Category Archives: LNG

BC LNG: Boon or Boondoggle?LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) is one of biggest energy stories to hit Western Canada. It is promoted as a clean bridge fuel that will create thousands of jobs and turn British Columbia into a trillion-dollar global energy leader. The idea is to cool natural gas into liquid, so it can be shipped to higher-price markets in Asia. But is it really all it’s cracked up to be? And what are the trade-offs and impacts associated with LNG and the fracked gas that would feed it?

The Common Sense Canadian is your go-to source for in-depth analysis of the potential benefits and risks of this “game-changing” industry.

What is John Horgan thinking on LNG?!

John Horgan announcing a new framework for LNG (Province of BC / Flickr)

In his desperate bid to keep Christy Clark’s LNG pipe dream alive, John Horgan has become completely untethered from reality.

Today, he announced further tax incentives for the industry – as if the sweetheart deal the Liberals gave them wasn’t bad enough for BC taxpayers already. Now, the industry won’t pay PST on construction costs for their plants and it will receive hugely-subsidized electricity from BC Hydro. Prior to the NDP taking over, the industry already secured big federal tax breaks and such a huge discount to the export tax that was supposed to fill our “Prosperity Fund” coffers as to render it meaningless. What was supposed to be a 7% tax got slashed to 1.5% and the industry could deduct its capital costs, so that it would pay no export tax until those were recouped (a.k.a. never). Apparently that wasn’t enough. The NDP is also repealing the LNG income tax.

This all makes for some real head scratching when one reads the technical briefing on the NDP government’s new LNG framework, compiled by Deputy Minister Don Wright. For instance, it boasts that Kitimat LNG – a consortium led by Chevron – would bring a windfall of public monies:

“The Ministries of Finance and Energy have estimated that the project will generate $22 billion in direct government revenue over the next 40 years…Significantly more if ‘multiplier’ effects are taken into account.”

Really? Even if that whopper of a figure encompasses upstream royalties, surely these ministries are aware that royalties have plummeted in recent years – from an annual high of $2 Billion in 2005/06 to a record low of $139 million in 2015/16, according to this useful report by Marc Lee at the BC Centre for Policy Alternatives (which Mr. Wright apparently hasn’t read).

It gets worse. “In addition to royalties paid on gas production, companies bid at auction for the rights to explore and drill on public land, known as leases of Crown land tenure,” Lee explains. “These revenues hit a record $2.4 billion in 2008/2009 and have now almost completely dried up: $16 million in 2015/2016 and a projected $15 million in 2016/2017. ”

Granted, these numbers have increased under the NDP, as Norm Farrell has documented – but with virtually no other tax revenues from the industry and a massive loss to Hydro ratepayers on steeply discounted electricity, it’s impossible to conceive of the $22 Billion-plus in government revenues Mr. Wright is promising.

On those Hydro rates, the NDP wants to extend to the LNG industry the old sweetheart deal we’ve given sawmills, pulp mills and mines, which used to be around half of what you and I pay for power but would now amount to less than a third of the cost of Site C’s new electricity. So you will get the privilege of paying $15 Billion-plus for a dam you didn’t need – which wipes away First Nations’ rights and vital farmland – all to give the power away for pennies on the dollar to the likes of Chevron, Shell and PetroChina! Doesn’t that make you feel so much better about the NDP’s decision to forge ahead with Site C?

Compounding the confusion generated by Mr. Wright’s report are the sections on climate action and reconciliation with First Nations (it claims Kitimat LNG “has received the support of most – but not all – area First Nations”). By cooling its gas into liquid using power from Site C  – which has definitely not received the support of most area First Nations – Kitimat LNG would reduce its plant emissions nominally, making it “the least GHG-intensive large LNG facility in the world”, says Wright’s briefing, which is like being the skinniest obese person at KFC.

This does nothing to address the massive upstream GHG’s that come from fracking and processing this gas, which the David Suzuki Foundation’s John Werring has documented in horrifying detail. His peer-reviewed research, published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions in 2017, revealed the staggering degree to which BC is underestimating the climate impacts of fracking.

This lines up with the leading research on the US industry, coming out places like Cornell University, which suggests that up to 8% of gas that is fracked leaks into the atmosphere by way of “fugitive methane emissions” – some 86 times worse for the climate than CO2 over a 20-year time scale. This explains why Dr. Robert Howarth from Cornell laughed when I put to him Premier Clark’s labelling of BC LNG – almost all of which would come from fracked shale gas – as the “cleanest fossil fuel on the planet”. “Your premier has her facts wrong,” he told me.

“Methane is such a powerful greenhouse gas that when you look at the cumulative impact of these greenhouse gas emissions, natural gas – and particularly shale gas – is the worst of the fossil fuels.”

The NDP government, in Wright’s presentation, acknowledges “leakage” associated with the gas industry. Only it’s a completely different type. “Government is committed to implementing a comprehensive Climate Action Plan that will meet B.C.’s carbon goals without disadvantaging our large industries,” it notes, adding, “Losing market share to companies who pay little or no carbon tax – known as carbon leakage – harms B.C.’s economy while causing higher global carbon emissions.”

So the “carbon leakage” they’re concerned about is the lack of competitive advantage inherent in our carbon tax being applied to the LNG industry. And they provide no answers to this problem other than vague statements about somehow making BC’s LNG “the cleanest in the world”. Clearly, highly-subsidized electricity is one piece of the puzzle, then there’s “Implementing strategies that enable industries to be the least GHG-intensive per unit of output in the world”. Thank you for clearing that up. Let’s get right on with implementing those unnamed strategies – that ought to magically take care of it.

It’s no wonder environmental groups are panning Horgan’s have-your-cake-and-it-too LNG framework. Says Jens Wieting of Sierra Club BC, “Pretending that LNG is part of a climate friendly future is as ludicrous as Prime Minister Trudeau saying we need tar sands pipelines to fight climate change.” Touché.

Even with all theses goodies the NDP is dangling, it’s doubtful Shell and PetroChina will take the bait and reach a Final Investment Decision. The Asian LNG market has picked up in recent months, but that’s likely temporary, with three large Australian plants coming online in 2018, Qatar lifting a moratorium on its massive North gas field, and a number of other key developments among the world’s major LNG players, including the US, which has entered the fray.

Most analysts forecast a global glut in LNG, but there is a little room for new projects to help meet peak winter demand. Canada, however, isn’t cost-competitive enough, and even these gifts from the NDP won’t substantially change that.

Getting fracked shale gas from northeast BC to market is an expensive proposition – on the order of $9-11/MMBtu. Asian prices have come up to that range recently, but over the past several years, they’ve typically been half that, meaning companies exporting it would do so at a substantial loss. Increased supply coming online will put further pressure on prices and send them back down from whence they came, leaving only the most competitive jurisdictions in the game. According to energy analysts Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., “Projects in Qatar, Papua New Guinea, Russia and the U.S. are most economically appealing, followed by Mozambique, Australian expansion projects and an Alaskan mega-project.” Notice which country is not on that list.

So even with all these contortions – the untenable doublespeak on climate action and LNG, the irreconcilable implications for First Nations, and giving away the farm to industry – the Horgan NDP will likely get no further with this pipe dream than its predecessors did.

What they might just succeed in doing is provoking the BC Greens to bring down their government, which leader Andrew Weaver has threatened to do over LNG.

Thus, LNG remains what it has always been: an albatross around the neck of whatever BC leader is foolish enough to take it on.


Rafe: It’s got to be the NDP to replace Lyin’ Liberals…but LNG complicates matters

NDP Leader John Horgan

Like a large number of people in the WestVancouver- Sea-To-Sky constituency, I am breaking the usual rules – I want the NDP to form the next government but I am passionately opposed to Woodfibre LNG which the NDP candidate supports. If I were to support her, my neighbours, with every justification in the world, would lynch me, as I would them were they to vote NDP.

Protection of Howe Sound is a huge issue and while our very strong position should, one would think, bring major party support, not so. This isn’t a NIMBY issue but a dedication to save BC’s most southern fjord and one of the worlds great natural beauty spots now recovered from past industrial waste thanks in large measure to citizen measures. Howe Sound, with its killer whales, humpback whales, salmon, herring, seals, sea-lions and other sea life back, is seen as a British Columbia treasure to be protected by all decent British Columbians.

Overall, I’m supporting the NDP

This is the 3rd election where I’ve publicly supported the NDP. I am still asked, weren’t you a Socred minister, an oppressor of the working folk and a greedy capitalist lining his own pockets at the expense of the poor?

