission of Canadian businesspeople to Japan and China April 7-12.

Fast said he will meet with his Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, to discuss Japan’s recently-announced interest in joining negotiations leading to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement with the U.S., Canada, Australia and a number of other Asia-Pacific countries.

Executives with 19 companies will join the trade mission in Japan, and 11 in China.

“The trade leadership shown by Japan’s new government truly is a positive sign for the entire global economy,” Fast is to say, according to a draft of the speech provided to The Vancouver Sun.

Fast also stressed in his speech B.C.’s potential to meet Asia’s energy needs with up to five Liquefied Natural Gas projects now being developed.

In addition to natural gas riches “Canada’s oil sands have enormous potential to fuel demand throughout the Asia-Pacific region.”

Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway project must still pass the “rigourous” joint National Energy Board-Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency review that’s due to be completed by the end of the year.

But if it does the project could deliver 525,000 barrels of oil a day to Asian markets.

“There is, therefore, considerable incentive on both sides of the Pacific to make oil pipeline and B.C.’s LNG projects work,” according to Fast.

“Canada does not currently export LNG to Japan and exports very little crude oil and petroleum products there.

“We want to change that. We must change that.”

Fast’s speech also stresses Canada’s vow to reduce by 2020 Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels, even though a Pembina Institute report Tuesday suggested that this goal will be almost impossible to meet given projected growth in oil sands and LNG production.

The Harper government has at times appeared cautious about making firm statements that suggest it backing any specific oilsands pipeline, and there are currently two being developed. Kinder Morgan is also pitching a $5.4 billion project to twin its existing pipeline from the Edmonton area to Burnaby.

Last summer, for instance, Heritage Minister James Moore criticized Enbridge after a scathing U.S. regulatory agency’s report on the company’s failures during a massive spill in Michigan in 2010.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver doesn’t tend to mention either project in speeches, even though he has long stressed the need for Canada to find a way to get diluted bitumen to markets other than the U.S.

However, Oliver also has shown no hesitation, when faced with direct questions, to promote the financial payoff if the projects pass environmental reviews.

“In respect to Northern Gateway what we see are tremendous economic benefits, the creation of tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions or billions of dollars to governments starting with the government of British Columbia and an opportunity for First Nations to participate in the economic and employment benefits,” Oliver said in Vancouver in February while replying to a question after a speech.

Republished from the Vancouver Sun: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Harper+government+touts+Northern+Gateway+benefits+while+announcing+trade+mission/8189060/story.html

Arkansas Spill Shows ‘Nightmare Scenario’ if Keystone Approved, Group Warns

6 Apr

By The Canadian Press – April 2, 2013

 
Arkansas spill shows ‘nightmare scenario’ if Keystone approved, group warns (with video)
 

Crude oil from a ruptured pipeline spills into a drainage ditch leading into Lake Conway in Mayflower, Ark. Residents may be displaced for weeks, officials said, as crews continued to clean up the thousands of barrels of oil and water.

Photograph by: Alan English , AP/The Log Cabin Democrat

CALGARY — A crude oil leak from an ExxonMobil pipeline in Arkansas comes at a particularly bad time for the Canadian company looking to build the contentious Keystone XL pipeline through the American heartland.

TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) hopes it is in the home stretch of a years-long process to win U.S. government approval for its multibillion-dollar project, which has been assailed by environmental groups for its potential impact on everything from fresh water sources to climate change.

The spill from ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline is likely the last thing TransCanada needed, with the U.S. State Department being months away from issuing a final decision on Keystone XL after repeated delays, said Queen’s University professor Warren Mabee.

“I think that just is another set of bad publicity that Keystone is going to have to overcome,” said Mabee, director of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy at the university in Kingston, Ont.

“As we move towards a decision, this just becomes another hurdle for a new project to overcome — the idea that maybe these pipelines aren’t as safe as they’re made out to be.”

