Tag Archives: Enbridge

Oil, Cancer and Bicycles: Enbridge Ride Sparks Emotional Debate


It’s October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month – which means, the fundraising drive for the annual “Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer” is revving up.

I first raised my concerns about this event in several articles last year, questioning the ethics of the alliance between the fundraising arm of the province’s BC Cancer Agency – a.k.a. the BC Cancer Foundation – and controversial oil and gas pipeline titan Enbridge.

Reading the comments on my stories, I gained a new appreciation for how sensitive the topic of cancer philanthropy is. Critiques ranged from hypocrisy for using petrochemical products myself to the fact that Enbridge, being only a pipeline company, doesn’t actually make oil products, to the following heartfelt comment from someone identifying herself as Anne:

…till you have sat at the bedside of a loved one and seen them die you have no clue as to my heartache, and by tarnishing the Ride you are possibly prolonging finding a cure.

While I believe we need to be able to engage in a rational, principled debate about this event, I appreciate Anne’s point, to whatever degree I can, given I have not walked in her shoes. Since last year’s event I’ve had time to reflect further on the issue and even come up with some positive alternatives.

On that note, I offer to Anne and others who wish to keep raising funds for caner through a cycling event, an alternative to the Enbridge Ride. The “Ride2Survive” is described on the organization’s website as “a one-day cycling event from Kelowna to Delta BC to raise funds for cancer research through as an Independent Fundraising Event for the Canadian Cancer Society.” The organization also boasts that 100% of the funds raised from the ride go directly to cancer research, something few cancer research initiatives can claim.

Back to the “Enbridge Ride” – a two-day trek from BC to Washington State – which is ramping up toward its fifth year next summer. The event in BC is joined by similar ones in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Enbridge, which began as the BC event sponsor, became the national sponsor for all four events in 2010. The proceeds from the BC fundraiser go to the BC Cancer Foundation, which is the fundraising arm of the BC Cancer Agency, a department of Ministry of Health. In my first story on the subject, I pointed to the confusion caused by the event’s brand – its graphics and signage are all in the colours of the better known and highly respected Canadian Cancer Society, which has nothing to do with this event.

A commenter on my story who identified himself as Steve Merker, wrote, “As someone intimately involved in developing the Ride to Conquer Cancer concept and branding, i can assure you in no way did we ever try to confuse the public. Yellow and cycling and cancer have strong associations via Lance Armstrong / Tour de France. The blue is similar to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre’s blue.”

If the yellow is for Lance Armstrong, they may want to change colours right about now.

In any event, I do believe it’s important for donors to be clear on where their money’s going.

The real issue here, though, is the matter of allowing Enbridge to greenwash its sullied image in the midst of a highly contentious battle over a proposed pipeline through BC, and the hypocrisy of a cancer-fighting organization taking money from a company who deals in products that cause cancer. (More on that in a moment).

The website for the ride boasts the following: “…2879 participants across British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest raised $11.1 million in the third annual Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. Since its inception in 2009, the Ride has raised $27.2 million, making it the most successful cancer-related fundraising event in B.C. history.”

Yet amidst all this success, the Cancer Foundation clearly grew concerned when I started asking questions and writing critically about the event. My columns provoked significant interest and lively debate online and the first of these prompted the BC Cancer Foundation to develop an internal PR strategy to better defend the program to the press and public, largely based on my initial questions to them. The document was leaked to reporter Stephen Hui of the Georgia Straight. I detailed the key questions and canned answers in a subsequent story.

One of my biggest beefs with the ride remains the connection between cancer and petroleum products – for which Enbridge is a central conduit throughout North America.

I asked BC Cancer Foundation representative Allison Colina, “Is it hypocritical for your organization to accept sponsorship from a company who deals in a known cancer-causing product?”

Her reply: “With regards to petroleum products causing cancer, we turn to the research and clinical experts at the BC Cancer Agency to determine what are cancer-causing substances…According to the World Health Organization, there is no conclusive research at this time that indicates that petroleum products cause cancer.”

That’s gross distortion at best. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer – the WHO subsidiary group that produces the list of known and probable human carcinogens Ms. Colina referred to – “‘Petroleum refining (workplace exposures in)’ is a probable carcinogen.” Moreover, Benzene, a byproduct of petroleum, is listed as a known carcinogen (that’s pretty conclusive to me). 

I also contacted Dr. Karen Bartlett of the UBC School of Environmental Health at the time, posing to her the same question: “To what extent can petroleum products be considered carcinogenic?” Here’s what she told me by phone:

There are two major petroleum products that we know are associated with carcinogenicity. One is in the distillation process of petroleum products, which produces Benzene. Benezene is carcinogenic. The other is in the combustion of diesel. Diesel particulate is carcinogenic.

A commenter on my story, Rob Baxter, added that, according to the American Lung Association, “Air pollution contributes to … lung cancer….In 1996, transportation sources were responsible for 47% of pollutant emissions.” Also according to the same organization, “The production of particulate matter (PM) less than 10_m is associated particularly with the combustion of carbon-based and sulphur-based chemicals such as gasoline and diesel. Exposure has been linked with… serious health effects including cancer.”

Ms. Colina and her organization are misleading the public when they say, “According to the World Health Organization, there is no conclusive research at this time that indicates that petroleum products cause cancer.” All that’s left is the defense raised by some that Enbridge doesn’t make or burn the oil products, so they’re okay. I think that’s nonsensical, but I should also note that Enbridge recently bought a controlling stake in what will soon be the largest and most carbon-emitting natural gas plant in North America, the Cabin Gas Plant in northeast BC.

