Enbridge Northern Gateway officials are loath (to put it mildly) to speak to the media but sometimes they let things slip. Earlier this summer, at a social event, I heard an Enbridge official (probably inadvertently) reveal that when the company’s engineers came before District of Kitimat Council earlier this year they were surprised and somewhat unprepared to fully answer the detailed technical questions from Councillor Phil Germuth on pipeline leak detection.
The results of the municipal election in Kitimat, and elsewhere across BC show one clear message; voters do want industrial development in their communities, but not at any price. Communities are no longer prepared to be drive by casualties for giant corporations on their road to shareholder value.
The federal Conservatives and the BC provincial Liberals have, up until now, successfully used the “all or nothing thinking” argument. That argument is: You either accept everything a project proponent wants, whether in the mining or energy sectors, or you are against all development. Psychologists will tell you that “all or nothing thinking” only leads to personal defeat and depression. In politics, especially in an age of attack ads and polarization, the all or nothing thinking strategy often works. Saturday’s results, however, show that at least at the municipal level, the all or nothing argument is a political loser. Where “all politics is local” the majority of people are aware of the details of the issues and reject black and white thinking.
The Enbridge official went on to say that for their company observers, Germuth’s questions were a “what the…..” moment. As in “what the …..” is this small town councillor doing challenging our expertise?
But then Enbridge (and the other pipeline companies) have always tended to under estimate the intelligence of people who live along the route of proposed projects whether in British Columbia or elsewhere in North America, preferring to either ignore or demonize opponents and to lump skeptics into the opponent camp. The Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel also lost credibility when it accepted most of Northern Gateway’s arguments at face value while saying “what the ……” do these amateurs living along the pipeline route know?
“I am pro-development,” Germuth proclaimed to reporters in Kitimat on Saturday night after his landslide victory in his campaign for mayor.
On the issue of leak detection, over a period of two years, Germuth did his homework, checked his facts and looked for the best technology on leak detection for pipelines. That’s a crucial issue here where pipelines cross hundreds of kilometres of wilderness and there just aren’t the people around to notice something is amiss (as the people of Marshall, Michigan wondered at the time of the Line 6B breach back in 2010). Enbridge should have been prepared; Germuth first raised public questions about leak detection at a public forum in August 2012. In February 2014, after another eighteen months of research, he was ready to cross-examine, as much as possible under council rules of procedure. Enbridge fumbled the answers.
So that’s the kind of politician that will be mayor of Kitimat for the next four years, technically astute, pro-development but skeptical of corporate promises and determined to protect the environment.
Across the province, despite obstacles to opposition set up by the federal and provincial governments, proponents are now in for a tougher time (something that some companies will actually welcome since it raises the standards for development).
We see similar results in key votes in British Columbia. In Vancouver, Gregor Roberston, despite some problems with policies in some neighborhoods, won re-election on his green and anti-tankers platform. In Burnaby, Derek Corrigan handily won re-election and has already repeated his determination to stop the twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline through his town. In Prince Rupert, Lee Brain defeated incumbent Jack Musselman. Brain, who has on the ground experience working at an oil refinery in India, supports LNG development but has also been vocal in his opposition to Northern Gateway.
The new mayor in Terrace Carol Leclerc is an unknown factor, a former candidate for the BC Liberal party, who campaigned mainly on local issues. In the Terrace debate she refused to be pinned down on whether or not she supported Northern Gateway, saying, “Do I see Enbridge going ahead? Not a hope,” but later adding, “I’d go with a pipeline before I’d go with a rail car.”
Kitimat’s mayor and council elections also confirm that Northern Gateway plebiscite vote last April. Kitimat wants industrial development but not at the price of the community and the environment. The unofficial pro-development slate lost. A last minute attempt to smear Germuth on social media was quickly shot down by people from all sides of the Kitimat debate. Smears don’t usually work in small towns where everyone knows everyone.
Larry Walker, an environmentalist with a track record in municipal politics as an alderman in Spruce Grove, Alberta, won a seat. Together with Rob Goffinet and Germuth, that is three solid votes for the environment. The other new councillor is Claire Rattee who will be one to watch. Will the rookie be the swing vote as Corinne Scott was?
Mario Feldhoff who came to third to Goffinet in the overall vote (Edwin Empinado was second) is a solid councillor with a strong reputation for doing his homework and attention to detail and the unofficial leader of the side more inclined to support development. Feldhoff got votes from all sides in the community.
During the debates, Feldhoff repeated his position that he supports David Black’s Kitimat Clean refinery. But as an accountant, Feldhoff will have to realize that Black’s plan, which many commentators say was economically doubtful with oil at $110 a barrel, is impractical with oil at $78 a barrel for Brent Crude and expected to fall farther. Any idea of a refinery bringing jobs to Kitimat will have to be put on hold for now.
LNG projects are also dependent on the volatility and uncertainty in the marketplace. The companies involved keep postponing the all important Final Investment Decisions.
There are also Kitimat specific issues to deal with. What happens to the airshed, now and in the future? Access to the ocean remains a big issue. RTA’s gift of land on Minette Bay is a step in the right direction, but while estuary land is great for camping, canoeing and nature lovers, it is not a beach. There is still the need for a well-managed marina and boat launch that will be open and available to everyone in the valley.
