Canada: Energy, environment & pipelines 2012

Written by  //  November 29, 2012  //  Canada, Oil & gas  //  3 Comments

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
How Harper seized control of pipeline and health-care debates
Building a storyline that sticks helped the Conservatives sink two successive Liberal leaders and they are using the same strategy early in 2012 on a pair of major policy debates facing Canadians.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s team has attempted to leap out in front of its opponents and shape the narrative on the hot-button issues of health-care funding and oil pipeline construction.
Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel
NRDC November 29 2011 — Pipeline and Tanker Trouble: The Impact to British Columbia’s Communities, Rivers, and Pacific Coastline from Tar Sands Oil Transport (pdf)
Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines The First Nations Summit
Ah! Ha! The Financial Post now has a ‘trending’ section for Northern Gateway
(The Mark) Friends with benefits: Unearthing the connections between the Harper government,, and Sun Media
Retired sea captain: Don’t be fooled by Harper’s pipeline plans
I’ve sailed every part of this coast, seen just about every kind of storm, squall or system, and I’ve experienced every kind of tide, current or cycle imaginable. With this in mind I believe I am qualified to ask the simplest of questions: Why would anyone in their right mind ever consider the proposition of running supertankers through the seascape around Kitimat? (8 June 2012)


29 November
Tar Sands Oil Boom Drives Push for A Northern Pipeline
(Yale 360) The rapid development of Alberta’s tar sands has spawned a new proposal for a 731-mile pipeline that would transport oil to the British Columbia coast. The project is strongly opposed by conservationists and First Nations leaders, who fear the environmental risks it would bring.
by Ed Struzik
The Great Bear Rainforest is a 27,000-square-mile wilderness that stretches from southern British Columbia to the Alaska border. One of the last undisturbed temperate rainforests in the world, it is home to cougars, wolves, wolverine, grizzly bears, and the iconic Kermode, a unique subspecies of black bear with a recessive gene that is responsible for its fur being white.
The rainforest is far from the sprawling oil sands mines of Alberta. But if the Canadian government, the Alberta government, and the Canadian oil and pipeline company, Enbridge Inc., have their way, vast amounts of tar sands oil will one day be coursing through a 731-mile pipeline to a shipping terminal in the Great Bear Rainforest. There, giant tankers will transport the oil through British Columbia’s clean, frigid coastal waters to China and other parts of Asia.
26 October
An assessment from the West:
(Nick’s gleanings) The Keystone to Cushing, Okla. – It will get done at some point (even though its sponsor, Trans-Canada, is currently in the glare of public attention because a year ago a six months-new gas pipeline in Wyoming had a blow-out. But Cushing is a sub-optimal market for Alberta oil. Currently the WTI price is US$25 below Brent (& some believe Keystone may widen that by adding to the glut at the Cushing ‘choke point’). In any case the case for this pipeline is driven by Gulf Coast refiners wanting a cheap replacement for the cheap heavy oil they used to get from Venezuela & Mexico (CIBC World Markets said earlier this year that the WTI discount had cost Alberta oil producers US$16BN in 2011 &, by implication, the Alberta government US$5BN).
The Kinder Morgan expansion to Burnaby, B.C. – Some work is underway on its right-of-way between Edmonton & Burnaby. But even if completed as the Company proposes, it would, at best, move only less than one-third of the forecast increase in oilsands output, and hurdles abound before any increased amount of oil can start flowing through it. Vancouver’s Mayor has raised the spectre of an oil tanker going aground near, & polluting the shores of, the city’s iconic Stanley Park. Burnaby’s mayor has gone on record as saying “There is nothing in it for us”. A few years ago the existing line had a spill in Burnaby that has created enduring local ill will (which conveniently overlooks the fact the break was caused by a contractor working for the city). It would require expansion of both the Company’s Burnaby tank farm cum terminal (the current capacity of which would be less than two days of the line’s increased throughput) and of Vancouver’s Westridge Terminal. Dredging would be required if tankers greater than 120,000 dwt were to be used (which is almost inevitable since a) a 120,000 dwt tanker can carry only about 1MM bbls, i.e. little more than one day of the line’s planned new throughput & b) the most popular, commonly used-, & readily available & cost-effective tankers are far bigger than that).
The Northern Gateway to Kitimat B.C
. – This project is even deader than the proverbial dodo bird, at least in its present form & under its present sponsorship. Enbridge (& behind the scenes Prime Minister Harper) in continuing to flog this idea are literally ‘looking up a dead horse’s a***hole. BC’s current Premier is unhelpful on good days & outright hostile on bad ones; and this will, if anything, only get worse if, as expected, her government is replaced by an NDP one next year. A column by a former BC civil servant in one of the newspapers recently suggested that from Day One Enbridge had displayed “hubris” & done everything wrong that it possibly could have done wrong so that, as a result, the project is now beyond redemption. For, he said, it had underestimated the leverage the Indians have because, after a century, their land claims remain largely unsettled (with, he said, progress having all but totally stalled since Harper came to power), had sought to orchestrate the project from its office towers in Calgary with no consideration given to secure local input or to local sensitivities, and, worst of all, operating all through the piece on the basis that British Columbians were a bunch of rubes that, as it is used to in Alberta, had no government willing to stand up for the rights of its citizens.
A ‘National Pipeline’ to Central-, & possibly even Eastern-, Canada
