All posts by Common Sense Canadian

New Clothes- The generational rip-off of LNG

New Clothes: The generational rip-off of BC LNG

New Clothes- The generational rip-off of LNG
A culturally modified tree tagged by LNG contractors (Graeme Pole)

By Graeme Pole

Thoreau said, among other things, “…beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.” Aboard the BC Ferry Northern Adventure, departing Prince Rupert and bound for Haida Gwaii, I trained my camera on the southern tip of Digby Island, recording images through a liquid sky. Three months earlier, while our family had picked a route through hemlock, cedar, and beach logs on that island, we had encountered a team of “archaeologists,” meticulously scribbling notebook entries as they decorated ancient spirit trees with fluorescent yellow flagging tape. New clothes.

Madii-Lii Camp, a First Nations-led blockade of LNG pipelines (Chris Zazula)

Confronted with a red cedar far too massive to encircle open-armed, and draped with yellow plastic, our youngest daughter asked me that day why the flagged trees were so special. Her question was genuinely innocent. My impromptu reply surprised me for being as inspired as it was brief: “Every tree is special.” I withheld elaborating. I could not bear to unload on our then seven-year old, half a lifetime’s cynicism derived from matters environmental.

The bearers of that flagging tape, who had helicoptered to work from Seal Cove that morning, and who would helicopter home that afternoon, needed to document every instance of culturally modified tree on south Digby Island. This, so that Aurora LNG could comply with a tedious impediment to business, known as an environmental assessment process, before intending to proceed, with the blessings of governments, to utterly destroy the place.

Legions of “biostitutes”

As the Northern Adventure chugged along, I attempted to visualize Aurora LNG’s conceptual plans (three of them) for berthing facilities among the islets off the southeastern tip of Digby Island. Those berths would accommodate ocean-going vessels 345 metres long – ships that would load and transport a dangerous cargo closer to human settlement (Dodge Cove, Metllakatla, and Prince Rupert) than the LNG industry itself deems safe. How can anyone in Prince Rupert get a good night’s sleep anymore?

Lelu Island and Flora Bank (foreground) - site of controversial proposed LNG plant (Skeena Watershed Conservation Soc.)
Lelu Island and Flora Bank (foreground) – site of controversial proposed LNG plant (Skeena Watershed Conservation Society)

Some contractor on the company’s payroll had supposedly done the fieldwork; had checked the soundings and the substrate, had given a cursory nod to wild species and natural processes, had deep-sixed concerns over risks to human life and to the circulating atmosphere of the planet, and had nonetheless drafted the plans. How much money does it take, how much take-home pay, to utterly pervert a person’s connection to place, to fresh air, wild things, and clean water; to permit a person educated in environmental science to say: “This will work. Build it here. We can mitigate. We can get to ‘yes’.”

I now agree with a sentiment that I initially had found repulsive: These people, doubtless well-intentioned at the outset, and now with diplomas and degrees now in hand, have become biostitutes. And there are legions of them, ATV-ing and helicoptering their per-diemed ways across the wilds of BC.

A bald eagle wheeled by. I watched the wind pummel the bird as it turned a wing skyward and fought to hold its track.

North of Hazelton

The Kispiox River, north of Hazelton, BC (Graeme Pole)
The Kispiox River, north of Hazelton, BC (Graeme Pole)

As Digby Island fell away to stern, a woman interrupted my silent lament, joining me at the starboard railing where I sought shelter from the rain under one of the lifeboat davits. She asked where I was from. “North of Hazelton.” Brief rain-soaked silence. “Beautiful country,” she replied. “My son has been working there for two years with an environmental company. Finding the best place for the pipeline to go.”

When we made landfall at Skidegate, Premier Clark and Petronas were the top story on the CBC Radio news. The Petronas board of directors had given Pacific Northwest LNG conditional approval. TransCanada Pipelines was already saying that it would begin, within six months, construction of the fracked gas pipeline that would supply the LNG plant proposed for Lelu Island in the Skeena estuary and, perhaps inconsequentially, wreck the place some 300 kilometres upstream that my wife and I had chosen to make home, exactly sixteen years ago.

By late evening that day, newsfeeds were reporting that the BC Oil and Gas Commission had issued the first two construction permits for that pipeline.

No matter

No matter that the federal environmental assessment of Pacific Northwest LNG – the destination of that proposed pipeline – was still underway, with the principal concern being impacts to wild salmon. No matter that Madii ‘Lii Camp of the Gitxsan First Nation nobly shuts down a 32 km length of the proposed pipeline’s route on unceded territory. No matter that this one LNG plant would increase the province’s greenhouse gas emissions by 8.5 percent over 2012 levels, at a time when law states that the province must decrease those emissions by 20 percent from 2007 levels. No matter that the “clean” label of LNG is a lie – the lifecycle emissions of shale gas converted to LNG are 43 percent dirtier than burning coal to achieve the same BTUs.