Minus the hyperbole, yes. I ran for the Socreds in 1975 and again in 1979, won both elections, and spent over five years in the cabinet. During that period Premier Bill Bennett fully supported me and my deputy minister, Tex Enemark, as we modernized BC’s antediluvian consumer laws, completely overhauled the liquor laws, established the hugely successful cottage wine industry, and forced Chartered Banks, who claimed exemption because they were federally chartered, to obey our laws. When I moved to Environment, I negotiated with the City of Seattle, stopping them from raising the Ross Dam and saved our beautiful Skagit River from ruin, stopped the killing of wolves – which enraged all ranchers, nearly all of whom were Socreds – and, to the outrage of the mining industry, placed a moratorium on Uranium exploration and mining. As Health minister I brought in Homecare and Palliative care.

I assure you I relate all this only to show you my personal experience with the bad, old Socred capitalist pigs and tell you that under the present Liberals, such radical socialistic notions wouldn’t have stood a chance.

What’s really happened is that public attitudes towards former “lefty” issues like the environment, health, social services have changed dramatically and are no longer the private preserve of the left. At the same time, the heirs to the deceased Social Credit Party, the BC Liberals, have lurched to the right – far to the right of the Bill Bennett Socreds – while the NDP cast aside the old time rhetoric and stopped scaring people in the Centre. The Green Party has, sadly, moved from true Green to playing political spoiler hoping to win a balance of power.

Clark’s Keystone Kops have to go

Let’s get down to cases.

Courtesy of Norm Farrell/In-sights

I frankly cannot understand how anyone would want another four years of the gross incompetence and lack of truthfulness that we’ve endured since 2001. In my opinion, the Campbell/Clark bunch is the worst government I have ever seen in this province. The massive Keystone Kops bungling of the LNG mess in itself should be enough to see the back of them for quite a while. It all was so reminiscent of Peter Sellers and a Pink Panther classic farce. The Liberals’ 16 years are unblemished by a single success story.

What sticks out, however, is the good economic situation they inherited and the bloody awful mess they are leaving. They have doubled the provincial debt in 2016 $ and have so mismanaged BC Hydro that it’s a corporate tragedy that truly beggars description. The Independent Power Policy has been a huge political pay-off to wealthy supporters, all at the expense of the Public. The lingering memory I carry is of a premier whose mind is seldom, if ever, troubled by telling fibs, from small to big.

It may well be, of course, that many of you really don’t place clean government very high on the list. I happen to think it’s essential to good government. Perhaps the Liberal endemic dissembling comes from the docile unto supportive media, but that scarcely justifies the Liberal government under both Campbell and Clark – particularly the latter – being incapable of telling the truth. I’m not interested in perpetuating that sort of leadership.

LNG is NDP’s weak spot

The situation on the Kinder Morgan line and similar environmental intrusions by the federal government themselves are enough for me to vote for someone else. When it gets to BC Hydro and Site C, I run the risk of being rude by saying I can’t understand how anyone could vote for a government involved in such preposterous policies.

Yes, I support the NDP, with considerable reservation, which is dwarfed, however, by the brutal inadequacies of the Liberals – combined with their corruption.

Horgan has produced an idiotic policy of favouring LNG without any criticism and that has taken away a number of opposition opportunities, including the one in my riding, but elsewhere too.

No politician with half a brain would have said, “We can’t be against everything, so we’re for LNG” – a preposterous proposition when you think of it. The reason you are for a policy isn’t because it’s a good one but because you can’t be against everything! It wasn’t necessary that he be opposed, just committed to an open inquiring mind judging each proposal on its merits. In taking the position he has, Horgan has foreclosed some of the serious issues concerning LNG, such as fracking, for example, or discharges into the air or waterways, or tanker traffic, as in the case of Howe Sound, which, by every standard imposed, is too narrow for tanker traffic. As I write this, the polls show a small Liberal lead has overtaken a large NDP advantage, which may reflect a public not satisfied that Horgan has their confidence to even be more competent than Clark!

Horgan still the best choice

John Horgan meets Rob Ashton of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union at Lynnterm docks in North Vancouver (BCNDP/flickr cc licence)

For all that, politics is a comparative game and compared to the record of the Campbell/Clark government, particularly the financial wreckage they have piled up, with his shortcomings, to me John Horgan still looks like a much better choice to lead the province.

The Green party has been disappointing in my view. I find myself very attracted to the green concept and can only wish that my advice to Elizabeth May had been followed and that she had taken over the BC party, but that was not to be.

Dr. Weaver’s position on so-called “run of river” and IPPs has been so non-green as to disqualify him in my view from that appellation. He has done well in the debates and the party has gone from being one of principle to one of grabbing for seats, hoping to gain a place in a coalition government.

A disappointing campaign, all around

I must say that this entire campaign has been very disappointing in too many ways. The Liberals have not made any effort to justify their record, the NDP have shown very little ability to restore confidence and bring us a competent government and the Green party have switched from being idealists to opportunists.

I close very simply by saying one must deal with that and if one is adult, under these circumstances there is absolutely no way they could support a dishonest and utterly untruthful government.

I understand that politicians have been known to gild the lily on occasion. A certain amount of wriggle room between truth and falsehood is traditionally accepted. But with this premier it’s well beyond a joke. She seems temperamentally incapable of telling the truth and I’m not prepared to vote for such a person.

I’m not so naive as to think that political supporters don’t get perks or that if you’re bidding on a government contract, donations aren’t helpful. But this government, with its policy of Independent Power Producers, has taken graft to a new level and has all but bankrupted BC Hydro, doubled the provincial debt and ruined the jewel in our corporate crown. Are we to overlook this?

Finally, let me dispel two myths. The Liberal government is only not lying when they talk about balanced budgets – because no one likes to use that word but it’s as close to lying as “damn” is swearing. Ask yourself this: The government has gone further into the hole by $71 BILLION in the last four years – how in hell can you do that with balanced budgets?

Easy – don’t put the bad stuff like BC Hydro or ICBC into the budget balancing game! Their losses are part of the huge provincial debt but, using the old adage “figures don’t lie but liars can sure as hell figure”, you can work miracles with a balance sheet.

Given the fiscal catastrophe created by the Campbell/Clark government and their lie-infested corruption, I consider they have forfeited any right to a position of public trust.

The NDP are inexperienced in leadership but not in government, with a number of MLAs who are clearly Cabinet material, some with cabinet experience. If they do no more than restore truth and integrity, support of Horgan and Co will be worth it.

As an old friend used to say when wondering about taking a chance and approaching a comely lass, “what the hell, take a chance…Columbus did”.


Trumplandia vs. Clarklandia: How BC stands to lose on LNG, lumber and trade



Part one in a series by Kevin Logan

February 17th 2017

As the faux populist facade fades and the new reality show “Trumplandia” begins to emerge from the ruins of the Democratic elite’s embrace of hedge funds and wall street masters, one thing is crystal clear: Big oil and gas is now in the driver’s seat and Trump is just a hollow front man with a small army of propagandists and zealots hellbent on reshaping the world.

In Trumplandia, Hillary’s replacement for Secretary of State is none other than the CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex “don’t frack my backyard but yours is fine” Tillerson.

Such a raw front bench display of state capture by this industry is remarkable, especially after having been subjected to a so-called populist campaign full of “I feel your pain” rhetoric designed to appeal to the bottom half of the American populace who have been cut loose by the major parties and no longer have a voice.

Masters of the Universe like Tillerson have dominated the globe by crushing and fleecing nations, people and the environment. As a result, anyone expecting something other than a petro-dictator in the Secretary of State’s chair is clearly detached from reality. See Canadian Arch Conservative David Frum’s ominous warning outlining how the new Trump Administration will set the world on fire in a relentless bid to establish The Donald as the richest most powerful autocrat on earth.

Why this matters to BC

The current government hung most of its political capital in the last election on developing a new LNG industry. With grand designs to shoot from nowhere to first and compete with Qatar and Australia, the BC Liberals embarked upon an ambitious agenda scouring the coast for any exploitable opportunity to set up shop and fleece BC of its stash of gas.

BC's gift to the world- Premier Christy Clark
Premier Christy Clark at a recent conference, working hard to build an LNG industry for BC (Flickr CC Licence / BC Govt)

Most of the plays are riddled with shenanigans and BC Liberal insiders as the now retiring Energy Minister himself claimed, “There is lots of wheeling and dealing going on behind the scenes.”

Since the last election, BC has been mired in conflict as Clark’s oil and gas agenda set about a process that many claim is akin to legalized bribery, or in the least a good old fashion greasing of the skids.

Much of the enabling deals have been done with untold millions of taxpayers’ dollars. Though the agreements with relevant First Nations and stakeholders are not publicly available, it does not take long for one to realize that the fleecing of the BC Taxpayer by this industry is already well underway.

This has left coastal communities, First Nations and the rest of BC tattered and torn with the rise of a small, new petro-class emerging as the most influential in our political dialogue, despite being a terribly insignificant contributor to BC jobs and prosperity.