The leak from the Pegasus pipeline in no way changes the facts around the safety of Keystone XL, said Mabee, yet “politically, this is a big problem.”

“If it was purely down to the facts, the decision would come down easily on the side of the Keystone. That project would be approved,” said Mabee.

“If you have a president or a State Department that is looking for excuses to either put this project on hold or to justify cancelling it, this works right into that argument, unfortunately.”

Jim Murphy, senior counsel at the National Wildlife Federation, said the Pegasus spill serves as a “sad illustration” of the risks associated with oil pipelines.

“I think it certainly highlights the nightmare scenario that’s playing out in a lot of minds along the (Keystone XL) route,” he said.

In Arkansas, it doesn’t appear at this point that the oil has reached any nearby water sources, said Murphy.

“We certainly hope there’s no impact to water, but the fact that this much oil was able to spill so near important water bodies I think really indicates that if that oil doesn’t reach water bodies, it’s more luck than anything else.”

Pegasus carries 96,000 barrels per day from Patoka, Ill. — a major destination for Canadian crude, including that from the oilsands — to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Keystone XL would dwarf that in size, with an initial capacity of 830,000 barrels per day.

ExxonMobil says as of Sunday, some 12,000 barrels had been recovered and crews continue to work on the cleanup.

Nearly three years ago, a major spill from an Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB) pipeline in southern Michigan fouled parts of the Kalamazoo River.

Although the NWF has been pushing for stronger pipeline safety regulations and response procedures, Murphy says those projects should not be built at all.

“We still have not changed our bottom line that tarsands oil is too risky and is just too destructive a fuel source for us to be developing and transporting.”

TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard called the Pegasus leak an “unfortunate circumstance” that “demonstrates the pipeline industry must continue to focus on the safe, reliable operation of its energy infrastructure.”

“The fact remains that pipelines are the safest way to move oil and other products to markets to meet consumer demands and maintain our quality of life,” he said.

“TransCanada plans on building the most advanced, state-of-the-art pipeline that has been built to date using the latest technology, highest strength steel and most modern welding techniques.”

He said 57 new safety procedures, including remotely controlled shutoff valves and increased pipe inspections, should instill further confidence that Keystone XL will be operated safely.

The $5.3 billion Keystone XL pipeline would carry crude from Alberta to the U.S. Midwest and Nebraska, connecting with another $2.3-billion pipeline currently under construction between Oklahoma and the Texas. Those two pipelines were initially part of one project, but TransCanada decided to tackle them separately when Washington rejected its earlier proposal last year.

TransCanada refiled a new application with a reworked route through Nebraska, where there were concerns pipeline construction could damage a fragile ecosystem of grass-covered sand dunes and threaten a major aquifer.

A draft environmental report from the State Department last month flagged no major issues with the rejigged route. It will issue a final report after a comment period.

Republished from the Edmonton Journal: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/business/energy-resources/Arkansas+spill+shows+nightmare+scenario/8178079/story.html

The Harper government’s week of history-making blunders

2 Apr

The Panama registered bulk carrier  Azuma Phoenix is seen tied up at Kitimat harbour seen on the afternoon of Jan 9, 201. In March 2013. the federal government announced it was making the private port of Kitimat into a public port,  (Robin Rowland)

The Panama registered bulk carrier Azuma Phoenix is seen tied up at Kitimat harbour on the afternoon of Jan 9, 2012. In March 2013. the federal government announced it was making the private port of Kitimat into a public port. (Robin Rowland)

When the story of the Stephen Harper government is told, historians will say that the week of March 17 to 23, 2013, is remembered, not for the release of a lacklustre federal budget, but for day after day of political blunders that undermined Harper’s goal of making a Canada what the Conservatives call a resource superpower.

 Robin Rowland – March 25, 2013

It was a week where spin overcame substance and spun out of control.