– This is being touted as a nation-strengthening exercise, a reincarnation in reverse of, & throwback to, the building of the CPR 140 years ago. In a way such a pipeline would make sense since the traditional North-South flows of trade on which Canada’s well-being historically has depended [& that were boosted further in the past 25+ years by Mulroney’s FTA (Free Trade Agreement)] seem to be subsiding & Canada’s future economic salvation likely lies in developing more East-West networks. But times have changed since the latter 1800’s. Then the West was a backwater & now Central Canada fears it could become one. This project is being promoted by a Central Canadian establishment just about as ignorant of Alberta sensitivities as Enbridge was of British Columbia’s (& its project therefore likely to meet the same fate as the Northern Gateway : DOA). There is no shortage of oil east of the Manitoba border. But it comes at Brent prices. And the denizens of Ontario & Québec are being led to believe that, as fellow Canadians, they are entitled to share in Alberta’s oil bonanza by getting its oil on the cheap on a WTI-price basis, whereas Albertans feel strongly that a) they are already doing more than their fair share of spreading the wealth through things like equalization, b) Alberta’s oil ‘belongs’ to Albertans, just as Québec’s hydro power ‘belongs’ to the Québeçois (& Manitoba’s to the Manitobans?), & must be to benefit them, not the buyers, & c) if they want to share in the wealth, they can always move to Alberta. The well for this baby in the proposed format was poisoned long ago by the still much-hated Trudeau/Lalonde “National Energy Policy” (NEP) thirty years ago & cannot help but founder on a perception in Alberta that it is nothing but NEP 2.0, or the ’NEP’ in drag’.
24 October
Quality concerns arose before TransCanada pipeline blast
Company proposing Keystone XL under scrutiny for previous line failure
A CBC News investigation has learned that TransCanada Pipelines — the Canadian company behind the controversial U.S. Keystone XL pipeline proposal — was troubled by quality-assurance problems on another recent American pipeline that exploded.
The Bison natural-gas pipeline exploded in a remote area near Gillette, Wyo., on July 20, 2011, six months after it went into service. The explosion blew out a 12-metre section of pipeline and shook buildings more than a kilometre away, but caused no injuries or death. Documents obtained by CBC News detail a pipeline project with problems relating to welding and inspection.
18 October
TransCanada shuts down Keystone pipeline temporarily
No leaks detected but system shut down as a precaution
13 October
Shipping crude by rail needs no regulatory approval, PM told
(CBC) Rail companies face no regulatory hurdles for hauling western Canadian crude oil to markets, but pipelines — which do face such hurdles — remain more efficient, says a briefing note for the prime minister obtained by The Canadian Press
5 October
Jeffrey Simpson: You heard it here: Northern Gateway’s dead
Yes, regulatory hearings before the National Energy Board will continue until the NEB approves the project. And yes, Enbridge will keep pushing for it. And yes, the Harper government, which is so publicly committed to the project, will continue to extol its virtues as part of the need to get Canadian resources to Asia. But the project is dead. It has too many obstacles now, and there’ll be more in the future.
… The diminished prospects for Gateway make it somewhat more attractive building further pipeline capacity down the Fraser River to the Lower Mainland, where the Kinder Morgan-owned Trans Mountain pipeline already runs. The prospect of more ships in Vancouver’s harbour is among the obstacles for this project.
Trains? They don’t carry the capacity of pipelines. But they arouse less opposition, so that option has a better chance politically than a pipeline for bitumen to the Pacific. Shipping more oil to Eastern Canada seems to be the easiest option politically of all.
But bitumen oil to Asia through northern B.C. just ain’t going to happen.
26 September
Environmentalists sue to force Ottawa to protect species along Northern Gateway route
(Globe & Mail) One of the most powerful foes of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline through northern British Columbia is not a lawyer or a conservation group or any of the many First Nations who have lined up against the project.
It’s a very large, very, very old fish.
The Nechako white sturgeon is listed as an endangered species under the federal Species At Risk Act, a designation which is supposed to legally protect the sturgeon’s habitat so the species can recover.
17 September
Gateway pipeline hearings resume: First Nations get chance to question Enbridge
Lawyers for an aboriginal group fighting the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline have raised more questions about who could end up with ownership stakes.
Hana Boye, who represents the Haisla band which claims much of the pipeline’s route as its traditional territory, queried Enbridge officials on who put up money for 10 $10-million option agreements that could guarantee their holders space in the pipeline and a share of its ownership.
Lawyers for environmental groups had already raised questions at hearings earlier this month about the possibility of Chinese interests buying control of the project. On Monday, Enbridge vice-president John Fisher said most of the purchasers have been identified. Those who aren’t are covered by a confidentiality agreement, he said. Under further questioning, Fisher conceded that the Chinese state-owned oil company Sinopec owns one of the $10-million units. Read it on Global News: Global News | Gateway pipeline hearings resume: First Nations get chance to question Enbridge
26 August
Northern Gateway: Enbridge Oil Spill Cleanup Plans Not Specific For Diluted Bitumen, Say Scientists
(Canadian Press) Enbridge officials confirm the spill response plan they have filed with the federal review panel studying the pipeline proposal deals with conventional crude, not specifically the diluted bitumen the pipeline will carry.
But Enbridge says the two react the same way once spilled.
However, documents obtained under access to information show a scientist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans argued vigorously for a chance to do more research.
22 August

