Protests, Facts & Bedfellows: Northern Gateway Pipeline Actions, Science & Money

They expected 2,000 to attend and, according to police reports, 2,000 people demonstrated their opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and shut down the main street of the small northern city of Prince Rupert, BC.  When 15% of the 13,000 who live in any city are marching on the street, it’s significant.  Also significant is that CBC reported only 600.  The lesson?  Never trust the media to count your crowd.

CBC also reported that First Nations’ leaders are worried about their relationship with Ottawa as a result of their opposition to the pipeline.

Dallas Smith, the president of the Nanwakolas Council, said that even though he is not from the territory that will be directly affected by the pipeline, he’s been working in support of the concerns of his fellow First Nations.

“I think the opposition is based on the risk,” Smith said. “But there’s more at hand, there’s a relationship that needs to be built with the federal government right now and this is going to be really tricky to manoeuvre around, making sure that the whole relationship doesn’t get caught up in this issue.”

“We’re really concerned… about the ripple effect of this project and what it’s going to do to our already non-existent relationship with the federal government,” Smith said, later clarifying that the relationship is not really “non-existent” but is definitely “not as genuine” as the First Nations relationship with the B.C. government. [Video link here.]

How could anyone possibly have a “genuine” relationship with the HarperCon government, especially when said government hides Environment Canada documents about the impact of the tarsands on local communities, economies and environments until it suits them?

The latest document singles out the oilsands sector as the main obstacle in Canada’s efforts to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gases that warm the atmosphere and cause climate change.

“The oilsands are Canada’s fastest growing source of GHGs,” said the document.

It estimated that the industry’s annual greenhouse gas emissions would rise by nearly 900 per cent from 1990 to 2020. By the end of that period, the oilsands — with an estimated annual footprint of 90 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent gases in 2020 — would exceed the carbon footprint of all cars and SUVs on Canadian roads from 2008, according to the Environment Canada document.

There is no doubt in the regina mom‘s mind that this is why 60 scientists at Environment Canada were fired by the HarperCon government last month.  Harperites don’t need pesky facts getting in the way of their agenda!

Sixty scientists with Environment Canada received notice that their jobs are “surplus” as of Jan. 11, confirming Minister Peter Kent’s announcement last August that 776 department positions would meet the chopping block due to the Conservative government’s belt-tightening.
Though the department is under “strict orders” not to reveal what work the surplus scientists are doing, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) – the union representing them – said the 60 employees include “senior engineers, environmental compliance officers, biologists, climatologists and others” responsible for reporting on pollution, monitoring water quality and climate research.

We can be certain that those currently running the government of Canada would rather not believe the facts when it comes to climate change.  They’d much rather believe the pseudo-science of paid deniers over the real science of professional scientists.   And they’ll cherry-pick data on an as-needed basis, thank you very much. Things like this graph, clearly showing the upward curve of global temperature changes over the past 130 years, just don’t work with their plan to expand the tarsands.

graph of 130 years of global climate change

Pressure from those radical environmental groups with their radical agendas — you know the type — those using fact-based research now seem to have forced the hand of evangeliCons and their buddies in the big-ass oil industry.  The HarperCons have announced, for the second time in as many years, that they are going to monitor the effects of the tarsands.  At least, it appears that they will.  As trm mentioned last week, Halifax MP Megan Leslie dismissed it as a PR stunt.

“The announcement was a public relations stunt,” says Leslie. “The Alberta Environmental Monitoring Panel said any monitoring that’s done has to be arm’s-length; it has to be separate from government and we heard the environment minister say today it’s still going to be government run.”

But that Alberta Environmental Monitoring Panel consisted of independent experts in the field — you know, real scientists.  So, a government-run monitoring system would be better for the HarperCons.  It would easily allow for the aforementioned cherry-picking. And it’s what the industry likes, too!  trm supposes it’s in their best interests to like it, given the $1 billion in tax cuts, subsidies and incentives it receives from government. [Note 1:  This links to a large PDF; See p. 18 for the detailed list.  Note 2: The data is based on 2002 numbers; it’s unlikely subsidies et al have decreased during the tenures of oil-friendly governments of the intervening decade.]

And so, as the HarperCon Prime Minister heads to China to visit with his old buddy David Emerson who’s there working our more ways to sell-out our country to the China Investment Corporation and Sinopec and who knows who else, the PM would certainly like to believe he’s quelled the voices of the so-called radicals.  trm has kept quiet for a couple of days, yes, but she’s no where near finished with making noise about Canada’s dirty oil!

