Open letter to Gary Lamphier, Edmonton Journal in response to his article Nov 24, 2016

glamphier@postmedia.com  Nov 28/16

Re: Kinder Morgan Pipeline risks

It was refreshing to read an objective article minus the unsupported rhetoric from the pro-side as well.

I have been involved with this issue for over 2 years as a researcher and have participated in the NEB process.

Here are few points to consider.

Risk

There is much debate regarding the methodology to determine risk of spills and studies indicate that this risk is underestimated. The risk of a spill is described as low risk (it is not zero) but with high consequence. This risk has increased as it has become evident that the industry is not prepared for a spill now with current operations. A spill in Burrard inlet cannot be contained or cleaned-up.

Spill Containment and Response

Despite the statements about enhanced spill response, the fact is an oil spill in the marine environment cannot be contained or cleaned up.  Studies show that at best, even in ideal meteorological conditions, only 15% of a spill could be contained and recovered and only 5% in the conditions on the BC coast. BC has some of the roughest coastline in the world with navigational hazards, large tidal swings, strong currents, changing winds, waves and big waves, storms and storm surges that will make any response slow, ineffective and basically useless. And then there is the disturbing fact that dilbit will sink through the water column when mixed with organic matter and suspended solids. Spill modelling and experience shows that a spill in Burrard Inlet, (from filling operations or a collision with another vessel or the bridges) will spread quickly with wind and tides and will contaminate shorelines and beaches. Reports state that a spill to areas such as the Maplewood mudflats cannot be cleaned up and will have long lasting adverse impacts. The extensive mudflat of the Maplewood Conservation Area (North Vancouver directly across from the Westridge Marine Terminal) is part of the International Pacific Flyway and forms the last remaining marsh/mudflat on Burrard Inlet. The impacts here will be significant and permanent.

Economics 

The economic importance of this proposal to Alberta is understood. Alberta has lost significant revenue and needs to get the oil to market in order to maintain its economy; however BC (and Canada) does not rely heavily on the oil and gas industry and therefore considers the expansion of the pipeline and tanker traffic an unacceptable risk to our economy, environment and health. Do you agree that it would be better for Alberta to diversify its economy over time rather than depending so heavily on oil production (22% GDP Alta; <3% GDP BC; <4% GDP Canada) and being so vulnerable to a single market? That is not to say we don’t need oil production; we do, but it is time we started to transition away.

National Energy Strategy

This is not about Alberta vs BC. The Federal Government must take the responsibility for not planning a transition from oil long ago. We need a National Energy Strategy that promotes a low Carbon economy that supports alternate energy sources, reduces our GHG emissions and reduces our reliance and production of oil over time, instead of promoting and expanding it and locking us in for the next 50+ years or more and crippling our climate change initiatives and leaving our coast at risk.

 National Interest

Further, Canadians believe that preserving our natural and cultural heritage for future generations is in the national interest; keeping our coastline, fisheries and streams alive and healthy  is in the national interest; maintaining our wilderness, wildlife and tourism is in the national interest; reducing our contribution to climate change and to quit subsidising carbon intense and polluting industries and to save our tax dollars is in the national interest; and that having a political process that is transparent, respects democracy, science and the principles of sustainability is in the national interest.

The effects of a spill inland, along our coast or in Burrard Inlet will be catastrophic to our health, coastline, environment and economy and will outweigh by far, any economic gains. Our coast is at risk and it is simply not worth it.

Regards

Ken Bennett

Surrey BC

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Federal Liberal Cabinet Members, Nov.2016 – cut and paste for email

Here is the list of Federal Liberal Cabinet members for letter campaigns. Please send an email to each and all for issues of concern, i.e KinderMorgan , TransMountain, Site C

