Tag Archives: Enbridge

Stephen Harper stopped short of ratifying the Canada-China FIPA trade deal in 2012 under enormous public pressure. What will 2013 hold for FIPA and foreign ownership of Canadian energy companies?

2012: The Year of Energy Politics


CBC’s Power and Politics has chosen “energy politics” as the top Canadian news story for 2012 and we at the Common Sense Canadian couldn’t agree more.

Energy is the current which runs through a diverse array of issues presently reshaping our country – from omnibus budget bills that have slashed environmental regulations, to foreign trade deals, changes to our labour rules and, perhaps most significantly, the growing mobilization of First Nations, supported by non-aboriginal Canadians, to oppose many of these initiatives.

2012 was a year that began with Conservative Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver dismissing opponents of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines as “radicals” and ends with the Idle No More rallies sweeping the nation – with support coming in from as far away as Buckingham Palace (or just outside its gates, anyway).

It was a year when two very different visions for the future of Canada and its place in the world collided headlong with each other. One seeking to curb the Tar Sands and new arteries essential to its growth, the other striving to make Canada into a new Saudi Arabia – provider of oil, gas and coal to emerging Asian markets.

Each policy piece from the Harper Government was part of a bigger puzzle, designed to bring its new vision to fruition.

There was the first omnibus budget bill, C-38, which gutted the Fisheries Act, watered down environmental assessment processes and slashed ministry staff in monitoring and regulation. The Common Sense Canadian published retired senior DFO scientist and manager Otto Langer’s first warning of these intended changes to the Fisheries Act, which unleashed a media firestorm and spate of denials from senior Harperites.

We also published the sad farewell letter from one of the world’s top marine pollution experts, Dr. Peter Ross, who lost his job when the Harper Government essentially canned our entire ocean monitoring program. Even one of the world’s top monitoring stations for climate change and arctic ice melt, PEARL, could not escape this government’s ax (for a savings of a whopping million and a half a year).

Clearly, these changes grew out of and helped to further a “see no evil, hear no evil” approach to climate science that is critical to the Harper Government’s hydrocarbon expansion agenda – which also demanded the smoothing of those pesky regulatory hurdles for resource project development.

But one of the Harper Government’s pet projects, the Northern Gateway pipeline, made defending its agenda more challenging, with an unrivaled string of public embarrassments. There was the damning US report on the company’s 2010 disaster in Michigan, then more spills in Canada, a badly bungled PR campaign, the infamous “missing islands”, and repeated blunders at the National Energy Board hearings into its proposal.

Yet, even with these public blemishes on the star of its new energy vision and with mounting evidence of catastrophic, fossil fuel-driven climate change, the Harper Government’s attitude remained unchanged, especially on the international stage. In 2012, we became the first country to formally pull out of the Kyoto Protocol (not that we ever took our commitments serious in the first place). At the same time, Canada was caught by the Guardian, through a leaked memo, working to block a resolution to end to public subsidies for fossil fuels at the Rio+20 summit.

Back in Ottawa, the latest omnibus budget, C-45, picked up where its predecessor left off, slashing the age-old Navigable Waters Protection Act – one of the main beefs of the Idle No More movement.

Provincially, energy politics have dominated the agenda too – from the well-publicized spat between BC Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford over revenue sharing from the proposed Enbridge pipeline, to Redford’s new alliance with Quebec Premier Pauline Marois over alternate plans to move bitumen East.

The media and public discourse in BC was particularly infused with with energy – beginning with the NDP and Liberals jostling for positioning on Enbridge, to the emergence of KinderMorgan’s proposed pipeline and tanker expansion for Vancouver as a major urban issue in the lead-up to next May’s election. Add to that natural gas fracking, proposed pipelines and the plan to build multiple Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals on the coast – all of which are increasingly on the media and public’s radar and sure to be election topics. The movement against the proposed Site C Dam, which would power gas and mining operations, is building momentum too.

The NDP has been all over the map on these issues, initially getting behind fracking, new pipelines and LNG plants with few reservations, then, recently, showing signs of feeling some of the public pressure building around these issues. This was evidenced by an op-ed in the Georgia Straight, co-penned by Energy Critic John Horgan and Environment Critic Rob Flemming, promising “a broad public review of fracking” and “immediate changes to protect B.C.’s water resources”.

The party appears caught between the growing concerns about fracking and LNG and a desire not to appear to be too “anti-business” or ignore an opportunity to reboot the BC industry and close the budget gap with increased royalties and related revenues. It will be very interesting to see where the NDP goes on this file in 2013.

Christy Clark, for her part, has left no doubt about her bullish outlook for natural gas and LNG, comparing BC’s potential with this resource to Alberta’s Tar Sands. Some of the nation’s top independent energy experts have poked big holes in Clark’s plan, though, suggesting that her numbers simply don’t add up.

Federally, the NDP’s selection of Thomas Mulcair shook up the political scene and energy debate. Unlike Harper’s former Liberal Opposition challengers, Mulcair seemed to have a firm grasp of energy and economic issues and was prepared to take on Harper on topics others would shy away from.

Take Mulcair’s rendering of the “Dutch Disease” into a Canadian household term. The concept, supported by the OECD and other highly reputable economic institutions and economists, holds that the downside of a petro-state economy is artificial currency inflation, which leads to the hollowing of a nation’s manufacturing sector. New jobs in Fort MacMurray mean layoffs in Hamilton. The fact Mulcair was able to get the traction he did with this discussion and to lodge it – even a little – in the national consciousness is a testament to his oratory skills, political sensibilities, and willingness to take some risks to differentiate himself from Harper. Mulcair also helped to re-frame pipeline politics, opposing Enbridge but getting behind the notion of shipping bitumen East (the source of another emerging public energy debate).