They also continue to wreak ecological devastation with oil spills across the continent.

The fact that Enbridge is in no way suitable to be the title sponsor of a cancer research fundraiser should be as plain as day to anyone, especially the BC Cancer Foundation.

The other big issue I have with this event is the way it enables a highly controversial company which is aggressively targeting environmental groups and First Nations as we speak for opposing their highly unpopular proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to BC’s coast.

If the Ride in any way helps Enbridge burnish its reputation in order to advance this pipeline and oil tankers on our coast, then I have a problem with that. And make no mistake, corporate social responsibility pledges aside, no corporation, including Enbridge, spends one dollar sheerly out of goodwill.  Enbridge is sponsoring this event for business reasons and none other.

Moreover, I particularly have a problem with the connection between this event and the provincial government, which is the recipient of these research funds.

It is this point which resonated for readers when I first wrote about the issue.

Noelle wrote: “I too am a cancer survivor and have participated in the ride for the last two years. I also had signed up for the 2011 ride before Enbridge came on board and was appalled when I discovered this.”

This from one Sonya McCarthy: “I have watched Enbridge’s tactics and seen the undermining of local communities the right to say “no” whith the possible environmental damage by crossing hundreds of Salmon bearing rivers and streams. Where a spill from the increase tankers could cause an ecological disaster and there is no plan to clean up the mess.”

And a David Munro had this to say: “Given that my father died of cancer, it’s natural that I would want to support an event such as this. On the other hand, his particular cancer was hairy cell leukaemia, caused by long-term exposure to petroleum products.”

The Enbridge Ride controversy falls within a larger conversation that is only just beginning, catalyzed by films like Pink Ribbons, Inc. and books like Selling Sickness by Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassels, which contend that cancer treatment has become an industry driven by drug companies, while prevention takes a back seat because it’s less profitable. They also raise questions about the bureaucratic waste of large cancer charities and more and more funds being diverted to overhead and salaries.

This conversation – also covered by Miranda Holmes in these pages recently – is long overdue, and yet, I now understand why it has been so slow and difficult to foment.

I suggest we can no longer muzzle debate about cancer research and prevention with taboos designed to protect the status quo. The discussion must certainly be imbued with compassion and sensitivity to the pain of losing a loved one to this disease. But we need to be able to ask questions about the ethics of any fundraising initiative and debate the merits of different approaches to taking on cancer. Prevention, through healthy lifestyles and the restriction of environmental toxins, must play a far more prominent role in this discussion.

Moreover, Enbridge, a company whose products cause cancer, should not be able to shroud itself in a bullet-proof PR shield by linking itself with cancer research. This is a company that does not have the support of the public or First Nations in BC and threatens to destroy the things we hold dear – our rivers, salmon, coastline, communities, cultures and ways of life. As I write this, thousands of citizens are preparing to gather in our capital in one of the largest environmental demonstrations on record, to speak out against oil on BC’s coast.

The heavy-handed tactics of Enbridge and its supporters in the Harper Government have rubbed British Columbians and First Nations the wrong way for a long time now and Enbridge should not be getting any help from cancer philanthropies to repair its image.

To those who wish to ride for cancer – and I applaud them for their heartfelt commitment and sincere efforts for a noble cause – I suggest the alternative of the Ride2Survive.

To the BC Cancer Foundation, I suggest you can do better than Enbridge.


Enbridge’s Pipeline Plans Keep Changing, Critics Charge


Read this story from the Canadian Press on charges emerging from the latest round of National Energy Board hearings into Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline that the company and its consultants have no concrete plans for building the pipeline and addressing environmental concerns. (Oct. 12, 2012)

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. — For critics, the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline is a moving target — literally — and the uncertainty of everything from the route to the type of steel that will be used in the pipeline is a source of frustration at environmental assessment hearings.

For a third day Thursday, a panel of experts who have worked on the project proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge were questioned under oath at final hearings in Prince George, B.C.

And for a third day, frustrations were palpable on both sides as interveners seeking answers about the $6-billion project came up against experts who simply don’t have definitive answers at this stage of the proposal.

“I can’t help but get the sense from some of the answers that this panel has given that very much what’s going on here is a work in progress, that you’ve put together a proposal and there’s a lot of preliminary process and preliminary design, but with respect to the actual pipeline — where it will go, what it will look like, how it will cross certain streams — that it’s very much, ’We don’t really know at this stage.’ Is that fair?” asked Tim Leadam, the lawyer for EcoJustice, which represents a coalition of conservation groups at the hearings.

Ray Doering, manager of engineering for the Northern Gateway project, said Enbridge has filed a preliminary design and supplemental information, and the review hearings themselves will result in further changes before a detailed design is completed.

“We have provided the preliminary feasibility assessments but we have made it very clear that there is further work and further process that needs to be undertaken to finalize those, crossing methodologies, in this case,” said Doering, one of nine experts sworn-in at the hearings.

Asked for specifics about the crossing of one of nearly 800 water course crossings on the latest incarnation of the pipeline route, Drummond Cavers, the project’s geotechnical engineer, said they are “part way through” geotechnical investigations.

Unable to get specific answers about another part of the route on the Maurice River, Leadam said he is trying to understand the process.