The Conservative government’s aim was, apparently, to increase support for the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project with a spin campaign aimed at moving the middle ground in British Columbia from anti-project to pro-project and at the same time launching a divide and conquer strategy aimed at BC and Alberta First Nations.

It all backfired. If on Monday, March 17, 2013, the troubled and controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway project was on the sick list, by Friday, March 23, the Enbridge pipeline and tanker scheme was added to the Do Not Resuscitate list, all thanks to political arrogance, blindfolded spin and bureaucratic incompetence. The standard boogeymen for conservative media in Canada (who always add the same sentence to their stories on the Northern Gateway) “First Nations and environmentalists who oppose the project” had nothing to do with it.

Stephen Harper has tight control of his party and the government, and in this case the billion bucks stop at the Prime Minister’s Office. He has only himself to blame.

All of this happened on the northern coast of British Columbia, far out of range of the radar of the national media and the Ottawa pundit class (most of whom, it must be admitted, were locked up in an old railway station in the nation’s capital, trying interpret Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s spreadsheets).

The story begins early on that Monday morning, at my home base in Kitimat, BC, the proposed terminal for Northern Gateway, when a news release pops into my e-mail box, advising that Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver would be in nearby Terrace early on Tuesday morning for an announcement and photo op.

I started making calls, trying to find out if anyone in Kitimat knew about Oliver’s visit to Terrace and if the minister planned to come to Kitimat.

Visitors to Kitimat

I made those calls because in the past two years, Kitimat has seen a parade of visitors checking out the town and the port’s industrial and transportation potential. The visitors range from members of the BC provincial Liberal cabinet to the staff of the Chinese consulate in Vancouver to top executives of some of the world’s major transnational corporations (and not just in the energy sector). Most of these visits, which usually include meetings with the District of Kitimat Council and District senior staff as well as separate meetings with the Council of the Haisla Nation, are usually considered confidential. There are no photo ops or news conferences. If the news of a visit is made public, (not all are), those visits are usually noted, after the fact, by Mayor Joanne Monaghan at the next public council meeting.

It was quickly clear from my calls that no one in an official capacity in Kitimat knew that, by the next morning, Oliver would be Terrace, 60 kilometres up Highway 37. No meetings in Kitimat, on or off the record, were scheduled with the Minister of Natural Resources who has been talking about Kitimat ever since he was appointed to the Harper cabinet.

I was skeptical about that afternoon’s announcement/photo op in Vancouver by Transport Minister Denis Lebel and Oliver about the “world class” tanker monitoring.

After all, there had been Canadian Coast Guard cutbacks on the northwest coast even before Stephen Harper got his majority government. The inadequacy of oil spill response on the British Columbia coast had been condemned both by  former Auditor General Sheila Fraser and in the United States Senate. The government stubbornly closed and dismantled the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. It’s proposing that ocean traffic control for the Port of Vancouver be done remotely from Victoria,  with fixed cameras dotted around the harbour.  Leaving controllers in Vancouver would, of course, be the best solution, but they must be sacrificed (along with any ship that get’s into trouble in the future, on the altar of a balanced budget).

The part of the announcement that said there would be increased air surveillance is nothing more than a joke (or spin intended just for the Conservative base in Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Toronto suburbs,that is not anyone familiar with BC coastal waters). Currently the Transport Canada surveillance aircraft are used on the coasts to look for vessels that are illegally dumping bilge or oil off shore. As CBC’s Paul Hunter reported in 2010, Transport Canada aircraft were used after the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster to map where the oil was going after it erupted from the Deepwater Horizon.

Given the stormy weather on the west coast (when Coast Guard radio frequently warns of “hurricane force winds”) it is highly unlikely that the surveillance aircraft would even be flying in the conditions that could cause a major tanker disaster. Aerial surveillance, even in good weather, will never prevent a tanker disaster caused by human error.

I got my first chance to look at the Transport Canada website in late afternoon and that’s when a seemingly innocuous section made me sit up and say “what is going on?” (I actually said something much stronger).