One B.C. council offers guarded support for proposed refinery
(Canadian Press via CTV) A proposal to build a $13-billion refinery in B.C. to process oil from the Northern Gateway pipeline has been criticized for its lack of support, but one B.C. city council is taking a closer look.
Councillors in Kitimat, the proposed western terminus of the Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline, say they could support the refinery plan floated by media mogul David Black, if the development meets certain conditions. The guarded backing is the first since Black, the owner of several newspapers, including weeklies in B.C. and Alberta, announced the vision he thinks could save the proposed pipeline while bringing jobs and benefits to B.C.
19 August
This Is Not An Enbridge Animation: BC Video Response to Island-Less Ad (VIDEO)
(HuffPost) A dazzling video has hit the Internet in response to a promotional ad by Enbridge that omitted about 1,000 kilometres of islands along B.C.’s Douglas Channel.
The Enbridge animation is supposed to illustrate the marine route for oil tankers. It’s part of promotional materials for the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, which would see oil sands bitumen piped from northern Alberta to Kitimat on the B.C. coast, and then shipped to Asia.
A breathtaking new video called “This is not an Enbridge animation” fires back at the energy giant’s erroneous campaign. It features time-lapsed panoramas of actual locations along the proposed route, including mighty Kinuseo Falls, unrippled Burns Lake and the scenic coast of Kitimat.
Northern Gateway And ‘Science’: Time, Budget Running Out For Proper Environmental Assessment By DFO Say Critics

(Canadian Press) While Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the fate of Enbridge’s proposed pipeline from the Alberta oilsands to tankers on the British Columbia coast will be based on science and not politics, documents show some of that science isn’t forthcoming.
And critics say there is no time for the science to be completed before a federal deadline for the environmental assessment currently underway.
11 August
Scathing U.S. report missing from Northern Gateway hearings
(CBC) A scathing U.S. government report on the 2010 Enbridge oil spill in the Kalamazoo River, Mich., has yet to be entered as evidence into the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings, a B.C. economist says.
In an interview airing on CBC Radio’s The House, independent economist Robyn Allan told guest host Louise Elliott that while the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report was published in July, “Enbridge hasn’t tabled any information, at all, about the spill.” Allan says that Enbridge is underestimating the risks posed by the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline because the company’s risk assessment excludes the Kalamazoo spill.
9 August
Conservatives continue to soften tone on Northern Gateway pipeline
(Toronto Star) The federal government expressed concerns Thursday about the safety record of oil pipelines as the Harper Conservatives continued to soften their once gung-ho attitude toward building a pipeline through northern British Columbia.
“There have been some recent spills and as a government we’re not happy with that,” Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver told CBC-TV.
Oliver pointed out that pipelines are the safest way to transport oil and natural gas. But he said avoiding spills has to be “absolutely a critical objective and it’s very important the industry agree” with that objective. Oliver added that he believes the industry does agree and is taking steps to improve pipeline safety.
It’s part of new political tack by the federal Conservatives, who until recently lauded the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline as a national priority that needed to be built as quickly as possible to open Asian markets to petroleum from the oilsands. But with polls showing a majority of B.C. residents opposed to Northern Gateway, the Harper government has adjusted its approach
‘Politically charged’ pipelines get new public push
(CBC) Industry launches campaign as Enbridge CEO admits ‘we don’t like being in the public eye’
Energy pipeline companies may prefer to focus on quietly conducting their business underground. But in the aftermath of high-profile oil spills and in the middle of a contentious political debate over the desirability of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project, the industry is taking more obvious steps to confront its critics.
On Thursday, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association called reporters to a press conference in Ottawa to announce its “Integrity First” initiative – something it has been developing incrementally behind the scenes for about four years, but now realizes it needs to make more public.
“We’re making some important decisions in our country about new pipeline projects and the role of energy in Canada,” said Brenda Kenney, the group’s president and CEO. “These will dramatically affect Canada’s position in North America and in the global energy markets and it’s our job to make sure that these discussions and decisions are well-informed.”
5 August
It looks as though we are entering the ‘he says/she says” phase of the discussion.
Enbridge says pipeline system safe despite U.S. concerns
The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has refused to allow Enbridge to reopen its 318,000 barrel per day Line 14 after a rupture spilled 1,200 barrels of oil into a Wisconsin field a week ago…. the regulator is demanding Enbridge prove that its 1,900 mile (3,060 kilometer) Lakehead pipeline system is safe before it resumes shipments on the line.
Despite PHMSA’s concerns, Enbridge says the number and size of spills from pipelines have decreased over the past decade and that, despite its high-profile accidents, the company’s record is good.
4 August
Trans Mountain: The other Pacific pipeline
(Globe & Mail) … the 250-metre long Aqualegend glides into place, smoothly manoeuvring alongside the Kinder Morgan dock. Its deck is spotless enough to eat off. The waters alongside the dock are clear and blue; a harbour patrol vessel has to ask crabbers to make way so the tanker can dock. Under blue skies and sunshine, exporting oil seems safe – even easy.
For Canada’s energy industry, however, the tanker route through the North Pacific is likely to be anything but.
The Aqualegend is a glimpse of what is to come: a future that could see a tanker sail past downtown Vancouver almost every day, to pick up oil from a newly expanded Trans Mountain. Kinder Morgan intends to twin the line, allowing 750,000 barrels a day – more than double the current 300,000 – to flow west. Most of the new barrels will be loaded on tankers. The project stands to change Alberta, making it an important global oil player. By placing crude on tankers that can deliver product anywhere a ship can sail, the oil industry can grab hold of global prices rather than selling its product on the cheap to its principal export market, the over-supplied U.S. Midwest. Expanding Trans Mountain stands to change Canada as well, enabling an expansion of the oil sands that will allow years of growth.

