Canada: Energy, environment & pipelines 2013 -2014

Written by  //  August 17, 2014  //  Canada, Environment & Energy  //  7 Comments

Justin Trudeau on pipelines:
A: The federal government’s role is to establish a process whereby industry can pitch a project, and Canadians can be reassured that this project is worth the risk. That’s at the heart of governments granting permits and communities granting permission. People understand we do need economic growth. We do need natural resource projects. One of the primary responsibilities of Canadian prime ministers since time immemorial has been getting our resources to market in safe, sustainable, responsible ways, whether it’s railroads and grain, or now, pipelines. This government hasn’t done a very good job of that. That responsibility of the government is to reassure people that the process is being followed, rather than be a cheerleader for the project and have it bog down in the courts anyway, because the government hasn’t done its job of making sure that the approvals are there and the social licence is there. People know we shouldn’t have to choose between economy and the environment. We can do both together and that’s what this government has fallen down on.
Q: So if the government were more inclusive, reached out to more people, it would be able to build more pipelines?
A: Yes.
Q: So vote Liberal for Keystone and Kinder Morgan.
A: Keystone, yes; Kinder Morgan, we’re watching the process go through. The Interview: Justin Trudeau’s game plan (Macleans’s)
9 August
Mount PolleyImperial Metals’ Political Gifts to BC Liberals Total $234,000
Watchdog wants correspondence between firm and government released
(The Tyee) The campaign donations are slightly less than the $300,000 in fines the B.C. government has threatened the company with if it fails to comply with conditions for cleaning up the breach, which caused 10 million cubic metres of water and five million cubic metres of tailing solids to spill into the Cariboo region watershed on Monday.
Consulting firm says it raised concerns over B.C. mine in 2011
(CTV) An environmental consulting firm says it first raised concerns in 2011 about the Mount Polley mine — whose tailings pond has breached in the B.C. interior and sparked a local state of emergency – but the company operating the mine didn’t heed all of the advice.
Brian Olding, president of Brian Olding & Associates, said his company was hired three years ago to review and evaluate a report produced by Imperial Metals, the company that operates the Mount Polley mine, located about 600 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.
The report was seeking permission from the B.C. Ministry of Environment to dispose of water from the mine’s tailings pond into the nearby Hazeltine Creek, Olding said. …
The firm’s recommendations were given to Imperial Metals and two First Nations, but Olding said the mining company did not follow all of the recommendations. He added that the company was not under any legal obligation to follow them. (Globe & Mail) Red flags raised years before B.C. mine-tailings spill, consultant says
The spill from Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley copper/gold mine in B.C.’s Cariboo region on Monday happened just weeks after the mining company asked provincial authorities for permission to increase the amount of treated waste water it could release from the tailings pond. Ministry officials said in a statement on Tuesday they were considering the request when the breach occurred.
Residents calling it an environmental disaster: tailings pond breach at Mount Polley Mine near Likely, BC See The National’s report
Mount Polley tailings cleanup shouldn’t fall to taxpayers, James Moore says
Federal Industry Minister James Moore, who is also the Conservatives’ minister for B.C., describes the tailings pond breach as “terrible” and he says it underscores the need for effective regulation and monitoring.
5 August
Canadians Can’t Drink Their Water After 1.3 Billion Gallons Of Mining Waste Flows Into Rivers
A breach in a tailings pond from the open-pit Mount Polley copper and gold mine sent five million cubic meters (1.3 billion gallons) of slurry gushing into Hazeltine Creek in B.C. That’s the equivalent of 2,000 Olympic swimming pools of waste, the CBC reports. Tailings ponds from mineral mines store a mix of water, chemicals and ground-up minerals left over from mining operations.
The flow of the mining waste, which can contain things like arsenic, mercury, and sulfur, uprooted trees on its way to the creek and forced a water ban for about 300 people who live in the region. That number could grow, as authorities determine just how far the waste has traveled. The cause of the breach is still unknown.
Mount Polley Mine tailings pond breach called environmental disaster
Complete water consumption, swimming, cooking ban in effect for Quesnel and Cariboo Rivers
28 July
Stoney Nakoda First Nation signs ‘huge’ oil deal with Chinese firm
Joint venture agreement with Huatong Petrochemical Holdings Ltd. covers development on 49,000 hectares
)CBC) The First Nation is located 60 kilometres west of Calgary and has signed a joint venture agreement with Hong Kong-based Huatong Petrochemical Holdings Ltd. to explore and develop oil and gas deposits on Stoney Nation lands.
About 49,000 hectares of land will be explored and developed through the agreement, with Huatong providing all necessary funding — possibly hundreds of millions of dollars — and Nakoda Oil & Gas Inc. acting as the primary operator for the joint venture.
21 July
What If Canada Exported Clean Energy Instead of Oil?
(The Tyee) In Africa, where solar is cheaper than diesel, Quebec’s Windiga is doing just that.
18 June
PM distances self from Northern Gateway pipeline approval amid opposition
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is putting distance between himself and Ottawa’s conditional approval of a controversial oil sands pipeline, saying from this point on the Northern Gateway project is a matter for arm’s-length regulators to work out with proponent Enbridge Inc.
This comes as aboriginal groups in British Columbia join forces to launch a sweeping legal challenge of the federal green light for a project that would pipe Alberta crude to the Pacific and then through coastal waters in supertankers.
Northern Gateway Pipeline: Tory MPs Emphasize Conditions, Science
Conservatives are defending their government’s approval of the contested Northern Gateway pipeline as being based on science and evidence — while noting at the same time that the project may never be built. … a few emerged during Wednesday’s weekly caucus meeting to point out that the approval is contingent on the Enbridge-led consortium meeting the 209 conditions spelled out by the National Energy Board.
17 June
Canadian government approves Enbridge’s controversial Northern Gateway pipeline
(Globe & Mail) Ottawa’s decision puts B.C. Premier Christy Clark at the centre of a looming federal fight after Stephen Harper’s chief political rivals in the NDP and Liberals each vowed to kill the controversial project should they win power next year, citing the danger of spills. Northern Gateway’s construction is not expected to begin before the next federal ballot.
5 times Canadians were utterly misled about the Northern Gateway pipeline
(PressProgress) Surprise! The Harper cabinet has given the Northern Gateway pipeline the go-ahead.
After years of corporate campaigning and counter-protests, Enbridge’s multi-billion project will have to meet the 209 conditions laid out by a federal review panel last December, the federal government announced Tuesday.
The approval could put B.C. Conservative seats on the endangered species list; Harper’s Alberta base must be happy, though.
What better time to take a trip down memory lane about Enbridge’s PR department’s most misleading blunders. Their friends around Harper’s cabinet table also made their fair share.
16 June
Northern Gateway opponents prepare for provincial referendum campaign
Resigned, perhaps, that federal government approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline is inevitable, opponents of the project are formulating a plan to make sure British Columbia’s politicians remain opposed to the project. For months now, members of the Dogwood Initiative have been preparing for a provincial referendum akin to the vote that forced the Liberal government to repeal the harmonized sales tax in British Columbia. (CTV) B.C. chief: We’ll do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop Northern Gateway
The federal government is expected to give Enbridge’s $7-billion pipeline project the green light early this week, just as the House rises for the summer break.
5 June
How Northern Gateway pipeline approval will put BC Conservative seats on endangered species list
(Press Progress) A big group of Conservative MPs in British Columbia must be nervous just about now, knowing the federal Cabinet could be readying to sign off on the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline.
If the announcement, expected as early as next week — goes Enbridge’s way — it could seal some of their fates.
That’s because a Bloomberg-Nanos survey released this week shows nearly half of British Columbians are unlikely to consider voting for Conservatives in the next election if Northern Gateway is approved. Only 11% said they’d be more likely to consider their local Conservative candidate.
“Approval of the pipeline by the Harper government is likely to have a collateral negative impact on support for the Conservatives in BC,” the survey concludes, giving a significant boost to the Enbridge 21 campaign that targets BC’s 21 Conservative MPs
4 June
Kai Nagata: Don’t be shocked if Harper kills Northern Gateway
The smartest political move would be to do the unexpected and reject it. That’s what voters in Kitimat did in a municipal plebiscite in April. But even if Harper’s pride will not permit a full about-face, there are plenty of ways to achieve the same end result.
(Vancouver Sun) Is Prime Minister Stephen Harper about to toss Enbridge under the bus? With a federal cabinet decision on the Northern Gateway pipeline project due any day, many British Columbians believe federal approval is inevitable. Yet signs now point to the Tories turning away from Enbridge’s troubled oil export proposal, in the hope it dies quietly before the next federal election.
The Enbridge saga has been a long, costly lesson for the energy industry and the Conservative party. Sacrificing Northern Gateway would certainly annoy the state-owned Chinese oil companies that have bankrolled the proposal. However, the consequences of forcing it through could be worse, for the Canadian oilpatch, and for Conservative MPs seeking re-election in B.C. (Bloomberg) Canada’s Harper Risks Political Damage Allowing Gateway Pipeline
3 June
Northern Gateway pipeline report ‘flawed,’ 300 scientists tell PM
Open letter from scientists to Canada’s PM Harper says report is so flawed, it’s essentially useless
Hundreds of scientists have signed a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper that says the recent report on the Northern Gateway pipeline is so flawed, it’s essentially useless.
The scientists say the joint review panel (JRP) report has so many systemic errors and omissions that it can’t be used to make decisions on whether the pipeline is beneficial to the public.
Read the letter to the prime minister
Read more about the report
Three hundred scientists from across Canada and around the world say the panel’s recommendation to approve the proposed pipeline from the oilsands in Alberta to the north coast of B.C. was based on a “flawed analysis of the risks and benefits to B.C.’s environment and society.”
“We urge you in the strongest possible terms to reject this report,” says the letter.
28 May
Kinder Morgan Pipeline Expansion Designed to Carry Much More Oil
Trans Mountain would be built with room to largely increase export capacity.
(The Tyee) The new [Kinder Morgan] pipeline is designed to carry an average of 780,000, not 540,000 barrels a day, almost half again of what’s in the application. Once complete, Trans Mountain’s system will be capable of carrying more than 1.1 million barrels a day of crude oil — 350,000 barrels a day on the 60 year-old original line and 780,000 barrels a day on the new pipeline.
In May 2012, the Tyee reported Trans Mountain’s twin could mean more than 1.1 million barrels a day of crude oil pumped through British Columbia into the densely-populated Lower Mainland, with most of it destined for export on oil tankers. The concern was raised again in March 2014 when it was revealed there is a loophole in the National Energy Board Act that oil companies rely on to avoid environmental assessment and public interest scrutiny. The Loophole Big Oil Uses to Pump More CrudeCompanies apply for capacity below a project’s potential, then jack it up later, under less scrutiny.
19 May
None of Clark’s five conditions for approval has been met
With the federal government expected to approve the Enbridge project in the next few weeks, Ms. Clark is upbeat about the progress that has been made toward meeting her terms.
And there has been headway – in the sense that Alberta, Ottawa and industry are not snickering at Ms. Clark’s demands any more.
Yet not a single one of the five conditions has been met.
Nor is there much prospect that B.C. will ever agree that the Northern Gateway proposal has cleared the bar.
Last week, Ottawa announced new environmental regulations for prevention and cleanup of oil spills, which the Premier sees as a direct response to her demands.
13 May
Ottawa defiant as UN deals blow to Gateway pipeline