Public port

Public port designations: More ports will be designated for traffic control measures, starting with Kitimat.

(Transport Canada actually spelled the name wrong—it has since been fixed—as you can see in this screen grab).

Screengrab from Transport Canada website

Kitimat has been one of the few private ports in Canada since the Alcan smelter was built and the town founded 60 years ago (the 60th anniversary of the incorporation of the District of Kitimat is March 31, 2013).

The reasons for the designation of Kitimat as a private port go back to a complicated deal between the province of British Columbia and Alcan in the late 1940s as the two were negotiating about electrical power, the aluminum smelter, the building of the town and the harbour.

For 60 years, Alcan, later Rio Tinto Alcan, built, paid for and operated the port as a private sector venture. For a time, additional docks were also operated by Eurocan and Methanex. After Eurocan closed its Kitimat operation that dock was purchased by the parent company Rio Tinto. The Methanex dock was purchased by Royal Dutch Shell last year for its proposed LNG operation.

The announcement that Kitimat was to become a public port was also something that the national media would not recognize as significant unless they are familiar with the history of the port. That history is known only to current and former residents of Kitimat and managers at Rio Tinto Alcan.

The port announcement came so much out of left field; so to speak, that I had doubts it was accurate. In other words, I couldn’t believe it. I went to Monday evening’s meeting of District of Kitimat Council and at the break between the open and in-camera sessions, I asked council members if they had heard about Kitimat being redesignated a public port. The members of the district council were as surprised as I had been.

Back from the council meeting, I checked the Transport Canada news release and backgrounders. I also checked the online version of Bill C-57, the enabling act for the changes announced earlier that day. There was no mention of Kitimat in Bill C-57.

Harper government outlines new tanker safety measures for west coast

Confirmation

Tuesday morning I drove to Terrace for Joe Oliver’s 9 am photo op and the announcement at Northwest Community College (NWCC) that the government had appointed Douglas Eyford as a special envoy to First Nations for energy projects, an attempt on the surface to try and get First Nations onside for the pipeline projects, an appointment seen by some First Nations leaders as an attempt by the Harper government to divide and conquer.

As an on site reporter, I got to ask Oliver two questions before the news conference went to the national media on the phones.

In answer to my first question, Oliver confirmed that the federal government had decided to make Kitimat a public port, saying in his first sentence: “What the purpose is to make sure that the absolute highest standards of marine safety apply in the port of Kitimat.” He then returned to message track saying, “we have as I announced yesterday and I had spoken about before at the port of Vancouver we have an extremely robust marine safety regime in place but we want to make sure that as resource development continues and as technology improves, we are at the world class level. As I also mentioned there has never been off the coast of British Columbia a major tanker spill and we want to keep that perfect record.”

For my second question, I asked Oliver if he planned to visit Kitimat.

He replied. “Not in this particular visit, I have to get back [to Ottawa] There’s a budget coming and I have to be in the House for that but I certainly expect to be going up there.”

The question may not have registered with the national media on the conference call. For the local reporters and leaders in the room at Waap Galts’ap, the long house at Terrace’s Northwest Community College, everyone knew that Kitimat had been snubbed.

Oliver confirms Kitimat to become a public port

Back in Kitimat, I sent an e-mail to Colleen Nyce, the local spokesperson for Rio Tinto Alcan noting that Joe Oliver had confirmed that the federal government intended to make the RTA-run port a public port. I asked if RTA had been consulted and if the company had any comment.

Nyce replied that she was not aware of the announcement and promised to “look into this on our end.” I am now told by sources that it is believed that my inquiry to Nyce was the first time Rio Tinto Alcan, one of Canada’s biggest resource companies, had heard that the federal government was taking over its port.

The next day, Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan told local TV news on CFTK the Kitimat community was never consulted about the decision and she added that she still hadn’t been able to get anyone with the federal government to tell her more about the plan.

