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A PR Flack’s Guide to LNG: Dream Team tries to repair industry’s image

Posted March 15, 2015 by Rafe Mair in Energy and Resources
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A PR Flack's Guide to LNG- Dream Team tries to repair industry's image

Clockwise from top left: Teck’s Doug Horswill, Stewart Muir, former A-G Geoff Plant, and Lyn Anglin

It’s an axiom of debate that if you don’t like the argument you’re in, find one that you’re more comfortable with. Barristers use this technique before juries all the time and that’s precisely the technique that Resource Works, a well-heeled pro-LNG group, is using to bamboozle the public of British Columbia.

Team LNG

The glossy 58-page document they use is called A Citizen’s Guide To LNG: Sea To Sky Country Edition.

Knowing many of the supporters personally, and most of them by reputation, I don’t believe any of them actually wrote this rubbish – it has all the earmarks of a large PR firm.

This is what they say about themselves:

Resource Works recognizes the demand of British Columbians for economic growth and environmental sustainability, and aims to break the ice in the controversial resource debate. In 2014, Resource Works organized community conversations in 8 municipalities in the Lower Mainland, involving more than 120 participants consist of local government, businesses, NGOs and citizens. Moderate, rational discussions are a necessary first-step towards BC’s sustainable future. (Emphasis mine)

Here are some of the players:

Stewart Muir, the Executive Director and a former big wig with the Vancouver Sun, “is married to Athana Mentzelopoulos, deputy minister of jobs, tourism and skills training,” according to the Tyee’s Donald Gutstein, who wrote about Resource Works upon their launch last summer. “Before that, [Mentzelopoulos] was in charge of Premier Christy Clark’s ‘priority’ files,” says Gutstein. “She’s so close to Clark she was bridesmaid at Clark’s wedding.”

Geoff Plant was attorney general under Gordon Campbell and in 2012 was tapped by Clark to be the province’s chief legal strategist for the Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review Panel proceedings.

Board chair Doug Horswill was BC’s deputy minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources until moving to BC mining giant Teck Resources, where he now serves as senior VP.

Advisory Council Chair Lyn Anglin is the former president and CEO of Geoscience BC, a provincially-funded organization tasked with attracting mining, oil and gas investment to the province.

Greg DAvignon, according to the Resource Works website, “is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Business Council of British Columbia, a 250-member organization which represents the provinces leading businesses in every sector of the provincial economy and more than one-quarter of all jobs in the province. Established in 1966, the Business Council is the foremost policy and business advocacy organization in the province.”

Philippa P. Wilshaw “is an Audit Partner in KPMG’s Greater Vancouver Area (GVA) Energy and Natural Resources and Industrial Markets practice. She has 20 years of experience with KPMG and started her career with KPMG UK in 1993. She joined the Toronto office in 2003 and moved to Vancouver in 2005.”

As to who is funding the research, Resource Works did volunteer the information that seed funding came from the B.C. Business Council, but has not disclosed other sources of funding.

What about fracking?

An Encana drill rig in northeast BC's Horn River shale gas play

An Encana drill rig in northeast BC’s Horn River shale gas play

It’s interesting that A Citizen’s Guide To LNG: Sea To Sky Country Edition doesn’t touch the issue of “fracking” until page 46 and then only in two brief paragraphs. It mentions that there is a US documentary on the subject but says that they, Resource Works, don’t think there’s any evidence of problems with “fracking” in BC. If that doesn’t convince you, I ask you, what will?

It’s “fracking” – which would supply the majority of gas for LNG – however, that causes the atmospheric damage,  damage to our water, and health risks to the population. Moreover, as Andrew Nikiforuk has reported to us, the weakening of the ground around the fracking area has caused serious earthquake problems in Holland. Increased seismic activity has been connected to fracking in BC and throughout the US as well. Resource Works does admit that there could be earthquake problems but that they have always been very minor. Doesn’t that make you feel better?