Gas sector a burden on BC treasury

A fracking drill near Dawson Creek in northeast BC (Two Island Films)
BC’s gas sector is highly subsidized by the government (Two Island Films)

In fact, since the last election, the BC gas industry alone has cost the provincial treasury hundreds of millions of dollars. A far cry from the much-vaunted 100 billion dollars in revenue to fill a so-called LNG “Prosperity Fund” promised by Clark. Which, by the way, she recently filled with 500 million of your tax dollars in a brash bid to prove her Government has “delivered” on the prosperity promised last election.

In so doing, Clark simply adds insult to injury. Such bald faced lies and politicking with taxpayers dollars is nothing new for the BC Liberals, but Clark has brought the thing to a whole new level.

Clark’s Crony LNG capitalism hurts communities

One of the most audacious LNG proposals being stick-handled by the Liberals’ former Attorney General Geoff Plant is the Vancouver Island play, Steelhead LNG, that would see both a floating LNG terminal and a huge land-based terminal straddle the entire southern Island with a pipeline that, after coming under the ocean from the US, would make its way from Brentwood Bay to Sarita Bay.

And the proposal comes with all the trimmings of any major oil and gas initiative. Community infiltration, data mining and surveillance of stakeholders both for and against, as well as the typical onslaught of petro-propaganda. In addition to, “legalized bribery,” add community unrest, controlled opposition and political infiltration.

The Island is no stranger to fleecing by major industries, however the oil and gas agenda playing out in BC is unprecedented and its implications will alter the very fabric of Island communities by putting us on a path we have never before traveled.

How Trumplandia threatens Clarklandia’s LNG plans

A quick google of “Trump LNG” reveals the following headlines on the first page of results:

Trump’s America-first energy policy looms as LNG threat

Will Trump make the US the top LNG exporter?

Trump’s energy policy shake-up could threaten Australian LNG

How Trump Could Change LNG Markets

LNG Exports: US to Overtake Australia

Feds Deny LNG Export Through Oregon Developer Turns to Trump

When asked in November if Trump would deliver for his coal company supporters and look to exporting LNG rather than displacing domestic coal power generation, his response was “What is LNG?”

While this clearly underscores the notion that he is simply a front man, void of any real understanding of domestic energy complexities, let alone the very real and strategic geo-political implications, he has stacked his deck with energy zealots who do. That said, we can glean from his “America First” rhetoric some potential outcomes.

In order for him to deliver for his coal supporters and the domestic natural gas industry, it’s very likely Trump will pursue both with great vigour, as the more LNG exports the US embarks upon, the less potential for domestic displacement of coal-generated power.

If Trump decides the US should be the top LNG exporter, as one of the above headlines claims, then LNG in Canada will be officially on notice, and the audacious Steelhead proposal for Vancouver Island would be the first on a very short list for the Trump Administration to review due to the fact they intend on exporting American gas through Canada.

Softwood & LNG: BC’s low-hanging fruit for Trumplandia

Raw Canadian logs for export (Paul Joseph/Flickr CC Licence)
Raw Canadian logs for export (Paul Joseph/Flickr CC)

The Steelhead proposal, much like the Softwood Lumber Agreement, is low-hanging fruit in the new Trumplandia. No doubt, both are up for review in a bid to reflect the strongman’s election rhetoric and “prove” that he was right about how all the countries are “ripping off America” and “stealing good jobs.”

Cracking down on softwood and LNG would fit The Donald’s political persona to a T. They are also deliverables he could manage in fairly short order, just as we have seen with his approval of both Keystone XL and DAPL through executive order.

One way for The Donald to deliver on that style of rhetoric is to disallow the export of American Gas through Vancouver Island and instead channel it to other proposals that have been wallowing under the Obama administration along the US West Coast.

This is very important to consider, mostly due to the fact that Russia is obviously more influential in the new Trumplandia. Putin would clearly prefer North American gas be exported to places like Japan versus Eastern Europe or even China.

Indeed, with the deathblow Trump delivered to the TPP, he clearly intends on renegotiating trade deals and that will be the death knell to some LNG proposals in BC, as Japan (and even Petronas from Malaysia, who has traditionally supplied Japan) had hoped to secure our gas resource for generations with the TPP deal.

But The Donald is having none of it – no more “dumb deals!” Instead, Trump is just gonna one-off nations with bi-lateral agreements designed to deliver for Americans. And that is where your softwood lumber fleecing kicks in and LNG development in BC is threatened.

Clark outmatched

All of this runs up against the Clarklandia fairytale of a BC First LNG utopia, or even a restoration of the moribund forestry industry, as no doubt The Donald would rather see America continue fleecing us of our resources and exporting them from the US so he can deliver on his jobs and prosperity promise.

Clearly, this new realty is finally settling in among Clarklandia cohorts. Clark, who first dismissed The Donald’s influence over the BC Economy, softwood lumber and things like LNG, recently flip-flopped and it’s now her “first priority” to set up a dream team to deal with The Donald.

This could include a new office in DC for Clark’s newly-appointed Trump Czar David Emerson, or maybe even in the Trump Towers in a bid to get his attention and ensure the Trump Train does not displace her government’s economic prosperity mythology with the new and brutal America First reality.

Oil and gas, forestry and other cross-border trade relevant to the success of Clarklandia are all up for grabs. And this is where it gets tricky.

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr CC Licence
Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr CC Licence

Does The Donald care about Clarklandia’s economic mythology or her re-election? I doubt it, but no doubt Clark and her party’s rabid right-wing core have some appeal as they have handed the Republicans Billions in the past by dismantling Forest Renewal BC and sending those Billions – that once stayed in BC – over the southern border, which helped fund the re-election of the likes of George W Bush.

So when one considers the billions of dollars up for grabs with trees and oil – and now the new play with gas – one understands why the current Clark Liberals are very interested in sitting down and striking a new deal with The Donald that will see our resources fund his re-election campaign, like her predecessor Gordon Campbell did with the “W.” All in a bid to continue BC Liberal rule of this province and avoid the wrath of an America First protectionist president.

If the dream team is successful in their bid to hold power, the ‘Wrath of The Donald’ will most certainly be delayed until after the re-election of the BC Liberals in May, but after that, all bets are off.


Rafe: With LNG approval, Trudeau govt shows true colours…but we shouldn’t be suprised

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna with BC Premier Christy Clark (right) announcing her government's approval of PNWLNG (Province of BC/Flickr)
Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna with Industry Minister Jim Carr (left) and BC Premier Christy Clark (right) announcing the federal government’s approval of PNWLNG (Province of BC/Flickr)
[quote]Developing a climate plan to meet Canada’s Paris Agreement commitments is a challenging but achievable task for the federal government. Doing so while meeting Alberta’s and BC’s oil and gas production growth aspirations, however, will be virtually impossible.
The oil and gas industry is certainly not going away any time soon, but if Canada is serious about meeting its climate commitments it is time for the prime minister and premiers to do the math and stop telling us we can have it all. – David Hughes, geoscientist, shale gas expert and 32-year retired veteran the Geological Survey of Canada.[/quote]
British Columbians have every reason to be fighting mad at Trudeau’s decision to approve the Pacific Northwest LNG project. Yes, every reason to be fighting mad but absolutely no reason to be surprised.
Philosopher George Santayana famously said, “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it” and we just had that jammed up…er, shoved in our face.
Already early this year, people like Dr. David Suzuki, Norman Farrell of In-Sights and myself and colleagues at this publication were raising the issue that Trudeau’s emerging Liberal environmental policy was inconsistent with the commitments he had made at Paris.
Well, you will never find a clearer example of the dissembling and hypocrisy of this two-faced Trudeau bunch than in my constituency of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.

Woodfibre LNG approval was first clue

Liberal MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones (Flickr/CreativeMornings Vancouver/Matthew Smith)
Liberal MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones (Flickr/CreativeMornings Vancouver/Matthew Smith)

It’s no exaggeration to say that the only substantive issue in the 2015 election was the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant at Squamish (WLNG). People were enraged at the Harper government and MP John Weston on this issue, wanted to see the end of them, looked for a considerable period as if they would vote Green, panicked at the thought of a split vote and the Tories returned to ruin Howe Sound with WLNG, and so switched to the Liberal candidate – former West Vancouver mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones – who’d pledged she would support the wishes of her constituents.

In an election where the only substantive issue was WLNG, it was not surprising that Goldsmith-Jones won by a landslide. Having been assured that there would be consultation with them, voters felt confident that at worst they would have a fair opportunity to be heard.
Ha! Silly buggers trusted this new, attractive and sweet-talking Prime Minister and had forgotten Santayana entirely. Completely out of the blue, on March 18 last, environment minister Catherine McKenna quietly announced the Trudeau government approval of WLNG.