Who pays for the navigation aids?

Meanwhile, new questions were being raised in Kitimat about two other parts of the Monday announcement.

New and modified aids to navigation: The CCG will ensure that a system of aids to navigation comprised of buoys, lights and other devices to warn of obstructions and to mark the location of preferred shipping routes is installed and maintained.
Modern navigation system: The CCG will develop options for enhancing Canada’s current navigation system (e.g. aids to navigation, hydrographic charts, etc) by fall 2013 for government consideration.

Since its first public meeting in Kitimat, in documents filed with the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel, in public statements and advertising, Enbridge has been saying for at least the past four years that the company would pay for all the needed upgrades to aids to navigation on Douglas Channel, Wright Sound and other areas for its tanker traffic. It is estimated that those navigation upgrades would cost millions of dollars.

Now days before a federal budget that Jim Flaherty had already telegraphed as emphasizing restraint, it appeared that the Harper government, in its desperation to get approval for energy exports, was going to take over funding for the navigation upgrades from the private sector and hand the bill to the Canadian taxpayer.

Kitimat harbour

RTA not consulted

On Thursday morning, I received an e-mail from Colleen Nyce with a Rio Tinto Alcan statement, noting:

This announcement was not discussed with Rio Tinto Alcan in advance. We are endeavoring to have meetings with the federal government to gain clarity on this announcement as it specifically relates to our operations in Kitimat.

Nyce also gave a similar statement to CFTK and other media. A Francophone RTA spokesperson in Quebec did the same for Radio Canada.

On Friday morning, Mayor Monaghan told Andrew Kurjata on CBC’s Daybreak North that she had had at that time no response to phone calls and e-mails asking for clarification of the announcement. Monaghan also told CBC that Kitimat’s development officer Rose Klukas had tried to “get an audience with minister and had been unable to.” (One reason may be that Oliver’s staff was busy. They ordered NWCC staff to rearrange the usual layout of the chairs at Waap Galts’ap, the long house, to get a better background for the TV cameras for Oliver’s statement).

Joe Oliver

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver (front far right) answers questions after his news conference at the Northwest Community College Long House, March 19, 2013. (Robin Rowland)

Monaghan told Kurjata, “I feel like it’s a slap in the face because we’re always being told that we’re the instrument for the whole world right now because Kitimat is supposed to be the capital of the economy right now. So I thought we’d have a little more clout by now and they’d at least tell us they were going to do this. There was absolutely no consultation whatsoever.”

By Friday afternoon, five days after the announcement, Transport Canada officials finally returned the calls from Mayor Monaghan and Rose Klukas promising to consult Kitimat officials in the future.

Monaghan said that Transport Canada told her that it would take at least one year because the change from a private port to a public port requires a change in legislation.

Transport Canada is now promising “extensive public and stakeholder consultation will occur before the legislation is changed,” the mayor was told.

On this Mayor Monaghan commented, “It seems to me that now they want to do consultation….sort of like closing the barn door after all of the cows got out!”

Transport Canada promises consultation on Kitimat port five days after announcement it will become public

Blunder after blunder after blunder

Blunder No 1. Pulling the rug out from Northern Gateway

Joe Oliver and the Harper government sent a strong political signal to Kitimat on Tuesday; (to paraphrase an old movie) your little town doesn’t amount of a hill of beans in this crazy world.

Not that attitude is new for the people of Kitimat. The Northern Gateway Joint Review panel snubbed the town, bypassing Kitimat for Prince George and Prince Rupert for the current questioning hearings. Publisher David Black has been touting a refinery 25 kilometres north of Kitimat to refine the bitumen, but has never bothered to meet the people of Kitimat.

There are a tiny handful of people in Kitimat openly in favour of the Northern Gateway project. A significant minority are on the fence and some perhaps leaning toward acceptance of the project. There is strong opposition and many with a wait and see attitude. (Those in favour will usually only speak on background, and then when you talk to them most of those “in favour” have lists of conditions. If BC Premier Christy Clark has five conditions, many of these people have a dozen or more).