But the reach of energy politics extended far beyond provincial and national borders this year, as the Harper Government negotiated a new trade deal with China, ostensibly to stimulate investment in Canadian energy resources. The Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPA) came under great scrutiny – particularly in these pages – for eroding Canadian sovereignty and enshrining much diminished environmental protections as the law of the land for years to come.

Harper seemed caught off guard by the backlash generated by this deal and several concurrent foreign buyouts of Canadian energy companies – which seemed to be the very purpose of FIPA. When he finally approved the $15 Billion purchase of Nexen by Chninese state-owned CNOOC and Canadian gas company Progress Energy by Malaysian giant Petronas, it was late on a Friday afternoon, to avoid the media glare that had been focused on these deals. He promised then, surprisingly, that this marked the “end of a trend and not the beginning of one” with regards to such foreign buyouts of Canadian energy assets (PS we aren’t buying that line here).

Compounding the public and media pressure around FIPA and these energy company buyouts was the controversy that erupted from a coal mine in northeast BC. When it emerged the company, HD Mining, was hiring all imported Chinese workers for its Murray River mine, a heated back-and-forth ensued between the United Steelworkers’ Union and a Chinese worker who has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, alleging the union is “creating contempt for Chinese people”.

In the midst of this fracas, an embarrassed Immigration Minister Jason Kenney promised to review the labour rules that allowed this situation to happen. And yet, it was Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, with Kenney’s support,who just recently made the changes to the Canadian labour regulations that enable companies to hire foreign temporary workers for lower wages than they would pay Canadians.

The Harper Government’s labour policy seems designed precisely to encourage situations like the one at Murray River, directly undermining the government’s “jobs” rhetoric around resource development.

Likely as a result of all this scrutiny, Harper has delayed on ratifying the Chinese FIPA. A campaign led by social media-driven public advocacy groups Leadnow.ca and Sumofus.org generated over 80,000 petition signatures and thousands of letters and submissions to government officials protesting the proposed FIPA.

But the biggest story in 2012 has been the unprecedented coming together of aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians to jointly confront these hydrocarbon projects and the Harper Government’s vision for Canada’s future. Even in the waning days of 2012, we saw another victory by First Nations and environmentalists working together to secure a long-term ban on coal bed methane fracking in the Sacred Headwaters. That the Clark Government saw this as politically expedient – or necessary – is interesting in and of itself.

It remains to be seen where the Idle No More movement goes from here. Will its intensity subside in the new year like the Occupy Movement of last year, or will it be forged into a formidable political force, crystallizing the burgeoning sense of discontent amongst many Canadians with the direction our political leaders are taking us?

2013 holds the answers to many other burning energy questions, like how the Enbridge pipeline hearings will conclude or when KinderMorgan will formally file its plans. Will this American company’s experience be smoother than that of Enbridge, or will an unprecedented urban environmental movement rise up to block its path? What role will natural gas will play in BC’s provincial election? Will this new energy alliance between Alberta and Quebec and the vision to pipe the Tar Sands East pan out? Perhaps most interesting, will Harper ratify or abandon FIPA and will he keep his word on nixing future foreign buyouts of Canadian energy assets?

Stay tuned to the Common Sense Canadian in the New Year to find out. Or maybe the evening of December 31st. Knowing the Harper Government, that’s when all the really important changes to our national fabric will be announced.

It's been a big year for the environment in Canada - including lots of rallies like this one in Prince Rupert to oppose the Enbridge pipeline

How the Environment is Becoming the Top Issue for Canadians


Wendy and I, exercising a habit of some years now, are further depleting our kids’ legacies and will be away until January 10, starting with 20 days in the Caribbean then 4 days in Boston visiting friends.

It’s been an interesting year in the environmental field.

Opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway project is massive and I predict the same situation will prevail against the proposed Kinder Morgan expansion. In fact, this is the first time in my memory that the environment has been the #1 issue. In fact, one of the signs is that neither the government, nor sadly, the opposition want to come to grips with several major environmental issues. The federal government is beyond all hope and may have to be stopped by massive civil disobedience, which no doubt will come.

All of us who are now waiting in the trenches must, in my opinion, pay considerable homage to those who have fought before us when the public was not so concerned. They were branded as “tree huggers” by many who now have learned that they were in fact heroes.They indeed cleared the pathway to public awareness of what lay ahead if we didn’t learn from their experience.

We – that is to say those not committed to the philosophy of the Fraser Institute and its in-house newspaper, the Vancouver Sun – know that without fail large companies who wish to invade our wilderness and oceans lie through their teeth constantly and without exceptions. This doesn’t make us communists or even socialists – neither of those two styles of governance have been much in synch with matters environmental, with Russia and China being in a class of their own when it comes to ecological indifference – at best.

I believe that many British Columbians know that we’re not talking “left” and “right” here but “right” and “wrong”.

A very good example was my Roast in November 2012 in the WISE Hall in East Vancouver. As I noted on the occasion, many in attendance that night would rather have been caught in a house of ill-repute just a few years before. Perhaps the leading indicator was the folks of West Vancouver who fought so hard to save the Eagleridge plateau from the degradation of the wildlife habitat and then took a bus down to the East Delta Agricultural Hall to help protest against degradation of agricultural land, Burns Bog and other wildlife preserves by the expansion of the Deltaport project and South Fraser Perimeter Road by corporations and the government. The meeting was addressed by people from both the right and the left. It was a moment of great symbolism which simply is not understood well enough by both major BC parties, especially not by the Liberals.