Germuth will have to unite a sometimes contentious council to ensure Kitimat’s future prosperity without giving up the skepticism necessary when corporations sit on a table facing council on a Monday night, trying to sell their latest projects. That all means that Germuth has his job cut out for him over the next four years.
There’s a dumb, dumb, really dumb idea that just won’t go away—that Enbridge could solve all its problems if only, if only, it would send the Northern Gateway Pipeline to Prince Rupert.
Enbridge long ago rejected the idea. Before Enbridge updated its website to make Gateway Facts, to make it slick and more attractive, the old website had an FAQ where Enbridge explained why it wasn’t going to Prince Rupert.
Did you consider running the pipeline to Prince Rupert where a major port already exists?
We considered Prince Rupert and Kitimat as possible locations. We carried out a feasibility study that took into account a number of considerations. The study found that the routes to Prince Rupert were too steep to safely run the pipeline, and that Kitimat was the best and safest option available.
Here in the northwest even the supporters of the Northern Gateway roll their eyes when they hear the old Prince Rupert story come up again and again – and it’s not just because these people support the Kitimat plans for Northern Gateway, it’s because those supporters (not to mention the opponents) have driven along the Skeena from Terrace to Prince Rupert.
There just isn’t any room for a pipeline. It’s a game of centimetres.
Alternatives to Kitimat?
Now the new premier of Alberta, Jim Prentice, who should know better if he’s going to lead that province, is hinting that Kitimat isn’t the only possible solution for the Northern Gateway.
Without specifying Prince Rupert, according to Gary Mason reporting in The Globe and Mail, Prentice was speculating about an alternative to Kitimat.
Asked whether he believes the Gateway terminus should be relocated to Prince Rupert or another destination, Mr. Prentice said, “Everything I’ve heard from the Haisla who live there is they don’t agree with the terminal being in Kitimat.” Is it possible to get First Nations approval if there is no support at the planned terminus site? “It’s pretty tough,” the Premier said.
Prince Rupert has a thriving local fishing industry that employs hundreds of people and is critically important to the local First Nations. He is convinced the community would not be willing to put that at risk.
“Overwhelmingly people in my community are much more comfortable with liquefied natural gas, with wood pellets, with coal, than any oil product,” he said.
The Prince Rupert Port Authority also rejected the idea
A spokesman for the Prince Rupert Port Authority said Wednesday there is currently no room for Enbridge to build at the port even if it wanted to. “We are fully subscribed,” Michael Gurney said. There are two large vacant lots within the port authority’s jurisdiction, but both are locked by other energy companies, earmarked for LNG projects.
So not only is there no room on the road to Prince Rupert, there is no room in Prince Rupert.
Let’s just consider for a moment that if Prince Rupert was the ideal location for the Northern Gateway terminal (which it is not), what would be needed to get the project going today.
The Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel would have be reconstituted or a new JRP created by the National Energy Board. That’s because the bitumen comes from Bruderheim, Alberta, crossing provincial boundaries and thus it’s in federal jurisdiction.
Even under the fast track rules imposed on the NEB by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, new environmental and social impact studies would be required, starting from scratch. So add another five years of paperwork before a single shovel goes into the ground.
The pipeline would have to cross the traditional territory of First Nations that, so far, have not been part of the negotiations, mostly the Tsimshian First Nation as well as the Nisga’a First Nation which has a treaty establishing local rule over their territory.
In February 2012, the largest anti-Enbridge demonstration outside of the Lower Mainland took place in Prince Rupert, with the elders of the Tsimshian First Nation welcoming the elders and members of the Gitga’at First Nation, at Hartley Bay, which had organized the protest.
When I say there isn’t room for a pipeline along the Skeena, it also means that there isn’t any room for the pipeline corridor right-of-way. Enbridge, in its submissions to the Joint Review Panel, said it requires a 25 metre wide right of way for the pipeline corridor. (For the record that’s just over 82 feet).
Along that highway, as you will see, there’s barely enough room for the CN mainline and Highway 16 (also known as the Yellowhead Highway) and on a lot of places both the highway and the railway roadbed are built on fill along the side of a cliff.
Albertans’ desperate desire to see the Northern Gateway go to anywhere to what they call “tide water” keeps coming up like the proverbial bad penny. The latest came when Jim Prentice speculated about a new route for the Northern Gateway.
I knew I had an appointment coming up in Prince Rupert on Monday, September 29. So I decided that only way to prove to people sitting in Calgary, Edmonton and Fort McMurray playing with Google Maps that the pipeline to Prince Rupert was a really dumb idea was to shoot photographs to show just why the Northern Gateway will never go to Prince Rupert—at least along the Skeena.
As you drive out of Terrace, you pass two large swing gates (also called by some “Checkpoint Charlie” gates after the Cold War era crossing in Berlin.) At the first rest stop west of Terrace, there are another set of gates at the Exstew. There’s a third set of gates just outside Prince Rupert.
The swing gates are avalanche gates and, in the winter, Highway 16 can be shut down if an avalanche closes the highway or the danger from avalanche is too great to allow motorists to proceed. When you drive the highway from Terrace to Prince Rupert in the winter (the signs were covered up when I drove Monday) you are warned “Avalanche danger Next 13 kilometres. No stopping.”