“Because what concerns me and my clients is mainly to what extent there’s continual changes to the design, continual changes to the route. At some point I’m trying to understand what exactly will be built,” he told the panel.

“Now I’m told there’s going to be a route revision V, so that means that there’s a different route that will be built than the one that we’ve all been focused upon, which is U.

“Do I have that evidence right, Mr. Doering, that there’s now a route revision V that’s being contemplated?”

“Yes,” Doering. “We have identified the anticipated changes going from Route U to Route V.”

B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake had a similar complaint after the province’s initial two days of questioning.

Lake said he was “extremely concerned” about the incomplete responses from Enbridge experts.

“One thing that is crystal clear after the last two days is that Enbridge/Northern Gateway is putting off making commitments about including these systems in the pipeline design until after they get approval to proceed,” Lake said in a statement after hearings ended on Wednesday.

John Carruthers, president of Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, said outside the hearings that after the environmental assessment is complete, final design and planning continue under the eyes of the National Energy Board.

“We will have spent $300 million getting through this part of the process, to getting to a decision: Is the pipeline in the Canadian interest and what will be the environmental impact of that project,” Carruthers told reporters.

“After those larger questions are answered at this stage, the NEB has a very thorough process as the specifics of construction are decided.”

The company has filed more than 20,000 pages of documents with the joint review panel, more information than has been filed on any pipeline in the past, he said.

“People want to know the specifics, but there’s another phase if the project is approved, then we have to go into the more detailed design and the NEB approves that as well,” he said.

That’s not good enough for those concerned about potential environmental impacts of the 1,100-kilometre twin pipelines that will carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to a tanker port on the B.C. coast, and condensate from Kitimat back to Bruderheim, Alta.

Read more: http://business.financialpost.com/2012/10/12/fluidity-of-enbridges-pipeline-plans-a-frustration-at-environmental-hearings/


Audio: Damien Gillis Discusses ‘Keepers of the Water’, Carbon Corridor on SFU Radio


Damien Gillis discusses the resistance to the Enbridge pipeline, the recent “Keepers of the Water” conference in Fort Nelson, BC, and the increasing impacts on water, human and animal health from natural gas hydraulic fracking with CJSF’s Sylvia Richardson. The pair also touch on Damien’s documentary film project Fractured Land, currently in production, which examines these issues and the concept of “Canada’s Carbon Corridor” – an interconnected web of fossil fuel and mining projects throughout northern Alberta and BC, designed to open up new markets in Asia – told through the eyes of a young First Nations law student. (Oct. 6 – 20 min)

BC Liberal Environment Minister Terry Lake (photo: youtube screen capture)

Rafe Responds to BC Environment Minister’s Enbridge Op-ed


You should read Environment Minister Terry Lake’s op-ed piece in Friday’s Vancouver Sun. If ever you needed proof of the utter incompetence of the Campbell/Clark government this will do it.

He gives the government position re the proposed Enbridge pipeline.

Lake calls for the Joint Review Panel to “successfully complete the environment review process”.

What does that mean, Mr. Lake, when the federal government says that Enbridge will go anyway? Don’t you see that the fix is in!

Have you ever been to such a meeting, minister?

You will find an essential piece missing – namely, can the people of BC give their opinions as to whether or not they want the project in the first place?

Then you call for “World leading marine oil spill reaction, prevention and oil recovery systems for BC’s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and cost of heavy oil pipelines and shipments”.

Who writes this crap? The ever-active PR department of Enbridge?

Don’t you understand that spills are inevitable and likely in areas too remote for any machinery to get in? And that there’s very little they can do about it anyway, as demonstrated by Enbridge’s 2010 spill into the Kalamazoo River?

Haven’t you looked at Enbridge’s spill record of more than one per week?

But there is a deeper question minister – don’t you understand that the consequences of spillage of bitumen, whether on land or in the ocean, are many, many times more lethal than the crude oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez?

Don’t you understand that unlike crude oil spills, the bitumen sinks like a rock? With crude oil, the technique of “rafting” corrals the spill and allows much of it to be siphoned off, but that you can’t do that with bitumen?

Don’t you get it? That we’re not talking about risks, but, by Enbridge’s own admission, certainties? Certainties with catastrophic consequences?

I hate to urge people to read the Vancouver Sun, but your article is such appalling drivel that it gives the public a unique opportunity to see the sloppy crap that is your government’s mindless and highly political response to certain destruction of our heritage – all to supply China with bitumen to refine. 

At least you have, by this column, made clear what environmentalists have been saying all along – the Clark government is unfit to govern.

photo: Kin Cheung/Associated Press

Harper’s China Syndrome: PM in a Pickle Over Nexen Buyout, Trade Deal


Following an eventful couple of weeks for the Canada-China energy trade file, Stephen Harper finds himself in quite a pickle. The Prime Minster is stuck between his resolute commitment to opening up a carbon corridor to Asian markets and the increasingly politically untenable position of supporting wholesale Chinese state ownership of strategic Canadian resources.

In addition to Harper’s mounting challenges over the proposed $15 Billion buyout of Canadian oil and gas firm Nexen by Chinese state-owned CNOOC, several prominent Canadian voices – including Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Council of Canadians founder and world-renowned trade expert Maude Barlow – have piped up about a controversial trade deal quietly signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last month, which they say would give unprecedented rights to Chinese corporations over Canadian resources.