The federal government will not grant veto power to First Nations communities that oppose resource projects on their traditional territory, including the Northern Gateway pipeline, despite a new United Nations report that urges Canadian governments and industry to win aboriginal consent before proceeding with such developments.
Ottawa is set to decide on the Northern Gateway project next month, after a National Energy Board review panel recommended it be approved last December albeit with a list of 209 conditions. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is widely expected to approve the Gateway pipeline, despite opposition among First Nations communities along its route and on the B.C. coast. First Nations’ leaders have vowed to launch court actions to challenge any approval.
In responding to the UN report, Andrea Richer, a spokeswoman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, said responsible development of natural resources is good for all Canadians, including First Nation communities, and noted the resource sector employs 32,000 First Nations people. She said aboriginal communities are “well positioned” to benefit economically from more than $650-billion worth of resource projects planned for the next decade and want to participate.
9 May
Eric Reguly: Canada’s $207,000 oil sands ad: Putting a price on deception
(Globe & Mail) The ad in The New Yorker is pretty, if not quite arresting. The full-page photo on the inside back cover – prime real estate in the United States’ leading upmarket magazine – features a pristine river meandering through a lush mountain valley, untouched by humanity. It is not a tourism ad. It is designed to convince influential Americans that the Keystone XL pipeline is environmentally safe, even desirable.
What is clever about the ad is not the photo; it is the headline and the succinct lines of copy beneath it. They are slick pieces of propaganda – misleading without being outright lies. Of course, advertising is all about propaganda. But this ad is unconscionable because you, the Canadian taxpayer, paid for it. The rate for a full-page ad in that location, according to Condé Nast, publisher of The New Yorker, is $207,000 (U.S.).
The ad appeared in the April 14 issue and was sponsored by GoWithCanada.ca, the federal government site that is trying to convince the skeptical that the Alberta oil sands – known as the tar sands to non-Canadians – and the export pipelines that would allow the megaproject to thrive for decades are a “secure, responsible source of energy for the global market” (“Keystone” does not appear in the ad).
26 April
gary-clement umpback whaleWhy are these humpback whale conservationists applauding the Harper government?
It’s rare, but for once scientists and politicians see eye to eye about removing these whales from endangered-species list.
22 April
Ottawa removes humpback whales off threatened species list for same area vital to Northern Gateway Pipeline project
Ottawa no longer considers the North Pacific population of humpback whales a threatened species, which lifts many legal protections for the whales’ habitat.
In an amendment released Saturday in the latest Canada Gazette, the Environment Department says the status of humpback whales off the British Columbia coast has been upgraded from “threatened” to “species of special concern.”
The revision follows a 2011 report from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada which determined the whale’s numbers have increased annually since the early 1990s, and now include more than 18,000 adults.
Reclassification under the Species At Risk Act removes legal protection for humpback habitat, which includes Johnstone Strait off the northeast end of Vancouver Island, a region that would also see increased oil tanker traffic if the Northern Gateway Pipeline project is approved. [See comment of 24 April below]
Rival pipeline proponent touts First Nations support in wake of Kitimat vote
Kitimat’s rejection of the proposed Northern Gateway project has buoyed the hopes of a company with First Nations connections that is dreaming of building an alternative pipeline across British Columbia.
Calvin Helin, president of Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings Ltd., said in a news conference Monday that First Nations in British Columbia are in favour of his project because it would be largely native controlled and it would be routed to Prince Rupert, not Kitimat.
On the weekend, Kitimat residents voted (58 per cent to 41 per cent) to reject the Enbridge pipeline proposal. Although it was a non-binding plebiscite, the outcome has been widely seen as a serious blow to the Northern Gateway proposal because the town has a long history of industrial activity and the community was going to directly benefit from job creation.
Many Canadian Aboriginals See No Compromise on Oil Sands Pipeline
(Reuters via Scientific American) All along the pipeline route, aboriginal communities – known as First Nations in Canada – have filed lawsuits against a federal agency’s recommendation that the line be approved, citing a lack of consultation among other issues.
First Nations cannot veto resource projects, but governments are required to consult with them on unresolved land-claim areas. There are no treaties in much of British Columbia, so consultation claims could trap the project in court for years.
Enbridge has said it is impossible to eliminate all risks of an oil spill, but it has developed mitigation measures to sharply reduce the likelihood, along with a preparedness and response plan to limit the consequences should a spill occur.
The company says the pipeline will be the safest it has ever built, with thicker-than-standard steel, deeper tunnels under waterways and more isolation valves than usual.
The federal panel that reviewed Enbridge’s data and the concerns expressed by First Nations and other groups determined the project should be approved if the company meets 209 technical, environmental and social conditions.
8 April
Former PM Brian Mulroney appeals for fearless leadership on resource agenda
Apr 8 2014 — Jennifer Ditchburn — CP
Brian Mulroney says the country needs risk-taking leadership to get domestic oil and gas moving overseas, as well as a plan to work cooperatively and bring Canadians onside. The former Tory prime minister’s remarks Tuesday, in a speech organized by the progressive think tank Canada 2020, come as major pipeline projects languish in limbo.
Mulroney pointedly urged a more collaborative approach to resource development, saying there needs to be agreement of all the players including the First Nations, the provinces and environmental groups.
“Canada is a vibrant federation. We are not a unitary state,” Mulroney said. “The Government of Canada cannot act unilaterally to resolve this matter.”
Mulroney noted the need for Canada and the United States to work collaboratively on both energy security and the environment, to “set a new gold standard on environmental performance.”
4 April
America’s light oil, Canada’s heavy problem
(Globe & Mail) The U.S. oil surge has already reduced to a trickle imports of light oil to the Gulf Coast. Now the resurgence in American production is creating challenges for Canadian producers – not only on the Gulf Coast, but in their traditional markets in the Midwest and even in eastern markets where the Canadian industry is hoping to gain new customers through TransCanada Inc.’s proposed Energy East pipeline.
Western Canadian producers, eager to boost output and spark lacklustre share prices, have been desperate to expand their access to new markets, where prices are higher. But the competition within North America will only intensify, making it more important than ever that the industry can reach foreign markets through new pipelines to the west and east coasts.
The flood of tight, light oil production into the continental market is expected to drive a widening discount between North America and international prices, creating new problems for Canadian producers. While many refiners will still want oil sands bitumen to feed refineries specially configured to process heavy crude, the U.S. surge still poses risks for Canada, particularly since a U.S. ban on oil exports to countries other than Canada means virtually all of its crude production remains in the country.
28 March
Special Report: A Canadian family’s ‘Plan B’ to pump tar sands oil
By Richard Valdmanis and Dave Sherwood
(WEN/Planet Ark) Keystone XL, a pipeline proposal to pump Canadian oil sands through the heart of America, has alarmed environmentalists and become one of the most contentious issues of the Obama presidency. But there is a “Plan B” to cut the United States out of the picture, and it is championed by one of Canada’s wealthiest business dynasties.
Since 2012, the billionaire Irving family has been advocating a proposal called Energy East. The 2,858-mile (4,600-km) pipeline would link trillions of dollars worth of oil in land-locked fields in the western province of Alberta to an Atlantic port in the Irvings’ eastern home province of New Brunswick, north of Maine, creating a gateway to new foreign markets for Canadian oil.
The C$12 billion ($10.8 billion) line, which would pump 1.1 million barrels per day, would include about 1,865 miles of existing natural gas pipeline converted to carry oil. The rest would be new construction, most of it along the banks of the Saint Lawrence River and into New Brunswick.
The industry is keen. Pipeline company TransCanada Corp, which is also backing Keystone, unveiled plans in August to build and operate Energy East by 2018. Customers as far away as India are lined up to take the oil, according to New Brunswick provincial officials. Canadian oil companies, frustrated by Washington’s dithering on Keystone, say they have seized on it as a viable alternative to the route through the United States.
10 March
Line 9 will ‘snake’ across Ontario and Quebec waterways
(rabble.ca) The National Energy Board’s (NEB) announcement of its approval of Enbridge’s Line 9B pipeline is generating outrage among environmental activists across Ontario and Quebec. The pipeline, already in place for nearly 40 years, has a history of leaks and the repurposing of it to carry dilbit (diluted bitumen) under high pressure is seen as an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen. Mark Mattson, an environmental lawyer and president of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, is particularly concerned. “There are hundreds of rivers that feed into Lake Ontario. [Line 9] will be carrying dilbit, and this pipeline wasn’t made for that. It was made to carry other substances.” He goes on to add, “Line 9 is just one of many, many emerging threats to the Great Lakes.”
Line9While America Waits On Keystone Decision, A Different Tar Sands Pipeline Just Got Approved
(Think Progress) Canadian regulators on Thursday approved their own, smaller version — a pipeline that would for the first time directly connect Alberta’s tar sands to Montreal.
Canada’s National Energy Board have approved a proposal by Enbridge Inc. to allow the reversal and expansion of their Line 9 pipeline. The “reversal” means that the pipeline can now carry crude oil east rather than west. The “expansion” means it can now also carry tar sands oil from Alberta — the same type of oil that would be transported by the Keystone XL pipeline if approved.
With the reversal and expansion approved, environmentalists say the controversial tar sands oil can now be pumped almost to the New England border. This is because on one side, Enbridge’s Line 9 connects to a pipeline that carries tar sands. On the other side, Line 9 connects to a 236-mile-long line pump from Montreal to Portland, Maine. The National Resources Defense Council says that Portland connection has been targeted by the tar sands industry as a way for getting the oil into the United States via New England.
6 March
Enbridge Line 9 pipeline reversal approved by energy board
(CBC) The green light for the Calgary-based company is subject to certain conditions and requirements.
A statement from the National Energy Board says “the board’s conditions require Enbridge to undertake activities regarding pipeline integrity, emergency response, and continued consultation.”
Enbridge will also have to submit a plan to manage cracking features in the pipeline, and manage water crossings.
The board says that with these conditions in place, the project will be “safe and environmentally sensitive.”
24 January
Warnings over oil train safety gives boost to Keystone XL
(Dallas News) A government warning about the dangers of increased use of trains to transport crude oil is giving a boost to supporters of the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline.
U.S. and Canadian accident investigators urged their governments Thursday to impose new safety rules on so-called oil trains, warning that a “major loss of life” could result from an accident involving the increasing use of trains to transport large amounts of crude oil.
Pipeline supporters said the unusual joint warning by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada highlights the need for Keystone XL, which would carry oil derived from tar sands in western Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Oil started flowing Wednesday through a southern leg of the pipeline from Oklahoma to the Houston region. Why oil refiners love today’s Keystone news “The opening of the Keystone Pipeline south leg triples the amount of pipeline capacity from Cushing, Okla., to the Texas Gulf Coast,” said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates. “The oil that arrives in the Port Arthur area will now be accessible to about 25 percent of the nation’s refinery capacity because it will be connected by pipeline not only to Port Arthur but to Lake Charles and the New Orleans refining centers.”