What will the neighbours think?

One part of the brain can work something out while another part is doing something else, or so it seems.  the regina mom stayed up all night.  When that happens, it’s usually because she’s been engaged in a good read or a good write.  This time it was neither.  And it wasn’t a party, either.  No, this time trm‘s eyes were glued to the screen catching up on episodes of The Young and The Restless and The Colbert Report, shows she watches only occasionally these days.  It’s as though her brain needed a time out from the case of overload she’d contracted by consuming a wealth of information about the tarsands.

What’s weird, though, is that she ended her viewing with the Mercer Report and got right back into it.

From Mercer, then to Twitter and to another story about the long-overdue tarsands monitoring plan the governments of Canada and Alberta have cooked up.  While reading this piece, though, trm thought of her dad.  Born in Canada to parents of Germanic descent just before WWII, he grew up with the “what will the neighbours think” mantra. What trm realized is that her dad is not alone.  Many Canadians care about what the neighbours think, particularly on the international stage. Combine that with Canadians’ concern for the environment and an insult or two about it and the response is huge, so huge that it appears to have forced the government’s hand.

Ottawa and Alberta are hoping a new monitoring plan will curb criticism that the province’s massive oilsands fields are a dirty source of energy, but environmentalists say it will take a lot more to clean up Canada’s reputation.

“It can help send a signal that the government is starting to pay attention to the issues, but it doesn’t actually fix the problems that are causing the black eye to our reputation,” said Gillian McEachern, a Climate and Energy expert at Environmental Defence.

By the time trm got to the end of the article, she was recalling NDP MP Megan Leslie’s comments that this latest exercise was nothing but a PR stunt, a way to pacify audiences and is subject to spin.  trm agrees and suggests this tactic it’s not only for short term gain.  Note the timeline.

The new plan … to be rolled out over three years, will mean the governments will be monitoring more frequently and for more contaminants.

In three years’ time, Canada will be on the verge of an election and the HarperCons will undoubtedly point to this project as a demonstration of their shared concern for the environment. Never mind that it’s not what the scientists they consulted recommended, that it doesn’t go far enough, that a filthy addiction pollutes Earth’s air, waters and communities or that it’s harming real people downstream and upwind and around the globe or that the continued expansion of the tarsands over the next three years could do irreparable harm, the HarperCon government  has created its next “action plan.”

And we must continue to challenge that plan.

Oh, Those ‘Radicals’!

Today the HarperCons stepped into the cesspool polluted waters tarsands issue to announce a water monitoring project which will take 3 years and $50 million to fully implement.  the regina mom agrees with Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie; this is a PR stunt.  And, trm shares Edmonton MP Linda Duncan’s concerns that First Nations’ communities were not adequately consulted and that many more tarsands projects could be approved before this monitoring begins. trm considers this announcement to be a reflection of the great work the ecojustice community “radical groups” are doing to educate citizens on the issues.  Well done, radicals!

One radical, Andrew Nikiforuk, declared a political emergency regarding the tarsands years ago.  His latest piece at The Tyee cites a “detailed analysis” submitted to the National Energy Board by Robyn Allan who is the former president and CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.  Ms Allan’s report “concludes that “Northern Gateway is neither needed nor is in the public interest.

“I assumed that it would be a wealth generating project,” the 56-year-old retired investment and financial affairs economist told the Tyee. “But when I started digging none of those assumptions held. The project is an inflationary price shock to the economy.”

Allan, once rated by the National Post as one of Canada’s top 200 CEOs, says she started to study the economic case for the project after a query by her son. That was when she discovered that Enbridge’s economic benefit models were based on “misleading information, faulty methodology, numerous errors and presentation bias.”

trm‘s readers can download Allan’s full report, “An Economic Assessment of Northern Gateway” at the Alberta Federation of Labour’s website. Note that, according to Nikiforuk, “Allan’s report supports the findings of Dave Hughes, a retired senior analyst with Natural Resources Canada. He described the pipeline as a risk to Canada’s economic and energy security” a report to which trm has previously linked.

Further commentary comes from the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union of Canada which also says that the Gateway pipeline is unsustainable, based on a report they commissioned from Informetrica Inc.

The brief points out that two major refinery closures in Ontario and Quebec have created even more of a dependency on foreign suppliers for refined petroleum products: gasoline, diesel fuel and heating oil.