For those who live along the pipeline, those accidents provide a glimpse into a possible future that terrifies them. Local groups have pointed to studies questioning Canada’s spill response – a Canadian cleanup fund has half the money contained in its U.S. counterpart, for example, and though the Canadian Coast Guard is supposed to be the lead federal agency in responding to spills, many of its vessels aren’t equipped with spill gear. While the tug requirements are strict in Vancouver harbour, they are less strict outside of the harbour than in U.S. waters just to the south. Recent government changes haven’t helped, either: a Vancouver-based Environment Canada emergency response office was closed and its responsibilities shifted to Montreal, fact that concerns spill responders.

3 August
Canadian minister slams Enbridge, casts doubt on Northern Gateway pipeline plan
“This project will not survive public scrutiny unless Enbridge takes far more seriously their obligation to engage the public and to answer those very legitimate questions about the way in which they’ve operated their business in the very recent past”
(Financial Post) Heritage Minister James Moore’s comments — the first attack by any top Canadian government official on Enbridge — also reveal that a rare split has opened up inside the cabinet over the proposed $6-billion Northern Gateway project, which the Conservative government backs strongly.
Gateway pipeline deadline set amid B.C. minister’s concerns
James Moore says it’s ‘simply not true’ pipeline will be rammed through by federal government
The federal government has set a firm deadline of Dec. 31, 2013, for the review panel deciding the future of the Northern Gateway pipeline, shutting down the possibility of further extensions and putting into place the expedited assessment process pledged in its budget implementation bill.
31 July
Northern Gateway Pipeline Battle Puts Harper In Tough Position
(HuffPost) The disagreement between Christy Clark and Alison Redford over the Northern Gateway pipeline puts Stephen Harper in a delicate position with no easy way out.
30 July
B.C. Enbridge pipeline critics say money not the issue
Latest spill proves Northern Gateway risks too great, they say
(CBC) First Nations leaders, local politicians and conservation groups say an oil spill at an Enbridge pipeline in Wisconsin proves the proposed Northern Gateway project is too risky to be approved.
Last week, about 190,000 litres of oil seeped out of an Enbridge pipeline in Wisconsin, which was delivering Canadian crude to Chicago-area refineries.
“Premier Clark is right that we need to stand up to Alberta’s aggressive oil agenda, but selling our coast and rivers out from under us is not the way to do it,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said at a news conference in Vancouver on Monday.
25 July
Jen Gerson: Christy Clark’s Gateway revenue grab is good for B.C., disastrous for Canada
(National Post) Ms. Clark isn’t proposing the pipeline help finance some kumbaya environmental monitoring fund, nor is she negotiating for more insurance against environmental impacts. As it’s worded, this proposal would be a straight-up trade of risk and access for cash.
And that’s reasonable. Ms. Clark is correct to point out that B.C. would carry the burden of environmental risk. Risk is worth money. Her position makes sense in B.C., which needs the money. That’s understandable. So, too, is her desire to take such a popular stance amid waning support for the B.C. Liberal party.
The problem is that it’s impossible to imagine how such a precedent wouldn’t eventually make a hash of interprovincial trade. The whole point of living in a confederation is that the country is supposed to act as a team: We have oil, you have grain, they have lumber, it has a port. Economic times are tough over there, we’re doing well. We’ll send some money over. Andrew Coyne: Christy Clark’s Northern Gateway demands just another extortion attempt
24 July
Gateway pipeline risks exceed rewards, B.C. Premier says
(Globe & Mail) British Columbia Premier Christy Clark is warning that the environmental risks associated with a plan to sell Canadian oil to Asia through the Northern Gateway pipeline outweigh the economic benefits, leaving her at odds with the federal and Alberta governments.
Keystone pipeline backer again seeks U.S. Congress approval
(Planet Ark) A Republican lawmaker who has tried several times to marshal congressional support to speed approval of the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline is taking another crack at it with a new bill, but said the strategy for moving the plan forward was not yet clear.
Lee Terry said Monday’s announcement that China’s state oil company CNOOC plans to buy Nexen Inc, a player in Canada’s massive oil sands resource could give political momentum to his latest push.
He said the $15.1 billion deal backs Republican arguments that China will dominate Canada’s oil resources if the United States stalls the Keystone pipeline, designed to ship oil from Albertan oil sands to Texas refineries.
19 July
First Nations ‘will not compromise’: Chief Atleo sends blunt warning to Ottawa, provinces over national energy plan
Atleo said he will try to convince government that dealing in good faith with First Nations is the best way forward but he also said, if it comes down to it, the AFN will support chiefs who choose to block roads to raise awareness about their rights.
The omnibus budget bill — Bill C-38 — included changes to the federal environmental review process for large economic projects. They lump consent with First Nations into what the government calls a “more efficient” process.
But, Atleo said the changes show the government is continuing to disrespect the “spirit and intent” of the original treaties.
Ottawa maintains support for Enbridge and Northern Gateway
(Globe & Mail) A scathing report out of the United States that criticized just about every aspect of Enbridge Inc.’s response to a pipeline spill in Michigan won’t change the Canadian government’s support for the company’s proposed Northern Gateway project, the federal environment minister said.
18 July
Kent: U.S. report on Enbridge won’t change opinion of pipeline
(CTV News) … But the report won’t change the opinion of the federal Conservative government, which has hailed the Northern Gateway pipeline as important for the country, said Environment Minister Peter Kent.”Pipelines are still, by far, the safest way to transport petrochemicals in any form,” Kent said in an interview Wednesday. Kent said he had yet to read the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board report. [Emphasis added. We are simply astounded by this admission in light of his previous remarks.]
10 July
Sorry Enbridge, PR Spin Won’t Change Our Minds