Oliver was speaking in Terrace, 60 kilometres from Kitimat. It is about a 40 to 45 minute drive to Kitimat over a beautiful stretch of highway, with views of lakes, rivers and mountains.

Scenic Highway 37 is the route to the main location not only for the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline but three liquefied natural gas projects, not to mention David Black’s proposed refinery half way between Terrace and Kitimat.

Why wouldn’t Kitimat be a must stop on the schedule for the Minister of Natural Resources? In Terrace, Oliver declared that Kitimat was to become a public port, run by the federal government. Although technically that would be the responsibility of Denis Lebel, the Minister of Transport, one has to wonder why the Minister of Natural Resources would not want to see the port that is supposedly vital to Canada’s economy? You have to ask why he didn’t want to meet the representatives of the Haisla Nation, the staff and council of the District of Kitimat and local business leaders?

Oliver has been going across Canada, the United States and to foreign countries promoting pipelines and tanker traffic, pipelines that would terminate at Kitimat and tankers that would send either bitumen or liquefied natural gas to customers in Asia.

Yet the Minister of Natural Resources is too important, too busy to take a few hours out of his schedule, while he is in the region,  to actually visit the town he has been talking about for years.

He told me that he had to be in Ottawa for the budget. Really? The budget is always the finance minister’s show and tell (with a little help from whomever the Prime Minister is at the time). On budget day, Oliver would have been nothing more than a background extra whenever the television cameras “dipped in” on the House of Commons, between stories from reporters and experts who had been in the budget lockup.

According to the time code on my video camera, Oliver’s news conference wrapped at 9:50 a.m., which certainly gave the minister and his staff plenty of time to drive to Kitimat, meet with the representatives of the District, the Haisla Nation and the Chamber of Commerce and still get to Vancouver for a late flight back to Ontario.

On Tuesday, Joe Oliver’s snub pulled the political rug out from under the Northern Gateway supporters and fence sitters in Kitimat. Oliver’s snub showed those few people in Kitimat that if they do go out on a limb to support the Northern Gateway project, the Conservatives would saw off that limb so it can be used as a good background prop for a photo op.

Prince Rupert, Terrace and Smithers councils have all voted against the Northern Gateway project. Kitimat Council, despite some clear divisions, has maintained a position of absolute neutrality.  Kitimat Council will continue to be officially neutral until after the Joint Review report, but this week you could hear the air slowly leaking out of the neutrality balloon.

Oliver may still believe, as he has frequently said, that the only people who oppose Northern Gateway are dangerous radicals paid by foreign foundations.

What he did on Tuesday was to make the opposition to Northern Gateway in Kitimat into an even more solid majority across the political spectrum.

……..

Blunder No 5. LNG

There are three liquefied natural gas projects slated for Kitimat harbour, the Chevron-Apache partnership in KM LNG, now under construction at Bish Cove; the Royal Dutch Shell project based on the old Methanex site and the barge based BC LNG partnership that will work out of North Cove.

None of these projects have had the final go ahead from the respective company board of directors. So has the federal government thrown the proverbial monkey wrench into these projects? Will making Kitimat a public port to promote Enbridge, help or hinder the LNG projects? Did the Ministry of Natural Resources even consider the LNG projects when they made the decision along with Transport Canada to take over the port?

A Complete version of this article appears in NorthWest Coast Energy News: http://nwcoastenergynews.com/2013/03/25/4455/analysis-harper-governments-week-history-making-blunders/

“Runaway Catastrophic Climate Change” and the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Proposal

23 Mar

Carrie Saxifrage – January 18th, 2013

My name is Carrie Saxifrage. I am a reporter for the Vancouver Observer which has extensively covered the pipeline proposal on its news website and recently produced the book Extract, Volume 1, Enbridge. The facts I rely on come mostly from this reporting, but I am testifying in my individual capacity.