“Canadians should also be alarmed that, while Canada exports most of its bitumen to foreign sources, Atlantic Canada and Quebec import 90% of their oil, and Ontario imports 30%,” says Coles.

“Without access to the increased supply of Western Canadian crude, Eastern Canada has suffered a loss of refining capacity, a loss of jobs and gasoline supply problems. Meanwhile, hundreds of workers where thrown out of high-skill, well paying jobs and many additional direct and indirect jobs have been lost.

The primary CEP document is here.

Andrew Frank, the former ForestEthics employee fired for his whistleblowing and about whom trm has previously reported, now suggests a “middle way” to avoid the polarization the Gateway debate has created. Though his suggestions are valid, trm has concerns that they are premised on the continued operation of the tarsands.  trm does not necessarily agree that they must continue.  Still, she also wants to encourage dialogue among Canadians and so, presents his points in abbreviated form:

  1. The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline should not be built.
  2. Regulation needs to catch up with production.
  3. Oil sands production should match a rate that climate change scientists say is safe.
  4. Slowdown production to extract the maximum value and develop a royalties system that will look after Canadians long after the oil sands are gone.

Related to the Frank matter was the Notice of Motion filed by Ecojustice on behalf of four so-called radical groups. If you recall, dear Reader, it was the prelude to the HarperCons’ knickers-in-a-knot InfoAlert last Friday. Earlier this week, Ecojustice reported that their motion was denied, but welcomed the “declaration of independence” from the Joint Review Panel. They go on to say that,

Given the impact the proposed pipeline would have on our country, Ecojustice and our clients believe it’s absolutely critical that this review process remain objective, representative of all interests and conducted with integrity and fairness. This isn’t just an ethical issue — it’s about the legal principles of due process.

In its response, the Panel is making a promise to all Canadians to evaluate the Northern Gateway project based on evidence provided by all sides of the issue. This includes evidence that the pipeline and the risk of an oil spill it brings could irreversibly damage our forests and coasts — and all the species that depend on them.

An oil spill wouldn’t just devastate the environment. Our coastal economies like fishing and ecotourism are at risk, too. Is that a fair trade-off for short-term jobs?

Furthermore, the devastation of that environment would also devastate First Nations who have lived on the coast for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Still, Enbridge says it has agreements with 20 First Nations communities.  But Enbridge has not produced names or evidence to that effect.  First Nations spokespeople suggest Enbridge is stretching the truth, or worse, lying.  They accuse Enbridge of a lack of due diligence.

The theme of lack of due diligence and/or misrepresentation by Enbridge recurs among members of northern First Nations when speaking about Enbridge. Members the Haisla, the Gitxsan, the Wet’suwet’en and the Haida gave no credence to Stanway’s claim that “more than 20 groups who in recent weeks have fully executed and endorsed equity participation agreements deals with Enbridge.”

As trm suggested earlier this week, Enbridge doesn’t necessarily tell the truth, but she’ll let you, dear Reader, be the judge.

Finally, an item for which trm is sure to be lambasted by a certain regular reader.  Amnesty International has released an Open Letter to the Prime Minister, calling on him “to take a strong stand for human rights in China” during his visit there.  As trm has stated numerous times over the years, Canada should not be trading with any nation whose human rights record is so very sketchy.  And, Canada should also be cleaning up in her own back yard!

Making More Noise About the Tarsands!

The HarperCons are certainly giving the regina mom a lot of opportunity to diss them.  And that would be fun! Perhaps, if we give them enough rope… I know.  It’s wishful thinking, mirroring theirs, apparently. As a poster at one of the web boards I frequent said, “It’s like the entire country is having a Stress Test.”  It does feel that way these days, for sure.  Alberta Diary blogger David Climenhaga says we shouldn’t really be surprised.

Does it really surprise anyone that’s he’s doing it now, just when he’d persuaded us he was a really fine, avuncular, sweater-wearing fellow, possibly holding a pussy cat, who said absolutely nothing about this topic during his recent election campaign?

Seriously, people, this is the neo-Con modus operandi — when the opportunity presents itself, manufacture a “crisis” and move swiftly to “resolve” it while the opposition is still silently bug-eyed with astonishment and trying to remember where the facts were filed.

trm is not surprised and so, for now, she’s going follow her western neighbour’s subtle advice and make more noise about the tarsands.

But where to start today?