Enbridge has a credibility problem. They’re an oil pipeline company. They’re out for themselves and people know that. According to a Polaris Institute report, they spill oil 60 times a year on average, including a three million litre oil spill into the Kalamazoo River, in Michigan, two summers ago. As such, Enbridge has enlisted the multinational public relations firm Hill and Knowlton to help sell British Columbians on the Northern Gateway pipeline and supertanker project.
British journalist George Monbiot, of The Guardian, describes Hill and Knowlton as “the public relations company famous for the unsavoury nature of its clients.” Monbiot points out that Hill and Knowlton “advised the Chinese government in the wake of the Tianenmen massacre, set up lobby groups for the tobacco companies and coached the girl who told the false story about Kuwaiti babies being thrown out of incubators, which helped to launch the first Gulf war.”
According to Spin Watch, “The firm helped in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident” and “has worked for governments with appalling human rights records, including Egypt, Haiti, Indonesia, Morocco.”
4 July
Calls for tighter pipeline regulations sought after Enbridge issued $3.7M fine
(Calgary Herald) Industry watchers and environmental groups are calling for tighter pipeline monitoring regulations, one day after a $3.7 million civil fine was issued against Enbridge Inc. for a 2010 Michigan oil spill.
The fine, the largest ever proposed by the U.S. Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), is based on an investigation by the U.S. pipeline regulator in the aftermath of the July 25 rupture on Enbridge’s line near Marshall, Mich.
The PHMSA said Enbridge did not initiate its emergency spill procedures until 17 hours after the rupture occurred — even though the company’s Control Centre in Edmonton received multiple alarms and indications of abnormal operations as soon as the incident occurred. [Emphasis added]
28 June
Brilliant – so reassuring
Enbridge can’t say if federal cuts would undermine oil spill response
(Financial Post) Enbridge identified the Environment Canada unit as part of its emergency response plan in March 2011, before the Harper government’s 2012 budget eliminated regional jobs and funding for the team that responds to environmental accidents and disasters.
… said Enbridge in the oil spill response plan, “Environment Canada and appropriate provincial representatives co-chair the regional environmental emergencies team (REET).”
24 June
Robyn Allan*: Canada’s energy strategy is not ‘made in Canada’
Canada’s energy strategy is determined in the boardrooms of a handful of multinational corporations and by the governments of foreign countries through their national oil companies. The strategy is supported by the vast changes in the budget bill that was rushed through the parliamentary approval process by the Harper government.
The corporate plan consists of rapidly extracting oilsands heavy crude called bitumen, mixing it with diluent to allow it to flow through pipelines and exporting it as diluted bitumen (dilbit) to the U.S. gulf coast and Asia.
Bitumen is dense and needs to be mixed with diluent before it can flow through a pipeline. Canada doesn’t produce enough, so diluent is being imported in increasing amounts. That’s why Enbridge built the Southern Lights pipeline flowing north from Chicago to Edmonton in 2010, and why their Northern Gateway project includes a twin pipeline to import diluent from offshore markets.
*Robyn Allan is an independent economist and former CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. She has written extensively on the economics of Northern Gateway and is a member of Canadians for the Great Bear. Her reports are available at
15 June
Canada: The world’s newest petrostate isn’t playing nice anymore.
(Foreign Policy) In order to further quell dissent, Harper’s government has also been going after anti-pipeline charity and advocacy groups. A variety of groups, including Tides Canada and ForestEthics, have been threatened with having their charity status revoked. Canadian regulations have long maintained that charities cannot devote more thant 10 percent of their budgets to advocacy. Additional laws pushed through as part of the C-38 package “will bring more scrutiny to foreign funding for charities and also how they use money for political purposes. Charities will also have to take more responsibility for the political activities of groups to which they give money.”
The government has also insinuated that shadowy foreign entities are responsible for funding charities in their efforts to derail Canada’s well-oiled ascendance to the status of petrostate. The Conservatives’ new efforts to regulate “transparency” in Canadian charities has gone so far as to alarm large foundations with names like Bronfman, Asper and Bombardier on their letterheads.
8 June with update 9 June
Alberta Oil Spill: Up To 3,000 Barrels Spill Near Red Deer River Reports Plains Midstream Canada
(HuffPost) Crews were scrambling Friday to contain and clean up a pipeline spill that is believed to have sent up to 475,000 litres of crude oil flowing into a rain-swollen Red Deer River system in west-central Alberta.
(Globe & Mail) Cleanup of latest Alberta oil spill could take all summer
… The already engorged river could flood again as another storm system is in the weekend forecast. It may be equally difficult to undo the damage to Alberta’s energy industry, which has recently suffered a number of high-profile spills. But unlike previous incidents, this spill isn’t in a remote location and it comes as the continent is in the midst of heated debates over construction of the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines.
30 May
Spill sends 22,000 barrels of oil mix into Alberta muskeg
A huge spill has released 22,000 barrels of oil and water into muskeg in the far northwest of Alberta.
The most recent spill was discovered May 19 emanating from pipe belonging to Pace Oil & Gas Ltd. , a small energy company that produces about 15,000 barrels a day, roughly half of that oil. The spill took place roughly 20 kilometres southeast of Rainbow Lake, which is 165 km south of the Northwest Territories border. It came from above-ground piping connecting an underground pipeline to a well used for wastewater injection. The pipe was carrying an emulsion that was roughly 70 per cent water and 30 per cent oil.
15 May
Ethical Oil challenges Harper, Mulcair to back reversal of Ontario pipeline
A pro-oil-sands lobby group is calling on politicians to support a proposal that would see an existing Southwestern Ontario pipeline reversed to send oil from west to east.
4 May
Keystone XL: U.S. receives new TransCanada pipeline application
The new application includes proposed new routes through the state of Nebraska, the State Department said. Such routes are presumably designed to skirt environmentally sensitive portions of Nebraska which helped sink the earlier Keystone XL pipeline application.
19 April
Kelly McParland: Harper takes a big risk with environmental review changes