Environmental assessments still broken

Apart from all else, the so-called environmental assessment process was flawed unto fraudulent, such that Trudeau promises a review and fixes during the election. We’re not talking technicalities here but very substantial concerns about deadly, poisonous discharges – both into the atmosphere and directly into Howe Sound, putting all sea life at serious risk, including recently restored salmon and herring runs. There was no consideration given to the width of Howe Sound, considered grossly unsafe for LNG tanker traffic both by international rules and the industry’s own standards.
Not only were the people of the area not consulted, they were deliberately misled. Sandbagged is the better word. The esteemed, former mayor of West Vancouver, now Trudeau’s MP and parliamentary secretary to the foreign minister, was not even advised that this decision was pending, much less given notice that it had been made.
After it was released in such a shocking, high-handed manner, she clearly lacked the guts to speak out and hasn’t done so to this day.
In fact, the deception and hypocrisy didn’t end there by any means. On the orders of her government, Goldsmith-Jones held two sets of public hearings, after the decision,  neither of which dealt with the wisdom of the decision. Indeed, the second group was classic Liberal cynicism that should have been as familiar to us as Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
These meetings were held so that the government (the same one that had just approved WLNG) could explain it to the rabble, all aspects of climate change and how we could prevent it. There was just one niggling detail – we weren’t permitted to raise the issue of pollution from LNG, the most significant contributor to climate change! Nothing, of course, to do with the fact that the same Trudeau government had just approved the LNG plant in Squamish which would contribute dramatically to climate change!

Fox put in charge of the hen house

By now you must be begging for mercy, but there’s one more dollop of pure Liberal party policy, so typical that you can evaluate the rest of the process by it.
Now the damage has been done, Trudeau, to the accompanying of sucking from our MP,  has set up an  environmental review process.
Guess who the chair of this process will be?
Doug Horswill - LNG lobbyist and Trudeau-appointee to review environmental assessments
Doug Horswill – LNG lobbyist and Trudeau-appointee to review environmental assessments

Doug Horswill, Founding Chair of Resource Works, an industry advocacy group founded for the sole purpose of doing everything possible to get government approval for Woodfibre LNG!

My comment at the time was that this was the worst example of cynicism since Caligula made his horse a Consul. DeSmog Blog was bang on when they declared “the overarching message of Resource Works is that continued extraction of natural resources is essential to B.C.’s prosperity and anything that stands in the way of extraction — local opposition, regulations, taxes — is a threat to that prosperity. It’s a message they repeat over and over and over.”

What’s good for the Liberal Party

So now we have it. The tinpot dictator with the boyish smile arbitrarily approving a legally-contentious project, not approved by the First Nations involved, clearly a substantial threat to fish, a traditional part of First Nations existence, and without any concern whatever for the environmental and social consequences.
Will we ever learn the one fundamental principle that has always guided the Liberal party? “What’s Good For The Liberal Party Is Good For The Nation.”
I leave you with one question: Aren’t you glad we got rid of that soulless dictator Stephen Harper and his pals, the oil industry, so bent on destroying our natural resources, atmosphere, and principles of fair play?

Opinion: Environment & Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna gets failing report card

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna gets failing report card
Environment & Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna (Mike Gifford/Flickr cc licence)

The following is an op-ed by Dr. Eoin Finn – B.Sc., Ph.D., MBA

In October 2015, SFU Energy and Materials Research Group  Professor Mark Jaccard published a report titled “Canadian Climate Policy Report Card: 2015”. In part, it is a damning critique of the (Harper) Conservative Government’s climate action record, though it documents over three decades of inaction by Governments of all stripes.  Its Executive Summary concludes that:

[quote]Over the past three decades, governments in developed countries have made many commitments to reduce a specific quantity or percentage of greenhouse gases by a specific date, but often they have failed to implement effective climate policies that would achieve their commitment. Fortunately, energy-economy analysts can determine well in advance of the target date if a government is keeping its promise. In this 2015 climate policy report card, I evaluate the Canadian government’s emission commitments and policy actions. I find that in the nine years since its promise to reduce Canadian emissions 20% by 2020 and 65% by 2050, the Canadian government has implemented virtually no polices that would materially reduce emissions. The 2020 target is now unachievable without great harm to the Canadian economy. And this may also be the case for the 2050 target, this latter requiring an almost complete transformation of the Canadian energy system in the remaining 35 years after almost a decade of inaction.[/quote]

This summary even-handedly describes a similar era of inaction under the (Chrétien /Martin) Liberal governments. After all, it was a Liberal government that signed the 1997 Kyoto agreement, and then lollygagged along to their 2006 ejection without taking a single significant action to ensure its ambitious targets could be met.

Real Change?

Trudeau and McKenna (Photo: Environment & Climate Change Canada/Flickr)
Trudeau and McKenna (Photo: Environment & Climate Change Canada/Flickr)

Justin Trudeau’s October 2015 electoral elevation to power came with a Liberal policy book promising “Real Change” on this file. It started well. A new National Energy Board Environmental Review process was promised. November’s COP21 in Paris saw Canada espousing lofty climate goals to the theme of “Canada is back”. February meetings in Vancouver with provincial Premiers urged setting a price on carbon. A climate change test was added to environmental assessments, and promises to eliminate fossil-fuel subsidies and promote sustainable technologies were trumpeted.

However, of late, the decisions of the Government, and this Ministry in particular, evoke a creeping sense of déjà vu and backsliding on the climate file and the instructions in Minister McKenna’s mandate letter. Cogent examples of these decisions include:

  • Failure to clarify what, exactly, Canada’s GHG emissions target should be if we are to play our part in meeting the COP21 goal of limiting climate change to an increase of less than 20C.  There is a looming gap between Environment Canada’s 2030 GHG emissions estimate of 817 megatonnes and the Copenhagen target of 524 millions. Nobody in McKenna’s remit (or Energy Minister Carr’s) seems to wants to grasp that 300 megatonne nettle, nor venture an estimate of what further reductions will be needed to meet COP21 commitments
  • Maintaining the Harper Government’s unambitious and inadequate GHG emission targets of 17% reduction by 2030, which, without swift action, we have no hope of meeting
  • Bowing to the desires of a few Premiers to kick the carbon-tax proposal down the road and (they hope) out of sight
  • Inaction on the review of the Oil & Gas industry emissions that successive Environment Ministers in the Harper Government had promised year after year. This industry contributes over 26% of Canada’s GHG emissions. Singling it out for inaction suggests that this Government is also a “captive regulator”
  • A decision to continue the 30% accelerated capital cost allowance for LNG facilities – a fossil-fuel subsidy granted by the Harper Government in 2014
  • Approval of the Woodfibre LNG plant in Howe Sound, despite its almost 1 million tonnes of annual GHG emissions. This puzzling and highly-unpopular decision also belied another Trudeau promise – that of “politicians may issue permits, but only communities can grant permission”
  • Cabinet’s approval of NEB’s decision to approve Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline extension, LNG Canada’s 40-year license extension for its Kitimat plant and Steelhead LNG’s 5 export licenses – each of which represents a vast expansion of Canada’s GHG emissions
  • Publicly supporting the Keystone XL and Energy East pipeline proposals
  • Silence and inaction on repealing any of the Harper Government’s egregious environmental legislation – particularly the omnibus Bill C-38, which shredded environmental protections in the Species at Risk Act, Navigable Waters Act, NEB Act and 60+ others
  • Promises to reform the National Energy Board and its farcical review process replaced with nominating yet another dubious set of second-guessers. This is hardly the stuff of meaningful reform to “restore public confidence” in the NEB;
  • Not one concrete legislative or regulatory action on Liberal energy efficiency promises – boosting renewable alternatives, setting tighter automobile emission standards, elevating building insulation standards, promoting public transit initiatives, and inaction on the PM’s lofty promise to the U.N. that “Climate change will test our intelligence, our compassion and our will. But we are equal to that challenge. I encourage other signatories to move swiftly to follow through on their commitments”. Since then – nothing, nada, zilch.

Blowing hot air

Recent interviews with Minister McKenna have deteriorated into the avoidance, obfuscation and outright nonsense many had come to regard as par for the Harper Government course. Even allowing that this Ministry deteriorated hugely in the 10 years of Harperite neglect, this about-face and foot-dragging is deeply disappointing to scientists and NGO’s, many of whom worked hard on the election that put the LPC in power. Remembering the counsel that “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”, this trend is highly discouraging to those who thought October’s election result would herald sunnier ways on the climate front.

Kinder Morgan, PNWLNG will tell the tale

Lelu Island and Flora Bank - site of Petronas's controversial, proposed LNG terminal near Prince Rupert (submitted)
Lelu Island and Flora Bank – site of Petronas’s proposed PNWLNG terminal near Prince Rupert (submitted)

The Minister’s (and Government’s) grade on its climate report card: a big fat “F”. As they say in the North – big sled, no dogs. 

Two litmus tests for her and the Liberal Government loom large – decisions on the Kinder-Morgan/TME pipeline expansion and Pacific NorthWest LNG.  Approving either would undermine policies for “Real Change”, return Canada’s international reputation to the doghouse, consign to the dumpster the promises of a better First Nations relationship and severely dent chances of re-electing Federal Liberals in BC in 2019.