2013

Northern+Gateway+Report+201
19 December
Panel’s approval for Northern Gateway sets stage for PM’s pipeline battle
The National Energy Board has given a conditional green light to the Northern Gateway pipeline project, handing off to Prime Minister Stephen Harper a crucial decision that threatens to intensify aboriginal opposition and become a political flashpoint in the next federal election.
In a report Thursday, an NEB review panel recommended that Ottawa approve the $6.5-billion pipeline and crude supertanker terminal in Kitimat,. B.C., once the government and Enbridge Inc. have addressed the 209 environmental, safety and financial conditions set down by the panel. The pipeline would deliver 520,000 barrels a day of oil sands bitumen to the British Columbia coast, opening new markets for the Alberta-based oil industry.
“Opening Pacific Basin markets is important to the Canadian economy and society,” the panel said in a news release. “After weighing all the oral and written evidence, the panel found that Canada and Canadians would be better off with the Enbridge Northern Gateway project than without it.”
Despite the conditions – including a requirement that the project take on $950-million in liability insurance – the NEB decision is a victory for Enbridge and the wider energy industry. But now that Gateway has cleared its environmental hurdle, an even bigger challenge looms for the project: securing the support of the aboriginal bands in B.C. who live in the areas where the pipeline would pass. That support has remained elusive even as First Nations and governments remain at an impasse over broader treaty talks. With the NEB decision, aboriginal bands are already warning of a legal challenge.
The federal cabinet now must make a final decision on the pipeline within six months, and the government promised Thursday to consult extensively with First Nations in an effort to accommodate their concerns.
Statement from Adam Scott of Environmental Defence on the decision of the Joint Review Panel to recommend approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project (19 December)

At Issue: The politics of carbon emissions and the environment

2012: A bleak year for environmental policy

(Toronto Star) … Take, for instance, Bill C-38, Canada’s longest-ever federal budget. Setting out $5-billion in spending cuts, the budget was the most austere in over a decade. And yet, despite the depth of the slashes and thus their potential to remake the country, their nature and likely impacts remain intentionally obscure. As part of an omnibus budget, most of the cuts were not evaluated by the relevant parliamentary committees; details about their implementation were withheld from watchdogs and opposition MPs; and many cuts were to programs without which it will be very difficult to measure the price we’ve paid for austerity.
This was particularly true, and particularly unsettling, in the case of the government’s approach to environmental policy in 2012. Bill C-38 included more than $160 million in cuts to environmental spending, significantly impairing our ability to measure or mitigate our impact on Canada’s wilderness and wildlife. Yet it was never put before the Commons environment committee, nor does the bill ever mention climate change.
Here are just a few of the measures, buried deep within the 400-plus-page budget, that were passed with little or no public debate:…

See also Environment & Energy for oil spills; Canada National Energy Strategy; Canada, the world and the tarsands

13 November
Oilsands expansion: Conflicting studies on its benefits for Quebec
The expansion of Canada’s oilsands is a boon to oil-producing provinces, like Alberta, but two new studies disagree about whether it is also good for Quebec.
One study, by the environmental think-tank Pembina Institute and the Quebec environmental group Équiterre, says rapid growth in Canada’s oil industry is creating regional imbalances, and may have helped contribute to a decline in Quebec’s manufacturing industry.
The other study, prepared by KPMG consultants for Quebec’s federation of chambers of commerce, argues that future growth of the oilsands will result in increased opportunities for Quebec companies, support or create new jobs and increase revenues for the provincial government.
Since Enbridge announced last fall that it wants to use its Line 9B pipeline to carry oil from Western Canada to Montreal, debate has swirled in Quebec about the project and Canada’s oilsands operations.
12 November