As the tide of opposition to the Nexen deal continues to rise, Harper was forced to acknowledge this week, “This particular transaction raises a range of difficult policy questions, difficult and forward-looking issues.”

That’s putting it mildly.

The Nexen deal is problematic for the Conservatives for three main reasons:

  1. Public opinion is squarely against it, with some 70% of Canadians opposing it and four in ten viewing China as a threat, according to National Post columnist John Ivison (who nevertheless urges Harper to approve the deal as it’s in Canada’s best long-term interests)
  2. The Official Opposition has finally come out against the deal this week and appears poised to make political hay with its position.
  3. Most importantly, by far, powerful American political forces are lining up against the deal – charging that allowing these resources to flow to China constitutes a national security threat (our own CSIS concurs).

On that last point, Congressman Ed Markey, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee of Natural Resources, wrote to US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in July, imploring his office to block the deal (someone needs to inform the congressman that this deal doesn’t technically fall under Geithner’s jurisdiction, but it’s nevertheless a noteworthy and influential objection). Wrote Markey, “Giving valuable American resources away to wealthy multinational corporations is wasteful but giving valuable American resources away to a foreign government is far worse.”

Apparently even the Americans – whose resources these are notrecognize the danger in handing them over to the Chinese!

Meanwhile, with the NDP continuing to nip at the Conservatives’ heels, Harper might do well to ignore the advice of John Ivison and consider the short and long-term implications of accepting such an unpopular deal. Heck, even some of Harper’s own MPs oppose it!

NDP Energy and Natural Resources Critic Peter Julian laid out his party’s opposition to the deal at a press conference Thursday, as reported by the Globe and Mail:

New Democrats “cannot support the rubber-stamping of the CNOOC takeover of Nexen,” Mr. Julian said. “We cannot see the net benefit when we look at a variety of concerns and criteria that have been raised by the Canadian public.” Those concerns, he said, included the environmental and human-rights record of CNOOC, the potential for job losses and the risk of decision-making gravitating away from Nexen’s Calgary head office, plus risks to national security.

It is this “net benefit” test, under the Investment Canada Act, that is at the core of the decision Harper faces – which is expected by October 12, but can and may well be delayed by another month. The NDP has expressed doubt that the Harper Government will conduct this “net benefit” test in a transparent enough manner to reassure Canadians.

According to the party’s industry critic Helene LeBlanc, “By studying this transaction behind closed doors and not specifying what criteria they used to determine what represents a net benefit for the country, the Conservatives have given us no choice. When in doubt, it’s best to back off.”

Conservative Industry Minister Christian Paradis called the NDP’s position “reckless and irresponsible” in a news release.

Meanwhile, Harper’s quiet trade deal with China has drawn heated rebuke the past several weeks, as the two issues inevitably dovetail into each other.

A statement from the Council of Canadians last week noted:

A bilateral investment treaty between Canada and China, which was signed earlier this month and made public by the Harper government yesterday, will put unacceptable constraints on Canadian energy and environmental policy…The organization is once again calling on MPs to reject the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), and to stop signing what are essentially corporate rights pacts inside standalone treaties and Canada’s broader free trade agreements.

The organization’s National Chairperson, Maude Barlow, drew together FIPA and the Nexen deal, stating, “Canadians need to know that as Harper considers selling off Canadian energy firms to foreign investors in China and elsewhere, he’s also signing investment pacts that let these firms sue the federal government when delays or environmental protection measures interfere with profits.”

Council of Canadians’ Trade Campaigner Stewart Trew suggested these deals do little to promote investment, as is their stated mandate. “They are very useful, on the other hand, for extorting governments when things don’t go their way. That could be delays or cancellations to energy and mining projects, environmental policies that eat into profits, even financial rules designed to create stability or avoid crises can be challenged.”

Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May shared many of these concerns with the House of Commons this week, calling for an emergency debate on FIPA, suggesting it bears “grave and sweeping implications for Canada’s sovereignty, security, and democracy.”

In a statement on her website this week, May said, “I pointed out in my notice to the Speaker that this is perhaps the most significant trade agreement since NAFTA, and the fact that it can be negotiated and ratified behind closed doors is very corrosive to our democracy.”

“I also realize that an emergency debate is far from sufficient under the circumstances, but it might be the only opportunity Parliamentarians have to review and discuss FIPA before we are bound to it for the next 15 years, especially if neither the NDP nor the Liberals focus on it during their Opposition Days.”

Whether FIPA receives its due attention politically – let alone gets cancelled – remains to seen, but the more it becomes connected to the clearly unpopular Nexen deal in the coming weeks, the more scrutiny it will face.

The exploding national debate around theses issues puts Harper in a tough spot. On the one hand, the Prime Minister has been very clear about his policy vision for the country – and expanding energy trade to Asia has been the centre plank in this platform, underscored by a visit to China earlier this year, during which energy issues were the main topic of discussion. He has made public and private commitments to Asian trading partners and to the Canadian oil patch.

Moreover, with US leaders promising to become far more self-sufficient in oil and gas resources over the next decade by massively boosting domestic production, there is increasing pressure on Canada to develop new export markets for its fossil fuels.

And yet, as prospects for the proposed Enbridge pipeline continue to wane and opposition mounts to Nexen and this new trade deal, the Prime Minster is gambling his political future on an increasingly unpopular strategy – whether he believes it’s in the country’s best interests or not. Add to that the concerns raised by CSIS last month about threats to Canada’s national security from such deals and you have a recipe for real political problems if the PM continues down this path.