The drive along the Skeena from just west of Exchamsiks River Provincial Park all the way to Tyee where the highway turns inland to reach northwest to Prince Rupert on Kaien Island is one of the most spectacular drives on this planet. The highway snakes along a narrow strip of land with steep mountain cliffs on one side and the vast river on the other.
The problem is that apart from locals and tourists, none of the “experts” whether journalist, think tanker, bureaucrat or politician have, apparently ever driven from Prince Rupert to Terrace.
When both Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau were in the northwest earlier this summer to “engage” with the local people, apart from short boat trips down Douglas Channel, they flew everywhere. Scheduling you know. Stephen Harper has never visited northwest BC and probably never intends to. His cabinet members fly in for photo ops and then are on the next plane out of town.
Of all the visiting journalists who have come to the northwest only a couple have bothered to drive around the region. Most fly-in fly-out. These days, most often budget-strapped reporters never leave their offices, interviewing the same usual suspects by phone on every story.
On Monday, I took most of the photographs on my way back from Prince Rupert to Terrace after my appointment, so the sequence is from west to east. There are also very few places along the river where you can safely stop. There are concrete barricades on both sides of the highway to prevent vehicles either going into the river or onto the narrow CN right-of-way.
There are, however, two rest stops and a number of small turnoffs on the highway, the turnoffs mainly intended for use by BC Highways, but which are also used by tourists, fishers and photographers.
The first image was taken at one of those highway turnoffs just east of Aberdeen Creek. This is what the highway and rail corridor are like all along the Skeena, the highway, bounded by concrete barricades, the CN rail line and then the towering mountains. Note where the telegraph and telephone lines are—further up the cliffside.
A closer view of the highway and rail corridor just east of Aberdeen Creek.
Here is the view of the Skeena River from the Aberdeen Creek turnoff. You can see to the east, a mountain and the narrow strip of fill land that supports the highway and the rail line.
You see the broad width of the mighty Skeena, the Misty River, as it is called by the Tsimshian First Nation and by everyone else who lives in the northwest and on the right side of the image, the highway and rail corridor built on fill.
Any room for a pipeline?
There’s another turnoff on the other side of the headland east of Aberdeen Creek, looking back the way we came.
The final small turnoff is just by the Kylex River. Again you can see how narrow the highway and rail corridor are.
A few kilometres further along—as I said the highway snakes and curves its way along the riverbank– you come to the Basalt Creek rest area. So this telephoto image shows a logging truck heading west, taken from Basalt Creek, looking back at the highway.
Again you can see both the highway and CN line are built on fill. Is there any room for a pipeline?
Any room for a 25 metre pipeline right-of-way?
Between Basalt Creek and Telegraph Point, a few kilometres to the east, again the highway and rail line hug the narrow strip between the river and mountains.
This shot, taken from Telegraph Point, in October 2013, shows a CN intermodal container train heading to Prince Rupert. The container trains and the coal trains usually have between 150 and 180 cars. If a winter avalanche took out a train, there would be environmental damage, but that damage would be insignificant from coal or containers compared to a train of railbit tankers carrying diluted bitumen.
At Telegraph Point, the second of the three rest stops between Prince Rupert and Terrace, again there is just a narrow strip between the mountain, the highway and the river.
Across the highway from the rest stop, you can again see the narrow corridor, the first shot looking west the rail line close to the cliff face, the second, east, with the waterfall, which you don’t see during the rest of the year, fed by the fall monsoon.
Two shots from the same location, Telegraph Point, taken in March, 2013, of a CN locomotive hauling empty coal cars back to the fields around Tumbler Ridge. (No waterfall in March)
Everyone has assumed that if Northern Gateway changed its route, the most likely choice given the configuration of the pipeline at the moment is to follow the Skeena.
If Enbridge wanted to try a northern route, similar to the one TransCanada contemplates for Petronas, Northern Gateway would again run into trouble.
It would require reopening or creating a new Joint Review Panel, many more years of environmental and social impact studies of the route, even under Stephen Harper’s fast track system. The TransCanada/Petronas pipeline would also cross the traditional territory of the Gitxsan First Nation and if Enbridge tried that the company would have to deal with the fact that it signed a controversial agreement with Elmer Derrick that was immediately repudiated by most members of the Gitxsan First Nation and eventually dropped by Enbridge.
So why does this idea of a pipeline to Prince Rupert keep coming up?
In most cases, the idea of the pipeline to Prince Rupert is always proposed by Albertans, not from any credible source in British Columbia, or the suggestions come from desk bound analysts in Toronto and Ottawa both in think tanks and in the newsrooms of dying newspapers who have never seen the Skeena River apart from a tiny handful who have looked at Google Street View
(Yes you can Google Street View Highway 16 along the Skeena, I recommend it if you can’t do the drive)
Perhaps the worst example of this failure of both analysis and journalism came in the Edmonton Journal on July 7,2014, when it published a piece by Bob Russell, entitled Opinion: Make Prince Rupert the terminus, which went over the same old inaccurate arguments.
The overland route currently proposed by Enbridge is fraught with environmental issues because it goes over coastal mountains and streams before entering Kitimat’s port. This port will also be the base of perhaps as many as four liquefied natural gas terminals, which will result in the channel always busy with LNG ships outbound and returning from many Asian ports.