rci-sump_sn635Frozen drilling waste in far north, thawing and leaching into lakes
(RCI) They are called “sumps”. They are basically huge pits dug into the permafrost near the sites of exploratory oil and mineral drilling sites. They were then filled with wastes such as drilling mud, rock cuttings and drilling fluids, which commonly contain detergents and highly concentrated salt solutions, The dumped material-each sump contains thousands of cubic metres of material, was then capped with clean material and left to freeze in the permafrost. It was thought that it wold remain thusly frozen and stable, forever. However a new study says the situation is changing, and the sumps have started leaching out waste materials.
8 November
Oil industry successfully lobbied Ottawa to delay climate regulations, e-mails show
Despite frequent promises by former environment minister Peter Kent to issue draft regulations last summer, the Harper government has still not done so, saying only they will be released when they are ready.
(Globe & Mail) Canada’s oil industry successfully lobbied Ottawa to delay proposed climate regulations last spring, arguing Alberta’s proposed $40-a-tonne carbon tax would drive away investment while doing little to quell criticism of the emissions-heavy oil sands.
5 November
B.C., Alberta premiers agree on pipeline framework
The deal does not appear to endorse any particular pipeline or energy export project. Instead it lays out the terms under which future project would be negotiated.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark made a surprise announcement this morning, saying they have reached a framework agreement between their two provinces on moving energy resources to new markets.
According to a statement released on Tuesday morning:
Alberta has agreed to accept B.C.’s five conditions for pipeline approval.
B.C. has agreed to sign the Alberta Energy Strategy.
Alberta agrees that B.C. has a right to negotiate with industry on appropriate economic benefits.
Both governments agree it is not for the governments of Alberta and B.C. to negotiate these benefits.
Both provinces reaffirmed that Alberta’s royalties are not on the table for negotiation.
21 October
Why B.C., Alberta are ending their pipeline standoff
New thaw seen in getting Alberta’s oil sands bitumen to West Coast
At the moment, the B.C.–Alberta relationship over pipelines and oil is definitely warming. But once reality starts to intrude it may not take all that much in the way of public pushback to put it back in the deep freeze.
29 October
Pipeline safety: Canada lags U.S. on making data public
Maps, detailed reports available online in the U.S.
(CBC) In Canada, general maps are available from individual pipeline companies, but there is no comprehensive one showing all the systems and their exact locations.
The difference in the U.S. is that any member of the public can go online and view maps of pipelines accurate to about 150 metres right across the country.
25 October
New environmental review rules anger oilsands critics
Government unveils changes to review requirements
(CBC) The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency released lists Friday outlining changes to the types of resource development and infrastructure projects that will routinely require a federal environmental assessment. The federal review is intended to look at possible environmental impacts under federal jurisdiction, such as impacts on waterways or greenhouse gas emissions.
One concern that environmentalists have with the new rules is they won’t require environmental reviews for a growing type of oilsands development.
Major oil, gas and provincial pipelines excluded from list requiring environmental reviews
(The Gazette) Some major oil and gas projects and provincially regulated pipelines are among the types of development that won’t require an automatic federal environmental review before getting a green light, according to a new list published this week by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
… heavy oil or oilsands processing facilities, deep underground oilsands drilling operations, such as one that has recently experienced a blowout in northern Alberta that was ongoing for months, could proceed without any federal review, in the absence of a special request from the environment minister.
21 October
Judge refuses injunction extension as Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock stands with anti-fracking warriors
First Nation vows to continue opposition to shale gas exploration
Last Thursday, New Brunswick RCMP enforced an injunction against an anti-hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — blockade outside a Rexton, N.B. facility owned by SWN Resources Canada, who has been conducting seismic testing in the province. The confrontation turned violent, with RCMP officers firing bean bag rounds and pepper spray. Six police vehicles were torched and Molotov cocktails were thrown, the RCMP say. They also said explosives and legal firearms were found at the encampment.
On Monday, a New Brunswick judge ruled against an indefinite expansion of the injunction against protesters.
New Brunswick fracking protests are the frontline of a democratic fight
(The Guardian) Images of burning cars and narratives about Canadian natives breaking the law obscure the real story about the Mi’kmaq people’s opposition to shale gas exploration
19 October
N.B. fracking protests and the fight for aboriginal rights
Duty to consult at core of conflict over shale gas development
Protests this month at a potential shale gas site in New Brunswick involve an issue that has been at the heart of resource development battles across Canada — the duty to consult and accommodate aboriginal people when the development is on their traditional land.
The latest round of the protests by Elsipogtog First Nation members and their supporters resulted in a violent clash Thursday when the RCMP moved in to enforce a court injunction against the protesters’ blockade.
But long before that, local First Nations leaders were raising concerns about the failure of government and industry to consult with them before development went ahead.
4 September
Elizabeth May: Feds spending $120M to ‘grease’ Northern Gateway bid
(Canadian Press via iPolitics) Federal Green party Leader Elizabeth May claims leaked documents show taxpayers are subsidizing the bid to build the proposed $6-billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline with about $120 million in government studies.
While Ottawa is cutting major science research projects across Canada, May says the documents reveal the federal government has embarked on at least two major initiatives that are “greasing the wheels” for Enbridge, the Calgary-based firm proposing the pipeline.
May says the Harper government is spending at least $78 million on marine spill studies specifically connected to bitumen, the molasses-like crude that will be shipped in the pipeline between Alberta and B.C.
She also says the documents reveal Ottawa is spending $42 million to study ways to improve weather forecasting in the coastal regions that will be used by oil tankers if the project is approved [emphasis added] by the federal Joint Review Panel. More: Green Party reveals over $100 million federal spending supporting Enbridge tanker plans
29 August
The Economic Benefits of Pipeline Projects to Eastern Canada
by Jean-François Minardi
(MEI) Filling up at the gas station represents only 43% of the oil we use. In fact, hydrocarbon by-products are all around us and shape our daily lives: telephones, ballpoint pens, clothing made from synthetic fibres, toothpaste… The city’s petrochemical sector, which provides 3,600 quality jobs, is heavily reliant on a steady supply of affordable hydrocarbons. This is exactly what the Western provinces have to offer. The question is therefore not if this oil will be transported to Quebec, but how: using a network of pipelines, most of which already exist, or by train, a riskier, more harmful option. Read report
5 August
Pipeline safety will be focus of new group
(RCInet)The federal government, the provincial governments of Alberta and British Columbia as well as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the pipeline association are forming the Canadian Pipeline Technology Collaborative.
Pipeline industry spokeswoman Brenda Kenny says the organization is expected to up and running this fall. She says universities, environmental and aboriginal groups will eventually be invited to the table. She gave no date for their participation.
10 July
Keystone’s fate ultimately depends on railroads
The Lac-Mégantic rail tragedy has prompted some instant analysis that pipeline companies will profit from new concerns about shipping oil by train. But the future of one pipeline, the Keystone XL into the U.S., depends on the oil industry’s ability to ship its product by rail. … the State Department found that if Alberta oil is not piped through Keystone XL, it can always be loaded on a train. Because of that, the draft report found that “approval or denial of the proposed project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands…”
ble decisions out of fear of political blowback — see Barack Obama’s latest twist on Keystone XL, which now has to pass a new test about whether it will have a “net” impact on climate change.
9 July
TransCanada CEO on Lac-Mégantic: ‘No good news here for anybody’