Maybe this is as good a place as any. When trm first clicked onto this 30-minute video, she considered it a hoax.  Further research revealed it to be an expose of the cover-up on a spill that leaked into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.  SET Environmental Inc. was subcontracted by Enbridge to clean up the mess. In the video John Bolenbaugh, a former employee of SET, documents some of the devastation he witnessed as a worker, the cover-up itself and the challenges of taking the case to the Environmental Protection Agency.  His actions as a whistleblower have resulted in him not only losing his job, but also attacks on his property, harassment by Enbridge and the police, as well as death threats.  This week he is in court suing his former employer, “seeking compensation for both past and future economic damage, emotional distress and attorney fees.” trm wishes him well.

Meanwhile, here in Canada, the Minister of Natural Resources, spews false data about the GHG emissions levels in the tarsands.  Deep Climate dissects the dirty data, noting that the numbers Minister Oliver spouts are those put forward by the climate change deniers at Ethical Oil.  trm readers will remember that a propagandist communications guru in the Prime Minister’s office is a founder of that organization. And, even though the Minister has claimed he is not a denier, he still spills denier science and misinformation when he speaks in Parliament and in public. Don’t trust his words.

trm does trust the words of Andrew Nikiforuk, however.  She attended his session at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words several years ago and was moved to tears by his presentation on the tarsands.  Nikiforuk has been steadfast in his commitment to this crisis, writing prolifically and touring extensively, to share his work.  Today, at The Tyee, he lists 11 “economic and political questions [that] have gone unasked or unanswered in the media and Parliament,” questions we should be asking our MPs. And so, trm suggests we do just that.  Go there now, copy of those questions,  and send them to your MP, the Opposition critics, Minister Oliver and the Prime Minister’s Office. And while you’re at The Tyee, take a moment to thank Andrew for his good work.

Also at The Tyee is a piece by Christopher Pollon in which he raises the question of the commercial viability of the Northern Gateway pipeline.  Though Enbridge claims otherwise, it does not appear to have provided sufficient documentation in the form of signed contracts for various things, such as long-term shipping contracts, to prove it.  This has led one of Enbridge’s competitors, Kinder Morgan, to complain

Gateway’s application creates a dangerous precedent, shifting the entire process from a race to obtain contractual support for new services, to a race to get regulatory approval for unproven “concepts” without the need to demonstrate market support.Pembina [Institute]‘s [Nathan] Lemphers concurs, stating in his report that such an approach could spur a “rush of pipeline speculators who seek regulatory approval for conceptual pipelines, effectively putting the cart before the horse and placing greater strain on both regulators and the affected public alike.”

Emma Gilchrist, at Troy Media, lays down five reasons as to why this project is not in Canada’s interest.

  1. protecting B.C. jobs
  2. Dutch Disease
  3. exports Canadian jobs
  4. Half of Canada is reliant on foreign oil
  5. What’s the hurry?

Good points, all, points it’s obvious the HarperCon government could care less about.

But, maybe not quite.  In a House of Commons committe examining the oil and gas sector, Mark Corey, Assistant Deputy Minister for the energy sector with Natural Resources Canada said more oil may flow east in the future.  Who knows?  It may turn out that this hullaballoo was created to set Canadians up for something else.  It is, as previously noted, the way the HarperCons work.

Regardless, First Nations communities are working to stop the tarsands.  The most recent call for action comes from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation(ACFN). They have concerns, explained in part by trm in previous posts.  The current concern has to do with Shell’s plans to expand projects in the tarsands.

ACFN is concerned about the proposed Shell Projects’ impacts on ACFN’s ability to exercise treaty rights in a meaningful way into the future.  The regulatory process DOES NOT meet ACFN’s need in terms of a proper assessment of impacts to rights. ACFN has no assurance that the environment and treaty rights can be protected because Alberta has done a poor job of enforcing environmental protection with the companies and  Shell has not met past commitments to ACFN. In September of 2011, ACFN  filed suit suing Shell Canada for these unmet agreement (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation serves Shell Canada with intent to Sue over tar sands projects). 

Chief Adam of ACFN stated, “We’re drawing the line, and taking a strong stand against Shell. ACFN wants no further developments until Shell is brought to justice and our broader concerns about the cumulative impacts in the region are addressed, our treaty rights respected and our rights are fully recognized within the approval process once and for all.”

 

ACFN calls on us to submit written comments on Shell’s revised Jackpine and Pierre River mine agreements to the Public Consultation on Revised Joint Review Panel Agreements. Instructions for doing so are on the ACFN website. Do what you can, please, to stop this racist development and potentially save some lives.

In other words, make some noise; it’s the least you can do.