(National Post) The federal government is taking a courageous but risky step in its plan to streamline the process for environmental assessment reviews. Courageous because there’s a good case to be made for eliminating the delays, overlap, inefficiency and political guerrilla tactics that can afflict otherwise harmless projects. The danger is that the slightest slip could leave the government looking like the environmental scofflaw its critics claim it to be.
18 April
John Ivison: Tories stick to their secretive ways in trying to hide major policy shift
The federal Cabinet should have ultimate authority over large resource infrastructure projects like the Northern Gateway pipeline between the oil sands and the coast of British Columbia. We elect governments to make decisions. When a plurality of voters judge those decisions are wrong, we change governments. That is the nature of our democracy.
But what if the government of the day tries its utmost to ensure we don’t find out about the decisions it is making?
The announcement by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver Tuesday on the streamlining of regulations for “responsible resource development” was disappointing confirmation that the Conservatives believe open government is an oxymoron – that you can have one or the other.
14 April
Harper pitches resources to Latin American investors

Projects ‘need not take years’ to develop, PM tells CEOs in Colombia
(CBC) Harper told a forum of CEOs his government’s budget promise to speed up the regulatory process to develop major natural resource projects is a key reason they should invest.
He spoke of plans to increase the efficiency of the environmental review process during a speech delivered just before the official opening of the Summit of the Americas.
“We cannot allow valid concerns about environmental protection to be used as an excuse to trap worthwhile projects in reviews-without-end,” Harper said. “So, let me be clear: when it comes to evaluating development plans, one should not confuse the length of the process with the rigour of the science.”
10 April
Diane Francis: Leave the Pipeline Dreamin’ to Western Canadians
(National/Huff Post) Talk recently about Chinese building a pipeline through British Columbia threatens the project’s future more than does any statements by First Nations leaders, Robert Redford, Greens or New Democrats.
It’s also an indication that the private sector does not get it. The pipeline will only be built if Albertans, British Columbians and B.C. First Nations make a deal.
4 April
The Keystone XL delay was a gift to Canada
Since Mr. Obama’s decision, the Canadian government and private enterprise have been doing what any supplier would do when it discovers that a customer is not reliable – they are working to diversify their market. Fortunately for Canada, Asia is more than willing to step in. Prime Minister Stephen Harper … has declared that regulatory approval for Northern Gateway, a proposed oil sands pipeline to the West Coast, is a national priority.
5 March
Enbridge U.S. Oil Line To Be Shut For Four More Days
(Planet Ark) A key segment of Enbridge Inc’s oil pipeline system in the U.S. Midwest will remain shut down for up to four more days after a deadly vehicle accident in Illinois caused an oil leak and fire, likely squeezing supplies for refiners in the region, the company said on Sunday.
4 March
Ottawa cancels donation to pro-environment charity
(RCI) Canada’s Conservative Party government has cancelled an agreement with a charity that supports environmental groups after pipeline firm Enbridge Inc. pressured Ottawa to scrap the deal. Newly disclosed documents show Fisheries and Oceans Canada reversed itself last September and announced it would not take an $8.3-million grant channelled through Tides Canada. It was to help pay for a federal ocean-protection plan for north-coast B.C. The area includes waters around a marine terminal for Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline. Documents show the reversal came after Enbridge told a senior bureaucrat in the department the deal with Tides Canada had to be stopped because planning would be “hijacked” by the “anti oil sands” charity. An Enbridge spokesman, however, said the firm played no part in the decision by Fisheries and Oceans to decline the funds. The internal documents were obtained under the Access to Information Act. The documents also suggest the deal’s cancellation went against the advice of public servants at the Fisheries Department. A Fisheries Department spokesperson says the agreement was cancelled only to streamline the ocean plan. This couldn’t possibly be linked to the story below – could it?
(Cowichan Conversations) This letter should shock all Canadians
The PMO writes a response to a former Assistant Deputy Minister of Environment and former Fish and Wildlife Branch Director whose letter is not published but obviously expressed concerns regarding the Northern Gateway. The tone and arguments are quite unacceptable. First, insistence on accelerating the hearings on the Northern Gateway, the usual accusations regarding funding of environmental groups by foreign interests, exaggerated claims regarding jobs created, etc. Most interesting are the Comments, many from outraged BC residents.
27 February
Pipeline firm will pursue stalled U.S. project piecemeal
(RCI) TransCanada says it will pursue the most urgently needed portion of its controversial Keystone XL pipeline as a stand-alone project. The Calgary-based pipeline giant says the stretch of the project between Cushing, OK, to the Gulf Coast should be in service by mid to late 2013. That US$2.3-billion project will be reviewed outside of the State Department’s presidential permit process, which has seen repeated delays amid staunch environmental opposition. A supply glut at an enormous storage hub at Cushing has lowered the price Canadian and some U.S. producers can get for their crude. TransCanada and rival Enbridge have been looking at ways to drain those supplies to Gulf Coast refineries, which are thirsty for heavy crude like that produced in the oilsands. TransCanada also says it plans to file a new application to the State Department in the near future for the northern portion of Keystone XL to Steele City, Neb. (Planet Ark) TransCanada Aims To Build Southern Keystone Leg
24 February
Jeffrey Simpson: There is a way to clean up ‘dirty’ oil’s problems
… Because it needs more energy, bitumen-derived oil produces more greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming than conventional oil. That gap – between bitumen-derived and conventional oil – is the problem the industry and governments don’t seem to get. And that gap will widen as more steam-driven in-situ production comes on line, since in-situ uses more energy than open-face mining of bitumen.
How environmentalists are losing the war
(Ottawa Citizen) In winning a tactical victory over the Keystone pipeline, activists used rhetoric that blew up in their faces this week, writes Dan Gardner
Hyperbole works in the short term. There’s no doubt about that. It gets attention and action. But the long term is something else entirely. And if the struggle against climate change is about anything, it’s about the long term.
21 February
Alternate pipeline route no better: B.C. First Nations
(Vancouver Sun) Switching the end point of the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline to Prince Rupert, B.C., from Kitimat will not win support among First Nations already opposed to the pipeline, says Coastal First Nations executive director Art Sterritt …
Sterritt said the pipeline route to Prince Rupert along the Skeena River is treacherous and prone to rock slides and avalanches. He added that pipeline proponent Enbridge’s proposal to change the route won’t get support from the communities of Prince Rupert, nearby Port Edward and others on Haida Gwaii.
20 February
Climate expert says coal not oilsands real threat
Burning all oilsands would cause fraction of coal’s warming effect, prof says
(CBC) In a commentary published Sunday in the prestigious journal Nature, Weaver and colleague Neil Stewart analyze how burning all global stocks of coal, oil and natural gas would affect temperatures. Their analysis breaks out unconventional gas, such as undersea methane hydrates and shale gas produced by fracking, as well as unconventional oil sources including the oilsands.
12 February
B.C. First Nation reviews its Enbridge deal, others consider equity offers