Because Woodfibre says so

Let’s look at the specific claims made on behalf of the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant, near Squamish. What’s fascinating about these few pages is that the information is constantly based upon what Woodfibre LNG has told them! Their word is accepted on every major issue uncritically. Woodfibre LNG is wonderful because Woodfibre LNG tells us so! There is a paucity of scientific evidence or indeed anything from people who might have another point of view.

There’s no mention that Sukanto Tanoto, the owner of Woodfibre’s holding company, a convicted big-time tax evader with a shameful environmental record.

Dangerous cargo

Eoin-Finn-on-Woodfibre-LNG-safety-risks,-West-Van-Council’s-vote

Courtesy of Dr. Eoin Finn

Let’s look at transportation of LNG by tanker through Howe Sound. I do that not just because it’s of enormous concern to everybody who lives along the proposed route, but because Resource Works dwells upon the issue. They concede that if tankers go too close to the shore, there could be a problem. However, they assure us there is no problem because they spoke to Dr. Mike Hightower, of Sandia Laboratories in New Mexico, a world acknowledged expert on the subject, who’s developed a protocol accepted by US authorities for the distances ships must maintain between themselves and the shore.

Resource Works has produced a number of videos which they make available to the public in order to sell the benefits of LNG. In all of them the interviewer is an attractive young lady named Meena Mann. It is in one of them, featured on the Vancouver Province website, where Dr. Hightower appears to talk to Ms. Mann about LNG and tankers and you would likely conclude that there is very little danger, if any, posed by LNG tankers in Howe Sound.

Here is what Sandia has reported, based upon Dr Hightower’s work:

Sandia National Laboratories defines for the US Department of Energy three Hazard Zones (also called “Zones of Concern”) surrounding LNG carriers. The largest Zone is 2.2 miles/3,500 meters around the vessel, indicating that LNG ports and tankers must be located at least that distance from civilians. Some world-recognized LNG hazard experts, such as Dr. Jerry Havens (University of Arkansas; former Coast Guard LNG vapor hazard researcher), indicate that three miles or more is a more realistic Hazard Zone distance.

What the video does not tell you is that Dr. Hightower had not addressed his attention to Howe Sound, and when local resident Dr. Eoin Finn did so, Dr. Hightower concurred that Bowen Island and parts of West Vancouver are very much at risk – within the 1-mile radius – as are parts of the Sea-to-Sky Highway and Lions Bay/Bowyer Island. In other words, If one accepts Dr. Hightower’s formula, as Resource Works clearly does, there is no way any LNG tankers would be permitted to proceed from Squamish to the ocean.

Interview doctored?

Now the plot thickens.

Dr. Eoin Finn, a  former KPMG partner and chemistry PhD, took the time to phone Dr. Hightower because the interview didn’t look quite right. Well, it wasn’t right because it wasn’t conducted by Meena Mann at all but by a male!

Screen capture of alleged interview by Meena Mann (left) with Dr. Mike Hightower (right), which appears to have been doctored

Alleged interview by Meena Mann (left) with Dr. Mike Hightower (right), which appears to have been doctored

Dr. Hightower was not prepared to say that he had been misrepresented other than the fact that it was a man who interviewed him but he was dubious about Resource Works’ characterization of his “burn back to the source” description. The vapour cloud is much more complex than a simple burn-back, and people exposed to the flame would stand a high likelihood of being severely burned by the high temperatures of the flame. Indoors, not so much, but he expected that the flame would suck up much of the oxygen in the air, so asphyxiation would be a serious problem in the area of the vapour cloud.

Was the question changed when Ms. Mann did her fake interview? Was Dr. Hightower’s answer altered? I don’t know but this sort of shabby deception is bound to raise doubts like this. What we do know is that far from supporting Resource Works’ assertion that LNG tanker traffic is safe in Howe Sound, given the facts, Dr. Hightower comes to exactly the opposite conclusion.

Resource Works is guilty of a hugely deceptive practice. Even if Miss Mann asked precisely the same questions the real interviewer did, there are different inflections in the voice no doubt and her body language during the interview was, to say the least, descriptive of her feelings. If this is an example of the integrity of Resource Works, they are not entitled to any credibility whatsoever.