Quebec has become an object of desire for the Canadian crude industry, whose expansion ambitions have faced tough opposition in the United States and British Columbia. By sending oil east, the oil sands could find new domestic markets.
While it waits for Washington’s decision on its proposed Keystone XL pipeline through the U.S., TransCanada Corp. is laying plans to pump oil through natural gas pipelines to Quebec. TransCanada has frequently spoken about the demand it could serve on the U.S. eastern seaboard, and Canadian energy companies have made clear their desire to reach that market.
8 July
Claudia Cattaneo: Quebec rail tragedy serves as reminder that oil pipeline debate has led to poor decisions
(Financial Post) The number of dead from Quebec’s Lac-Mégantic tragic rail accident are still being counted, and yet both sides in the oil pipeline debate are using the event to bolster their agendas. Environmentalists are arguing it’s another wake-up call that oil is bad for the planet, while pipeline proponents maintain that the incident proves that pipelines are safer than rail and projects like Keystone XL should be approved.
The real wake-up call is that the clash between the two worldviews is leading to a lot of poor decisions. Oil companies are being driven to jump on the rail bandwagon — despite mounting evidence that it’s less safe. Environmentalists refuse to let go of totally unrealistic expectations that the world must get off its oil addiction. Their activism is stalling the approval of heavy-oil pipelines and pushing oil into trains, trucks and barges. Politicians caught in the middle are avoiding making reasona
6 July
Megantic oil train explosionTrain carrying crude oil rolls away then derails, explodes in Lac Mégantic
The train that careened into the centre of town in Lac Mégantic early Saturday morning was unmanned when it derailed and exploded in a huge ball of flame, says a spokesperson for the company that owned the locomotive. … the train’s conductor stopped in nearby Nantes, locked the brakes and checked to ensure that the rail cars carrying thousands of litres of crude oil were all securely attached.
Incident raises questions about train safety.
The fatal derailment that caused a freight train to explode in Lac Mégantic Saturday is raising questions about railroad safety in Canada.
While many of the technical specifications surrounding the crashed locomotive remain unknown, the 73-car train was carrying thousands of litres of crude oil when it exploded and killed at least one person in the southeastern Quebec town.
And, as environmentalists are pointing out, the tanker carts most commonly used to transport crude oil have a “high incidence” of failure during accidents according to investigations by U.S. and Canadian authorities.
1 July
Did Obama Just Clear the Keystone XL?
Some pundits seized on the bottom-line requirement that “this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution” as a signal that the pipeline will proceed. Forbes energy reporter Christopher Helman went so far as to conclude that “Obama Declares Keystone XL Will Be Approved.”
As Helman points out, the State Department’s Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Keystone XL Pipeline project has already concluded that approval of the project would have little impact on global carbon dioxide emissions or on the development of the oil sands, because the oil will get to market one way or another.
25 June
Canada says sees no net increase in emissions from Keystone
(Planet Ark) “On a net basis, we don’t see any increase in emissions as a result of the construction of the pipeline,” Oliver told reporters in Toronto. He said at least 20 percent of the oil transported by Keystone would be lighter grades of crude that would not come from the tar sands and would therefore not be carbon intensive to produce.
24 June
TransCanada plans pipeline through Ottawa
(Ottawa Citizen) TransCanada Corp.’s proposal for its massive $5-billion Energy East pipeline project could send as many as 850,000 barrels of crude oil a day through rural areas in the south end of Ottawa and across the Rideau River. …
TransCanada plans to retrofit the underused 3,000-kilometre Canadian Mainline natural gas pipeline, which already runs through the region, so it can carry crude oil from Alberta’s oilsands to refineries on Canada’s East Coast.
A 1,400-kilometre extension has also been proposed to carry oil as far as Saint John, N.B., where Irving Oil has a refinery.
The project is intended to help reduce Eastern Canada’s dependence on imported oil, while offering Alberta oil companies better access to shipping ports where crude can be loaded onto oil tankers and sent overseas. TransCanada has said it would like to see the crude oil flowing east as early as 2017.
… The pipeline’s proposed path would funnel crude oil through the region’s rural residential areas, many of which are dependent on wells for their drinking water. …
TransCanada isn’t the only company that has announced plans to move crude oil from Alberta’s oilsands to new markets. Enbridge Inc. wants to expand the capacity of some pipes in the Great Lakes region — especially the Line 9 pipeline, which would move massive amounts of crude to Montreal through southern Ontario. Adrangi said the Line 9 proposal, which has attracted protests, will also see crude oil moved through highly populated areas as it is transported east.
17 June
Pipeline lawyer makes case for approval, says Northern Gateway will benefit all Canadians
A lawyer for the Northern Gateway oil pipeline told a federal review panel Monday that there are many reasons the controversial project should be approved – billions of them, in fact.
In final arguments to the federal panel reviewing the project, Richard Neufeld stressed that the pipeline between Alberta and the B.C. coast will ensure Canadian producers get full market value for their product.
Its Top Regulator a Petro Insider, Alberta Faces New Major Spill
Plains Midstream is a repeat offender in two countries.
(The Tyee) On June 15 Plains Midstream, a subsidiary of Plains All American Pipelines reported a 1,000 barrel condensate spill near Manning, Alberta.
The Midstream spill follows another hazardous rupture on an Apache-owned pipeline near Zama City. It contaminated 42 hectares of muskeg with 60,000 barrels of toxic waste water.
The spills will do nothing to silence critics demanding tighter regulation of Alberta’s oil and gas industry. Their anger was already stoked by the province’s choice to head the newly created Alberta Energy Regulator — industry insider Gerard Protti, former vice president of energy giant Encana and founder of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
13 June
Northern Alberta pipeline was only five years old before toxic spill
(Globe & Mail) … and designed to last for 30, according to top executives with Apache Canada, the company responsible for a large spill of toxic oil and gas waste.
Toxic waste spill in northern Alberta biggest of recent disasters in North America
(Globe & Mail) The substance is the inky black colour of oil, and the treetops are brown. Across a broad expanse of northern Alberta muskeg, the landscape is dead. It has been poisoned by a huge spill of 9.5 million litres of toxic waste from an oil and gas operation in northern Alberta, the third major leak in a region whose residents are now questioning whether enough is being done to maintain aging energy infrastructure.
The spill was first spotted on June 1. But not until Wednesday did Houston-based Apache Corp. release estimates of its size, which exceeds all of the major recent spills in North America.
5 June
Keystone XL ‘Anomalies’ Prompt TransCanada To Repair Brand-New Pipeline
In what at least one expert is calling a “very unusual” move, TransCanada Corp. is reportedly digging up and rebuilding dozens of sections of the already-completed part of the Keystone XL pipeline.
According to multiple news reports, a 100-kilometre stretch of the pipeline running near the Sabine River in north Texas is being dug up in multiple spots just months after parts of the pipeline were originally put in the ground. …
Landowners in the area say pipeline workers told them there are at least 40 repair sites along the stretch of pipeline.
TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard told the Longview, Texas, News-Journal that inspections had revealed “small imperfections” in the pipe. (See comment)
4 June
B.C. just says no to Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline
The panel will be considering a lot of issues as it reviews the merits of the pipeline, but with the B.C. government firmly against it, plus many First Nations who live along the proposed pipeline’s route, it’s safe to say the future of Northern Gateway is more uncertain today than it’s ever been.
(Alberta Oil Magazine) “[Northern Gateway] has presented little evidence about how it will respond in the event of a spill,” the government wrote in its submission.
There are several other zingers in the submission (you can find the entire thing here), including its view that the Joint Review Panel tasked with reviewing the project should not approve it “on the basis of a promise to do more study and planning once the certificate is granted. The standard in this particular case must be higher. And yet, it is respectfully submitted, [Northern Gateway] has not met that standard. ‘Trust me” is not good enough in this case.” (31 May)