My objection to the Northern Gateway pipeline is that it externalizes the risks and costs of the project. Enbridge and the corporations it contracts with would receive huge profit from the project. The BC public and future generations would pay the unbearable costs of the project.

Democracy and the free market tell us that we should not be forced to pay the costs of private corporations. Fairness dictates that those who profit pay the costs. Those costs should be included in it the price of the product.

In the technical hearings under questioning by the Province of BC, Enbridgestated that it would not consider a commitment to guarantee 100% of cost of an oil spill clean up. It will insure $280 million for a 20,000 barrel spill. That’s the size of the spill in Kalamazoo which has already cost close to three times that amount.

Enbridge refuses to assume its own costs because they are so enormous. It wants to impose them on us.

That isn’t democratic and it isn’t fair.

Not all costs of an oil spill that can be monetized. For example, after the Exxon Valdez spill, Alaskan Native communities were severely disrupted and many experienced high levels of depression from the trauma of seeing so many animals die, the stress of loss of subsistence livelihood from the sea, and the influx of clean-up money. No one knows how many animals died outright from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The carcasses of more than 35,000 birds and 1,000 sea otters were found after the spill, but since most carcasses sink, this is considered to be a small fraction of the actual death toll. The best estimates are: 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, up to 22 killer whales, and billions of salmon and herring eggs.

Twenty three years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, nine species are not fully recovered and some species such as herring and pigeon guillemots may never recover. One of the two orca pods in the area is slowly dying out. An estimated 21,000 gallons of oil remain and oil has been found in the coastal substrate up to 450 miles away.

An even bigger cost that Enbridge would externalize is the cost of climate change.

At the Smithers JRP intervenor hearing, I had the opportunity to ask Paul Stanway what he thought of the International Energy Agency’s 2011 report that states with new infrastructure we will lose forever the chance to prevent the two degree increase in temperature that means catastrophic costs for us all.

I taped Stanway’s response: “I’m not familiar with that report” he said.

Upton Sinclair noted that it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

But when that something includes include making the planet uninhabitable for humans and other species, not understanding it is unconscionable. Enbridge has put itself in a very questionable position.

“Making the planet uninhabitable for humans” – That strong statement might seem overblown. Enbridge might call it a myth stridently stated by an environmental activist. Minister Oliver might call it the statement of someone who wants to block Canada’s opportunity to diversify trade.

But I want Canada to diversify trade. I want it to be a world leader in renewable energy technology. It’s in a perfect position to do so, with good education, plenty of resources and a history of helping when the world needs help, which it certainly does now. Enbridge has a wind power portfolio. I could support the expansion of that. If this debate is really about jobs, renewable energy creates 3 to 34 times the number of jobs for investment than oil infrastructure.

Back to keeping the planet habitable, Enbridge doesn’t seem to know about the immense body of research on the consequences of new fossil fuel infrastructure. That research states that warming of 6 degrees means mass extinction, which may include humanity. We will come close to six degrees by 2100 if we follow our current trajectory of rapidly expanding our fossil fuel infrastructure without any regard to climate pollution.

Enbridge may be money blind enough to bet against the world saving itself, but the government of Canada, must not make this bet.

Here’s a sampling of what the world’s most knowledgeable scientists and leading institutions are saying:

MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, calculates that current emissions will push us toward 5.5 C by 2100. It called for “rapid and massive” action to avoid this and warned that “there’s no way the world can or should take these risks.” It also produced research showing that the expansion of the oil sands is not economically viable under any scenario in which the world takes effective action against climate change.

Bob Ward, from the London School of Economics comments:  

” As the IEA points out, we have little chance [of avoiding the point of no return] if we continue to lock-in fossil fuel sources of energy today … the window of opportunity for action has almost closed.