BC approves Petronas LNG plant and 2 more gas pipelines
Ex-Petronas CEO Shamsul Abbas with BC Premier Christy Clark

No matter that two of BC’s LNG proponents have atrocious environmental and human rights records elsewhere in the world. Sukanto Tanoto, president of Woodfibre LNG (proposed for Howe Sound), has been called “Indonesia’s lead driver of rainforest destruction.” In 2012 he was found guilty of US tax evasion and agreed to pay over $200 million in fines. Petronas has been accused of participating in “environmental genocide” in Sudan. (During her Asian LNG junkets, Premier Clark posed for photo ops with Tanoto and with Shamsul Abbas, then CEO of Petronas.)

No matter that the Blueberry River First Nations, in part seeking to thwart the upturn in fracking that the LNG industry would require, have filed suit in the Supreme Court of British Columbia over the breach of Treaty 8 that the oil and gas industry has brought to bear on their traditional lands. No matter. No matter. No matter. A chaos of vain carts before a stampede of proud horses.

“Generational opportunity”

For northwestern BC, Premier Clark’s ”generational opportunity” of an LNG industry requires of locals – who have a storied history with the comings and goings of boom and bust industries – an acceptance of more new clothes. A plague of white pick-up trucks descends on the landscape while helicopters buzz overhead at the edges of human settlement, sometimes at rooftop level. People who live elsewhere deem what will be imposed on the landscape of home, and why, and that it will be good for all. Motels and truck rental companies have a brief field day. Communities grapple with the ethics of huge money being proffered them by the agents of corporations from afar, who, until the dossier was dropped on their desk, had no idea where Hazelton was, or Gingolx, or Lax Kw’alaams.

Environmental consultants pop up in empty second floor suites all over Smithers, Terrace, Kitimat, and Prince Rupert, sometimes above the vacuous, street-level presence of their corporate employers. Smalltown main street becomes a meet-and-greet, “we are listening” playground for the denim and plaid, dressed-down suits of oil and gas corporations, domestic and foreign. And everyone knows that all these people want to do is to sell enough snake oil to allow the serpent to slither westward to the coast, to deliver its venom and devour a landscape, before it moves on to its next meal.

What money?

The provincial government claims that a billion dollars of taxable commerce has already taken place in BC’s new LNG economy. That’s a lot of leased trucks, hotel rooms, and restaurant meals. The revenue to the province (perhaps 70 million tax dollars) will not even begin to compensate for the government’s absolute giveaway of the methane resource. No net export taxes will be paid by LNG proponents until the capital costs of their projects have been recouped. The rate of levy then due the government will be less than you and I pay on a bag of potato chips.

Chevron's Gorgon LNG plant in Australia (Chevron)
Chevron’s Gorgon LNG plant in Australia (Chevron)

Petronas and the government forecast the corporate investment in Pacific Northwest LNG, its pipeline, and its fracking fields at 36 Billion dollars. The government cannot estimate its own LNG expenses already incurred, but to anyone who has lent even a cursory ear to the media, to the parade of announced pay-offs to First Nations, and to the glut of government-sponsored open houses, it is evident that the sum already far exceeds 70 million dollars. It is well into the hundreds of millions of dollars, with pledges to First Nations of $1.6 billion more over the next 40 years.

If the experience of the LNG industry in Australia were to play out in BC, there could be project cost overruns that approach fifty percent. Thus it would be decades after the first LNG shovels were put in the ground before the taxpayers of BC might see a nickel of return. Yet governing politicians continue to utter lies about the economic benefits of the industry almost nightly on the news.

Fear, distrust and grief

Going broke and dealing with a poisoned land are potential long-term fallout of the proposed LNG economy. In the present, nothing of lasting value has been created by its supposed billion dollars of activity. To the contrary, much of lasting harm has come to pass. Fear, distrust and grief have been bred in the hearts and minds of those who live on the land and who love it the way that it is, along with a sense of betrayal that is profound.

Gitxsan members blockade Highway 16 last December (Photo submitted)
Gitxsan members blockade Highway 16 (Photo submitted)

How far will the people of northwestern BC bend before they break? How much crap are they willing to take from a governing party that they did not elect; from an industry that they did not ask to trespass in their home? How much longer can they live in a mythical land that is off-the-radar of those in other parts of the province, just enough of whom apparently thought that the BC Liberals were a good idea?

As I arrived in Queen Charlotte City and the radio news concluded, I could still feel the damp, the rain, and the wind of earlier that day, as Lelu Island had fallen to port. And I knew – damp or not – that the inherent condition of that intertidal realm would not be enough to prevent the ignition of northwestern BC in the coming social and environmental firestorm.

LNG as metaphor

From wellhead to waterline, and yes, even out to sea, LNG has become a metaphor for many things. Rendered to fundamentals, the proposed industry represents for BC and Canada a place of clear reckoning: Accept the industry, and nothing about how we care for the Earth will change at all, let alone for the better. Oppose the industry, and we buy time for the Earth, its people, and its wild species and natural processes while we (perhaps) collectively figure out less harmful ways and means to exist here.

Governments long ago, at the bidding of their corporate patrons, reached their sell-out decision points. Individuals from all walks are just now waking up to this. We will have to co-operate; will have to intend a different reality if a different reality is to come to pass.

Billions will drop at the slightest shaking from the money trees of industry and government. That’s nothing new. The takers, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, will take. Those opposed will fret and will hold their higher ground. The ocean will pulse twice daily on the shores of British Columbia, like a measuring heartbeat.