There are existing rights of way for the major highway, the Yellowhead, and CN Rail line from Edmonton to the Port of Prince Rupert, so this eliminates the issue of transgressing First Nations lands. The technical issues of narrow passages can be overcome with engineering. In fact, the pipeline can be buried in the roadway at some restricted locations if absolutely necessary, but two different engineers have assured me that for the most part, the right of way should be able to handle the pipeline. A vital factor, of course, is to reduce the impact by eliminating the need for two pipelines.
The clue is how the Edmonton Journal describes Russell;
Bob Russell has an extensive background in planning and was a member of the Edmonton Metro Regional Planning Commission. He has flown the Douglas Channel, visited Kitimat and toured the Port of Prince Rupert.
This is so typical of the Albertan attitude toward northwest British Columbia, people fly in for a couple of days, make a quick observation, and fly out again and present themselves as experts on the region. (Some “experts” on Kitimat, very active on Twitter have apparently never left Calgary).
It obvious that the “two engineers” who assured him “the right-of-way could handle of pipeline” have no idea what they’re talking about. As the photos show there is barely enough room for a highway and a rail line much less a 25 metre wide pipeline corridor.
If the pipeline was to be built as Russell proposed, the only highway between Prince Rupert and the rest of Canada would have to be closed for years, there are no detours. All so a pipeline can be buried under the asphalt not in solid ground, but in the fill on the side of a riverbank in an avalanche zone?
Of course, closing a highway up here won’t inconvenience anyone in Edmonton or Calgary, will it?
Would CN be happy with years of disruption of their lucrative traffic to Prince Rupert with grain and coal outbound to Asia and all those containers coming in to feed Chinese products to the North American market? (you can be sure Walmart wouldn’t be happy about that, not to mention prairie farmers including those from Alberta)
There are existing rights of way for the major highway, the Yellowhead, and CN Rail line from Edmonton to the Port of Prince Rupert, so this eliminates the issue of transgressing First Nations lands.
Is also inaccurate.
I was told by First Nations leaders during the Idle No More demonstrations in the winter of 2013, that, a century ago, when the Grand Trunk built the railway along the Skeena , they did just that, built it without consulting the First Nations along the route, sometime digging up native cemeteries and sacred spots.
While apparently CN has worked in recent years to improve relations with the First Nations along the rail line, according to those leaders some issues of right-of-way remain to be resolved.
If there were any plans to build a diluted bitumen pipeline along that route, that would likely mean another court battle adding to those already before the Federal Court, a court battle that would cost Enbridge, CN, the federal government, environmental NGOs and the First Nations more millions in lawyers’ fees.
It’s doubtful if in the long gone (and perhaps mythical) days of “get it right” journalism that the Russell opinion piece would have passed the scrutiny of an old fashioned copy editor and fact checker.
In 2012, the Edmonton Journal (in a story no longer available on their website) also cited former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed and former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge, as also favouring Prince Rupert.
Dodge, who was in Edmonton Tuesday to deliver a speech on the global economic outlook at MacEwan University, said Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat looks like even more of a long shot.
“I think the project to Kitimat looks, objectively, more risky. So why hasn’t much greater effort gone into looking at Prince Rupert and taking (bitumen) out that way? My guess is, the easiest place to get B.C. to buy into the project would be to go to Rupert.”
Dodge’s views echo those of former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed, who also favours looking at an alternate pipeline route to Prince Rupert, where ocean-going supertankers can navigate more easily.
Back in 2012, I finished my piece for the Huffington Post by saying:
So why do people insist, despite the evidence, that the Northern Gateway go to Prince Rupert? It’s no longer an pipeline; it’s emotion and ideology. Ideology in that opposition to the Northern Gateway is seen by conservatives as heretical opposition to free enterprise itself. Emotion among those who see promoting the oil patch as an issue of “Alberta pride” and even Canadian patriotism.
For the promoters of the pipeline to Prince Rupert, ignoring the science of geology and the study of geography across all of northwestern B.C. is no different than repeatedly knocking your head against the Paleozoic metamorphic greenstone of the mountain cliffs along the Skeena. It only gives you a headache.
Things haven’t gotten much better in the past two years. In fact they’re getting worse as opposition to pipelines mounts.
It seems that in 2014 the Alberta and the federal government policy in promoting pipelines Northern Gateway, KinderMorgan’s TransMountain, Keystone XL, Line 9 Reversal and Energy East (slick PR and smiling representatives at open houses, politicians at strictly controlled photo ops) is to ignore facts on the ground and to refuse to deal with the concerns of local people from coast to coast.
There could, perhaps, be a more inclusive and truly science-based pipeline planning process that could see pipelines go on optimum routes but that isn’t happening.
The policy for the oil patch and its politician supporters when it comes to pipelines is facts and geology don’t really matter. So they put on ruby slippers, knock their heels together three times and send pipelines down a yellow brick road to an Emerald City (while telling the locals to ignore the man behind the curtain)
The response to the Joint Review Panel decision on the Northern Gateway, beginning in December and continuing until this Canada Day, both in the public and in the media is sharply divided by the Rocky Mountains.
A lof of Albertans, most of the energy companies and many in the media, especially the Toronto-based business press, keep telling Canadians that the NEB is an independent, quasi-judicial body, that carefully weighs the scientific and other evidence before coming to a conclusion.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands up in Question Period and from his prepared script also claims the JRP and NEB are independent bodies.