Douglas Channel -northern-pipeline-852-8col

Douglas Channel, the proposed termination point for an oil pipeline in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, is pictured in an aerial view in Kitimat, B.C. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

B.C. rejects Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal

‘Our questions were not satisfactorily answered,’ environment minister says about review panel hearings
(CBC) The B.C. government has rejected a proposal for the Northern Gateway pipeline project, saying it fails to address the province’s environmental concerns.
The province made the announcement in its final written submission to the Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review Panel.
“British Columbia thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence and submissions made to the panel and asked substantive questions about the project, including its route, spill response capacity and financial structure to handle any incidents,” said Environment Minister Terry Lake.
16 May
How Ottawa will try to make Christy Clark love pipelines
On the surface, Ms. Clark would appear persuadable. She campaigned on an “economy-first” platform and ridiculed Mr. Dix’s interventionist, environmentalist positions that she said would bring the provincial economy to a halt. But while oil-sands expansion and market diversification is a prominent part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s “economy first” approach, the Liberal premier sees little benefit to her province from the pipelines. And there is some risk to the existing economic base on the northerly coast, where First Nations have developed fisheries and other sustainable industries.
Stephen Harper’s Oilsands Roadshow Meets With Opposition
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in New York today to persuade influential Americans that the Keystone XL pipeline will give them the North American energy independence they have been seeking.
Harper is meeting with business leaders and engaging in a one-on-one question-and-answer session at the Council for Foreign Relations.
Canada’s oilsands and the pipeline needed to ship crude down to the Gulf Coast will figure prominently in Harper’s remarks, with an emphasis on the economic and energy security benefits they will bring, said one senior official.
26 April
Clement: Ontario ‘Ring Of Fire’ Will Be Canada’s Next Oil Sands
(HuffPost) Ontario’s “Ring of Fire” mining project promises to be the economic equivalent of another oil sands, Treasury Board President Tony Clement says.
Clement, who was recently appointed the federal government’s point man on Northern Ontario development, said the giant mining project — which faces delays and opposition from some First Nations groups — would eventually expand to be worth $120 billion, when taking into account all the economic activity the planned mine and smelter would generate.
9 April
National Energy Board: Enbridge Permission
(CBC Radio | As It Happens) The National Energy Board has a page up on its website for people wishing to participate in public hearings on big new energy projects, like pipelines. The page promises, quote, “This application process is very simple — state your interest in the project and the reason you wish to make a statement.” But last week, the NEB released a new form, one ten pages long. And it isn’t exactly simple. THE NEB spokeswoman admits that there has never been a complaint regarding fairness or efficiency of hearings, although according to the NEB Website: The changes to the Act are intended to promote fairness and efficiency by ensuring Board hearings can take place in a timely manner. the new form has been introduced apparently to address such complaints.
8 April
Keystone Pipeline Opponents Cite State Dept. Funny Business & Oozing Oil To Demand (Further) Review
if executives at TransCanada felt they had successfully weathered the worst of what has been a uniquely acrimonious, five-year battle with environmentalists and other critics of the project  … events of the last week or so will have curbed their enthusiasm.
On Monday afternoon, a coalition of environmental and public interest groups fired off a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and the State Department’s Inspector General, Harold Geisel, demanding a probe into the agency’s handling of its widely criticized environmental review of the proposed project. Chief among the charges: that the third-party contractor hired to conduct the analysis, Environmental Resources Management, effectively lied when asked by the State Department, in a screening questionnaire, whether it had any potential conflicts of interest.
… Virtually any assemblage of archaeologists, geologists, wildlife experts, air quality analysts and other reviewers with the necessary and concomitant expertise in assessing oil and gas pipeline projects would likely have résumés that include, well, oil and gas pipeline consulting. But the State Department and ERM did themselves — and by extension, TransCanada — no favors by hiding the work histories of ERM staff in a heavily and, it turns out, clumsily redacted document released as part of the long-anticipated environmental review.
3 April
Pipeline problems potentially cost Canada billions: report
(CTV) Canada lost out on about $25 billion in oil revenues last year due to pipeline and production bottlenecks and is expected to lose $15 billion a year going forward until it deals with its infrastructure deficit, a new CIBC report says.
CIBC economists Avery Shenfeld and Peter Buchanan said the record price discount received by Western producers of heavy oil — mostly bitumen — is no longer the issue it once was, but Canada will continue to lose big time until it permanently solves its pipeline deficit.
“Refinery/upgrader restarts, and a heavier reliance on flexible but costlier to operate ‘rail pipelines,’ have seen a fairly dramatic improvement lately,” the report states.
21 March
Oil spill clean-up ship hit sandbar en route to government news conference in Vancouver
(Vancouver Sun) British Columbia’s largest oil spill response vessel got stuck on a sandbar en route to a federal news conference about strengthening Canada’s oil spill defences.
The shipping-industry-funded company in charge of the vessel confirmed it ran aground briefly on an uncharted sandbar off Sand Heads at the mouth of the Fraser River en route from its Esquimalt base to the Coal Harbour news conference. But it denied the ship had a “close quarters situation” with a B.C. ferry near Active Pass earlier Monday – as claimed by the Coast Guard’s marine communications union.
In a news release Wednesday, Canadian Auto Workers Local 2182 spokesman Allan Hughes said the vessel’s slow trip to the conference underscored how ill-prepared B.C. is for an oil spill.
13 March
Alberta tailings pond
Syncrude’s large tailings pond, called Base Mine Lake, is seen with the oilands plant in the background.