But beware. This will go on for but a while longer, until and if each of us takes on the new clothes that the Earth and the ticking times require.

Graeme Pole is a resident of the Kispiox Valley and the publisher of


Peaceful Paddle lands Site C opponents on terrorist watch list

2012 Paddle for the Peace (Damien Gillis)
2012 Paddle for the Peace (Damien Gillis)

The following letter was written by the Paddle for the Peace Planning Committee in response to an article in the Toronto Star which stated that events like the upcoming Paddle for the Peace (July 11th) were on terrorist watch lists.

Dear Editor,

According to the Toronto Star (March 30, 2015), the Federal government has included the Paddle for the Peace on a terrorist watch list.  And here we thought we weren’t getting any attention.  We are in good company, though.  Also on the list is a physicians’ group opposed to child poverty, Mother Theresa, and a senior’s quilting group from Bugtussle, Saskatchewan.  In an effort to save our government security agencies time, not to mention the Canadian taxpayers a great deal of money, we’d like to present a brief resume of some of the key players on the Paddle for the Peace planning committee.  It is a rogues gallery indeed.

Retired primary school teacher Ruth Ann Darnell is the Chair of the Peace Valley Environment Association.  She has been working to save the Peace Valley from Site C since the 1970s.  Back then, Ruth Ann’s subversive activities were hampered by the fact the Internet was decades away from being created.  After a long day of teaching five year olds to read, she just never had the time or energy to trudge down to the Fort St. John library to research DIY incendiary devices.

After teaching her sixteen year old son to drive, local children’s clothing retailer Danielle Yeoman knew she was one of those rare talents every ISIS recruiting officer dreams of discovering.  She desired to really put her nerves of steel to the test.  But her terrorist career was over before it was started when she learned those torso belts packed with explosives add at least six inches to your waistline.  I mean really, there are limits to what a girl will do to support a violent fanatical cause.

When she was a little girl, Diane Culling dreamed of becoming a pot-smoking tree-spiker fighting to save the rain forests of the Sudan. Unfortunately she found the required cannabis consumption affected her fine motor skills.  She kept hitting her own thumb with the hammer.  In the end, she was forced to limit her mind-numbing activities to sitting through endless BC Hydro consultation meetings.

Local business owner Wendy Crossland’s membership application was regretfully declined when the Al-Qaeda executive realized she never stops smiling and laughing.  They might be a blood-thirsty terrorist organization, but they do have some standards.

And then there’s Tony Atkins.  He was in from the start and in it until his untimely death from cancer a few weeks ago. Educator, tireless community volunteer, virtual saint, and all-round asset to Fort St. John.  He won’t be there in the flesh at this year’s Paddle, but believe me, he will be there in our hearts.

So, that’s just a few members of the notorious PPPC (Paddle for the Peace Planning Committee).  There are others, but they’re like Voldemort – we don’t even say their names out loud.

To our friends at Canada’s spy agencies – I hope this helps.   If you want mug shots and finger-prints please meet us at our rendezvous site on the west side of the Halfway River bridge on Highway 29 on July 11th.  Bring a spare shirt in case you drip pancake syrup.  And don’t forget your life jacket; because, after all, at the Paddle for the Peace we are all about public safety.


Paddle for the Peace Planning Committee


LNG tankers in Fraser River? Brief chance to comment on sneaky project

Existing courtesy Fortis BC LNG plant in Fraser River (courtesy of Eoghan Moriarty/
Fortis LNG compression station near Fraser River (beige tank)  – courtesy of Eoghan Moriarty/

The following is republished with permission from The ECOReport.

by Roy Hales

UPDATE: Following complaints that the CEAA email system for public comments on the project has been out of commission throughout the 20-day comment period, the window for feedback has been extended until June 24

The National Energy Board has already granted an export license, to US based WesPac Midstream, for a facility that could bring up to 120 LNG tankers and 90 LNG barges into the Fraser River every year.  The public’s opportunity to make their concerns known ends June 11. There are only eight days to comment on Delta’s proposed LNG terminal (WesPack Tilbury Marine Jetty).

Thought it was a joke

Voters Taking Action On Climate Change (VTACC) sent out an alert after seeing a notice about the proposed LNG facility on the British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office’s (BC EAO) website.

The first notice MLA Andrew Weaver, of BC’s Green party, received was an email  from the ECOreport, “I thought it was a joke, a spoof on LNG. It is remarkable that this is potentially going ahead. The Tilbury facility is there already to provide natural gas at peak times in the Lower Mainland, or there are little communities here or there that need natural gas.

He added:

[quote]But the proposal to have up to 120 LNG tankers and 90 LNG barges a year is just truly remarkable. What has it come to that we are starting to see these massive fossil fuel projects being brought forward with days to have any input on? I’m an MLA in the province of British Columbia. I read a lot. I’m pretty much up on what is going on in the province and I have eight days notice )about the WesPack Tilbury project) because you emailed me about it![/quote]

The ECOreport also attempted to contact the provincial NDP critic for natural gas development, who was not available to comment.

CEAA “sent out a press release”

A spokesperson from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) said they sent out a news release on May 22.  She said there will not be another opportunity for the public to comment unless the CEAA decides an environmental assessment is necessary.