On this form, if Professor Jaccard is to write a 2020 update to his report, it won’t arrive at any different conclusion.


Dr. Eoin Finn is Director of Research for My Sea to Sky, an NGO concerned about proposals to re-industrialize iconic Howe Sound, BC.


Trudeau’s strange non-battle with fossil fuels (and Site C rubber stamp)

Justin Trudeau speaks at the Paris climate talks - flanked by Canadian premiers (Province of BC/Flickr)
Justin Trudeau at the Paris climate talks, flanked by Canadian premiers (Province of BC/Flickr)

I am writing today about the Trudeau government’s increasingly bizarre policy on fossil fuels, which essentially amounts wanting to have its cake and eat it too. But first, I must note that the same can be said for the government’s dealings with First Nations and myriad environmental issues surrounding Site C Dam – as yesterday’s quiet approval by DFO of key permits for the project shows. Treaty 8 First Nations are going to federal court in September to challenge a lack of consultation regarding a project with massive implications for their territory and rights.

Justing Trudeau and Jody Wilson-Raybould meet in Hartley Bay on the BC coast in 2014 (Flickr / Justin Trudeau)
Justing Trudeau and Jody Wilson-Raybould meet in Hartley Bay on the BC coast in 2014 (Flickr / Justin Trudeau)

Aboriginal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has publicly acknowledged this project would violate treaty rights, while the Trudeau government made a big deal recently about backing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. And yet, where the rubber meets the road, we have the swift, closed-door approval to damage important fish habitat, with no meaningful consultation of First Nations and local landowners. What are we doing in this day and age destroying any fish habitat at all? Moreover, the latest research shows that big dams are actually destructive to the climate, not “green” or “clean”. It’s getting harder and harder to square Justin’s campaign promises with his actions in government.

Forget Paris

The federal government’s ever-evolving oil and gas policy isn’t much different. I am puzzled by Prime Minister Trudeau’s attitude towards fossil fuels for, not to put too fine a point on it, he simply does not seem to have the courage to follow through on his peerless stage performance in Paris, where he became the darling of the world’s glamour puss fans. I hate to think that the fossil fuel industry, which mostly controls the media, controls him too and has frightened him off course.

Without descending into the world of science, where I admit I am instantly lost, my understanding was that he and Canada would take the lead in fighting climate change and that we would begin to wean ourselves off the extraction, use, transport and export of fossil fuels.

It doesn’t take a highly developed understanding of these issues to know that climate change is mainly caused by fossil fuels in the atmosphere and that despite the customary and convenient ignorance of Premier Christy Clark, LNG would be a terrible offender.

Two steps back with Woodfibre LNG approval

And what does Mr. Trudeau do by way of setting an example?

With indecent haste, no warning and without appropriate environmental assessments, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna approved Woodfibre LNG in Squamish saying that the project underwent “a thorough, science-based environmental assessment that considered public and indigenous input and views.”

Well, not quite, because the project was assessed under the post-C-38 regulations — after the Harper government had gutted traditional safeguards for the environment and transferred the task of environmental review to the provinces which, in this case, had already committed to it!

As Michael Harris of iPolitics put it:

[quote]Under the former regulatory regime, the public process was far more rigorous. Opponents were allowed to express alternate opinions, stakeholders could submit briefs and cross-examine witnesses at the hearings. With Bill C-38, the environmental review process was emasculated, weakening the protection of the public interest. It can hardly be invoked now by the federal government to vindicate this dubious decision.[/quote]

This wasn’t how it was supposed to go, for, on March 1, 2016, on CBC National TV, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, in reference to developments, “governments grant permits, communities grant permission”.

Then on March 18, 2016, a mere 17 days later, even though every Council in the constituency, including the City of West Vancouver, stood unanimously opposed to the project, the Trudeau government gave the go-ahead to Woodfibre LNG!

As mentioned, one partial, shabby, discredited Environmental Process had been carried out by the Province of BC, after BC had already approved the project, and Trudeau, in the 2015 election, heavily badmouthed the National Energy Board process and procedures and promised radical changes.

A dangerous idea, approved

Harper says LNG tankers too dangerous for East Coast, but OK for BCBut that’s not all – there was no proper assessment of the impact of noxious discharges of the plant itself into the atmosphere or the impact of poisonous discharges into Howe Sound and their impact on recently restored salmon and herring runs.

Think that’s all?

Not on your tintype!

By internationally accepted standards, as determined by world renowned Sandia Laboratories and set by the industry organization itself, The Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO), Howe Sound and its channels are far too narrow for LNG tankers, creating a very serious safety risk. The Trudeau government has refused to take this seriously.

In fact, the Prime Minister, far from weaning us off them, is committed to more pipelines, more oil, more coal and more LNG.

You may be thinking that there’s a wee bit of hypocrisy here. Well, you ain’t heard nothing yet.

Lip service

Liberal MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones (Flickr/CreativeMornings Vancouver/Matthew Smith)
Liberal MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones (Flickr/CreativeMornings Vancouver/Matthew Smith)

Our Liberal MP, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, who told us during the election that she opposed WLNG, now finds herself Parliamentary Secretary to Stephane Dion, the Foreign Minister, thus on the cusp of Cabinet. I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that this converted Pam to an LNG enthusiast but she now supports WLNG.

Now, you ready for this? Pam has arranged for public hearings for her constituents not on the merits of WLNG – that is strictly off limits and not to be mentioned – but to help us all understand climate change and tell us what we can do about it, such as buy solar panels and that sort of thing.

I hardly need to remind you, I’m sure, that the best way to avoid Climate Change would be to tube WLNG and forego any other LNG production and export. That’s where the biggest increase to our carbon footprint would come from (Petronas’s Lelu Island plant alone would boost BC’s entire carbon footprint by 8.5%). So here we have the Trudeau government and MP coming to tell us how to find solutions to climate change, which they are causing and plan to cause more of, and could end with the stroke of a pen!

Saskatchewan spill worst yet

Let me close with pipelines.

Pipelines, as we know, carry noxious fossil fuels through our wild forests and salmon-spawning rivers to narrow passages on our pristine coast, from where they are tankered to faraway places. The Industry, supported by the media and Prime Minister, pooh pooh their unfortunate propensity to burst with disastrous results and irreparable damage. At this moment, when Trudeau is patiently waiting to approve two major pipelines, there has been a major fracture in Northern Saskatchewan threatening, amongst other things, major domestic water supply. We’re told this spill is worse than that into the Kalamazoo River 6 years ago, the worst modern spill, which Enbridge plays down almost as if it never happened even though it’s not been cleaned up yet and likely never will be.

You would think that Mr. Trudeau, based upon his flowery words in Paris would be deeply concerned but, au contraire, he can’t wait to get on with them.

The “Tidewater” myth

Interestingly enough, J. David Hughes, a retired senior geologist for the Geological Survey of Canada and author of the report “Can Canada Expand Oil and Gas Production, Build Pipelines and Keep its Climate Commitments?” makes a strong case that the pipelines planned are going to the wrong place. He states the following:

[quote]The widely recited rhetoric that new pipelines must be built to oceans — or “tidewater” — to capture a significant price premium by selling on international markets is likewise not supported by the facts.

Although oil is a globally priced commodity, between 2011 and 2014 the international price (“Brent”) was considerably higher than the North American price (“WTI”). In September 2011 the differential reached $25.26 per barrel. However, the average differential in the six months ending May 2016 was 88 cents per barrel and recently Brent has been trading below WTI.

Not only has the international price advantage evaporated, but Canada’s primary oil export, Western Canada Select, sells at a discount to WTI. That’s because it is a lower grade heavy oil and will sell at a discount whether sold internationally or to North American markets.

Thus the premium that fuelled the rhetoric on the need for new pipelines to “tidewater” has disappeared and is unlikely to return.

Developing a climate plan to meet Canada’s Paris Agreement commitments is a challenging but achievable task for the federal government. Doing so while meeting Alberta’s and BC’s oil and gas production growth aspirations, however, will be virtually impossible.

The oil and gas industry is certainly not going away any time soon, but if Canada is serious about meeting its climate commitments it is time for the prime minister and premiers to do the math and stop telling us we can have it all.[/quote]

This is a bit of the history of the actions of prime minister Justin Trudeau since he did his dog and pony show in Paris and wowed us all with his commitment to the environment and, particularly, in reducing climate change, which has the potential to do no less than destroy the world.

Somehow I don’t think my prime minister has been telling the truth and I’ve lost faith in his commitment to do what he promises. Can anyone help me understand why I feel this way?