Most of those writing about the attitude of the National Energy Board have never attended a single hearing, As for the Joint Review,. those from the major media who did attend were only there for the opening and closing sessions.
In British Columbia, those attended the Northern Gateway Joint Review sessions saw a strange and arcane bureaucratic system with rules of evidence and procedure often tilted toward a proponent in the energy sector.
Those rules of evidence were created for the cosy club atmosphere of the NEB in Calgary where mostly there are friendly hearings attended only by the proponents and energy sector lawyers. Those same rules were infuriating to those in northwest British Columbia trying and failing to persuade the JRP to take seriously many of the concerns of the region. The rules of evidence and procedure were baffling to lawyers practicing in BC; even the highly experienced lawyers from the BC Department of Justice were chewed out by the JRP in Prince George for not following proper procedures.
The JRP seemed to believe that time stopped at the evidentiary deadline, and although it acknowledged that Northern Gateway was a 50 year project, the panel didn’t need to know anything new.
A careful reading of the two volumes of the Joint Review Panel report and decision clearly shows that JRP finding was not, as one columnist called it, a triumph of science over emotion, but a proceeding that was biased from the outset to find in favour of Enbridge. It is clear that even though the Joint Review Panel did impose 209 conditions on Northern Gateway, reading those almost 500 pages one sees time and time again that Northern Gateway’s evidence and assurances were accepted at face value, while the panel treated the evidence and testimony from opponents with a much higher level of skepticism.
Moving to Calgary
One of my sources once told me that the “NEB is nothing more than an extension of the Petroleum Club.” In the 1991 budget, then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney moved the NEB headquarters from Ottawa to Calgary as a political gift to Alberta.
At that time the move was also seen as practical, Alberta was still complaining no one in Ottawa was listening to it. So if the Conservative government moved the NEB to Calgary, it would be there listening to the oil patch. NEB offices were scattered across the country, consolidating them in Calgary seemed, at the time, to be a way of saving taxpayers’ money and enhancing internal communications.
Seen now, about 25 years later, it’s clear the NEB move from its Ottawa headquarters and regional offices to Calgary was a disaster waiting to happen. Over the past quarter century, despite its claims of independence, the NEB and its staff have become so embedded in the oil patch energy culture of Calgary that (probably subconsciously) the NEB has shown that it is largely incapable of really taking seriously the culture of British Columbia on issues such as the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan projects. The NEB Calgary culture is also colliding,with the concerns and culture of other parts of the country as diluted bitumen pipelines head eastward.
The Conservative omnibus bills that gutted environmental protection and speed up the review process has made things much worse–at least until this week.
Now the Supreme Court has sent a shot across the bow of the full steam ahead National Energy Board, compelling the board to put much more weight on the concerns of First Nations.
The decision upholding the Tsilhqot’in claim to its traditional territory means the NEB and any future joint review panel (whether involving multiple federal agencies or federal agencies and a province) are going to have to take the concerns of First Nations and indeed all Canadians a lot more seriously—and the future of the planet as well, as described in the first part of this analysis. Chief Justice Beverly McLaughlin wrote that on First Nations` traditional territory:
that it is collective title held not only for the present generation but for all succeeding generations. This means it cannot be alienated except to the Crown or encumbered in ways that would prevent future generations of the group from using and enjoying it.
“Future generations” is the key phrase.
Future generations could undermine that whole world view of the Joint Review Panel, since the panel so casually dismissed the fears of a major disaster on the coast, saying it was “unlikely” and could be “mitigated.”
The JRP basically had a so-what attitude to British Columbia, arguing that since parts of the British Columbia environment had already been degraded any future environmental problems would be minimal and could be “mitigated.”
While in the introduction to its definition of the Public Interest, the JRP says
If approved and built, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project could operate for 50 years or more. Sustainable development was an important factor in our environmental assessment and our consideration of the public interest. The project would have to meet today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations.
Sounds like that might match the Chief Justice. But, as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. And just a few paragraphs later, the JRP says:
Our assessment of the project’s effects on residents and communities Considering Northern Gateway’s project design, its commitments, and our conditions, we concluded that the project’s potential effects on people’s land, water, and resource use could be mitigated. We were not persuaded that construction and routine operations of the project would have a negative effect on the social fabric of communities in the project area. We also were not persuaded that the project would adversely affect the health and well being of people and communities along the route or in coastal areas. We found that the net overall economic effects of the project would be positive and would provide potential benefits and opportunities to those individuals and businesses that choose to participate in the project.
The JRP’s attitude toward a major disaster was “trust Enbridge.”
We found that some level of risk is inherent in the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, and that no party could guarantee that a large spill would not occur. We found that a large spill, due to a malfunction or accident, from the pipeline facilities, terminal, or tankers, is not likely.
We found that Northern Gateway has taken steps to minimize the likelihood of a large spill through its precautionary design approach and its commitments to use innovative and redundant safety systems, such as its commitments to address human error, equipment failures, and its corporate safety culture. These commitments and all others made by the company
Oh well, the ecosystem will recover eventually—a conclusion that could be reached only by ignoring the evidence from Prince William Sound, site of the Exxon Valdez spill.