Wespac Plan
Access Trestle And Loading Platform Design from WesPac Tilbury Marine Jetty Project Project Description CEAA Summary

In the CEAA project description, it says “WesPac is committed to ongoing consultation and engagement with Aboriginal groups that are interested in the Project.” Both the Musqueam and Tsawwassen have signed agreements and WesPac is in discussions with several other First Nations. They also provided a list of First Nations that have no yet responded to their queries:

  • Hwlitsum;
  • Lake Cowichan;
  • Lyackson;
  • Semiahmoo;
  • Squamish;
  • Seabird Island First Nation;
  • Shxw’ow’hamel First Nation;
  • Skawahlook;
  • Soowahlie First Nation;
  • Stó:lō Nation;
  • Stó:lō Tribal Council;
  • and Tsawout First Nation.

BC’s existing LNG facilities

BC has two existing LNG facilities, both owned by FortisBC. Tilbury LNG Facility, next to the proposed WesPack site, is 43 years old. Fortis began a $400 million expansion project last October. This adds 1.1 million gigajoules of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to storage and 34,000 gigajoules per day of liquefaction capacity. Another LNG facility opened near Ladysmith in 2011.

WesPac aims to start construction next year

Premier Christy Clark’s government appears to endorse this project. A notice on their website proclaims, “The WesPac LNG marine terminal will provide a means of loading LNG onto carrier ships for export.” BC’s Environmental Assessment Office has requested that it be allowed tosubstitute a provincial revue for the federal process.

WesPack expects to start construction of its’ terminal next year. It will take 15 months to build the WesPack Tilbury Marine Jetty and they expect it to be operational for at least 30 years.

Project Shipping Route from WesPac Tilbury Marine Jetty Project Project Description CEAA Summary
Project Shipping Route from WesPac Tilbury Marine Jetty Project Project Description CEAA Summary

One of the proposed domestic customers is BC ferries, which has ordered three LNG fueled ferries that can accommodate 145 vehicles and 600 passengers.

Weaver said, “BC ferries has suggested is it will provide with the new ships to LNG power instead of diesel. It is cleaner, it is a domestic market for a domestic product. I’m totally for that, but you just need a small capacity for that. If Fortis and others would come to people and say, ‘look BC ferries wants to start using LNG. We need to provide a fueling station for it and this is how we propose to do it.’ You could build a social license from a project like that.””

Barges of up 4,000 m of LNG capacity will service coastal communities through-out the regional market.

Much larger LNG carriers, meant for foreign markets, have up to 90,000 m of capacity. They can tie up at the Marine Jetty for up to eight days, but will normally depart after 24 to 48 hours.

LNG terminal absurd

Kevin Washbrook, director with VTACC, thinks it is absurd to build an LNG terminal on the Fraser River.

“I think once enough people become aware the push-back will be so high, and the assessment so rigorous,  that it will be easy to say this makes no sense. Just on the siting of the review process and the lack of a proper assessment of the location, I think there are reasons for everyone to be concerned about this project. Even LNG supporters accept that you have to be careful about where you put these things,” he said.

Weaver agrees:

[quote]Anybody who claims these days that a major infrastructure , or resource project, is a done deal need not look much further than some of the projects around British Columbia that have run into resistance. Not the least of which is the Enbridge (Northern Gateway) pipeline or the implications of the recent Tsilhqot’in decision with respect to resource projects on First Nations land.[/quote]

Business done respectfully

BC Green MLA Andrew Weaver
BC Green MLA Andrew Weaver

Weaver insists, “British Columbians are fed up with being treated disrespectfully, things being ramrodded down their throats in terms of a top down push to governance.”

This is not a lesson the Canadian or British Columbian governments appear to have learned.

“Is British Columbia open for business? Absolutely, but business done respectfully – not irresponsibly like we are seeing here, with little attempt to actually engage the public. I wonder how many people living along the Fraser River even know about this?” said Weaver.

Matt Horne of the Pembina Institute said, “It is disturbing that a project of this scale could potentially be approved without an environmental assessment. In addition to being a large industrial facility in the Lower Mainland, it would also necessitate an expansion of shale gas wells, roads and pipelines in northeast B.C. It should absolutely go through an environmental assessment process. And while environmental assessments in Canada have serious flaws, conducting one would at least ensure the WesPac proposal undergoes the same scrutiny as other LNG proposals around the province.”

“A loud public response in the next few days is needed to ensure this LNG proposal receives the careful assessments our region deserves,” said Washbrook. “Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq should commit to a federal panel review for this project, and she should reject BC’s request to substitute a provincial review.  Given the BC government’s clear bias in favour of LNG exports, handing this over to the province would be like putting the foxes in charge of the hen house.”

(Click on this link to access a form where you can ask federal Environment Min Aglukkaq to 1) conduct an assessment of this project and 2) reject BC’s request to substitute a provincial assessment instead.)

Top Photo Credit: The Fortis LNG compression station is located at the middle of the photo (beige storage tank). The LNG terminal would be located immediately downstream (to the right) and the vessels would load where the old wooden pilings are in the river – courtesy Eoghan Moriarty |


Geologist: Minister inflating shale gas, LNG potential by 6 fold – threatening Canada’s energy security

BC Minister of Natural Gas Rich Coleman
BC Minister of Natural Gas Rich Coleman

The following rebuttal from geoscientist David Hughes to BC Minister of Natural Gas Rich Coleman is republished with permission from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The minister has been vocal about Mr. Hughes’ recent report on LNG, published by the CCPA.