As University of Ottawa Law Professor Penny Collenette put it in the Globe and Mail’s story yesterday, with the NDP jumping on the issue, “Now it is burst wide open onto the political scene,” and becoming “a kitchen table national debate.”

That’s the last thing Stephen Harper’s energy plan needs right now.


BC Liberal Floats Offshore Drilling Amid Enbridge Controversy, Dismissed by Premier


Read this story from CBC.caon BC Liberal MLA John Rustad’s recent attempt to inject the controversy around the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline with a new twist – resurrecting the argument for opening BC’s coast to offshore oil and gas development. The notion, first posted on the MLA’s facebook page, has drawn widespread criticism and dismissal from Rustad’s leader, Premier Christy Clark. (Oct. 2, 2012)

Despite the debate already raging between B.C. and Alberta over the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, one backbench Liberal MLA wants to start a dialogue about offshore drilling in B.C.

Nechako Lakes Liberal MLA John Rustad recently posted a message on Facebook about the merits of oil exploration.

“With the debate raging around pipelines I’m sure there isn’t much appetite for offshore oil and gas,” he wrote. “However, if B.C. is ever going to become debt free, one day this is going to have to happen.”

Rustad wants to put the idea of oil exploration off B.C.’s coast on the table — despite the political consequences.

“If it can be done environmentally sound, if it’s something that can meet our standards, if there’s a significant benefit, then we should have that conversation and it should be considered,” he told CBC News.

No Support from Premier Clark

But the proposition has no support from the premier.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark spoke with Alberta Premier Alison Redford Monday about the five conditions B.C. says need to be met before the province will support Enbridge’s bid to build the pipeline, which would run from the Alberta oilsands across B.C. to the port of Kitimat.

Clark is demanding compensation for the environmental risks involved in the pipeline project.

“I think that we’ve got our hands full with just this Enbridge pipeline,” Clark said, adding it’s not an idea she’s entertaining at the moment.

Still, the B.C. New Democrats have jumped on Rustad’s comments.

“Mr. Rustad is being irresponsible by re-opening a deeply divisive debate about bringing further risks to our coastline that would affect the environment, the economy, First Nations, and all British Columbians,” NDP environment critic Rob Fleming said in a release.

“While the premier has failed to truly stand up for British Columbia on the Enbridge pipeline, I hope she will at least clarify her government’s position on offshore drilling.”

The New Democrats are calling for a continuation of B.C.’s long-term commitment to a moratorium on offshore drilling.

Read original story: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/10/02/bc-rustad-offshore-drilling.html

Premiers Christy Clark and Alison Redford (Larry MacDougal/CP photo)

Rafe on Clark’s Embarassing Antics in Alberta and Renewed Calls for Wolf Culls


Today is a twofer – two for the price of one.

First, I’m beginning to feel sorry for Premier Christy Clark. She is a very nice person, personable and able to speak. What she is not capable of doing is speaking sensibly or making decisions that make sense.

It seems obvious to me that she is getting wretched advice and nowhere is this more evident than on the pipeline issue.

Let me illustrate.

The Premier, some months ago, laid down some rules that would govern her government’s environmental response to pipelines and added that to a demand for money from Premier Alison Redford of Alberta. The conditions were silly motherhood stuff and didn’t contain the one most British Columbians want – public hearings that would let people say whether or not they want these pipelines in the first place. This is, I daresay, a foreign concept to the Liberal government but the public know they are not able to express their opinions on the wisdom of the projects in the first place.

In fact, Premier Clark has avoided that issue like the plague.

She missed the very important Western Premier’s Conference on the lame excuse she needed to be in the House because the pipelines and tanker issues were on the agenda and she would have to make known her position.

Then she missed all the deadlines to get BC status as an intervenor as have Alberta, municipalities and First Nations. Consequently, a short time ago she was rebuffed for trying to intervene.

Reviews like the Enbridge Joint Panel Review – and the Cohen Commission as an example – realize that some entities have a greater issue to deal with than Joe Citizen and grant them the status to call witnesses, cross-examine government and industry witnesses and that sort of thing. This could not possibly be a mistake, but a deliberate decision. I don’t have much use for environmental hearings but at least British Columbians could hear what the evidence is. This was an egregious error obviously designed to let Ms. Clark act like the three monkeys.

Now she has horned her way into Premier Redford’s office to press BC’s case. Here is the part that tells you the abysmal ignorance from which Ms. Clark operates.

She is quoted thusly: “There is no amount of money that can make up for an unacceptable risk when it comes to our oceans, our coast and our land.”

Noble sentiments to be sure, but since Premier Redford supports the pipelines and tanker traffic and is content to have the federal government cram them past BC opposition – and bearing in mind that Premier Redford has made it clear that Alberta won’t give BC a nickel – the only purpose for Ms. Clark to crash Ms. Redford’s office is to make it appear to folks at home that she’s doing something.

She is making a fool of all of us, painting us as supplicants to Premier Redford’s throne and the gold that is there.

This must be borne in mind: the oil revenues from the tar sands belong to Alberta under the constitution. If she were to take some of that money and give it to BC, not only would she be a damned fool – Alberta voters would eat her alive.