Environmentalism is not shrill protest, for protest’s sake, based on political objects rather than evidence. People have seen and heard with their own eyes and ears what is happening with fish farms, private power projects that have all but bankrupted BC Hydro; they’ve seen farmland destroyed and looked at the record of pipelines and tanker companies; they have not only assessed the risks of catastrophes to come, but also realize the consequences that will flow. They have come to ask, “is it worth taking any risk if the damages will be catastrophic and permanent?”

I think that slowly but steadily the public has come to realize that money is no answer. What does it profit the province if they get billions of dollars but lose their wilderness as a result? In Biblical terms, what does it profit a man to gain the entire world but lose his own soul?

And the soul of the province, how we live, how we look at ourselves and how we look at our legacy has become a hugely important factor.

How much are our wild salmon worth?

What price on our rivers and the ecologies they sustain?

Is there any financial arrangement that will compensate for the loss of our coastal fauna and flora as well as the people who, for centuries, have been sustained by those resources? Incidentally, a recent UBC study found that a single oil spill from tankers on BC’s coast could wipe out all the economic gains of the Enbridge pipeline.

If we lose our farmlands, is there a price that will offset that? Will the farm cease to be the underpinning of our way of life? Is money going to buy us the food we need?

There is this notion that we must continue to “progress”, which is code for “money talks and when it does one should bow down in grateful obeisance to the god Mammon and forever hold our tongues.”

I reject that notion. We can progress and prosper without placing our entire outdoors at the certain risk of destruction. Other prosperous democracies have managed to survive without screwing up their environment as the people of BC are being asked to accept.

In the May election in 2013 we have what may be our last chance to stop right wing governments, mad economists and soulless corporate bloodsuckers from desecrating our beautiful land.


Enbridge’s Line 9: Shipping Tar Sands Crude East


This article is republished with permission from Watershed Sentinel.

In a move that could cost him significant political support, federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has endorsed controversial west-to-east pipeline proposals that would move tar sands crude from Alberta through Ontario and Quebec to Atlantic Canada and points beyond.

During a Sept. 28, 2012 speech to the Canadian Club of Toronto, Mulcair said, “Let me be clear, New Democrats support recent proposals to increase West-East pipeline capacity. This is an initiative, led by industry,  that will pay economic dividends for every region of our country: new markets for [tar sands] producers in the West, high-paying value-added jobs and lower energy prices in the East.”

Mulcair called this a “pro-business common sense solution.”

With a bottleneck of crude at the storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, pricing discounts for diluted bitumen (dilbit) at US Midwest refineries, and strong opposition to tar sands export pipelines in both BC and the US, the industry has seized upon “eastern access” to Atlantic tidewater as a solution. Canada’s top two pipeline/utilities companies – Enbridge and TransCanada Corp. – are each developing plans to pipe crude east, while environmental groups across Ontario, Quebec and New England have been gearing up for a major fight on the issue.

The “Wrong Product”

Ironically, only hours before Mulcair’s speech, Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan issued a press release (Sept. 27) stating:  “The bottom line is Alberta is selling the wrong product [dilbit]. The glut of bitumen on the market is a result of bitumen looking for appropriate refineries. If the product was SCO [synthetic crude oil], we could be selling the product to any refinery in North America.” As well, many pipeline safety issues could be avoided (see March-April 2012 Watershed Sentinel).

Tar sands producers generally produce either “synthetic crude,” which has passed through an on-site upgrader, or dilbit, which is raw bitumen thinned with lighter petroleum products and proprietary chemicals. With increased production over the last few years, tar sands producers (which are mostly foreign-owned) are now piping out more dilbit in order to cut their costs. According to Alberta Energy, there are only five operating upgraders in Alberta, and in 2011, “about 57% of oil sands production was sent for upgrading to synthetic crude oil within Alberta,” a percentage that will rapidly decline as production vastly increases. Over the next decade, tar sands producers reportedly plan to triple the amount of dilbit they pipe.

On July 23, 2012, the US National Academy of Sciences began hearing expert briefings on whether dilbit increases the risk of pipeline spills, as environmentalists claim. Gil McGowan’s point is a crucial one: not all refineries in North America can handle dilbit, nor can all refineries in eastern Canada. That fact is significant to understanding who would benefit from “eastern access” pipelines plans.    

Line 9 Reversal

Enbridge is now moving quickly on a plan to pipe tar sands crude through Ontario, Quebec, and New England to Atlantic tidewater in Portland, Maine. From there it would be shipped by tankers to refineries in the US and elsewhere.

In May 2012, Enbridge announced a $3.2 billion expansion of its North American pipeline system, including expansion of its Lakehead system which pipes dilbit from Alberta to US Midwest refiners. Some of that dilbit also reaches refineries in Sarnia, Ont., via Enbridge’s Line 5 (which brings dilbit from Superior, Wisconsin, across northern Michigan to Sarnia), and Line 6B (which pipes dilbit from Chicago across Michigan to Sarnia). Both Line 5 and Line 6B extend from the tar sands across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba before entering the US at Superior, Wisc. According to rabble.ca (Sept. 11, 2012), in Sarnia “tar sands are already being refined [by Imperial Oil and Suncor] at an estimated rate of 225,000 barrels per day.”  

It was Enbridge’s Line 6B that ruptured in Michigan in 2010, spilling 20,000 barrels of dilbit into the Kalamazoo River. During repairs, Enbridge has quietly been increasing the capacity of that pipeline to 500,000 barrels per day (bpd). 