We found that, in the unlikely event of a large oil spill, there will be significant adverse environmental effects, and that functioning ecosystems recover through mitigation and natural processes.
We found that a large oil spill would not cause permanent, widespread damage to the environment. The extent of the significant adverse effects would depend on the circumstances associated with the spill. Scientific research from past spill events indicates that the environment recovers to a state that supports functioning ecosystems similar to those existing before the spill. We found that, in the unlikely event of a large oil spill, there would be significant adverse effects on lands, waters, or resources used by residents, communities, and Aboriginal groups.
We found that, in rare circumstances, a localized population or species could potentially be permanently affected by an oil spill. Scientific research from a past spill event indicates that this will not impact the recovery of functioning ecosystems.
In other words, some communities, probably aboriginal communities, would have be sacrificed in the public interest and the economics of Alberta while the economy of that part of British Columbia would be destroyed.
Will the JRP have to start over?
The environmental law community and First Nations leaders are already taking a look at another paragraph in the Supreme Court judgement. Paragraph 92 in lawyer speak.
One of the many reports comes from West Coast Environmental Law which noted in an e-mail
[T]he Tsilhqot’in decision, Canada’s highest court brings home the implications of this for Enbridge and other project proponents:
Once title is established, it may be necessary for the Crown to reassess prior conduct in light of the new reality in order to faithfully discharge its fiduciary duty to the title-holding group going forward.
For example, if the Crown begins a project without consent prior to Aboriginal title being established, it may be required to cancel the project upon establishment of the title if continuation of the project would be unjustifiably infringing.
And what about the overhaul of environmental legislation in 2012 to smooth the way for pipeline and other industrial development?
The court notes: “Similarly, if legislation was validly enacted before title was established, such legislation may be rendered inapplicable going forward to the extent that it unjustifiably infringes Aboriginal title.”
In other words, the Supreme Court decision resets everything.
It could nullify the recent decision by the Prime Minister to permit the Northern Gateway to go ahead. Or it could mean, especially given the number of court challenges just to the JRP, that, in light of the Tsilhqot’in decision the panel will be ordered by a court to go back to the drawing board and reconsider its findings.
Then there are the pending challenges to the Harper decision allowing the Northern Gateway to go ahead. Sources told Northwest Coast Energy News that the first of a number of court challenges were to be filed last week. It is likely that after the holiday weekend, lawyers will be rewriting their filings and their briefs in light of the Tsilhqot’in decision and presenting the Federal Court with those challenges some time in July.
The justices of the Supreme Court did allow a public interest exemption on the use of First Nations land for a larger purpose, but there must now be genuine consultation and the public interest will likely have be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, it can’t just be the whim of a prime minister with a tame, unquestioning caucus who decides what is in the public interest.
Who consults whom?
In the decision, Chief Justice McLaughlin wrote:
Governments and individuals proposing to use or exploit land, whether before or after a declaration of Aboriginal title, can avoid a charge of infringement or failure to adequately consult by obtaining the consent of the interested Aboriginal group
The right to control the land conferred by Aboriginal title means that governments and others seeking to use the land must obtain the consent of the Aboriginal title holders. If the Aboriginal group does not consent to the use, the government’s only recourse is to establish that the proposed incursion on the land is justified under s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Compare that again with what the JRP said. As with the environmental impact it begins by saying:
The Panel finds that the magnitude, extent, and potential impacts of this project required an extensive program of public consultation. The Panel considers thorough and effective consultation to be a process that is inclusive of, and responsive to, all potentially-affected groups and individuals.
Then the JRP says:
The Panel notes that, among potentially-affected parties, there were differing perspectives on what constitutes a thorough and effective process of consultation. There were also different views among some parties about how consultation should occur, and their roles and responsibilities during consultation.
The Panel believes that it is critical for all parties to recognize and understand their respective roles and responsibilities for achieving effective dialogue during consultation. The Panel noted the principles of thorough and effective consultation at the beginning of this chapter. The Panel finds that these principles require that a process must provide timely, appropriate, and effective opportunities for all potentially-affected parties to learn about a project, provide their comments and concerns, and to discuss how these can be addressed by the applicant.
So what does it mean?
The JRP starts off by giving Northern Gateway a slap on the wrist:
The applicant [Enbridge] must be genuinely responsive. Affected parties have an ongoing and mutual responsibility to respond to opportunities for consultation, to communicate concerns they may have, and to discuss how these can be addressed.
But then it goes on in the same paragraph:
Consultation requires trust, mutual respect, and relationship-building. All parties have an obligation to seek a level of cultural fluency, in order to better understand the values, customs, needs, and preferences of the other parties involved in the consultation process. All parties may be required to adjust their expectations in response to the information, concerns, and interests raised and considered through the process. The Panel observed that this approach did not always occur in this proceeding.
Get the phrase “all parties.” It is clear here that the JRP is taking on the First Nations and other opponents for not seeing Northern Gateway’s point of view, since it accepts, as seen below, Northern Gateway’s contention that it is doing a good job with consultation,
And the word “trust.” Again the Alberta-bound JRP (the panel had no members from British Columbia, two from Alberta, one from Ontario) are saying “trust Enbridge.”