Cost-cutting trumps safety at Woodfibre LNG

The aging "LNG Taurus" off of South Africa in 2013 ( Photo: Anton Bergstrom )
The aging “LNG Taurus” off of South Africa in 2013 (Photo: Anton Bergstrom)

Written by Eoin Finn

In a recent post in the Squamish Chief and other media, Woodfibre LNG’s VP Byng Giraud said he must “cut costs to make the business profitable”. The company website states that safety will come about through “Use of appropriate materials and compliance with industry and safety best practices” andProper engineering design of all onshore and floating facilities”.

Many wondered what the tradeoffs would be between safety and cost. Now comes word from the influential shipping magazine TradeWinds last month that Woodfibre plans “to use two elderly LNG carriers as floating storage units (FSUs)…Two LNG carriers, the 126,300 m3 LNG Capricorn (built 1978) and LNG Taurus (built 1979), which were purchased by Singapore-based Nova Shipping & Logistics last year, have been widely rumoured to be earmarked for conversion into FSUs for the Woodfibre project. Both ships are currently laid up in Southeast Asia”.

Past “best before” date

LNG Capricorn (Photo: Frasquito/FleetMon)
LNG Capricorn (Photo: Frasquito/FleetMon)

You may well ask: What can possibly go wrong with using two “elderly” 285m.-long, bolted-together vessels holding 120,000 tonnes of flammable fracked gas in the waters of Northern Howe Sound?  The answer is … plenty! Consider that:

These ships are old! At almost 40 years old, they are among the oldest 5% of  the world’s 420+ LNG carriers and 3.5 times older than the fleet’s average age. Putting that in human terms, these ships are nearing 150 years old. If installed for the 25-year life of the plant, by 2045 they would be by far the oldest active LNG vessels ever; 

An LNG plant near populated areas is no place for aging rust-buckets, acquired for eight cents on the dollar, that are well beyond their 20-year design lifetime. This lifetime takes into account the stress, metal fatigue and tank damage these ships endure from pounding waves  (100 million of them over 20 years of voyages), sloshing cargoes, electrolytic thinning of the hull’s steel and rusting of key pumps and valves essential to keeping the vessel operating safely;

If a spill were to happen – an accident or a terrorist attack on these “sitting ducks” – these tankers have no secondary containment. Like Chernobyl’s reactors and Lac Megantic’s rail-cars.

LNG novice takes unprecedented chances

Woodfibre’s configuration would be a first.  There’s not a single instance worldwide of an LNG liquefaction plant using floating LNG storage. Woodfibre and its parent have never built or operated an LNG facility anywhere.  Ever.

Japan, the world’s leading importer of LNG, knows a thing or two about disasters, and insists on putting LNG storage tanks on land, buried up to their domes, so a spill can’t go anywhere untoward. Woodfibre’s on-the-water storage scheme violates that hard-learned safety precaution and Canada’s CSA safety standard of having tanks spaced at least a tank diameter apart;

SIGTTO (the LNG industry’s association) recommends that LNG facilities have tugs available 24/7 to help LNG tankers maneuver quickly away from the loading jetty should the need arise (due to spills, fires, forest fires, winds over 25 knots).  As these two bolted-together tankers will have no engines or crew aboard, accomplishing this simple safety step will be difficult, if not impossible. What tug (or hypothetical fire-boat) would be brave enough to approach and try to tow away a pair of burning, engineless LNG tankers?  Where would they take them – to Squamish, Britannia, Anvil Island…where??

Both vessels have been in accidents

Transferring LNG from these FSUs to the transiting LNG tanker will have the three tankers lined up broadside to one another at the jetty (yes – the same place where, in 1955, the entire jetty suddenly slumped into the depths of Howe Sound, taking an onsite warehouse with it). This will require the delicate act of transferring the -1620C LNG, via an inflexible metal bellows, between ships moving vertically and laterally relative to each other in the waves. In the often-windy conditions of Howe Sound. All while balancing the amount of LNG taken from each storage tanker so as not to stress the bolts strapping them together. Ship-to-ship LNG transfer was not invented when these tankers were built and has only recently been tested, in one trial, under perfect conditions;

Both of these vessels have been in accidents.  The LNG Taurus suffered severe hull damage in a grounding off Japan in 1980, while the LNG Capricorn had a fire in its #5 insulated tank and hard-whacked a pier while docking. In the Taurus incident, the Captain so feared the catastrophic rupture of the ship’s LNG tanks that he took his own life on the spot. His ghost is rumoured to haunt the Taurus!

Putting a price on safety

Given this apparent sacrifice of public safety on the altar of cost reduction, it is cold comfort to contemplate the words of Woodfibre LNG’s Vice-President Byng Giraud – then (2013) VP of Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley Mine – who said “There needs to be a public realization that the costs imposed on industry to remove extreme risks—reducing a risk from one in 1,000 to one in 10,000—comes with a price.”

Indeed it does. Just ask the victims of disasters in Likely, BC, Lac-Mégantic, Fort McMurray, Halifax, Westray and Grassy Narrows.

Eoin Finn is a retired KPMG partner and a seasonal resident of Bowyer Island in Howe Sound. He holds an MBA in International Business and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry.


Longtime Lions Bay Mayor: LNG is plain dirty, violates Canada’s climate commitments

Christy Clark promotes "Clean LNG" at Vancouver conference last year (David P. Ball)
Christy Clark promotes “Clean LNG” at Vancouver conference last year (David P. Ball)
By Brenda Broughton
It is vital to oppose the previous government’s disregard and denial of science.
However, this new government appears to be cherry-picking the science it uses and then hiding behind the science against the interests of citizens and against the science needing review to meet COP 21 commitments.
Justin Trudeau and Christy Clark (Province of BC/Flickr CC)
Both Justin Trudeau and Christy Clark are ignoring the climate science on LNG (Province of BC/Flickr CC)

No part of the word ‘clean’ should be used in association with LNG, as LNG is NOT clean energy. This is very clearly stated by the oil and gas industry. It is very curious that the Provincial and Federal governments are refusing to acknowledge this clear fact-based science that LNG is NOT clean energy. It is only government, not industry, that is attempting to erroneously and wrongly market LNG as clean or cleaner energy.

Governments are failing COP 21.

Courageous leadership is essential. Canadians were promised intelligent leadership and we are receiving dogmatic decisions not based upon intelligent leadership. This now must become a public discussion.

Woodfibre LNG is wrong, science and scientists report that it is wrong for the environment and acts against COP 21 goals.

The CEAA called for public  comment on the GHG emissions and upstream impacts on February 9th, 2016 without notice, and ending March 1st, 2016, thus providing only 3 weeks for public comment.

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)

In this brief period the CEAA received 9, 980 public comments. In analyzing the comments including the just short of 100 verbal presentations, there were 11 neutral, 83 written letters of support, with only a handful addressing the science, and 99.1% opposed, that is, approximately 9,800 comments of opposition with most comments addressing the GHG emissions and the upstream impacts.

At the Liberal Convention ‘People, People, People’ was said to be important by several including the Prime Minister, and yet the Minister of Environment appears to not have even reviewed these CEAA responses and stated that they relied on the BCEAO analysis, which was not based upon science and was concluded prior to COP 21. Science and sustainability also includes people.

Woodfibre LNG will not produce any revenue for the following reasons:

1. PST forgiveness negotiated for LNG export in BC;
2. NEB allowance for an offshore Woodfibre company for retail sales;
3. Provincial carbon tax forgiveness of 5 million tonnes;
4. Total of 32 jobs which after payroll tax paid. Province of BC will pay net to Woodfibre LNG between $200,000 to $600,000 dollars annually;
5. No tax revenue will be realized and our economy, environment, fisheries, marine and human safety will be seriously compromised as Howe Sound and its beauty are an economic driver for Canada.

The Squamish First Nation has no jurisdiction over most of Howe Sound. The peoples of Howe Sound are very concerned, as their opposition is not being heard. The Minister of Environment appears to have not reviewed the science and also to be turning her back on, or avoiding speaking or meeting with the people expressing real and serious concerns.

 Supertanker Shipping does not meet the International SIGTTO Shipping lane standards, thus in the United States, Howe Sound would have automatically been rejected as a possible LNG Supertanker Shipping lane as it is too dangerous, with pre-existing population and pre-existing commerce.
Last day for public comments on Woodfibre LNG proposal
Rendering of proposed Woodfibre LNG project near Squamish, BC

Woodfibre LNG is the only single cycle water exchange design among the BC LNG proposals. This is outlawed in the United States and any LNG plants with the single cycle have changed them or are on notice for change. The single cycle water exchange will damage herring roe, and thus harm the health of Howe Sound. The herring roe is drawing dolphins, who are drawing whales to Howe Sound.

Howe Sound has been in an active recovery for decades and had a significant pink salmon catch of 300,000 recently. This renewal of the fish has taken decades to accomplish following a decades-long and amazing clean up. The single cycle will also warm the water further harming spawning grounds and potentially attracting warm water primitive sea life, such as sharks. Howe Sound is a regular swimming location at Lions Bay, Porteau Cove, Bowen Island, Gambier Island, Anvil Island, Camp Potlach and is the home of many children’s camps for the Metro Vancouver region.