Enbridge also intends to reverse Line 9, which currently carries 240,000 barrels per day of imported conventional oil from Montreal to Sarnia. On July 27, Canada’s National Energy Board granted approval for the reversal of a portion (9A) of Line 9 between Sarnia and Westover, Ont. (where an oil hub is located that diverts crude to Imperial Oil’s refinery in Nanticoke, Ont. and to Pennsylvania refineries).      

Enbridge intends to file for the reversal of the remaining portion (9B) between Westover and Montreal this autumn. On Oct. 23, Enbridge filed a document with the NEB showing it plans to increase the capacity of Line 9 to 300,000 bpd and switch it to carrying “heavy crude,” which includes tar sands oil.

In order for tar sands crude to reach the Atlantic, another pipeline – the Portland/Montreal Pipe Line (PMPL – which brings imported conventional oil from Portland, Maine to Montreal) – would also have to be reversed. The PMPL passes through Quebec, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

The Portland/Montreal pipe is majority-owned by Imperial Oil and Suncor. Officials with PMPL have reportedly been in talks for over a year to reverse that line.

Enbridge also intends to export tar sands crude from Portland, Maine. According to the Globe and Mail (June 1, 2012), “In a recent conversation with Streetwise, Stephen Wuori, Enbridge’s president of liquids pipelines, said his company believes it can export crude from the US without consequence. Asked if it would be possible to send oil to international markets from Maine, he said the answer is yes.”

More recently, the Globe and Mail reported (Sept. 6, 2012) that Enbridge “has met with officials from refineries in Quebec City and Saint John to discuss their appetite for Western Canadian crude. Companies could barge oil from Montreal to Quebec City, and then perhaps ship it by rail to Saint John.”  

TransCanada’s Mainline to the East Coast

TransCanada Corp.’s natural gas Mainline runs 14,000 kilometres from the Alberta/Saskatchewan border to where Quebec meets Vermont. The Mainline, which pipes natural gas to Ontario, has been operating at only half-capacity in recent months because of competition from US shale gas. Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. and others have been urging the company to switch to carrying crude in its gas Mainline. TransCanada Corp. is also one of the owners of Ontario nuclear power-generator Bruce Power, which has been pushing the nuclear option for tar sands/energy production in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

TransCanada Corp. has not disclosed much about its west-to-east pipeline project, but recently Globe & Mail reporters Nathan Vanderklippe and Shawn McCarthy provided (Sept. 6, 2012) some details on “a massive $5.6 billion new pipeline system that would carry large volumes of western crude to refineries in Ontario, Quebec, and beyond.”

Their news report states:

The East Coast project described to [us] by industry sources would involve converting roughly 3,000 kilometres of underused natural gas pipe – the Mainline is made up of a series of parallel pipes – into oil service. It would also involve building at least 375 kilometres of new pipe from Hardisty, the Alberta oil hub, to the Mainline at Burstall, Sask., and from near Cornwall [Ont.], at the other end, to Montreal. Another 220 kilometres would be required to reach Quebec City. Oil could be loaded onto ocean-going vessels either on the St. Lawrence River, or destined for American refiners via Portland, Maine, through a pipeline [PMPL] to Montreal whose flow could be reversed…The TransCanada proposal would send 625,000 barrels a day across the country to Montreal, Quebec City and potentially Saint John, NB, where Irving Oil Ltd. runs a large refinery. Tanker exports could then also take the crude to Europe or Asia.

In late July 2012, RBC Capital Markets urged that TransCanada Corp. stop focusing on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to Texas and instead convert its Mainline to carry 900,000 barrels per day of tar sands crude to Sarnia, and then use Enbridge’s Line 9 to move it to Montreal.

So potentially, more than 1.4 million barrels per day of tar sands crude could be piped through southern Ontario and Quebec – the most populated area of Canada – to points east. The industry considers “eastern access” pipelines to be in addition to projects like Northern Gateway.  

Refining is currently considered a financially viable business in North America mainly for companies that both produce (“upstream”) and refine (“downstream”), largely because they can buy dilbit and other feedstock cheaply and then sell the refined petroleum products for a high price internationally.

In the tar sands, companies with both upstream/downstream facilities in North America include Imperial Oil, Suncor, Shell, Husky, Valero, Marathon, ConocoPhillips, Cenovus, BP, and Flint Hills Resources/Koch Industries. Many of these companies have already invested billions to convert their refineries in the US Midwest and Gulf Coast for processing tar sands crude. 

In 2010, Royal Dutch Shell closed its Montreal refinery and converted it into a fuel storage terminal. Imperial Oil put its Dartmouth, NS refinery up for sale on May 17, 2012, but is also considering converting it into a storage terminal. By the terms of its sale to Korea National Oil Corp., the North American Refinery in Newfoundland only refines the province’s offshore oil, with most of its refined petroleum products exported to the US. As of March 2012, Shell is considering upgrading bitumen at its Ontario refinery and Suncor is considering the same thing for its Montreal refinery. The resulting “synthetic crude oil” would still have to go to another refinery to be made into products like gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

Peter Boag, president of the Canadian Petroleum Producers Institute – which represents the refining and marketing sector – told the Globe and Mail (Sept. 6, 2012), “Significant changes to the crude diet to really ramp up the volumes of western-based heavier crudes in Eastern Canada is going to require some significant investment in refinery reconfiguration.” As Gil McGowan put it, Alberta is selling “the wrong product.”
The Irving Empire

According to the University of Calgary’s Jack Mintz (Financial Post, Dec. 16, 2011), the only refinery on the Atlantic that can currently process “heavy sour diluted bitumen [dilbit]” is “the Irving Refinery” in New Brunswick. Otherwise, he said, “this type of crude cannot be processed in eastern North America.” 