After a lot of media coverage on my Clear Look at BC LNG report, Rich Coleman, Minister of Natural Gas, weighed in saying “the report ignored the studies of B.C.’s own scientists” and “they don’t do their research”. In fact, if Mr. Coleman had bothered to read my report, he would have noted that my numbers are cited from BC Oil and Gas Commission reports – the scientists Mr. Coleman employs.

The BC Government states that “British Columbia’s natural gas supply is estimated at over 2,933 trillion cubic feet” and “British Columbia has more than an estimated 2,900 trillion cubic feet of marketable shale gas reserves”. These statements strongly imply that this is recoverable gas and therefore is part of future supply and is marketable. In contrast, here are the actual numbers from the BC Oil and Gas Commission (Table 4 from page 6 of the BC Oil and Gas Commission report that the BC Government claimed doubled BC gas reserves).


Instead of 2,933 tcf, the table lists an ultimate marketable potential resource for BC of just 400 tcf, of which 25 tcf has already been recovered leaving 376 tcf remaining. In my report I added an additional 42 tcf from other potential sources to make sure I was being generous, of which 416 tcf is remaining.

The BC Government’s claim of 2,933 tcf of “marketable shale gas reserves” is therefore preposterous in the light of information from its own scientists. It appears the BC Government has conflated “in-place” resources with “marketable” resources. “In-place” resource estimates are not recoverable – typically no more than 10-20% of the in-place resource is recoverable from shale gas plays. The National Energy Board and BC Oil and Gas Commission scientists have made a best guess at what might be recoverable and suggest it is 376 tcf, or one-eighth of the amount touted by the BC Government. I have been generous in suggesting the BC Government’s number is only overstated by a factor of six.

The BC Government has also been conflating “resources” with “reserves”. Proven reserves have a specific meaning in that they have been proven to exist with the drill bit and are recoverable with existing technology under foreseeable economic conditions. Reserves are numbers you can take to the bank. According to the BC Oil and Gas Commission, proven raw gas reserves in BC were just 42.3 tcf at yearend 2013, a mere 1/70th of what the BC Government is touting as “marketable shale gas reserves”.

If the BC Government knows the difference between “in-place resources” and “marketable shale gas reserves”, its touting of 2,933 tcf of BC gas is deliberate deception. If it does not it is extremely shocking given that Mr. Coleman and his government are the stewards of BC’s remaining finite, non-renewable, heritage of natural gas.

The BC LNG Alliance, an industry lobby group for seven LNG proponents, simply parroted BC Government statements. Its President, David Keane, “said 2,933 trillion cubic feet is a figure that the commission and energy board geologists “do believe we have.”’ Keane further accused me of “cherry picking some of the facts”. If Keane had read my report he would have seen it is based on National Energy Board projections, not mine, so if anyone is to be accused of cherry-picking it is the NEB.

The BC Government and the BC LNG Alliance have no credibility on the gas supply numbers they state for the reasons listed above. But my report was about much more than that. We are dealing with a finite non-renewable resource for which there are no substitutes at the scale we use it. It will be needed domestically in the long term and extraction necessitates environmental impacts. It demands a longer term plan for the sake of the environment and future generations.

Botched English Bay oil spill confirms BC 'woefully unprepared' for more pipelines, tankers- Open letter

Botched English Bay oil spill confirms BC ‘woefully unprepared’ for more pipelines, tankers: Open letter

Botched English Bay oil spill confirms BC 'woefully unprepared' for more pipelines, tankers- Open letter
Ocean pollution specialist Dr. Peter Ross displays an oily substance from English Bay (Vancouver Aquarium)

The following is an open letter by Ben West of the group Tanker Free BC to Christy Clark. 

Dear Premier Clark,

In a 2013 interview with Peter Mansbridge, you discussed Canada’s inability to handle a major coastal oil spill now, let alone in the future should new pipelines be approved. “We are woefully under-resourced,” you said.

In that same year your government rejected the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and tanker project in part because of concerns around oil spills. “British Columbia thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence and submissions made to the panel and asked substantive questions about the project including its route, spill response capacity and financial structure to handle any incidents,” said then B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake in a May 31 media release. “Our questions were not satisfactorily answered during these hearings.”

On April 9th, 2015 a oil spill took place in the Vancouver Harbour. City of Vancouver staff were not even informed until the next morning and later that day it was revealed that 6 hours went by before booms were put in place. Oil has washed up on the beaches of Stanley Park, Jericho Beach and Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver among other places. No signs were put up on beaches to warn residents and visitors. At this time it is still unknown exactly how much oil was spilled or even by whom. The apparent lack of coordination seems to prove your point from 2013, we clearly are “woefully unprepared”.

To make things worse we now know that the recently closed Kitsilano Coast Guard station could have had booms in the water within six minutes, as opposed to six hours. Next month the Vancouver Coast Guard MCTS centre that regulates shipping movements in Vancouver Harbour is scheduled to close. These are our marine traffic controllers?!?