Watering down the truth

In fact it is much worse than this. Resource Works has simply not told the truth and they ought to publicly apologize.  Here’s the evidence:

A case was brought in 2013 against Encana and the province by the Wilderness Committee and Sierra Club. The issue was whether or not section 8 of the Water Act, which allows back-to-back short-term permits, was valid. That was the sole issue; the judge made it clear that she wasn’t deciding on the government’s overall water policy, or the ” fracking” question, but whether back-to-back short term water leases under The Water Act were valid bear that in mind.

Resource Works, in reporting this – and I quote, from page 47 of A Citizen’s Guide To LNG: Sea To Sky Country Edition states:

When a ruling came down in late 2014 it showed that the regulatory processes in place, and industry compliance with them, are sound and well managed.

In an overwhelming endorsement of current practices in water protection, justice Fitzpatrick concluded that when it comes to the regulation of industries water usage, British Columbia is in good shape with a “justifiable transparent and intelligible framework for the regulation of short term water use.”

In fact, she did no such thing as a reading of the judgment makes abundantly clear. She confined her decision to the interpretation of Section 8 only. The issue was whether or not section 8 of the Water Act, which allows gas companies to get an endless number of water approvals back-to-back, was lawful.

Only a practitioner of the black arts of Public Relations could read into Madam Justice Fitzpatrick’s judgment that she said “that the regulatory processes in place, and industry compliance with them, are sound and well managed”, or “when it comes to the regulation of industries water usage, British Columbia is in good shape.'”

She simply did not say this!

The fact that the petitioners, the Wilderness Committee and the Sierra Club, had made an appropriate application was reflected in the fact that no costs were awarded against them, even though they had lost the case.

Surely, one’s entitled to conclude that this sort of disassembling, distortion, and outright misrepresentation colours all of the presentations of this outfit.

Who’s writing this stuff?

Former BC Premier Dan Miller is on Resource Works' Advisory Board

Ex-Premier Dan Miller of Resource Works’ Advisory Board

Resource Works would have us believe that they are an independent group, concerned only with the public weal, and really quite independent on the issue of LNG, only wanting to enhance reasonable debate.

Quite obviously this is utter nonsense. They are obviously flacks for the LNG industry and pretty obviously for the Christy Clark government as well.

Are they paid flacks? I don’t know, which is why it would be most interesting if they disclosed how they are funded – how much and by whom? This operation – the dozens of slick videos, the reports, the website – could not be done cheaply. Where did the money come from? Are there public funds involved?

The question for those involved, who include a former premier and two former attorneys-general of the province, is this: your integrity is at stake here – do you really want your reputations used to back up these statements?

Postscript: A Citizen’s Guide To LNG: Sea To Sky Country Edition, a booklet of 58 pages, was written, so it states, by the Executive Director, Stewart Muir and Barinder Rasode who is – get this for delicious irony – “Director of Social Responsibility for Resource Works” – don’t you love it?

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About the Author

Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

25 Comments


  1.  
    Earl Richards

    Potentially, explosive LNG tankers and LNG terminals have to kept away from populated areas, in the interests of public safety.. Many people could be killed




  2.  

    BG group CEO removed, she was in charge of BG`s BC LNG export plant proposal..

    _________

    “Madeline Whitaker, the head of BG Group’s Canadian unit is about to take up a new position in the company with BG Group saying there are no replacement plans.

    Whitaker was in charge of overseeing the Prince Rupert LNG project’s development, and as David Byford, BG Group’s spokesman, told Reuters, Whitaker has taken a new role at the company’s headquarters.

    Although Byford said that this change does not put the Prince Rupert LNG project at risk, this move does increase the uncertainty over British Columbia’s LNG industry that is seeing projects pushed back due to the oil plunge.”

    http://www.lngworldnews.com/bg-canada-president-leaves-no-replacement-planned/

    _________

    Need more….Nexen, a subsiduary of CNOOC, is laying off workers around the world, including Canada.

    ___

    “Nexen Energy, a CNOOC unit, said it plans to make organizational changes that will reduce its North American workforce by approximately 340 employees….