Premier Clark’s bleating about “risks to BC” is bullshit as she and the rest of us know. Even Enbridge admits that the chances of a spill are overwhelming. Clark is playing us for fools. it is egregious, disingenuous nonsense rivaled only by Bill Clinton’s assertion that, “I did not have sex with that woman.”

Still Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf

On another note, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Back in 1979, the Ministry of Environment was poisoning wolves in northern BC because, allegedly, they were killing cattle. There wasn’t a particle of evidence that this was happening, certainly not on a large scale. Within days of becoming minister I put a stop to the program, hired a man – an elderly fishing buddy of mine whom I trusted implicitly – to go through the area getting evidence, if there was any, of packs of wolves destroying cattle. Sandy was one if these guys who could find out things without anyone realizing he was asking questions.

He reported back to me that he could find no evidence of a major problem .

He told me of the case of a wolf pack driving a herd of cattle onto a frozen lake which caved in from the weight and the wolves devoured them. Interesting that wolves could kill cattle in the water and feast upon them without drowning themselves.

The interesting part is that three different ranchers in three different areas told the same story!

Despite all their bleating, ranchers couldn’t offer any evidence whatsoever.

The ranchers were claiming their losses were due to wolves to cover up their own bad husbandry.

It’s interesting to ask what the hell were all those cattle doing out on the range in temperatures that would freeze a lake?

A Socred back bencher, Cyril Shelford, and his seemingly unlimited number of brothers organized a huge rally and dared me to show my face.

I did – not through bravery but because Premier Bill Bennett would likely have fired me if I didn’t appear.

It was a very ugly meeting and I admit I was scared. When I was finally permitted to speak I said, “this is the first time in history where a man has been run into town on a rail.”

The humour of the remark escaped the 500 incensed ranchers.

The moratorium I imposed remains. Now the ranchers have popped up with claims that seem, after 33 years, to have suddenly re-appeared. Once again, the ranchers, by their own admission, are utterly unable to supply one scintilla of evidence.

The Minister of Environment should politely give the ranchers the international words for “go away”.


Truth and Competency Still Escape Clark Govt on Enbridge File


The joke used to be, “How can you tell when a lawyer isn’t telling the truth? The answer is when you see his lips move”. Now substitute politician and you’ve got it right.

Premier Clark will just happen to be in Edmonton next week and hopes that the Alberta Premier would like to have a bit of a chat with her about pipelines.

At the same time Terry Lake, Minister of Environment, tells us that the only consideration he has re: the Enbridge project will be the environment – from which one must infer he means the idiotic standards laid down some months ago by his boss.

The question is, Madam Premier, what more do you need to know?

Leaving aside the tanker traffic for a moment, last week Enbridge was angered at the suggestion that over the next 50 years there was a 93% chance of a spill and told us that it was “only” 70%!

Are we not all relieved at this news? “Only” 70%!

What isn’t ever mentioned is what damage these spills will cause.

I use the example of the revolver with 100 chambers and just one bullet. In making the decision as to whether or not you put the gun to your head you would calculate the odds at 99-1. But that’s only half the story, for if the revolver only had marshmallow in the chamber, you wouldn’t give a damn about the odds.

But, Madam Clark – these pipelines don’t carry marshmallow but a deadly poison!

But it’s even more than that, Premier – when these spills occur, how will the company get to the spill with heavy equipment? You commented on Enbridge’s handling of the Kalamazoo spill and called it a “disgrace”. And it was, but, Ms. Clark, this spill occurred in a populous state and was easily accessible.

Mr. Lake talks about the environment being the only consideration. Again, what is there that leaves any doubt about the horrendous consequences resulting from an oil spill?

Why doesn’t the minister tell us about all the investigations his ministry has done?

Surely he’s done a great deal, bearing in mind that looking after water is his responsibility. Has he assessed even superficially the 1,000 rivers and streams that will be impacted by an Enbridge pipeline?

My guess is that he has been told to cool it because Ms. Clark entered a deal with the feds that its Joint Review Panel should be considered as binding in BC as well.

Let’s end with a bit of a truth telling exercise. The truth of this horrendous environmental disaster is that the Liberal government did agree to accept the Joint Review Panel’s findings and thus surrendered its environmental jurisdiction to Ottawa.

To make matters worse, BC did not become part of the the Joint Review Panel by becoming a government intervenor as did First Nations – which would have given our province (the province most impacted) “standing” so that they could call witnesses, cross examine witnesses and make a formal argument. The province has no more rights than a private citizen.

Now Premier Clark tries to recapture a piece of the pie by trying to make Alberta’s premier Alison Redford into the bad guy in the picture.

Lest this may have missed our premier’s notice, Ms. Redford also depends upon citizen approval in order to get elected and one must assume that her citizens would cry out like stuck pigs if she gave away money that she didn’t have to.

BC then is in a dunghill of their own making and it could only happen by a huge cock-up by a government that has become an expert in that field.

Caleb Behn, the subject of the film

‘Canada’s Carbon Corridor’ Part 1: Connecting the Dots Across Northern BC


I recently returned from a whirlwind tour across northern BC, one of many legs of filming for a documentary and multi-media project I’ve been co-directing for the past year and a half, called Fractured Land. The people we spoke to along the way, the sights we witnessed and documented finally brought into focus the real story about energy development in BC.