Enbridge has been planning its “eastern access” pipeline since at least 2008. On March 11, 2008, Reuters reported that “Enbridge Inc. is looking at moving oil sands crude to the US Northeast and Eastern Canada,” and quoted Enbridge CEO Patrick Daniel: “If we move to reverse Line 9 [in Ontario], that could come before [Northern] Gateway [in BC]. If it is a large volume, 400,000 barrels a day, [Northern] Gateway would come first.” 

In 2011, Enbridge appointed to its board a director of Irving Oil, which now owns 50 per cent of an oil terminal in Portland, Maine.

The Globe and Mail reported (Aug. 23, 2012) that Irving Oil “unveiled a proposal three years ago to build [another] 300,000 barrels-a-day [refinery] facility to serve the northeast United States,” and later partnered with BP on the idea – which is currently shelved. According to the same newspaper (Sept. 6, 2012), the Irving Refinery in Saint John buys about $10 billion per year of imported conventional oil, refines it, and then sends “eighty per cent of the plant’s production” south of the border. 

Obviously, tar sands producers like Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. – which owns no downstream refineries – are eyeing that annual $10 billion in hopes that it will be used to buy crude piped east. Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. plans to greatly increase its tar sands production to one million barrels per day over the next decade. Frank McKenna – the former premier of New Brunswick and a current director of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. – has been one of the most vocal proponents of west-to-east pipelines from Alberta, and has called for a new oil pipeline from Montreal to Saint John.

In mid-July, Canada’s Parliamentary Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources (with 7 Conservative and 5 Liberal members) endorsed west-to-east tar sands pipelines as a “nation-building” project.  

Besides Frank McKenna and the Senate Committee, other outspoken proponents include Derek Burney (a director of TransCanada Pipelines Ltd.), Eddie Goldenberg (a lawyer with Calgary law firm Bennett Jones), the “ethical oil” people, and now the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair. Some commentators consider the west-to-east pipeline plans to be the centre of Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s “national energy strategy.”
But the plans by Enbridge and TransCanada Corp. seem largely to be a strategy for Big Oil to get a higher price for dilbit by export via the Atlantic – most likely to the US Gulf Coast, where their downstream profits would be highest.   

Environmental organizations across Quebec, Ontario, and New England, along with some First Nations and landowner organizations residing along Line 9, have been rallying in opposition to these west-to-east pipeline plans.

All this is happening mainly because the Alberta government is too timid and subservient to require that all tar sands production be upgraded or refined on-site. Instead, it keeps allowing Big Oil to pipe out more and more of “the wrong product.” As a result, tar sands pipelines will continue to be fought across North America.


Joyce Nelson is an award-winning freelance writer/researcher and the author of five books.


Unprecedented Internal Access to DFO for Enbridge


Read this story from the Vancouver Sun on Enbridge’s unprecedented access to the Departmen tof Fisheries and Oceans, including their own dedicated internal staff dedicated to the company’s project. (Nov. 10, 2012)

Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project is getting special attention from the federal Fisheries department, according to an internal email obtained by The Vancouver Sun.

In what critics call an unprecedented step, the department has listed a “Northern Gateway Liaison” at a top level of its organizational chart, under a reorganization prompted by the 2012 budget’s sweeping Fisheries Act amendments.

The position will report directly to the executive director of the National Ecosystems Management Branch at the department’s headquarters.

“This suggests an unprecedented level of access and engagement for a specific project,” said Green party leader Elizabeth May, who in the 1980s was a senior adviser to a federal environment minister.

“This is the reality of a government that has told the bureaucracy, ‘be prepared to make sure this project goes through.’ ” B.C. NDP MP Fin Donnelly, his party’s deputy fisheries critic, said he’s never heard of a company getting such special treatment.

“This clearly exposes the Harper Conservative oil pipeline agenda. They are putting the oil industry ahead of fishing, tourism and all other industries.”

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/metro/shows%2BFisheries%2Bfocus%2BGateway/7530065/story.html

Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project is getting special attention from the federal Fisheries department, according to an internal email obtained by The Vancouver Sun.

In what critics call an unprecedented step, the department has listed a “Northern Gateway Liaison” at a top level of its organizational chart, under a reorganization prompted by the 2012 budget’s sweeping Fisheries Act amendments.

The position will report directly to the executive director of the National Ecosystems Management Branch at the department’s headquarters.

“This suggests an unprecedented level of access and engagement for a specific project,” said Green party leader Elizabeth May, who in the 1980s was a senior adviser to a federal environment minister.

“This is the reality of a government that has told the bureaucracy, ‘be prepared to make sure this project goes through.’ ” B.C. NDP MP Fin Donnelly, his party’s deputy fisheries critic, said he’s never heard of a company getting such special treatment.

“This clearly exposes the Harper Conservative oil pipeline agenda. They are putting the oil industry ahead of fishing, tourism and all other industries.”

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/metro/shows%2BFisheries%2Bfocus%2BGateway/7530065/story.html#ixzz2CgybCRus


Addicted to Oil: The Politics of Canadian Dilbit Pipelines


Not long after the Defend Our Coast rallies, a pollster phones, wanting to know whom I plan to vote for in the provincial election. The first party to unequivocally say NO to tar sands oil in pipelines and tankers through BC land and waters, I tell her.

This causes a bit of confusion, as it clearly isn’t one of the options in front of the caller. So, she asks after some hesitation, the NDP?

Given NDP leader Adrian Dix’s tough talk on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, she might very well think so, but where is he on doubling the capacity of the Kinder Morgan pipeline into Burrard Inlet?  The silence is deafening.