Federal Liberal MPs cabinet – Nov. 2016

justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca

Navdeep.Bains@parl.gc.ca

carolyn.bennett@parl.gc.ca

Marie-Claude.Bibeau@parl.gc.ca

scott.brison@parl.gc.ca

Jim.Carr@parl.gc.ca

Bardish.Chagger@parl.gc.ca

stephane.dion@parl.gc.ca

Jean-Yves.Duclos@parl.gc.ca

kirsty.duncan@parl.gc.ca

judy.foote@parl.gc.ca

Chrystia.Freeland@parl.gc.ca

marc.garneau@parl.gc.ca

ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca

Patty.Hajdu@parl.gc.ca

Kent.Hehr@parl.gc.ca

Melanie.Joly@parl.gc.ca

dominic.leblanc@parl.gc.ca

Diane.Lebouthillier@parl.gc.ca

lawrence.macaulay@parl.gc.ca

john.mccallum@parl.gc.ca

Catherine.McKenna@parl.gc.ca

MaryAnn.Mihychuk@parl.gc.ca

Maryam.Monsef@parl.gc.ca

Bill.Morneau@parl.gc.ca

Jane.Philpott@parl.gc.ca

Carla.Qualtrough@parl.gc.ca

Harjit.Sajjan@parl.gc.ca

Amarjeet.Sohi@parl.gc.ca

Jody.Wilson-Raybould@parl.gc.ca

 

 

 

 

 

A nightmare commute

It is 7 AM, dark and raining which is usual for a November commute on the 99. I slow down as I approach the brake lights quivering off the wet pavement ahead.  Eventually I come to a stop behind a long line of traffic –  4 km from the Massey Tunnel.  Probably an accident caused by another stupid driver who weaves and darts through traffic only discover too late that the traffic has stopped ; or is it just volume plugging the route? Either way it is going to be a long wait yet again. The year is 1982 and the traffic is horrible. Continue reading

Say no to everything ? Absolutely if it is based upon flawed processes and flawed science

4 minute read

Having been deeply involved with the review process for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion proposal for over 2 years as a researcher for the District of North Vancouver, and on the occasion of the NEB approval of this project (this was anticipated long ago despite the “consultation”), I  feel it is time to write about my experiences with this and other processes and provide my thoughts on the reasons why so many projects are now feeling such intense public pressure. Despite the characterization as the”say no to everything crowd“, the criticisms of these projects are  legitimate and form the basis for a well-informed backlash. Please read on.

Reading my morning paper or watching TV, I find it curious that when industry is challenged on a project, they become defensive and resort to condescending remarks in an attempt to discredit criticism. Statements like, …”it’s time to have a mature conversation about oil exports…“, ( Jock Finlayson, Business Council of BC)  or  describing  anyone who dares to raise a concern as “…environmental radicals…” (former Finance Minister J. Oliver) and my favourite, “the say no to everything crowd” (recent TV ad),  exposes the cavalier attitudes of industry and government towards anyone who challenges them.

Having worked as a Professional Biologist for over 35 years with scientists and professionals from many other disciplines on various issues, (including the Trans Mountain Pipeline), I can assure you that  rigorous scientific scrutiny and informed discussion occurs on these projects and that serious flaws in the science and process have been exposed as a result.  These are legitimate criticisms  based on research and facts.

So, do I say no to everything?  Absolutely!

I say no to everything that has a biased and flawed review process. I say no to everything that is rife with political lobbying and interference that gags and suppresses science, restricts open dialogue and attacks opponents. I say no to everything that does not consult with First Nations, communities and individuals in a meaningful way and discounts environmental concerns as superfluous  and  brushes them aside with condescending, patronizing remarks. I say no to everything that is based upon incomplete or missing research and takes our natural environment for granted and only considers it as something to be exploited and does not provide environmental full cost accounting and neglects the downstream impacts.

So who else is saying no?  Scientists from many professional fields have reviewed recent projects and have challenged or, in some cases, refuted the claims made by industry in their project applications and are publicly stating their concerns with the science and process.  As a result, the public has become better informed and organized. The concerns are legitimate and  growing and a distrust has developed towards our regulatory system and industry.

For example, with respect to the oil spill risk in Burrard Inlet,  scientists have challenged and found fault with the Trans Mountain application with respect to: the oil spill modelling, air quality modelling/predictions; incorrect characterization of the ecology of the Inlet and shorelines; ignoring the sinking characteristics and the fate and behaviour of diluted bitumen in aqueous environments;  the inadequate containment and response capabilities or the impossible clean-up of spills, especially over the mudflats of the Maplewood Conservation Area and; ignoring  the long history of not consulting or involving Local Governments in emergency planning.