Province approves ‘contentious’ method for cleaning up Alberta oilsands tailings
Alberta Environment approved new guidelines for constructing large artificial lakes in the northeast to store toxic tailings and close off old oilsands mine sites, though the technology remains “contentious.”
The department’s endorsement of so-far unproven technology was welcomed by Syncrude (surprise, surprise), the first oilsands operator trying out the technology to transform a 20-year-old tailings pond into a clean lake.
About 30 artificial lakes are planned as an alternative to reforesting some of thousands of hectares of boreal forest dug up to get at the oilsands — as well as to store tailings or waste from the open-pit mines. Called “end pit lakes,” they are constructed in the last pit of a mine.
Lawrence Solomon: Obama will block Keystone
Not needed for U.S. energy security or employment
6 March
Harper government targets U.S. reporters to promote Keystone XL pipeline
The Harper government has created an elaborate strategy to promote approval of the Keystone XL pipeline that includes an outreach program targeting American journalists behind the scenes, newly released diplomatic correspondence reveals.
The documents reveal a flurry of activity among Canadian diplomats in the United States, dating back to the summer of 2011, as unexpected delays and a national North American protest movement started to emerge regarding Alberta-based TransCanada’s pipeline expansion proposal, which is still under review by the Obama administration.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver continued government efforts to promote the pipeline during stops in U.S. cities this week by suggesting that the oilsands industry was green. Bitumen, a tar-like heavy oil found in natural deposits of northern Alberta, is criticized by some scientists and environmentalists as one of the dirtiest forms of oil in the world because it requires massive amounts of energy and water to extract.
A series of internal records obtained by Postmedia News in recent months have also suggested that the Harper government deliberately tried to downplay scientific evidence about the industry’s environmental footprint on air, water and wildlife, while discouraging federal scientists from speaking publicly about their oilsands research revealing evidence that the industry is contaminating natural ecosystems.
19 February
Washington is right: Canada must confront its climate neglect
(Globe & Mail) U.S. President Barack Obama, through his ambassador to Canada, has every right to ask our federal government to do more to fight climate change. The United States is on track to meet its climate targets. Sunday in Washington, more than 30,000 people took part in the largest climate rally in U.S. history. Mr. Obama has committed more than $90-billion for clean energy. He recently made fighting climate change a major priority for his second term.
To expedite pipeline approvals, the federal government used its 2012 federal budget bill to force through sweeping changes to environmental laws that could have stood in the way of rapid pipeline approval. The government has also cut support for climate research.
The fact is that the government and industry plan to triple oil sands production in the next seven years. The resulting emissions will cancel out every other effort in Canada to reduce climate pollution. Emissions related to the Keystone XL pipeline alone would add pollution equivalent to 4.6 million cars. (And that’s only counting Canadian emissions, not downstream emissions from refining and burning the oil).
18 February
Andrew Leach: The ‘economics’ of upgrading
(Rescuing the frog) Why would you buy an oilsands lease, or if you had one, why might you chose to invest billions of dollars of your money, up front, to produce oil for the next 40-50 years? The answer is pretty simple – given your view of future oil prices, the costs of building and operating the plant, and the share of your revenues that the government will take in royalties and taxes, you’d have to be confident that you could make a rate of return on your capital equal to or greater than what you could earn on it in a similarly risky investment somewhere else. If not, why do it?
The same is true for the decision to invest in an upgrader or refinery.
Newfoundland Shale Oil Find By Shoal Point Energy Is Potentially Huge
(Canadian Press via HuffPost) As a junior energy explorer comes closer to finding out whether North America’s next big shale oil find lies beneath the western coast of Newfoundland, concerns are being raised about the environmental effects fracking could have in the remote region. … As in other shale formations throughout North America, tapping the Green Point will require hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to unlock the resource. The process involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure in order to crack the rock.Fracking has unleashed huge supplies of natural gas and oil from shales across the continent, but it also brings with it controversy over its potential environmental effects.
4 February
Community hearings are a wrap! Now what?
(Dogwood Initiative) They held community hearings in 16 different towns and cities across British Columbia. They listened to presentations from everyday British Columbians for hour after hour, day after day. And when they wrapped up the community hearings in Vancouver on Friday, the three-person National Energy Board panel had heard from 1,159 speakers opposed to Enbridge’s proposal to bring an oil pipeline and tankers to B.C.’s coast and from just two in favour. … Many speakers noted that since Prime Minister Stephen Harper changed the law last year so he can overrule the joint review panel, they worried they were wasting their breath. Indeed, at this point, the joint review panel will not be making the final decision.
31 January
Keystone pipeline decision to languish until mid-June-US source
(Reuters) * State Dept needs to take series of steps
* Environmental review due any day
* No time frame for national interest determination
21 January
Obama’s vow on climate change signals bumpy road for Keystone
(Globe & Mail) Mr. Obama’s promise of action on climate change may signal trouble for the Canadian pipeline project, particularly if he is looking for a highly visible action that does not requires backing from Congress.
“After President Obama’s inaugural remarks about climate change, Keystone XL pipeline proponents should not assume he will approve it,” said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at Washington’s Center for American Progress.
11 January
Environmental groups feel harassed
Government declares war on environmental groups, activists say
(RCI) Environmental groups are battling several Canadian government initiatives they say are designed to hobble them. Cabinet ministers have attempted to discredit the groups calling them radical and accusing them of accepting foreign funding. Activists believe a government decision to audit charitable organizations is a thinly-disguised attack on the environmental movement.  The executive director of Greenpeace Canada, Bruce Cox told RCI’s Lynn Desjardins that his own organization did not seek charitable status specifically so it could be completely independent and not have to follow government rules. Other groups with charitable status are now having to waste time and energy responding to audits.

7 Comments on "Canada: Energy, environment & pipelines 2013 -2014"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson March 22, 2013 at 8:21 pm · Reply

    From Nick’s Gleanings #504:
    WHEN TO SAY NO (NYT, Editorial)

    The State Department’s latest environmental (but not definitive) assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline is silent on whether the President should approve it. We don’t think he should. He should see through the argument that it would ensure a supply of oil from a reliable supplier. Saying NO won’t stop Canada from developing the tar sands (although it will slow its development); but it will force the building of new pipelines in Canada & thus require Canadians themselves to decide if a massive tarsands expansion is prudent. After the State Department releases a fuller review in early summer, the White House’s decision will say much about whether the President & his Secretary of State are willing to assume global leadership, & walk the walk, not just talk the talk, on climate change.