Unfortunately after a decade of operating in the northwest, and despite its spin, Enbridge has failed time and time again to establish trust with First Nations and it has equally failed to establish trust with a significant number non-aboriginal residents of the northwest.
The companies developing LNG projects have, for the most part, established a level of trust.
The joke up here is now so old it’s a cliche (but still unknown to the eastern media) where an LNG executive says, “We look at what Enbridge did and do the exact opposite.”
The Panel accepts Northern Gateway’s view that consultation is a process which should ensure that all parties are better informed through consultation, and that it involves being prepared to amend proposals in light of information received. In this regard, the Panel notes that Northern Gateway made numerous changes to the design and operation of the project in response to input provided by the public, landowners, governments, and stakeholders
In fact, Northern Gateway is still fumbling the ball.
It is true that Northern Gateway did change its plans and put another $500 million into the plans for the project–after a lot of public pressure and growing controversy during the JRP hearings over its plans.
Equally telling was Northern Gateway’s dismissal in its final arguments (arguments accepted by the JRP) that there was no earthquake hazard in the region, despite two major earthquakes at Haida Gwaii and southern Alaska just months earlier, both of which shook Kitimat.
In the final oral arguments, Northern Gateway’s lawyer Richard Neufeld summarily dismissed the fears of the Haida and Heiltskuk First Nations about destruction of the herring spawning beds because, he said, first, the chances of a tanker disaster were unlikely and second, even if there was a tanker disaster it was even more unlikely that it would occur during the spawning season. (Not that the spawning season matters, herring beds in San Francisco Bay are still damaged years after a spill there).
Now with the Tsilhqot’in decision, Enbridge can no longer summarily dismiss those fears. The companies who have proposed liquefied natural gas projects are meeting with anyone, including avowed opponents, and opening dialogues, even if both sides continue to disagree. Despite its spin, accepted by the political pundits and eastern business media, those who live in the northwest know Northern Gateway’s consultations and engagement, so far, have mostly been with friendly groups and friendly audiences.
The Supreme Court decision is going to change that attitude in the coming weeks. If Enbridge wants Northern Gateway to go ahead, the company is going to have to genuinely engage with First Nations. Given all the damage created by Enbridge over the past decade, that engagement is unlikely to change anything.
The Supreme Court decision is going to have one more consequence.
Eventually, in a few years, the decision will negate that stupid attitude from the conservative media and some in the business community that the people of northwestern British Columbia are against all development. That was never true but it’s a convenient excuse for those columnists and conservatives not to question their own assumptions.
If the reporters and columnists had bothered to come up here, if the press-release dispatching business leaders had bothered to leave their executive suites, they’d know what northwestern BC wants is responsible and sustainable development, not quick in and out profits.
The Supreme Court decision means that any future industrial development in the northwest will be much different from anything seen in the past because First Nations must be involved from the beginning.
Given its sorry track record, it is unlikely that Enbridge will be part of that development. but others will profit, yes profit, from that failure.
In the coming years it is also likely that there will be a new approach to development from the National Energy Board after they begin to see their narrow oil-patch friendly approach and rulings struck down by the courts quoting the Tsilhqot’in decision.
It comes down to the idea that Harper will approve Gateway “in the national interest,” count on a vote split between the NDP and Liberals in British Columbia to avoid any consequences to the Conservative majority and then leave it up to Enbridge to actually get the job of building the pipeline and terminal project done.
Mason quotes “ a senior member of Mr. Harper’s government,” and while Mason doesn’t say what part of Canada the source is from, (unlikely in my view the source is from BC) what the member told Mason reveals that the Harper government is still mired in it the Matrix-world that has always governed its policy on Northern Gateway.
The first step, apparently coming in the next few days, is that the Harper government “rigorous” new tanker protocols for traffic along the west coast.
Even if the protocols are new, just who is going to enforce those policies?
Even if Gateway and the Kinder Morgan expansion went ahead, he argued, B.C. would still only see about 60 per cent of the annual oil tanker traffic the neighbouring state of Washington deals with. And yet Washington has an exceptionally clean record when it comes to the safe transport of oil in and out of its harbours – this, he noted, while operating under marine safety regulations that are not as rigorous as the ones Ottawa intends to put in place for the shipment of oil along the West Coast.
There are a lot big problems with that statement.
First, there’s an organization that the Mason’s source may have heard of known as the United States Coast Guard. The United States rigorously enforces its “weak” regulations, while Canada’s Coast Guard is plagued by staff shortages and budget cuts.
Second, the State of Washington also rigorously enforces its environmental regulations, not only on the coast but across the state. I have been told by retired British Columbia forestry and environmental officials (not to mention Fisheries and Oceans) that there are often more state environmental watch dogs in most Washington State counties than in all of northern British Columbia where the Northern Gateway is supposed to be going.
The September 2013, report by the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration on the export of Canadian bitumen sands through the US shows that the Washington Department of Ecology is working on strengthening regulations for both pipelines and (where it’s in state jurisdiction) tanker traffic. The same report says the state of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is updating its plans and possible regulations in anticipation that bitumen filled tanker traffic from Kitimat would come close to the coast en route to Asia.
Third, the coast of northern British Columbia is more rugged and stormy than the waters off Washington.
The one factor that the urban media seems to ignore, is the big question.
Who pays to enforce the 209 conditions that the Joint Review Panel imposed on the Northern Gateway project?