Brenda Broughton (Twitter)
Brenda Broughton (Twitter)

I implore you to reverse the Woodfibre LNG decision, with the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Fisheries advisedly and unequivocally denying permits.

The growing addiction to minimization of the environmental damage that will occur if Woodfibre LNG goes ahead, must stop. Ministers who continue to minimize rather than make courageous leadership decisions on behalf of the environment and Canada’s COP 21 goals, for the economy now and in the future, should step aside from their Cabinet posts immediately.

Brenda Broughton, MA, RCC is the former 5 term mayor of the Village of Lions Bay and Envisioner and former Charter Chair of the Howe Sound Community Forum.


Rafe: NDP’s Horgan too quick to dismiss Leap Manifesto

BCNDP Leader John Horgan touring Metro Van Pipes in 2014 (BCNDP/Flickr cc licence)
BCNDP Leader John Horgan touring Lynnterm docks in 2014 (BCNDP/Flickr cc licence)

I  have a question or two for NDP leader John Horgan, given recent developments.

Let me be clear: I have no animosity towards Mr. Horgan – we only met once and just by accident. At that time, several years ago, Mr. Horgan stated that he favoured LNG because “the NDP couldn’t be against everything”. This illogical nonsense guides him still.

Still searching

I’m doing as many British Columbians are doing – looking for someone to support in 2017.

I certainly can’t vote for the incompetent, destructive, featherbrain in power; I thought I had a home with the Greens until I learned that their leader supports the Liberals’ IPPs policy, which destroys rivers and is bankrupting BC Hydro, so I had reconciled myself to the notion that this old Socred could vote NDP…but they lost me by uncritically supporting LNG and by the obvious political naiveté of its leader.

Mr. Horgan, how could you get this far and not understand basic politics?

Christy Clark stated, not long ago, that she represents the majority of British Columbians, or words to that effect. The incredible fact is that she does Mr. Horgan, but that’s not because of her, it’s because of you, sir.

Christy Clark, up against a reasonably presentable fence-post with hair, wouldn’t have a chance but you’ve managed to split your supporters and so alienate the great number of people who would have supported you to avoid the Liberals, that you and your party will probably lose to this quintessence of incompetence.

Kow-towing to unions

John Horgan meets Rob Ashton of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union at Lynnterm docks in North Vancouver (BCNDP/flickr cc licence)
John Horgan meets Rob Ashton of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union at Lynnterm docks in North Vancouver (BCNDP/flickr cc licence)

Any winning leader must keep his supporters onside while not alienating too many “floaters” who have no party allegiance. This is fundamental – Axiom I for every party. Your party should have learned that from the many decades the old Socreds thrashed you regularly.

But you’ve scared the hell out of people. While it’s expected that an NDP leader will be concerned about labour unions, when he becomes so obsequious as to all but genuflect in public and before a union leader to apologize for changing party policy without his consent, it’s just too much, even, I suggest, for many members of unions.

Why not take the leap?

What I would really like to ask you today, Mr. Horgan, is why you have not seen the obvious way out of your difficulty – the Leap Manifesto?

Typical of the NDP, they cosseted the far left with the word “Manifesto” pissing off a lot of people they didn’t need to. But that’s minor. I’ve read the document with care – have you? It offers a reasonable blueprint for getting us all out of the difficulty posed by the coming demise of the fossil fuel industry.

But you would have no part of it, saying:

[quote]It’s a document that I don’t embrace personally. There are elements in the document that make sense and there are elements that make no sense for British Columbia. So we won’t proceed under any kind of manifesto in the next 12 months under my leadership.[/quote]

Can you not be more specific? Of course parts will annoy unions dependant on the fossil fuel industry but it’s just a discussion document and if you were to encourage the widest possible debate, it could turn out to be a brilliant political maneuver. Yes, you’d  have a harder time from some disgruntled supporters but you’d get support outside the party and the party generally would come along because they want to win and they’ve  nowhere else to go.

Moreover, have you considered how much the public think of Naomi Klein, and indeed the Lewis family? And David Suzuki?  More than they do of you, Mr Horgan. Is it good politics to stand against them just to stay in favour with one or two union leaders?

Bucking history

Here are the parts that I presume are the sticking points which make you say this document is not appropriate for British Columbia, being a resource-based province:

[quote]Shifting swiftly away from fossil fuels so that Canada gets 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable resources within 20 years and is entirely weaned off fossil fuels by 2050.

No new infrastructure projects aimed at increasing extraction of non-renewable resources, including pipelines.[/quote]

Here’s where your opposition is fatal. It’s a year before the election and opposition to fossil rules won’t lessen. More scientific evidence will likely be adverse. And this puts you and those of the NDP who support you out of sync with history. No politician can buck history for long and survive.

Can you not comprehend that the world is against you on this, including a great many traditional supporters of the New Democratic Party? If you had political savvy and vision, you would support Leap and work with union leaders and, indeed, with community leaders generally. The Leap Manifesto proposes that we wean ourselves off fossil fuels and ease the hardship that will impose on the many employed by the industry. What could be wrong with that, especially if it was a non-partisan, community effort?

No one expects that we’ll be off fossil fuels tomorrow afternoon, Mr.Horgan – the object is to avoid wasting time making adjustments, thus making matters worse. People expect that leaders will take us down that path in reasonably expeditious fashion, while making the changes as smooth as humanly possible for those impacted by them.

No point pretending

There is no point in pretending that the move away from fossil fuels isn’t going to happen and happen pretty quickly. The leader, the statesman, recognizes that the best policy is to control events and not be controlled by them while the demagogue tries to avoid reality for short-term advantage.

The most important consideration of all, Mr. Horgan, is that bringing united public support for a commitment to as quick an end to our reliance on fossil fuels, while caring for those hurt by the inevitable, dramatic changes, is the right thing to do.

BC's gift to the world- Premier Christy Clark
Premier Christy Clark at a government-hosted LNG conference (Flickr CC Licence / BC Govt)

It’s astonishing that the NDP will likely appeal less to the average voter than will premier Clark, considering her breathtaking incompetence, the massive debts that she’s run up, the bankrupting of BC Hydro, the destruction of our rivers, the wreckage and folly that is Site C, not to mention the embarrassment she’s brought herself and us over LNG.

You’ve abandoned the high ground of saving the environment, leading the province carefully and thoughtfully through the perils but likely have given the polluters the chance to escape unscathed and another four years to make it infinitely worse, while driving us deeper and deeper in debt.

Not your fault Mr. Horgan?

Then just whose fault is it, pray tell?


90% of world’s new electricity coming from renewables: Welcome to the end of the fossil fuel era

Solar installation class (Haggerston Community College/Flickr CC licence)
Solar installation class (Haggerston Community College/Flickr CC licence)

According to the International Energy Agency, a staggering 90% of all new electrical capacity brought online around the world in 2015 came in the form of renewable energy. That same year, China invested a record $110 Billion in clean tech – virtually 100% of its electrical capital – and in 2016, it’s set to close 1,000 coal mines. While Canada is shedding fossil fuel jobs like they’re going out of style, the world’s current economic powerhouses – China, the US, Germany, Brazil, Korea – are generating millions of new green jobs.

In other words, the bust we’re witnessing in Fort McMurray and North Dakota is no mere blip – no typical, “cyclical” downturn. Common Sense Canadian contributor and retired federal government energy innovation expert Will Dubitsky, who has been tracking and publishing these figures here for several years now and whom I draw on extensively for this article, put it to me in the following terms:

[quote]We don’t expect a return in the blacksmith business. At some point, it was simply replaced by more modern tools and trades.[/quote]

Statistics don’t have feelings

Bank of England's Carney- Most fossil fuel reserves shouldn't be burned
Mark Carney in Davos, Switzerland, 2010 (Photo: Wikipedia)

Even if you dismiss the extraordinary economic opportunities emerging in the clean tech sector, the mounting costs and existential threat of climate change are proving impossible for global leaders to ignore, as Paris demonstrated. People at the very core of the so-called “establishment” – from Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England to BP Chief Economist Spencer Dale, now acknowledge that most fossil fuel reserves will have to be left in the ground.

Based on all the available research today – and we have reams of it in our Renewable Energy section – the fossil fuel era is rapidly drawing to a close.

And here’s the cold, hard truth: Statistics and facts don’t care whether you’re a bleeding-heart tree-hugger or dyed-in-the-wool Alberta conservative. They don’t care how badly you need your old job or whether you feel persecuted or unappreciated by the rest of the country. They don’t care about your stock portfolio, your values, your moral compass, your grandchildren, vanishing caribou herds, wild salmon or spotted owls. And we, as a nation – as citizens, employers, employees, parents, youth, pensioners, taxpayers and voters must decide whether we wish to embrace these new realities or bury our heads in the sand – a particular bitumen-laden variety.