Does one conclude that Mr Dix has no intrinsic objection to BC enabling fossil fuel addicts around the world? Because that’s my objection to the pipeline proposals.

Yes, I’m worried – as most people in BC are – about the inevitable environmental devastation oil spills will bring. I’m also concerned about the environmental devastation extracting oil from Alberta’s tar sands has already caused.

According to federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, the damage isn’t just environmental, it is also economic. Back in the spring, he accused the tar sands industry of causing Dutch Disease. And, while Harper & Co spluttered their objections to Mulcair’s claim, the OECD supported his assessment.  

Mind you, that was then. It seems Mulcair has had an epiphany. Apparently he has now decided tar sands oil is good for the economy – if it travels east from Alberta, not west.

With the Globe and Mail declaring the Northern Gateway pipeline all but dead and the Obama re-election making the future of the Keystone pipeline less certain, it should come as no surprise to learn – as Joyce Nelson reports at length in Watershed Sentinel – that tar sands mules Enbridge and TransCanada Corp have well-advanced plans for converting existing pipelines to transport diluted bitumen from Alberta to refineries in eastern Canada and New England.

According to Nelson, if  these plans – which seem to be attracting little mainstream media attention – go ahead, “more than 1.4 million barrels per day of tar sands crude could be piped through southern Ontario and Quebec – the most populated areas of Canada.”

Which begs the question: Just how crude do Alberta’s exports need to be?

Diluted bitumen is 16 times more likely to leak than conventional crude transported in pipelines and a far greater clean up challenge when spilled, as it was, in the Kalamazoo River.

Appearing on The National recently, fossil fuel dealer Alison Redford smiled patiently and explained to the country that without pipelines through BC to enable Alberta to ship its diluted bitumen to Asia, the province will be condemned to making less than top dollar per barrel from its resources. Really?

If Redford truly wants to maximize the economic benefits from the tar sands, perhaps she should insist, as Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, has suggested, that her province’s oily gunk be upgraded to synthetic crude oil before it’s exported. (Most dealers know you get less for crack than you do for powdered cocaine.)

Neither Enbridge nor TransCanada care whether their package is diluted bitumen or synthetic crude, but everyone along their proposed pipelines should.

Although there are obvious measures we could and should be taking to aid our withdrawal from fossil fuels, as long as Hopalong Harper is in charge, investment in green energy and electric cars is likely to remain even more of a pipe dream in Canada than in many other countries. And, as beneficial as going cold turkey might be for the health of the planet, it is not a viable option.

So, here’s the deal (because apparently someone died and made me king): No new pipelines either heading west or east and henceforth tar sands companies must upgrade their bitumen before it goes anywhere. This won’t help with our fossil fuel addiction or with arresting the impacts of climate change, but at least it might reduce the immediate threat of environmental devastation.

That’s reduce, of course, not eliminate.


Mark Hume Nails Enbridge on Caribou Paper Cheat


When a clock strikes 13, you can never trust it again.

So it must be for anyone who lies about information he is using to back up a serious scientific statement upon which a great deal is at stake.

Mark Hume had an article in Sunday’s Globe and Mail BC Edition which, in a world of decent journalism, would be a headline story, titled ENBRIDGE CHEATS ON SCIENTIFIC PAPER ON THREAT TO CARIBOU.

In fact Mark does this a lot and our newspaper chiefs should blush with shame but they don’t do that very well. I leave it to you to read this superlative article but suffice it to say that Enbridge has been caught out big time and if it weren’t for Mark they would have gotten away with it.

in a 2011 paper in support of their ghastly pipeline proposal, Enbridge claimed that their project would have little or no impact on caribou.

This issue hasn’t been dealt with much but it should be.

Caribou, like deer, moose, antelope, etc., are ungulates whose main enemy is the wolf. When nature is left alone, wolves kill so many ungulates that their numbers get knocked down, whereupon the wolves, now short of food, starve, while the ungulates recover – and on it goes. Nature is cruel but has rules we break at our peril. The very last thing we should do is interfere with this cycle, which is why it’s so necessary that man’s imprint on the wilderness be as light as possible.

This is why Enbridge is getting concerned enough to put out a presentation, purporting to be based on science, demonstrating its innocence in advance. I add parenthetically, as Mark points out, Enbridge’s proposals cannot be taken in isolation of other impacts.

Enbridge clearly didn’t expect anyone to challenge their work and hung their hat on a scientific paper that simply did not exist. This gets interesting.

In a notation backing their “scientific argument”, the sort which one expects in scientific papers, they referred to “Francis et al 2002”. Hell, whoever checks these sorts of things out?

Of all the bad luck, an environmental lawyer named Chris Tollefson looked up this reference and it didn’t exist!

Ah, but Enbridge has an answer. Whoopsy Daisy, we filed an errata correcting that, and this really should have referred to “Salmo and Diversified (2003)”.

Just a silly little error we cleared up.

Except that pesky lawyer went further and found that Salmo and Diversified (2003) had based their findings on “Francis et al 2002” – the paper that didn’t exist!

Well, you surely ask, “Francis (2002)” must have been something.

Indeed it was. It referred to a power point presentation made by an independent ecologist who had nothing to do with Enbridge to a wildlife conference about, get this, Yukon Caribou!

One expects corporations to hire, shall we say, friendly scientists. In the Kemano Completion case some years ago, Alcan’s entire case was based upon reports from an engineering firm which was nothing more nor less than Alcan’s poodle.

What you don’t expect, God Damn it, is outright deceit!

Propositions you don’t agree with, questionable scientific propositions with, yes. Deceit, no.