There are also plans to close the Regional Marine Information Centre (RMIC).The RMIC notifies responders, government agencies such as Transport Canada, Environment Canada, Environmental Response and others so a proper response can be mobilized.

The Harper Conservatives will CLOSE this notification centre on May 6, 2015 as part of the larger cuts to the west coast marine safety network. The Coast Guard will also cease providing anchorage assistance to ships, including tankers when the MCTS centre closes and moved to Victoria next month. This is strongly opposed by BC Coast Pilots and Port Metro Vancouver.

Ottawa hasn’t developed or implemented any replacement system for the dissemination of these pollution reports.

Yet your government continues to allow the Harper Government to call the shots when it comes to decisions about pipelines that would lead to massive increases in tanker and other vessel traffic in BC.

Please make this oil spill incident in our harbour the last straw. Please do as municipal leaders from across the province have requested via a resolution at the Union of BC Municipalities and withdraw BC from the National Energy Boards process regarding the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline project. And please formally withdraw from the “equivalency agreement” with the Federal Government that puts the environmental assessment and public consultation process under their control.

These are clearly not world class safety standards. Please stand up for the BC coast and do not allow the discussion of increased tanker traffic to continue until the current safety issues are addressed.

Lawyer warns LNG industry- Don't count on power from Site C dam

Lawyer warns LNG industry: Don’t count on power from Site C dam

Lawyer warns LNG industry- Don't count on power from Site C dam
Lawyer Rob Botterell represents First Nations and landowners in the Peace Valley region

The following is an open letter sent by lawyer Rob Botterell to the BC LNG Alliance, key BC Liberal ministers, and Treaty 8 First Nations. Site C Dam is being looked to as a possible source for the additional power required for proposed LNG plants on the BC coast.

Dear Respected First Nations, LNG Industry and BC Government Leaders:

In my capacity as a lawyer who has represented First Nations for many years, I am writing to you about the relationship between the planned Site C dam and the proposed new LNG export industry.

Premier Christy Clark announced the approval of the Site C dam on December 16th, 2014, but the dam lacks First Nations’ support and the social licence necessary to proceed. Currently, seven strong court challenges from First Nations and non-First Nations are underway. Construction of Site C is delayed at least until summer 2015.

True reconciliation of First Nations, LNG Sector and BC government interests requires full respect for, and accommodation of, First Nations’ constitutionally protected treaty rights, title and interests. The Site C dam would adversely impact First Nations’ treaty rights, title and interests in a massive and irreversible way. This devastating impact is completely unnecessary when cost competitive, renewable and non-renewable energy alternatives to Site C exist.

Contrary to the Premier’s statements, these energy alternatives would also provide combined short, medium and long term economic benefits to First Nations’ governments, contractors and community members that far outweigh any economic benefits from Site C.

For those First Nations who are engaged in impact and benefit agreement (lBA) negotiations with LNG sector companies or the province, I respectfully urge you to insist on IBA provisions that require the use of electrical power sources other than Site C by those LNG sector companies.

For those LNG Sector companies and BC government ministries involved in such discussions, I urge you to respect the legitimate interests of BC First Nations and agree to incorporate such provisions in IBAs.

An energy future that respects First Nations’ treaty rights, title and interests in the Peace River Valley is long overdue.

Yours truly,

Robert H. Botterell, LLB, MBA, FIBC

Transition away from fossil fuels needs to take care of workers

Transition away from fossil fuels needs to take care of workers

Transition away from fossil fuels needs to take care of workers
Gas workers in BC’s Horn River Basin (Photo: Damien Gillis)

By Karen Cooling, Marc Lee and Shannon Daub

The steady stream of bad news from Alberta’s oilpatch is a potent reminder of the boom-and-bust nature of being a resource-commodity exporter. It’s a story deeply understood in resource communities, as decisions made halfway around the world dictate whether you will have a job tomorrow.

The outlook for fossil fuel-exporting industries is likely to get worse if governments negotiate a new global deal to limit carbon emissions this year. On the heels of a climate deal with China, U.S. President Barack Obama stated in his State of the Union address that:

[quote]No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.[/quote]

Leaving it in the ground

It is now recognized that anywhere from two-thirds to four-fifths of proven fossil fuel reserves worldwide must be left in the ground to avert catastrophe. Canadian politicians live in denial of these facts, pushing instead for more bitumen, coal and LNG exports.

But what does all this mean for people whose livelihoods rely on these industries? We talked with resource workers around B.C. who have experienced boom-and-bust cycles first-hand — especially in forestry. What we uncovered is a very unhappy legacy. One concern is that climate action could mean the loss of well-paying jobs and a repeat of this tragic pattern.

A “just transition”

As we plan for a transition to a zero-carbon economy, we will need to ensure a “just transition” for oil and gas workers, who should not have to pay the price of doing the right thing on climate change.

In past resource busts, families have faced extreme financial and emotional instability due to job losses. There are also ripple effects throughout the economy, as reduced spending forces the closure of small businesses and service providers, municipal government budgets collapse and the residential housing market becomes glutted with “stranded assets.”

Stable management of fossil-fuel industries over a two-or three-decade wind-down period with a just transition plan can get us off the resource roller-coaster and better serve workers, communities and the economy.