    In response, the now about to be debt-ridden Alberta government spent $30,000 of taxpayers’ money on a lame half-page ad in the same paper, [claiming] among others that the pipeline “will create 42,100 (not 42,000, or 42,200?) direct and spin-off jobs during construction … (and) an average 138,000 American spin-off jobs per year for Americans for the next 25 years”, and that Canada is an “ally with a strong environmental record”. The former is an even greater exaggeration than that in a 2010 press release by TransCanada, the line’s sponsor, which said a new study had shown it would create 13,000 jobs & a 118,000 spin-off jobs, numbers which since then have become increasingly disputed and reduced. And the latter too is a laughable claim, if not an outright misrepresentation of fact. Canada’s Environment Minister faithfully parrots Prime Minister Harper’s ‘environmental Neanderthal’ line that environmentalists are ‘radicals bent on destroying the Canadian economy’. And while it is true that since Mr. Harper became Prime Minister Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions have declined on a total-, per capita- and GDP-intensity basis, this was from very high levels; relatively speaking Canada has done no better than the US (which ain’t saying much), and on a per capita basis its green house gas emissions are still twice those of Japan & 3½ x those of the EU.

  2. Diana Thebaud Nicholson June 7, 2013 at 3:37 pm · Reply

    Re Keystone XL ‘Anomalies’, I asked an expert Friend of Wednesday Night for a definition of anomaly in this context: The response is too good not to share:
    I don’t know that there is an official definition of a pipeline anomaly. I think it is code for “we forgot to put the gaskets in the joints” or “we forgot to properly seal the joints” or “we forgot to x-ray the joints” or “we didn’t x-ray the welding on the joints to save money and we got caught and now we have to do it”.
    The same expert wonders whether the “small imperfections” in the pipe are like when a piece of concrete falls off a Montreal overpass or building and kills someone?

  3. Silver Price July 8, 2013 at 7:54 pm · Reply

    TransCanada’s Girling has also argued that if Canadian oil doesn’t reach the Gulf through an environmentally friendly buried pipeline, that the alternative is oil that will be brought in by tanker, a mode of transportation that produces higher greenhouse-gas emissions and that puts the environment at greater risk.

  4. Diana Thebaud Nicholson September 8, 2013 at 2:22 am · Reply

    Nick’s Gleanings #527
    US oil refiners are increasingly starting to discount the probability of the (Northern leg of) the Keystone pipeline ever being built, in part because of the growing volume of rail- and Enbridge’s expanding pipeline infrastructure- moving oil South. This would be be both good & bad news for the Harper government; the latter because it has expended much political capital at home & in Washington promoting it, and the former because it will enhance the likelihood that the ‘National Pipeline’ from Alberta to Ontario & points East will go ahead (even though it will leave a big hole in the pipeline infrastructure needed to move all the oil to market that the industry has been planning to produce from the oil sands in the years to come, and that the Alberta economy & the provincial treasury need to maintain their recent growth path.

  5. Diana Thebaud Nicholson September 13, 2013 at 1:11 am · Reply

    Nick’s Gleanings #528A
    Thirty-eight years ago Canada’s Enbridge built a 600 km., 30 inch pipeline to carry imported oil from Montreal through, or near, some of Canada’s most densely populated regions to a terminal point West of Toronto to provide feedstock for nearby refineries. Now it wants to reverse it, at a cost of $110MM, to bring “cheap” oil from the Bakken & the oil sands to Montreal refineries – apart from the environmentalists’ objections in principle to the idea, it seems to have two, & not just one, Achilles heels. First of all, 38 year-old pipe should be ripped out of the ground & recycled, rather than given a new lease on life (apparently Enbridge has learnt nothing from the rupture of its 34 year-old pipeline three years ago in Michigan), especially since Alberta ‘dilbit’ (diluted bitumen) is more corrosive than other crudes & the Lac Mégantic train derailment debacle is now said to have been caused in part by the greater than average explosive characteristics of some Bakken oils. And secondly Alberta & Bakken oil producers may have something to say about being expected to have their oil hauled long distances to generate “cheap” feedstock for Québec refineries (especially since pipelines require long-term commitments by producers, whereas rail transportation doesn’t).

  6. Diana Thebaud Nicholson April 20, 2014 at 1:02 pm · Reply

    Fom Nick’s Gleanings #558
    Alberta’s oil sands operators6, & the Province itself, have their hopes pinned on two pipelines through BC to move 1+MM bbld of future oilsands output to energy-hungry Pacific Rim markets. The Kinder Morgan one will likely materialize (although it will no doubt encounter some opposition along the way); for it involves the twinning of an existing pipeline almost in its entirety on a right-of-way already owned by the company. The Enbridge-sponsored Northern Gateway, is a ‘greenfield project’ & a much longer shot, at least with it as its sponsor. For, like TransCanada with its Keystone XL line South to the Gulf of Mexico heavy oil refineries, Enbridge failed to appreciate that getting approval for new pipelines is no longer a formality; so it marched in seven league boots, rather than moccasins, creating such opposition & ill will among the 30+ Indian bands whose land the pipeline would traverse, the environmental lobby7, the provincial government & public opinion in general that the project for all intents & purposes has been halted in its tracks & is at a standstill.

    There have been three recent developments. The Harper government, that (rightly) sees the Northern Gateway as a project of national importance, has orchestrated Enbridge in a last ditch effort naming Jim Prentice, currently CIBC Vice-Chairman but previously in succession Minister of Indian Affairs, Industry, and Environment, to market the project (supposedly with a mandate to offer whatever it will take to do so), a move possibly “too little too late”. On April 12th an unofficial referendum by the Kitimat municipal council decisively rejected, 58 – 42, the idea of their city becoming the line’s terminal point, with a voter turnout of 30+% of the total population, despite an aggressive promotional campaign by Enbridge (to the point of having half a dozen of its employees door knocking full time). And on April 15th a competing pipeline sponsorship proposal was unveiled by a First Nations-backed group, one of whom referred to Enbridge’s proposal as “beads and trinkets’, the same day the Company proudly announced it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Pipeline Contractors Association of Canada & four unions that it called “a major development and a major step forward”, further evidence of its boneheadedness – if, in the end, this project were to go ahead, Enbridge’s role in it likely will be minimal, if any.

  7. Jeannette Whitton Ph.D. April 23, 2014 at 3:16 pm · Reply

    “This listing decision is getting a lot of attention, and I thought I would point out a couple of details that might be getting lost.
    First, listing decisions involve two steps: a species gets assessed by COSEWIC. By law, COSEWIC is not allowed to consider the economic or political consequences of a listing decision. They only use scientific and aboriginal tradition knowledge.
    The government then looks at COSEWIC’s assessment and decides whether or not to list a species. They can consider socio-economic impacts, and they do consult with stakeholders (who can include industry).
    Second, in the case of Humpback, COSEWIC assigned a status of special concern, which the government is supporting. The idea that is floating out there that COSEWIC is somehow under the influence of the government is absurd. If governments were elected by scientists, I sincerely doubt this government would be in power. In fact, I am sure it would not. Ironically, COSEWIC is far more likely to be perceived by the government as aligned with the eco-activists. The reality is that I have never (in my seven years as a member of COSEWIC, covering the period during which this species was assessed) seen a more rigorous, open and apolitical process.
    Third, I think it is legitimate to be concerned about the Northern gateway pipeline’s impact on Humpback’s, but unless there is an approved project, that threat is speculative. The threat becomes real if the project goes forward.
    Fourth, the speed with which this decision was reached is highly suspect. There are nearly 100 species waiting for listing decisions, and most have been waiting more than a year, some more than 5 years. This species waited less than 60 days. Three species of bats were put forth for an emergency listing decision after dramatic declines of more than 90%. The bats have been waiting more than two years. I’m sure there are species waiting that, if listed, would stand in the way of this pipeline. Why can’t we get decisions on these?”
    Jeannette Whitton,
    Associate Professor, Department of Botany,
    UBC Vancouver

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