Enbridge takes environmental matters so lightly that it expects to be able to publish whatever crap it wants and no one will bother to check them out.

A nosy lawyer and a journalist with the guts to print and we know what we’ve always suspected of this company, better known for its disgraceful environmental disasters than its pipelines.

Now, about that clock that struck 13…


‘Canada’s Carbon Corridor’: Multi-Media Dialogue in North Vancouver Nov. 14


This Wednesday evening, the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival is hosting a multi-media discussion of “Canada’s Carbon Corridor” at Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver. The event is part of the festival’s Fall Series – a week of films and presentations on outdoor adventure and environmental themes.

The title for Wednesday’s event comes from a term developed by the team producing the forthcoming documentary film Fractured Landof which I am co-director. We came up with the concept to articulate a big-picture view of the interconnected web of major oil, gas, coal, mining and hydroelectric projects proposed and in development across northern BC and Alberta, and the Harper and Clark governments’ grand plan to export these resources to new markets in Asia. I view the Carbon Corridor as the biggest transformation to Western Canada’s socioeconomic, cultural and environmental fabric since the colonial, “nation building” days of the railroads of the last century. And I don’t think that’s an understatement.

I will be sharing the stage with six other “inspiring Canadians who are working to protect our coast, our environment and indigenous community’s rights and cultures”, according to VIMFF’s web page for the event. That list includes event organizer Megan Martin, young First Nations singer/songwriter Ta’Kaiya Blaney, Ben West of the Wilderness Committee, photographer Zack Embree, Great Bear Rainforest eco-tour guide and activist Norm Hann, and Kim Slater, who ran 1,177 km run across BC in search of alternatives to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline.

My 25 min presentation, titled “Traveling Canada’s Carbon Corridor Through Film: The Making of Fractured Land, will feature a series of short clips from our forthcoming film, which explores the industrialization of northern BC and Alberta through the eyes of a young First Nations law student, Caleb Behn. I’ll be retracing a recent two and a half week filming journey with Caleb across the Carbon Corridor – through the conversations we had with people in the various communities affected by these projects and visuals of both industrial activity and the spectacular, untouched wilderness threatened by this plan. 

In addition to the series of presentations on stage Wednesday evening, a number of environmental organizations will be on hand with additional information about these important issues.

The evening promises to be a dynamic, compelling discussion on the challenges and solutions facing the future of Canada’s economy, society and environment.

Tickets for the “Canada’s Carbon Corridor” event can be purchased here for $15.00 or $17.00 at the door. The show takes place on Wednesday, November 14 at Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver (2300 Lonsdale Avenue). Doors open 6:30 pm, show starts 7:30.


Maude Barlow, Bill McKibben to Talk Oil and Gas Pipelines in Burnaby


Council of Canadians Chair Maude Barlow and 350.org founder Bill McKibben will lead a discussion about oil and gas pipelines and tankers in Burnaby this Thursday evening. The event is the second stop in a seven-city tour discussing a range of oil and gas pipeline proposals and associated tanker traffic, the Alberta Tar Sands, natural gas fracking in northeast BC and proposed Liquified Natural Gas terminals on BC’s coast.

Barlow raised these same, interconnected issues in her speech at the Defend Our Coast rally in Victoria earlier this week, arguing the public and First Nations need to think beyond the proposed Enbridge pipeline and focus on the bigger picture of emerging “Carbon Corridor” through northern BC and Alberta, which encompasses plans for multiple oil, gas and condensate pipelines, refineries and tankers.

Bill McKibben is the founder of the global climate change activist organization, 350.org and a leading voice against Trans Canada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to refineries on the US Gulf Coast.

According to organizers, the event aims, “to raise awareness and build community solidarity and support in the fights to stop pipeline expansions in BC…The tour will help educate about the devastating environmental impacts of these massive pipeline projects, which will move tar sands crude to BC’s coastline where it will be loaded into supertankers and shipped through precarious waters to new markets.”

The tour continues on to Nanaimo for the Council of Canadians’ AGM and speeches by McKibben, financial author Linda McQuaig and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.

The final two events will take place in Smithers on Oct. 29 and Prince George on Oct. 30. Caleb Behn, an aboriginal law student from northeast BC and the subject of the film in production Fractured Land, will join Barlow on the stage for the these two northern BC events to discuss fracking in his territories.

Thursday night’s event in Burnaby takes place Alpha Secondary School, 4600 Parker Street. Doors open at 6 PM, program starts at 6:30. More info on the tour available here.


Global Video: Thousands Rally in Victoria for ‘Defend Our Coast’


Check out this video from Global TV on yesterday’s “Defend Our Coast” rally at the Legislature in Victoria, which drew thousands to voice their opposition to oil pipelines and tankers in BC’s waters. (Oct. 22, 2012)

A giant black banner, measuring 235 metres, encircles the grounds of the B.C. Legislature in Victoria Monday afternoon. It symbolizes the size of a Aframax super tanker off B.C.’s coast, and took hundreds of people to carry it around the lawn.

An estimated crowd of 2500 is in Victoria on Monday at the ‘Defend Our Coast’ rally and sit-in against the proposed Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines.

“Thank you regular people of British Columbia for standing with us because it is through your efforts that we are winning this fight,” says Chief Jackie Thomas with the Saik’uz First Nation.

People from all over the province and from all walks of life are lending their support to the cause.

An 11 year old Saltspring Island resident at the rally says, “A lot of animals will die and [it] will destroy all the nature,”

The crowd was revived by songs and chants such as “No Enbridge, No Kinder Morgan.”