    The company, developing the Aurora LNG project in British Columbia, said its long-term perspective continues to be fundamental to how it makes organizational decisions. CNOOC Limited is focused on driving long-term stability for the company, Fang Zhi said.”

    http://www.lngworldnews.com/nexen-energy-in-workforce-cuts/

    ___________

    Some much for the Asian premium price difference…

    __________

    “The average price of spot-LNG imported into Japan that was contracted in February 2015 was at $7.6 per mmbtu on DES basis, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) said in a statement.”

    http://www.lngworldnews.com/japan-spot-lng-price-drops-to-usd-7-6-per-mmbtu-in-february/

    __________

    Quicksilver files for chapter 11 bankruptcy, they are the company that proposed a Campbell river LNG export plant..

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/17/quicksilveresources-bankruptcy-idUSL3N0WJ5YW20150317

    They sure pumped the crowd in Campbell River a couple of years ago, everyone in town was invited to hear about the vast $$$$$ opportunities coming to Campbell River, now, not so much..

    http://www.campbellrivermirror.com/news/223188481.html

    Cheers Eyes Wide Open




  3.  

    One more thing, in case you missed this article.

    http://business.financialpost.com/2015/03/17/after-oil-a-glut-of-natural-gas-may-be-next-to-flood-energy-markets/?__lsa=fc79-97ce

    There is now a glut of LNG, and…near 100 million tonnes more of LNG are coming online this year and next, several almost complete Australian plants and a few USA export plants.

    They predict there won`t be any more LNG export plant …FID`s in 2015

    So unless we give the gas away tax free and pay for the plant construction with tax dollars..

    Oh, one last item, Japan`s spot market price for delivered LNG is down to $7 dollars.

    BC plants need $12 to $13 dollars to break even.

    Cheers




  4.  

    Another LNG proposal goes belly up…Quicksilver files for chapter 11 bankruptcy, they couldn`t even get a loan for $13 million dollars to pay interest on their debt.

    http://powellriverpersuader.blogspot.ca/2015/03/campbell-river-lng-export-plant-goes.html

    Quicksilver was proposing an LNG export plant in Campbell River

    Ask Teresa Wat, she`s featured in the below link

    http://www.campbellrivermirror.com/news/230110821.html




  5.  
    Mona Benge

    Absolutely, another insightful work on your part, Rafe. Shame that some of these people would add their names to a group that isn’t even honest about what they are supporting. How could anyone with a cell of responsibility support putting a class A Hazard industry facility over two earthquake faults and on an alluvial fan that stands the strong chance of liquefying should there be a major earthquake in the area. There was one recently in Squamish but under 4. Can they and Christy Clark and the bunch guarantee there will not be one big enough to send the plant into the sea? Will they take responsibility for the damage done? Will they take the responsibility for the damage done to the marine life by the cooling system proposed for the plant which is already banned in California? I doubt it. That’s why we, who have the privilege of living in the Howe Sound region have the responsibility to protect this wonderful area that attracts tourists from around world. And you, Rafe are a major force as is Eoin Finn and the Sea to Sky group in Squamish in doing just that.




  6.  
    nonconfidencevote

    Another excellent article Rafe.
    But, I wonder if the general public believes anything they hear from these PR flacks anymore.
    The utter lack of interest by the general public towards the endless pablum spoon fed to the MSM without question or critisism seems to be upon us.
    Which is what the govt wants I suppose.




  7.  
    Star

    Thank you for this insight Rafe!

    Curiosity with a healthy dose of scepticism finds that Geoff Plant is on the Board of Directors for Vancouver Island’s proposed Steelhead LNG … on Resource Works Advisor Council are Lori Ackerman, current Mayor of Fort St. John (frack-central), and Bud Smith formerly with Prince Rupert Port Authority and Ridley Terminals – where Byng Giraud (Woodfibre-LNG) is, I believe, currently Chairman of Ridley Terminals Inc.

    Would there be any chance of an ‘invested interest’ within Resource Works Board and Advisory Council in Woodfibre-LNG opening up BC’s LNG export industry?





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