A second British Columbia First Nation says it has signed on to a sharing agreement with Enbridge Inc., in exchange for its support for the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, but just as the first deal was nullified after an internal fight, this second one, too, appears in jeopardy after the chief that signed the agreement was turfed and a new band council looks at whether they can get out of it.
It’s an indication of the delicate job Enbridge has undertaken to ensure aboriginal bands along the pipeline route are adequately consulted, and it’s also an example of why aboriginal groups who might be interested in exchanging their support for some much-needed revenue from the project are reluctant to speak about it openly.
10 February
As Canadians Talk Business, China’s Longtime Stance of Noninterference Is Tested
(NYT) … there was the visit to Beijing this week of Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada — and the attempts by Canadian aboriginal groups to lobby Chinese authorities over his head, seeking to halt a project under discussion or at least be considered for jobs if it goes ahead.
The centerpiece of Mr. Harper’s visit was negotiations over a pipeline project that would run from the province of Alberta west to the British Columbian port of Kitimat. The project has taken on added importance since the Obama administration vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline that would have run from Alberta to Texas. The port at Kitimat is set amid fjords, and while desirous of the trade, many tribes see the project as environmentally reckless.
This week, tribal leaders fired off an open letter to President Hu Jintao of China, a major investor in the project, warning that they could seek to block the deal if their views were ignored.
2 February
Andrew Nikiforuk: Economist Calls Gateway Pipeline an Inflationary ‘Threat’
Former CEO of ICBC concludes project ‘is neither needed nor in public interest.’
(The Tyee) A highly respected Canadian economist says the controversial Northern Gateway Project “poses a serious threat” to Canada’s “economic growth and long term development.”
In a detailed analysis submitted to the National Energy Board, Robyn Allan, the former president and CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, concludes that “Northern Gateway is neither needed nor is in the public interest.”
Moreover the project, if built, would raise the price of every oil barrel by $2 to $3 dollars in Canada over the next 30 years, and thereby create an inflationary price shock that would have “a negative and prolonged impact… by reducing output, employment, labour income and government revenues.” [A copy of Allan’s report, entitled “An Economic Assessment of Northern Gateway” can be found here. A copy of the AFL’s brief on the same subject can be found here.]
Incredibly dismissive interview on CTV   True cost of oil for Canada
23 January
Ottawa sees itself as protector of oil sands benefits
(Reuters) – Canada’s government has a responsibility to make sure people can take advantage of the economic benefits Alberta’s massive oil deposits can generate, the country’s energy minister said on Monday as he once again decried “radicals” bent on stopping Enbridge Inc’s Northern Gateway oil pipeline.
22 January
XL Pipeline Opposition Funding: U.S. Groups That Funded Environmentalists Also Gave To Canadian Government
(Canadian Press) Rich American foundations are not only footing the bill for opposition to Canada’s oilsands.
Tax returns show the Canadian government has also been the beneficiary of millions of dollars in largesse from some of the wealthiest private organizations in the United States.
And some of that money came from the same U.S. groups that helped fund Canadian environmentalists.
16 January
Harper says pipeline debate should be left to Canadians
Canada not ‘giant national park’ for U.S., prime minister says
Northern Gateway endangers environment, energy security: geologist
By William Marsden
(Financial Post) The proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway Pipeline will jeopardize Canada’s long-term energy security while at the same time leading to an unprecedented expansion of the oil sands with its dangerous social and environmental impacts, a former senior federal government geologist says.
David Hughes, who worked as a petroleum geologist for the Geological Survey of Canada for 32 years, says in his 30-page study of the pipeline proposal that Canada already has enough pipeline capacity to supply current and near-future needs
12 January
In Canada’s energy sector, foreign influence cuts both ways
(Globe & Mail) It isn’t wrong for foreign oil companies to discuss projects with Canadian officials, or for foreign backers of Northern Gateway, like France’s Total and China’s Sinopec, to support it at hearings. Or for environmental groups to take American sums to oppose it. The panel’s reviewing evidence, not taking a poll.
CBC Showdown: Sierra Club vs “Ethical Oil” – One of them is a Ridiculous Radical
Sierra Club executive director John Bennett and Ethical Oil spokesperson Kathryn Marshall discuss the public hearings for the Northern Gateway pipeline and whether opponents are acting on behalf of foreign interests
Kathryn Marshall’s bio. She worked for the Fraser Institute.
Terry Glavin: The real foreign interests in the oilsands
(Ottawa Citizen) If there were a global competition for the most brazen and preposterously transparent attempt by a ruling political party to change a necessary subject of national debate with alarmist distractions and hubbub, the Conservative escapade engineered in Ottawa these past few days really deserves some kind of grand prize.
… B.C.’s environmentalists are now making great sport of it, pointing out that Ottawa’s “ethical oil” branding exercise was begun by Conservative party gadfly Ezra Levant, who was succeeded at the Ethical Oil institute by none other than the otherwise intelligent Alykhan Velshi, who parked himself there between his term with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and his new job in Stephen Harper’s office. Bonus points: Ethical Oil diala-quote Kathryn Marshall is married to Hamish Marshall, Harper’s former strategic planning manager.
11 January
The Enbridge Pipeline: The “Largest and Most Insidious Threat to Our Culture.”
By Gerald Amos, Former Chief Councilor, Haisla First Nation
Meantime, Reuters reports that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to visit China next month as his government looks to open new markets for oil sands crude in the wake of Washington’s decision to delay approval of a major pipeline from Alberta to Texas.
10 January
Enbridge reports leak from U.S. pipeline as Northern Gateway hearings begin
“We’ve determined that it is safe to continue operating and so we are doing that,” said spokeswoman Terri Larson.
Enbridge declined to describe how it could be safe to continue operating a pipeline that may be leaking.
Oliver’s comments roil Northern Gateway environmental hearings
(Globe & Mail) Mr. Oliver issued an open letter Monday, saying that there are “environmental and other radical groups” that are trying to block the pipeline and squelch Canadian resource prosperity and job growth.
“They use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest,” he said.
“They attract jet-setting celebrities with some of the largest personal carbon footprints in the world to lecture Canadians not to develop our natural resources.” ‘We want to have a voice,’ Haisla chief pleads at Gateway hearings
6 January
Harper warns pipeline hearings could be ‘hijacked’
Northern Gateway seeks to carry oilsands crude to West Coast
(CBC) Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government will look into measures to prevent the approval process for energy projects from being “hijacked” by opponents of the developments.
Harper told journalists Friday he’s heard concerns expressed about the use of foreign money by interveners opposed to an oilsands pipeline proposed for northern B.C. by Calgary-based Enbridge.
‘Foreign money’ could gum up pipeline approval, Harper warns
(Globe & Mail) The Prime Minister is threatening to prevent foreign environmental interests from delaying the approval of a pipeline that would take bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to the West Coast for shipment to Asian markets.
The petroleum lobby group, which wants “foreigners and foreign groups” to be excluded from hearings on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline that are to begin next week, appears to have a sympathetic ear in Stephen Harper.