“Looking at this diverse and beautiful crowd I’m just filled with inspiration,” says Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation.

“We know they’re never going to build these pipelines and they’re never going to bring these tankers in.”

Retiring Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel

The Enbridge Corporate Character


A corporation is not a person. Words, of course, convey the impression that it is because language uses the same terms to refer to a corporation as an individual. “John” can be transposed to “Enbridge” without a change in sentence structure. Even though a corporation is neutered by the pronoun “it”, this substitute for a noun doesn’t eliminate the impression that a corporation is something tangible and real. But it isn’t. It is, in fact, nothing more than a scratch of ink on a page, an abstract creation that can appear or disappear by a legal manoeuvre.

Because a corporation isn’t a person, it can misrepresent and deceive without a qualm of guilt. So, too, can it change shape and character without a blush of embarrassment or shame. Hypocrisy is not in its vocabulary. As an impersonal and amoral object, its essential purpose is to follow the course of maximum profits for its shareholders. And the people who speak on behalf of the corporation commonly adopt its persona.

This explains how Enbridge could describe its Northern Gateway pipeline project, a $5.5 billion project intended to move Alberta bitumen to Kitimat on BC’s coast, as a state-of-the-art design with safety features that would practically eliminate the possibility of oil spills. The implicit message to the public was, “Trust us, we know what we’re doing.” Then, when the drift of public opinion began to oppose the pipeline, Enbridge could announce that it would improve its safety features by using extra-thick steel in potentially vulnerable parts of the project, and by adding more remotely controlled valves to shut off oil in case of possible emergencies. A person with an iota of conscience would shrink with humiliation at being caught in such a compromising position somewhere between exaggeration and deception.

This is the poverty of ethics that undermines the credibility of any promises made by Enbridge. The $500 million in additional improvements came only when the possibility of a failed project threatened to cost the corporation more than the added investment. If Enbridge had really intended to build a state-of-the-art pipeline, these additional safety features would have been included in the first design. Enbridge’s motivating objective is to make as much profit as possible with as little investment as possible. The safety of the pipeline was always a calculated consideration, never an inviolable principle.

This explains why Enbridge did not voluntarily submit to Canada’s Joint Review Panel the damning findings of America’s National Transportation Safety Board on the corporation’s spill of 3 million litres of diluted bitumen (dilbit) into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010. The environmental impacts of dilbit are much more severe than the usual spills of crude. Dilbit is a tar-like substance mixed with volatile solvents (diluents) so that it will flow. At a spill in water, the solvents evaporate as toxic gases, then the remnant bitumen sinks. The challenge of cleaning up the mess increases about twentyfold over crude. Because of the sensitive river systems exposed to this elevated risk by the Northern Gateway pipeline, Enbridge simply overlooked this vital information so as not to undermine confidence in its project. Call this selective honesty.

The same poverty of ethics applies to the “broadly representational” (Enbridge’s term) depiction of Douglas Channel being devoid of the multiple navigational hazards that would plague the safe passage of dilbit-laden supertankers. This is a model example of a corporate psychology of “sell” — simplify information to eliminate any obstacle that might reduce the likelihood of closing a deal. The objective is to present the most promising of all images to investors, regulators and the public: the safest pipeline, the clearest tanker routes, the best technology and, of course, the most jobs and the largest economic benefit to society.

So, if Enbridge really wanted to provide maximum benefit to Canada, Alberta and British Columbia, why wouldn’t it build a refinery at the site of the tar sands? This would multiply employment, enhance the tax base, increase Canada’s energy self-sufficiency and contribute to an intelligent national energy policy. The answer is simple. Shipping bitumen to Asia has a higher profit margin than refining it here. Enbridge is an economic opportunist, not a political loyalist. It does what’s best for itself on behalf of its shareholders.

So, how far would it go to protect its own interests? Economist Robyn Allan has raised two interesting question about the relationship between Enbridge and the Northern Gateway pipeline (Island Tides, July 26/12). The first concerns insurance — the project does not guarantee adequate liability coverage for a “leak and burst” event. The second concerns a separate corporate structure, the Northern Gateway Pipelines Limited Partnership, that appears to be a legal manoeuvre designed by Enbridge to insulate its assets from costs in case of a spill. A similar separation already exists between Enbridge and the supertankers that would load Alberta’s dilbit at Kitimat — once the dilbit is at sea, Enbridge is no longer responsible for the damage from a spill.

A close examination of the Northern Gateway project raises other contentious issues. Patrick Brown, writing for Island Tides (Aug. 23/12), notes that no pipelines cross the Rockies except the 60-year-old Kinder-Morgan pipeline that travels a relatively safe route from Edmonton to Burnaby, and “a couple of small pipelines close to the Mexican border where the mountains aren’t so high”. The reasons are obvious. “Pumping crude oil all the way up-and-over (plus the congealing cold in winter) takes a lot of pressure and a lot of energy. That’s why more lines along that route do not exist.” Cost and risk in mountainous areas have been historical discouragements that Enbridge intends to defy with its Northern Gateway project. Enbridge may be willing to gamble on the cost but the risk ultimately belongs to the environment.

Risk, of course, is the close companion of profit. So the corporate agenda contrives to separate the two by avoiding the risk and keeping the profit. If all else fails, it can do this by changing character and shape — remember, a corporation is not a person. Any combination of fresh directors, new ownership or adverse economic conditions can alter the form and structure of a corporation so it can avoid the costly responsibility of its risk. It can also initiate complex legal strategies that may take decades to resolve. Or it can simply take its profits and dissolve into legal oblivion, leaving real people and the real world to bear the tragic consequences of its mistakes.