It is clear to me that the proposed Enbridge Pipeline, which has been the target of so much activism and media attention of late, is merely one piece of a much bigger puzzle that promises to transform this province like nothing since the days of colonial, railroad-driven “nation building.”

Our film and the multi-media series that will accompany it through our website, FracturedLand.com, and various social media tools, is the story the industrialization of northern BC – told through the eyes of a talented, eloquent young First Nations law student named Caleb Behn.

The two sides of Caleb’s family are rooted in the epicentres of both major natural gas hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) plays in northeast BC – West Moberly Territory near Hudson’s Hope, under which the Montney shale gas field extends; and Echo Dene Territory around Fort Nelson, home of the Horn River shale gas field. Taken together – along with the recently discovered neighbouring Liard Basin play – form one of the world’s meccas for “unconventional” gas (read: highly experimental and dangerous).

We began our film by focusing on fracking – a relatively new method of natural gas extraction that involves burrowing deep into shale formations and blasting them with a toxic mixture of high-pressure water, chemicals and sand to crack open the shale and release the gas. But throughout our adventure, we’ve come to see that fracking doesn’t exist in isolation. Neither does the proposed Site C Dam on the Peace River in the same region, nor gas and bitumen pipelines proposed to cut across BC’s wilderness en route to Kitimat and Prince Rupert, nor myriad, massive proposed Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plants on BC’s coast, nor the dozen or more serious coal and metals mines proposed throughout the north, nor the Alberta Tar Sands.

It is a serious mistake to put any of these projects in a silo. They are all, in fact, systemically interconnected in what my colleagues and I have come to think of – at least until a more apt description emerges – as “Canada’s Carbon Corridor”. Before this article and its second part conclude, I will briefly illustrate this interconnected web of energy projects that extend from BC’s coast to the Alberta Tar Sands – covering virtually the entire top half of the two provinces. However, the real work of fleshing out the components of this carbon corridor and how each piece relates to the next will be accomplished through a subsequent series of stories over the next two months – each exploding a different piece of the big puzzle – all cross-published through The Common Sense Canadian and the blog for Fractured Land.

Both this film project and my colleagues at The Common Sense Canadian – which has made its mission to inform the public about the energy, environmental and public policies reshaping BC and Canada – will seek to lodge this big picture view, with all its socioeconomic and cultural implications, on the agenda of the public and media in the lead-up to a pivotal provincial election next May. This is a sorely needed conversation that so far has been lost in the simplistic rhetoric championing the project of opening Western Canadian oil and gas resources to new markets in Asia and the one-track chorus of opposition to the Enbridge proposal.

If that seems unfair, allow me to state my case herewith.

We began our recent two and a half week journey in northeast BC, before traveling along the Alaska Highway through Fort Nelson, Liard Hot Springs, Watson Lake just over the Yukon Border, then down Highway 37 through the Sacred Headwaters and Tahltan First Nations country, southwest to Kitimat, east to the Morice River near Houston, and finally to Prince George to deliver a presentation to faculty and students at UNBC, before heading home to Vancouver (an approximately 5,000 km journey, all told).

Over the past several years, I’ve made seven trips to northeast BC (I’m currently here again for the “Keepers of the Water” conference in Fort Nelson) and more than that to northwest BC and its coast, but this trip – as it tied together both sides and centres of development in the province – felt like the quintessential journey through BC’s proposed economic future. Through it, we traced the interconnections of this carbon corridor and met people on both sides of the arguments around these individual projects.

If there’s one thing that has become abundantly clear to our production team, it’s that this is a conversation which defies easy polarities. The fracturing we reference in our title, taken literally from the process of fracking, serves as a metaphor for the conflict within individuals, families and communities torn between developing economic opportunities and protecting their core values  and ancestral practices on the land.

Far from shying away from this tension, we are drilling deep into it.

After driving 15 hours north from Vancouver, we began our experience at Carbon Lake, near Hudson’s Hope – at a camp once owned by my great uncle, Penn Powell, who operated it as a fly-in fishing lodge for years. Today, it is owned and operated by the Saulteau First Nation – the people of our central character Caleb’s grandmother.

Caleb comes here in the summer to hunt moose and reconnect with his land. Unfortunately, the moose are slim pickings these days – likely partly related to all the roads for logging that bisect the onetime wilderness surrounding the lake. Now, a large open pit coal mine threatens to finish the job. Carbon Lake gets its name for a reason. One can pick up large blocks of metallurgical-grade coal from the bed of nearby Carbon Creek, the site of one of a number of proposed new coal mines throughout the Peace River Coalfield.

To get to the lake, we had to drive over Williston Reservoir and WAC Bennett Dam – the first major dam in the region, which helped set the stage for the resource boom that followed. Caleb and my families have much in common beyond this camp at Carbon Lake, as we’ve learned throughout the making of our film. Another thing we share is that both our families lost our land in the flooding of Williston Reservoir in 1968. My family’s land, upon which it settled in 1914, was known as Goldbar Ranch at 20 Mile. Today, many of my uncles who remain in the region work in the gas patch. As do many of Caleb’s relatives. Such are the complexities inherent in the sort of large-scale resource decisions being made today – mostly without the broad-based knowledge and will of the public.

That said, Bennett Dam was built to provide affordable, “clean” (or so we thought at the time) electricity and new economic opportunities for all British Columbians. I believe my family understood that, even as we watched our barns and hand-crafted cabins and grand old log home burned to the ground and drowned forevermore.

