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