These criticisms are not unique to the Trans Mountain Pipeline application. The Site C dam is another example. Recently the  Royal Society of Canada  publicly supported the call to suspend the Site C dam construction (Peace River, BC, Canada). In addition, 250 scientists have released a “Statement of Concern” for Site C .

Further, substantial concerns have been raised by professionals regarding the Prosperity mine proposal that include:

Yes, the “mature conversation” is long overdue because the industry and our governments have not provided it or engaged in it.   This has been lacking for a very long time. The fact that industry and our Ministers makes such childish statements or run such TV ads shows their arrogance and displeasure with public scrutiny. Worse, are the millions of dollars industry spends on schmoozing and lobbying government in secret. The public have grown skeptical and for good reason.

In British Columbia, we are about to be saddled with several very expensive mega-projects (list below) with significant risks, none of which has presented any business case to justify them nor have they provided a process for public scrutiny  or  conducted any proper economic or environmental full cost accounting with impacts .

Unfortunately, the “say no to everything” list is quite long because of the thoughtless attitudes and the legacy of the”approve everything at all costs crowd” with no scrutiny that has prevailed for over 150 years across Canada. In some cases this toxic legacy has lasted for decades, impacting both human and environmental health. Another sad example of this legacy is the mercury contamination in the  Grassy River First Nation territory that was dumped into the river in the ’60s from upstream mining. (and guess who pays for this clean-up?; the Canadian taxpayer, but that is a topic for another time.) So in response, the youth of Grassy Narrows have released a beautiful song about their community and their pride. They will lead the change – Power to them!

These criticisms are not necessarily a rejection of all projects nor a criticism of the workers in these projects. The blame lies with the industries and our governments’ policies and legislation that perpetuate these inequities, deficiencies and one-sided processes.  This a rejection of the process and the lack of proper, open assessments.

The LNG project is a good example. The multi-billion dollar project is basically supported in concept but the process has lacked transparency with respect to the business case, science and whether the new Lelu Island port is the best location. So the project remains controversial and it appears the “no crowd” has interfered again, but in reality the scrutiny will ensure that the project is viable, done right and not based upon electioneering and political baffle-gab.

In summary, our governments have not been forthcoming or transparent with many projects with respect to the process, science, economics, full cost environmental accounting  or involvement of First Nations and the public.

  • Site c – relates to LNG  – economics not presented no process, science lacking
  • Trans Mountain Pipeline – seriously flawed and biased process, science lacking and political interference with many professionals now in opposition.
  • Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline – seriously flawed and biased process, science lacking and political interference with well-informed opposition
  • Prosperity Mine proposal – seriously flawed process , science lacking and political interference
  • LNG (liquefied natural gas) at Lelu Island:  The process, economics and science are lacking. The environmental assessment has been questioned by 130 scientists Lelu Island .
  • Port Mann bridge replacement – no process, a 10 lane bridge just appeared circumventing any previous planning
  • Massey Tunnel replacement – another mega bridge planned – no process, the decision was made without input

Until these deficiencies are fixed and confidence is returned, there will be a resounding NO every time.

_______________________________

Cover Photo: Fish Lake near Williams Lake, BC. The Prosperity Mine application was seriously proposing to drain this entire lake for a tailings pond until opposition mounted and the Feds denied the approval based on faulty science – yet the BC government still supports it.

fish lake to be drained

Photo – Fish Lake: Vancouver Sun, January 14, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beer = ½ oilsands. (But beer tastes better).

In our Province of British Columbia (BC), Canada, the resource industries are overwhelming the citizens with a series of mega-projects with huge environmental and economic considerations.

Whether you support the oil industry, the Kinder Morgan and Enbridge pipelines (from the oilsands to our coast for export – see previous blog, Pipelines), the LNG (liquefied natural gas) projects or the Site C dam (another hydro Dam on the Peace river – Northern BC) – or not, you must be concerned about the lack of clarity regarding the economics of these mega projects.