How to build a sustainable future

Much work will be required to build the zero-emission economy we need but we should embrace that. Building new, green infrastructure for the future includes investments in district energy systems, localized food systems, regional rapid transit, efficient buildings and “zero waste” management of materials — all of which can be a major economic benefit in rural and resource communities.

We also need to stop lumping in all resource sectors together. While fossil-fuel industries are at the heart of the climate problem, there can and should be a bright future for renewable resources like forestry. With strong stewardship and enhanced value-added, forestry in B.C. could support an additional 20,000 good permanent jobs — far more than will arise from any LNG development. This means reversing direction on forestry policies that have gutted the industry and its connection to supporting communities.

forestry vs. oil and gas jobs
Graphic by Norm Farrell

A “Green Social Contract”

A coherent, managed approach would also allow for planned transitions for workers that include income supports, skills training and apprenticeships. This means investing in skills that are transferable from carbon-intensive to green industries. Proactive planning and collaboration across government, industry and unions is critical for ensuring a just transition.

This new “green social contract” will require a reallocation of financial resources. We recommend creating a just transition fund out of resource royalties or carbon tax revenues. The fund could enhance income security for workers, support early retirement initiatives for some and help people through retraining and job search processes.

Rather than trying to cultivate the next boom (think LNG), our aspirations should be to develop a high-quality, full-employment strategy that supports workers, families and communities to transition beyond fossil fuels.

Karen Cooling is a former representative with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers’ Union. Marc Lee and Shannon Daub are with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. This piece draws on a new study, Just Transition: Creating a Green Social Contract for BC’s Resource Workers.

Public-Private Partnerships a bad deal for BC- Finance Ministry report

Public-Private Partnerships a bad deal for BC: Finance Ministry report

Public-Private Partnerships a bad deal for BC- Finance Ministry report
P3 skytrain construction by SNC-Lavalin killed many businesses on Vancouver’s Cambie St. (Wikipedia)

The following is republished with permission from Policy Note – the blog of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ BC office.

By Keith Reynolds

The BC Finance Ministry has produced a report much more critical of Partnerships BC and its activities around public private partnerships (P3s) than might have been expected by a province so committed to the practice. It raises issues of conflict of interest, dubious practices and questionable assumptions in the multi- billion dollar program. The story has received no media coverage.

While it is likely the province will continue to push P3s with undiminished enthusiasm for large projects, the report and surrounding documents acknowledge many of the criticisms of P3s raised by other groups including both the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the BC Construction Association.

The results of the Partnerships BC study were announced in a December 16 press release in which the government promised to carry out the recommendations in the report as well as further recommendations contained in observations from the report’s steering committee. If the government carries out this commitment it will mean Partnerships BC will lose some of its autonomy in the way P3s are delivered.

The study arises from a commitment in the 2011 Throne Speech that the province was going to take a hard look at is Crown corporations “to ensure taxpayers and families are protected and the interests of all British Columbians are well served.” The studies are being conducted by the Ministry of Finance’s Internal Audit and Advisory Services branch (IAAS).

Among the biggest issues in the report is conflict of interest.  The report states:

[quote]There is a concern that Partnerships BC is potentially biased towards certain procurement methodologies because it is mandated to be both a self-sustaining organization and an advisor to government. This creates the perception that Partnerships BC’s advice may be biased towards revenue generating opportunities for the organization.[/quote]

In a letter from the report’s Steering Committee to the Minister of Finance containing “additional observations” the Committee recommends taking some decision making power away from Partnerships BC. The Committee recommends:

[quote]To ensure the determination of work directed to Partnerships BC is unbiased, it is recommended that the initial screening of all new capital projects for P3 viability be conducted by the Ministry of Finance under the direction of the Deputy Minister.[/quote]

The report also identifies (although it dismisses) the potential conflict of interest of hiring of the former PBC Chief Executive Officer, Larry Blain, as its Board Chair and then contracting with him to provide other services. However, the report also says:

[quote]A sample of fourteen consultant and contractor files, representing 23% of total files, was also reviewed. More than half of the contract files reviewed did not contain adequate documentation.[/quote]

The report does not say whether or not Blain’s contracts were among these deficient files.  Since the IAAS review began both Blain and the woman who replaced him as administrative head of the agency, Sarah Clark, have left Partnerships BC.

While the report specifically says it did not examine the methodology that justifies the use of P3s some of its findings touch on this methodology. For example, Partnerships BC says it bases its decision on whether or not to use a P3 by comparing the cost of a P3 with a public sector comparator.  However, PBC frequently uses what it considers to be the most expensive possible method of public procurement (Design/Bid/Build), ignoring less expensive methods of public procurement such as Design/Build, which even the Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships (C2P3) considers public procurement.

The report says:

[quote]In many instances, PBC has used DBB (Design Bid Build) procurement as the benchmark. However this is not always understood by the project owner to be the most likely alternative as the project owner might choose to do DB (Design Build) procurement if a P3 does not generate value for money. Consideration should be given to using the most likely alternative that the project owner would use, to ensure that value for money is correctly stated and is understood by all parties.[/quote]

The report states that there is an inherent uncertainty in the assumptions used by Partnerships BC to justify P3s and recommends that:

[quote]Given the inherent uncertainty of the assumptions made in the value for money calculations, at least one jurisdiction in Canada has set a minimum value for money threshold (5%) that is required to go forward as a P3, and the government could consider doing the same.[/quote]

The report examines “bundling,” a practice by which smaller projects are linked to provide a large enough contract for a P3. This has been a particular bugbear for the BC Construction Association which finds many of its members are too small to participate in such projects.