Leaping in circles

Canada’s political parties, provincial and federal, are all grappling with these realities in their own, interesting ways – a spectacle now on display from coast to coast to coast.

The NDP’s gong show of a recent federal convention is a prime example. Following his election failure last Fall, Thomas Mulcair absorbed two final nails in his coffin – both over the same issue but from completely opposite ends of the party’s political spectrum. He was too centrist for the party’s left wing, while his openness to the Lewis/Klein faction’s anti-pipeline “Leap Manifesto” angered the Rachel Notley-led provincial party in Alberta, (not to mention working the usual pundits into a tizzy over its sheer audacity, pronouncing the NDP dead upon the manifesto’s arrival). Why on earth Mulcair let the convention happen on Notley’s turf is anyone’s guess.

But Notley fully merits recrimination for her recent ultimatum on pipelines. She won’t get them through BC – even Kinder Morgan is a non-starter, which, apparently no one but we British Columbians, in the “West beyond the West”, realize. The particular blend of First Nations, court challenges, municipal government opposition, powerful coastal activists, widespread public condemnation and complete lack of economic or “jobs” case for the project means that it simply will not happen. I’m taking bets for anyone foolish enough to lay one against me. I’m already collecting on my Enbridge wagers from 5 years ago. Notley will learn soon enough.

BC or Quebec – take your pick

New Quebec government choosing fossil fuels over green jobs
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard (Photo: facebook)

As for Energy East, well, Notley’s got another fiercely “distinct” Canadian province to contend with in the form of Quebec. Good luck with that one.

But the bigger issue is the whole “getting bitumen to tidewater” argument – i.e. that Canadian bitumen producers are getting shafted on the price for their product because of a lack of pipeline capacity and shipping opportunities. While it sounds credible enough on the surface to people who don’t know better, and it may have been true a few years ago, it no longer holds water today. Moreover, the global growth in demand for fossil fuels is flattening out, while, according to this blog from the World Economic Forum:

[quote]Petroleum consumption in the US was lower in 2014 than it was in 1997, despite the fact that the economy grew almost 50% over this period.[/quote]

In this energy climate, there simply is no argument for expanding export capacity.

Trudeau singing same tune

You can lump the Trudeau government in with Notley on this one, as it continues to advocate for many of the same projects and backs BC’s LNG pipe dream. One of these days, Justin may learn that he can’t have his cake and eat it too – but we appear to be a long way away from that today. In the meantime, he would do a lot to assuage British Columbians, First Nations and the environmental community if his cabinet declined to issue the permit now before it for the controversial Lelu Island/Petronas-led LNG project near Prince Rupert.

BC NDP flip-flops on LNG

LNG, fracking and BC's Energy future- Multi-media discussion in Victoria
BC’s LNG ship may never come in

This project and many others are the brainchild of BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark, who evidently has not received the memo on all the above realities (though we at the CSC have sent her many!). Up until recently, the John Horgan-led provincial NDP was fully on board with fracking and LNG, then it showed signs of changing its tune – a welcome development that would have gone a long way to helping it get elected in May 2017, for the first time in 16 years.

That was, alas, before Horgan flip-flopped back to the pro-LNG side, kow-towing to union pressure. Besides the obvious political, moral and scientific problems my colleague Rafe Mair addressed with this catastrophic error in judgement by Horgan, even the labour justification is plain wrong-headed. Horgan and BC Building Trades boss Tom Sigurdson clearly don’t understand that there are no jobs to be had for British Columbians in LNG. Even if a single project of 21 proposed gets built – which is looking increasingly unlikely given global crash in LNG prices and steady withdrawal of capital – the BC Liberal government has already promised many of these jobs away to China, Malaysia and India in the form of cheap, foreign temporary workers!

I laid out in these pages precisely how the NDP could successfully re-brand itself, incorporating all these insights. In short, the key to their success is the following slogan and all that goes with it: “New Democrats, New Economy.” But the chances of them getting with the program are diminishing by the day.

Notley’s dilemma

Rafe- Notley should change electoral system following Alberta NDP win
Alberta Premier Elect Rachel Notley rode to victory on a wave of progressive policies she’s now steadily abandoning (Alberta NDP facebook page)

The same logic and opportunities apply in Alberta, though it’s an even steeper hill to climb there. I appreciate the bind Ms. Notley finds herself in – which explains her backpedaling on a number of more progressive energy policies she ran on last year. Her pollsters must be telling her she’s got to make these grandiose declarations on pipelines and undercut the federal party if she has any hope of getting re-elected.

She faces an electorate that is understandably anxious about its future –  that only wants things to go back to the way they were in the good old days of $100-150 oil. It’s a scary thing not knowing how you’re going to feed your family. But things in Alberta aren’t going back to the way they were before, no matter how uncomfortable that reality is. And giving people false assurances will only make the problem worse. The only thing that can rescue the Alberta economy and bring jobs back is creating new ones – and there are real ways that can happen (more on that in a moment). Alas, for the moment. it’s easy to see how that may yet seem politically impossible to Ms. Notley.

Not all wine and roses

OK, to the skeptics who’ve gotten this far in the article, first of all, thank you for hearing me out. Second of all, you’re right about a lot of things.

You’re correct that we won’t suddenly replace fossil fuels with renewables across the board. There will necessarily be a transition period and quite possibly a place for fossil fuels in the mix for some time to come. We also won’t be able to sustain the level of growth, materialism and waste in our economy that relatively cheap, abundant fossil fuels have enabled over the past century. Some tough adjustments will need to be made there.

BC sitting on enough geothermal to power whole province, say new maps
Steam rising from the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station in Iceland (Photo: Gretar Ívarsson / Wikipedia)

Moreover, not all renewables are created equally – and they all have their problems. Most are not “baseload”, meaning they’re only available intermittently. The exceptions are geothermal (a huge untapped opportunity for places like BC), and large hydro dams, which aren’t clean or green for a whole host of reasons.

The solution to the intermittency issue is multi-fold. It requires building a grid with overlapping sources which fill in each other’s gaps at different times. In places like BC, Manitoba, Quebec, and a number of US states, those large dams we already have can underpin newer, non-baseload renewables. Geothermal can do the same and has for decades in San Francisco. Iceland gets more than half its electricity from it.

There are other problems with renewables though. Aggressive incentives for renewables like feed-in-tariffs have led to soaring electrical costs and energy poverty in places like Germany and Ontario, while in BC, our disastrous private “run-of-river” sham has ravaged watersheds and put BC Hydro on the brink of bankruptcy. The renewable energy sector is no more immune to greed, corruption, foolishness, and government mismanagement than the fossil fuel sector is. Anything we choose to build must be done carefully and with the public interest in mind.

Conservation is the key

The most important piece of the puzzle is conservation – the only form of energy that carries zero environmental impact or cost. The good news is we’re already doing a great job at this. Americans are using roughly the same amount of electricity in their homes today as they did at the beginning of the millennium – despite population increases, more elaborate gadgetry, and the arrival of electric cars. It’s the same story here in BC.

Things are looking up

Now for the really good news! Once we get past the denial and difficulty of letting go of everything we’ve come to take for granted, there are huge upsides to the end of the fossil fuel era. As columnist Will Dubistsky put it in these pages recently, the above developments have resulted in “an amazing decline in energy-related CO2 in both China and the US and global emissions remaining flat since 2013! What’s more, for the first time in history emissions have declined during a period of economic growth.” 

Randall Benson is a former oil sands worker who runs a successful solar company and training program (Iron & Earth)
Randall Benson is a former oil sands worker who runs a successful solar company and training program (Iron & Earth)

The message we so often get from the media and our elected leaders, particularly in Canada, is, “Sure climate change is a problem and we have to act, but we’ll get to it in 20 years.” Well, the world is already getting to it. Reducing emissions is very much achievable. So is transitioning to renewable energy, and while Canada has remained on the sidelines of the green jobs revolution thus far, there are signs that’s beginning to change.

Suncor recently announced plans to build multiple wind projects in Alberta. Meanwhile, a group of oil sands workers calling themselves Iron & Earth is pushing for resources to retool their skills for clean tech. These welders, electricians, boilermakers, pipe-fitters, carpenters, etc. are well positioned to transfer their considerable abilities towards wind, solar and geothermal. They’re calling on Rachel Notley to expand Alberta’s solar training programs to include retraining of existing electricians for solar installations. And that’s no big leap.

So, we have two choices as Canadians: 1. Accept that the end of the fossil fuel era is nigh and get on with building a new economy that puts Canadians to work in sustainable, longterm jobs; 2. Remain in denial, chasing a vanishing sector, ensuring Canadians remain out of work…and then accept that the end of the fossil fuel era.

The statistics don’t care. It will happen either way.