And, of course, the world’s most important climate scientist, James Hansen of NASA, said that the plan by private oil corporations to radically expand extraction of climate damage out of the tar sands will mean “game over” for our climate. 

Here is a rough estimate of the climate damage the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline would enable. It can viewed either as the costs which Enbridge proposes to externalize, or it can be seen as how the project is no longer economically viable if those costs are internalized through a price of carbon.

The new flow of tar sands oil through this pipeline would result in the release of around 150 million tons of CO2 per year. That is nearly triple all the climate pollution emitted by people of BC from all their fossil fuel burning. Nearly triple. Over thirty years, the proposed pipeline would enable more than four billion tonnes of CO2.

Several reports, including those from the federal government, the BC provincial government and energy economists conclude that a carbon price of between $100 to $200 will be needed by 2020 to meet our climate commitments. Using $100 as a very conservative estimate of the damages caused by climate pollution over the next 30 years, we can estimate over $400 billion of climate damages enabled by this pipeline if built. I would likely be glad to support Enbridge infrastructure choices if the climate costs were internalized with a carbon tax of $150 per ton. But $400 billion of climate damages must not be foisted onto the public.

Let’s look at where we are now:

  • Records show that extreme summer temperatures are 50 times more frequent now.

  • Global food prices are teetering at record levels because of extreme weather events around the world.

  • Hurricane Katrina smashed into a coastal city causing more than $100 billion in damages the most costly weather event in history and Hurricane Sandy brought over $60 billion in damages to NY and NJ.

  • The sea ice in the arctic is collapsing at breathtaking speed and the spring snow cover in Canada, USA and Russia is disappearing.

  • These two events are driving increased global warming beyond our direct control.

  • Warmer winters are releasing pine beetles into vast tracks of our forests. Half the pines in BC are dead and the western boreal is dying faster than it is growing back. Continued warming will release pine beetles into the boreal at which point they will eat our Canadian forests from coast to coast.

I could go on for hours about clear and present climate dangers, but you get the picture that Northern Gateway would help paint: runaway catastrophic climate change with massive death, destruction and extinction. Again and again climate change is out-racing worst case scenarios and costing humans billions of dollars in BC and around the globe.

Enbridge might be money-blind enough to not care, although if they love their kids, and I’m sure they do, they might want to think things through in a different way.

But the Government of Canada can’t expect us, our children, their future, and the incredible biological diversity of the world to pay Enbridge’s tab of hundreds of billions of dollars.

It’s just wrong.

In a best case scenario, the world will put a price on carbon, oil sands expansion will become unprofitable and the Northern Gateway Pipeline would be a huge investment loss and a stranded asset.

In the worst case scenario, the Northern Gateway pipeline hastens the end of the world as we know it.

Either way, it is against the national interest and morally wrong.

Over the holiday, I picknicked with my extended family on a beach. A seagull grabbed a plastic bag smeared with peanut butter from my backpack and I thought to myself, there is no way that a plastic bag that originated in my kitchen is going to end up in the ocean. So I chased the seagull up and down the beach for about ten minutes, not knowing what good it would do but knowing that I had to do what I could. After ten minutes of chasing, the sea gull landed next to another group of picknickers for protection. Four other seagulls landed next to my seagull and caused it to drop the plastic bag. A little boy who had watched me chase the seagull for so long, grabbed the plastic bag and ran down the beach to give it to me.

This event reminded me that sometimes you just have to do what you can to prevent harm even if you aren’t sure how it can help, and that can create the opportunity for good things to happen.

I’m determined to prevent the harm of the Enbridge pipeline from occurring and will not be surprised if the JRP’s report provides the opportunity for good things to happen for Canada, like investment in renewable energy infrastructure.

Republished from the Vancouver Observer: http://www.vancouverobserver.com/blogs/earthmatters/runaway-catastrophic-climate-change-and-enbridge-northern-gateway-pipeline