3 Comments on "Canada: Energy, environment & pipelines 2012"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson July 31, 2012 at 2:58 pm ·

    Regarding the stance of Minister Kent, one Wednesday Nighter wonders “why Canada is getting manoeuvred into ‘pushing’ something onto the US, when other things equal, the US ought to want it badly. Maybe if we paid some attention to some other priorities–e.g. GHG impact in different fuel mixes (- would the US use more coal which would blow back onto Canada and the NE?), enhanced pipeline safety measures applicable everywhere in NA, possibly combine this with a continental cap and trade system., experiment with new ways to make pipelines intelligent and self-reporting, other methods of protecting “strategic” infrastructure….instead we seem to be just trying to promote a deal that will make Enbridge and Suncor monumentally wealthy…and doing so in ways that could generate lasting enmity with certain regions in the US. Plus I can’t understand why Albertans themselves seem so casual about the stakes at issue in their own province: why are they so keen to export raw product rather than develop more of it at home? (I assume they intend to keep living there…)

  2. Steven Olson September 3, 2012 at 7:07 pm ·

    Its superb as your other posts : D, thankyou for posting . “Always be nice to people on the way up because you’ll meet the same people on the way down.” by Wilson Mizner.

  3. Diana Thebaud Nicholson September 30, 2012 at 3:41 pm ·

    Nick’s Gleanings reminds us that:
    In all the hullaballoo as to whether the proposed takeover should be allowed to go ahead of Calgary-based Nexen by CNOOC, a company controlled by a Chinese SOE (State-Owned Enterprise), one potential (unintended) consequence thereof has not gotten much attention. Namely that today 80-90% of the world’s known oil reserves are under the control of SOEs and that the Alberta oil sands account for much of the remainder. So every SOE investment in the oil sands (Nexen has some exposure there, even though the lion’s share of its current output comes from elsewhere) further solidifies the stranglehold they have on the industry. By that same token, if rumours are correct that Conoco Phillips will sell part of its stake in six Alberta oilsands properties to three Indian government-controlled companies, this would further accelerate this trend.

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