The report finds this is not a common practice, but despite this, the Steering Committee for the report recommended to the Minister of Finance that “government strongly restrict the use of bundling and provide clear guidance on what is considered acceptable bundling.”

The report recommends that the trigger threshold for using a P3 be raised from $50 million to $100 million saying, “Stakeholders believe that this threshold needs to be raised to ensure greater cost/benefit returns on these complex and costly projects.” This being said the report suggests loopholes be left open should the government want a P3 for a smaller project.

The Steering Committee makes another recommendation which may undermine PBC’s involvement saying:

[quote]For local government and associated entities within BC, allowing Partnerships BC to provide services only through direct invitation (on a government to government basis) provided there is a positive return to the Crown Corporation.[/quote]

If followed through on this may reduce pressure on local governments to use PBC for projects.

A significant portion of the report focuses on the possibility of PBC competing with the private sector which might be delivering these services instead of a government agency. Major consulting firms, and smaller ones as well, could have delivered many of the services provided by Partnerships BC.

In 2002 when Larry Blain, who had also served on Gordon Campbell’s transition team when he became Premier, was appointed as head of Partnerships BC, the agency seemed largely untouchable. This seems to be changing.

In a final irony, the report itself may be a conflict of interest. Partnerships BC is a private company owned by the Ministry of Finance, thus the Ministry of Finance is reviewing its own agency which raises its own conflict of interest issues.

Keith Reynolds is a National Research Representative for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Squamish Council faces legal action from both sides in LNG pipeline dispute

Squamish Council faces lawsuits from both sides in LNG pipeline dispute

Squamish Council faces legal action from both sides in LNG pipeline dispute
Citizens line the Sea to Sky Highway to protest Woodfibre LNG (My Sea to Sky)

Former District of Squamish Councillor Meg Fellowes addresses current mayor and council over Fortis BC’s controversial application to conduct test drilling in a wildlife management area. The drilling is in connection to a planned pipeline expansion to feed gas to the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant near Squamish. At a Tuesday meeting, council deferred its decision on the drilling permit issue, to be revisited in 2 weeks.

Mayor and Council – District of Squamish (Dos):

Council is caught between a rock and a hard place. The rock is a possible Fortis legal suit if Council doesn’t approve drilling in the [wildlife management area]; and, the hard place is a possible legal suit by one or more taxpayer/resident if council does approve the drilling.

During the council meeting of January 6th, 2015, a disconnect was identified between the Official Community Plan (OCP) and the authorizing bylaw. Awareness of the disconnect provides grounds for a community legal challenge should Council approve the permit. The prudent solution, for a risk adverse council, is to officially amend the OCP to reflect the bylaw; or, amend the bylaw to reflect the OCP.

A legal challenge coming from the community happened in 2000 when [anti-woodchip transfer facility group] CHIPS took on DoS in the wood-chip transfer facility debacle where Squamish council was taken to court by concerned citizens. Despite the assurance of municipal lawyers, the District of Squamish lost the court case, the proposed wood-chip transfer facility wasn’t built, and one of the enterprising citizens was subsequently elected mayor of Squamish.

Seeming procedural technicalities cost taxpayers money, developers time, and communities their reputation when local governments try to take short-cuts on contentious issues.

Meg Fellowes
Former DoS councillor (1993-99)

Metro's congestion tax referendum is on the wrong track

Metro’s congestion tax referendum is on the wrong track: Opinion

Metro's congestion tax referendum is on the wrong track

The following is a letter to the editor from Malcolm Johnston of Rail for the Valley.

One has to shake one’s head with the ‘Metro Vancouver congestion improvement tax’ referendum, as clearly the Metro mayors haven’t a clue what they are talking about.

The name, Metro Vancouver congestion improvement tax is false advertising, as the only way to reduce road congestion and associated gridlock is by reducing road space for cars and this is not being done.

mode share graphSubways don’t reduce congestion and are only built to accommodate high ridership on routes which demand long trains and large stations. Traffic flows along Broadway come nowhere close to justifying a multi-billion dollar subway which, if built, will drag TransLink into a financial morass as it has done in other cities. The ill-planned LRT for Surrey, which is being planned as a poor man’s SkyTrain, will do little in alleviating congestion.

Don’t Metro mayors realize that after investing over $9 billion in ‘rapid transit’, mode share by auto has remained at 57% for over 20 years?

The one mode with a proven record of alleviating congestion is modern LRT because it uses road space for its route, thus modern LRT reduces road space for cars while at the same time offering a convenient and attractive transit alternative. It’s why LRT is built around the world and SkyTrain is not.

So instead of the oxymoronic, ‘Metro Vancouver congestion tax’, a more accurate name would be; “Let’s do the same thing over again and hope for different results” tax.

Oh, excuse me, that’s the definition for insanity.