Today, two fracking companies – Talisman Energy and Canbriam Energy – have a 20-year license to suck 10 million litres a day of water from that same reservoir (before it’s converted to power for British Columbians!) for their nearby fracking operations.

Moreover, Site C – which would be the third dam in the Peace Valley, stretching 80 km east from Hudson’s Hope to Fort St. John and flooding some 13,000 acres of agricultural land and a comparable amount of Boreal Forest wildlife habitat – is not being proposed to power BC’s homes and businesses. We have access to plenty of electricity for those purposes. Rather, this power will go to the myriad proposed mining operations across the north and, according to Premier Christy Clark, compressing natural gas into liquid to sell to Asia. All of these industrial operations are enormously energy dependent – to the point we would need multiple Site C Dams to even begin powering them.

From Carbon Lake, our team traveled north to Fort Nelson, where we visited with the other side of Caleb’s family. Fort Nelson is the jumping off point for the Horn River shale gas operations, which have been slowing down of late, due to the cratering price of natural gas, but contain enormous development potential and have been wildly active in recent years. The Cabin Gas Plant, North America’s largest, is just nearing completion after several years of furious construction. The adjacent Liard Basin formation was recently touted by Apache Canada as “the best reservoir in North America” for gas fracking.

Yet little of this development will occur unless a higher price can be obtained for the resource. This relatively new method of fracking has flooded the North American market with supply, driving down the price for gas, which is why new markets are being sought in Asia, where gas prices are currently much higher.

Unlike the gas plays around Fort Nelson, the Montney play – in Caleb’s mother’s territory, where we began our journey – often produces what is considered as “wet gas”, meaning it contains other products, such as sulfur and condensate, both of which have considerable value on their own. Condensate is used to dilute bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands, which is too viscous to pump through a pipeline on its own.

This is another way in which Canada’s Carbon Corridor is interconnected – both natural gas and condensate go from BC to Alberta to melt and extract bitumen and to dilute it for transport.

But the big idea, for now, is to open up new markets for northeast BC gas. If these LNG plants and the pipelines connecting northeast BC gas to northwest BC refineries proceed, you can bet Horn River activity will ramp up to new heights and the Liard Basin will be cracked wide open.

We drove near these proposed Liard operations en route to the northwest corner of the province and it is some of the most exquisite country any of us has seen. We passed through pristine valleys coursing with crystal-clear water from the Northern Rockies and by herds of majestic wild bison and various ungulate species. Our soak in the Liard Hot Springs was one the trip’s big highlights – I would highly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in that neck of the woods.

Watch for Part 2 of this introduction to Damien Gillis’ “Canada’s Carbon Corridor” series Saturday – completing the journey across northern BC to the northwest, examining everything from mining and unconventional gas proposals in the Sacred Headwaters to the construction of the Northwest Transmission Line, the Pacific Trails gas pipeline to Kitimat and proposed LNG facilities there.


Foreign Companies Circle Alberta Tar Sands and BC’s Gas Assets


Read this story from the Globe and Mail on the rush by Asian and European state and publicly owned energy players to scoop up Canadian oil and gas assets in advance of anticipated tightening of regulations on foreign direct investment. (Sept. 21, 2012)

A number of foreign companies are flocking to Canada’s oil patch in search of acquisitions and investments as Ottawa weighs the $15.1-billion takeover of energy company Nexen Inc. by China’s CNOOC Ltd.

While it is not unusual for companies to circle the oil patch, interviews with a dozen industry sources and deal makers over a month have revealed a picture of an industry set for a massive influx of foreign capital while the window to foreign investment remains open.

Industry executives and advisers say offshore buyers are currently in discussions or touring the operations of a wide variety of Canadian oil sands, conventional petroleum, natural gas, oil service and refining operations.

Some of these potential acquirers include state-owned entities such as Korea National Oil Corp. (KNOC) and others from China, Malaysia and Kuwait, sources said. A handful of private-sector oil and gas giants are also on the hunt, including France-based Total SA. Joining these suitors is a new class of Asian buyers believed to include privately held Chinese companies and one of China’s largest cities, Tsingtao.

The takeover interest has been sparked by a combination of recent declines in oil and gas prices and a perception in some international circles that Canada favours foreign investment to help finance production, particularly in the oil sands, where the cost of development is expected to crest $100-billion over the next decade.

“If you think Nexen is something of a big deal, you ain’t seen anything yet,” said Wenran Jiang, a special adviser to Alberta’s Department of Energy on Asian energy markets. “The new trend is large-scale Chinese private capital that will come into the Canadian market.”

A wide variety of international acquirers are looking for investments in the oil patch. France’s Total has been searching for – and making – oil sands deals for a few years. According to people close to the Nexen negotiations, Total was a bidder for the Calgary company, but stepped out of the race after CNOOC tabled an offer with a rich premium of more than 60 per cent above the Calgary company’s stock price. Sources said Total is still seeking a Canadian acquisition. A spokesperson for the company did not return calls.

State-owned KNOC is also on the hunt for a multibillion-dollar acquisition to expand its holdings in the oil sands, according to sources. Its search comes three years after it acquired Harvest Energy Trust in 2009 for $4.1-billion. A Calgary-based official with KNOC said he was unaware of any acquisition plans.

Read more: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/foreign-suitors-circle-oil-patch-as-ottawa-weighs-nexen-deal/article4558270/