If we continue to fund these projects either by providing $ billions in subsidies to the oil, pipelines and LNG industries, as we currently do, or pay the direct capital cost of $8+ billion for Site C, then we MUST have a sound economic business case behind them and an accurate and transparent economic account available to the public for scrutiny.  We need these assessments to determine the costs and impacts so Canadians and BC residents in particular can determine what we are getting into.

Instead, Enbridge bombards us with insulting advertisements and our Provincial government is making grandiose political statements that provide no factual information or third-party, unbiased, assessments about the costs of these projects.  Premier Clark completely exaggerated the LNG potential during the election campaign last year by promising $trillions in royalties and taxes and paying off the Provincial debt – with absolutely no substance to the statements.  It is amazing that the BC electorate falls for such BS.  As I write this the LNG backers (Petronas) is indicating that the economics are dubious and are backing down.  Even if you support the oil, gas, pipelines and Site C are you  wondering about the economics and the danger posed by these costs?

It does not add up.  The following are a few, of many disturbing assessments, that are emerging from experts in this field.

Here are some quick assessments:

 

 

“5.5 Recommendation

In light of the findings of the SFU-TGG Report regarding the evaluation of the costs and benefits of TMX, we conclude that the pipeline project is not in the economic or public interest of the citizens of BC and, in particular, the citizens of Metro Vancouver. Moreover, TMX completely fails to satisfy BC’s fifth condition for the consideration of construction and operation of heavy-oil pipelines within its borders. This Report therefore strongly recommends that the citizens and decision-makers of BC and Metro Vancouver reject this pipeline, which is neither in the economic nor public interest of BC and Metro Vancouver”.

 

Now in order to maintain objectivity, there is a counter assessment that stated that the SFU’s report used faulty methodology to arrive at this conclusion. http://beaconnews.ca/blog/2014/11/trans-mountain-benefit-sfu/

But this is my point – how can the tax payers of this Province properly assess and understand the enormous economic risk to these projects when there are conflicting reports. It draws the economics into question and a deep concern is festering.

Nevertheless, it is apparent that Kinder Morgan has deliberately over estimated the economic benefits of the Trans Mountain pipeline project.  This is not surprising as they must inflate their self-importance to create a public myth to gain support.  The review process is suppressing the truth.  Ref: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/economists-question-projected-value-of-trans-mountains-pipeline/article21528943/

Furthermore, economists and other interveners have been challenging and questioning the economic assertions and the review process but  Kinder Morgan and the National Energy Board continue to stymie the process.

Ref: Kinder Morgan Hearings a Farce – http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/kinder-morgan-pipeline-hearings-a-farce-former-bc-hydro-chief-says/article21433093/

The same is becoming apparent with the LNG (liquefied natural gas) proposals. From grand-standing election statements from our Premier Clark, that touted 5 LNG plants and all the cash you could imagine; attaining three plants is now far-fetched and it is most likely that only one plant might be built, if any at all.

Due to falling gas prices, increased production and competition and LNG plants in other countries now coming on stream, the LNG project is not the cash-cow we were promised.  And Site C is expected to supply electricity for the LNG plant(s), so why would we build it if the fate of LNG is in doubt? BC residents will be left holding the bag on an 8 billion dollar white elephant and boondoggle with Site C.

It is also increasingly worrisome that these projects simply don’t add up against the stated benefits to Canadians and BC residents.   The risk / benefit ratio is very good for these industries, especially for the pipelines, – they get the vast proportion of the benefit / we take the risk.

The point is we don’t know what the economic truth is and the mistrust is growing and for good reason – and that is just on the economics notwithstanding the environmental risks as well.

I think I will have a beer now and support our local economy and GDP.

images

 

 

The tables have turned:If you are not an environmentalist, then what are you?

As a child in the 60’s, I had a fascination and curiosity for nature. Growing up in Coquitlam, BC I had the freedom to experience, explore, camp and live in the woods and ravines near my home. When I look back, I really did have a Huckleberry Finn childhood (previous blog – unfettered childhood).  As a result, I gravitated to  the natural sciences, obtained a degree in Biology and made a professional career in the environmental field spanning 35 years. Along the way I obtained the label “environmentalist”. So what is an environmentalist?

In the 1970’s, an environmentalist (a new word then) was considered to be a long-haired, beaded, dope-smokin’, hippie. Tree Hugger, Greenie, Radical, Lefty, Pinko and other names were used by those who considered  anyone who spoke up about environmental issues to be a threat . (some of our politicians still do – more later).  The passionate activists get the media coverage and garner most of the attention because they use unorthodox methods to raise awareness. These folks conjure the image of an environmentalist. This is true due to the controversial history of the movement but only because the media perpetuates this image.

An environmentalist today, however,  is likely registered with one of the many professions now working together on these issues and challenges.  Universities around the world have developed specific environmental courses and degrees and are generating robust scientific research on the myriad of environmental issues and challenges we face. Over the years, I have worked with Professional Engineers, Foresters, Geo-scientists, Climatologists, Hydrologist, Planners, Biologists, Agrologists, Lawyers, Architects, Doctors, Economists, Health experts, Journalists and progressive-minded Developers,  on many local environmental issues. I have also met hundreds of people who are genuinely concerned about the future.

Scientists and concerned citizens realize that the earth is finite and that we depend upon our natural world to sustain our very existence.  Environmentalists are not “against everything”, but rather support responsible resource development that does not leave a legacy of pollution and destruction that also compromises the health and well-being of future generations. Sustainability recognizes the need for economic development, but not at all cost. What is missing is the true cost accounting of development because it ignores the environmental impacts that result.  Environmentalists, however, have a long-term view for the planet not a short-term, selfish attitude that promotes profit over environment and safety.

Environmentalists have been working and planning for a better future but are thwarted by ignorant politicians and government policies that do nothing to advance long-term strategies for reducing our ecological footprint.  And, I am sad to say, Canada is a laggard not a leader. Our current Conservative Government has an agenda against environmentalists or any environmental issue that impedes their development policies or exposes their lack of understanding of the issues. Our Conservative MPs still consider anyone who dares question the development of the oil sands or the pipelines to be an “environmental radical”. They have gagged federal scientists, gutted environmental legislation, refuse to act on their own Species at Risk Legislation, pour billions into the oil sands and are a world embarrassment on climate change policies. Our Provincial Liberal Government is not far behind either.

Some people are so ignorant they have resorted to childish, immature stunts to show, in a feeble-minded way, that they are not environmentalists and have gone to great lengths and expense to show it. In the following link you will see a situation that exemplifies the stupidity of an anti-environment mind-set that is also present in our governments and some corporate cultures as well, it is just not as blatant. Check this out…(rolling coal).

The tables have turned. Those that do not support environmental causes  are now seen as the ones who are out of touch, we just don’t have a word to describe them yet (although I can think of several). The environmentalists are the watchdogs and the numbers of concerned citizens are growing. Industry and governments don’t like it because they are finally being exposed and openly challenged to do better.

Environmentalists are  working to correct the destruction of the natural world, species loss and extinction, declining biodiversity, climate change, pollution, ocean acidification, world poverty, greed, and realize that economics and ecology are linked and should have equal weight in our decisions.

In my experience, most people are genuinely concerned and care about all of these things.

If you are not an environmentalist, then what are you?

Too much stuff

What does success mean to you? For most people, and I bet this includes you, success is measured by the accumulation of monetary and material things. So when in our evolutionary history did this start? Why would this accumulation of things become our measure of a person? Humans have lived in family and societal associations for hundreds of thousands of years, perhaps for a couple of million. The group worked together sharing knowledge to ensure survival and with that came innovation, invention and advancements that made life a little bit easier with small incremental improvements over the eons.

In essence we still do this, but on a grand and rapid scale.  While competition and innovation creates new and better things, how many brands of shampoo do we really need?  We now believe that we need all this stuff to survive. Good advertising does this. And with that comes increasing volumes of waste, garbage and accumulation of pollutants around the globe. Out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean there is a gigantic gyre of minute pieces of plastic floating around, heavy metals contaminate our food and oceans, we create immense volumes of garbage and our atmosphere is filling to dangerous levels of CO2.  The trap of consumerism and our insatiable appetite for more stuff ensures this will continue. The following animated, award-winning documentary puts our craving for more stuff in perspective. You will see yourself in it (I did). (story of stuff).

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