If the Harper government announces new tanker regulations in the coming days, who pays to enforce those regulations?
There were no provisions in the February budget for enforcing the 209 conditions. Rather there were continuing budget cuts to the very departments that the JRP ruled must be involved in the studying, planning, implementation and enforcement of the 209 conditions, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans and Transport Canada.
So while Mason says “The federal government will play its part in meeting the five conditions laid out by the B.C. government for support of the project,” the response must be “Show me the money!”
During the recent plebiscite campaign, Northern Gateway finally revealed its plans for the “super tugs” that will escort tankers along the coast and up Douglas Channel. Owen McHugh, a Northern Gateway emergency manager said, “Adding these four or five tugs to the north coast provides a rescue capability that doesn’t exist in this format. So for any large commercial vessel that is traveling on our coast, this capacity to protect the waters of the north coast.” Those tugs and Northern Gateway’s plans to station teams at small bases along the coast means that the company is, in effect, creating a parallel, private, coast guard on the BC Coast.
What about the Coast Guard itself? The Harper government has been gutting Coast Guard resources along the coast even before it had its majority. It closed and dismantled the Kitsilano Coast Guard station in Vancouver. There is more dependence on the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue volunteers, who have to raise money locally for modern rescue boats which cost up to $750,000. The money that government was “generously” giving to RCMSAR had to be split up to 70 stations in 42 communities along the coast as well as its administrative and training staff.
Does anyone notice what is missing from that list? What’s missing are better Coast Guard vessels just to police all the expected tanker traffic on the west coast (whether LNG or bitumen) and no mention of dedicated spill response vessels, which under the “polluter pay” policy will likely be left to private contractors (and hope that the ships are available at the time of a spill)
How will we know?
Then there is the question of how will people even know if the 209 conditions are being enforced; whether or not the reports demanded by the Joint Review Panel are going be sitting on the National Energy Board server and ignored.
There is every indication, given the government’s obsession with secrecy that until there is a disaster the Canadian public will never know what’s going on. Harper’s muzzling doesn’t just cover government scientists, it covers the lowest level of bureaucrats, as District of Kitimat Council found out when low level DFO bureaucrats refused to appear publicly before council to discuss the risk to the Kitimat River.
So the scenario is, according to Mason’s source
“I think once this decision is made, Enbridge could have shovels in the ground the next day,” the member said. “They are ready to go. This means the First Nations could start realizing profits from this right away, as opposed to the promised profits from LNG, which may never materialize. I think they need to think about that.”
While the LNG market is volatile, the “member” forgets that most of the First Nations of British Columbia have opposed the Northern Gateway since Enbridge first floated the idea in 2001. The current LNG rush didn’t start until after Japan shut down its nuclear power plants after the March 2011 earthquake, The first major anti-Enbridge rally, “The Solidarity Gathering of Nations” was held at Kitamaat Village in May 2010.
Writing off BC
It appears that Conservatives, in their election strategy have already written off Gateway opponents:
Still, there is a raw political calculus that needs to be taken into account. Polls measuring support for the pr.oject in B.C. vary, but generally have shown that anywhere from 55 to 60 per cent of the province opposes Gateway and 40 to 45 per cent support it. Isn’t that enough to scare off a government that needs critical votes in B.C. to win another majority?
“Let’s say 60 per cent are against it,” he said. “And that vote splits between the Liberals and the NDP come the next election. Who are the 40 per cent going to vote for?”
Mason also speculates that Harper will approve Gateway to stick it to Barack Obama and the delays on Keystone XL. As he points out that’s a political, not an economic decision.
There are civil disobedience classes being held across northwestern BC this month. Access to Information requests by the Vancouver Observer revealed increased RCMP surveillance of the anti-Gateway movement. There has always been talk of a “war in the woods” if the pipeline project is forced on an unwilling population.
So it comes down to a question that Mason and the Conservatives are avoiding. Mason’s source says Northern Gateway is crucial to the national interest:
“At the end of the day, you have to do what’s right, not what’s politically expedient,” he said. “You have to ask: What’s in the best interests of all Canadians?”
So given all that will the Harper government leave Enbridge to tough it out on its own?
But will the Harper government, with its bean counting obsession on balancing the budget be willing to pay for all that is needed?
There’s lots of marine clay along the pipeline route, laid down by ancient oceans. That brings to mind just one word. Quagmire, not just the wet, sticky BC mud but a political quagmire.
Kinder Morgan has filed a last minute objection to the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel’s preliminary conditions for the Enbridge project.
One of the objections from Kinder Morgan is the provision in the JRP’s proposed Gateway conditions for “purpose built tugs” to escort tankers (a measure that Enbridge has proposed for the Gateway project). Another provision Kinder Morgan objects to is “secondary containment facilities at marine terminals” likely to become an issue if the Vancouver terminal is expanded by Kinder Morgan.
Overall, Kinder Morgan warns that if the JRP imposes some of the proposed conditions on the Northern Gateway, it could adversely affect future pipeline projects in British Columbia.
As well, Kinder Morgan, it appears, is already concerned that if the proposed oversight of Northern Gateway goes ahead, the Kinder Morgan plan to twin the pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver and expand terminal operations in Vancouver could face ongoing scrutiny and possible delays.
The Kinder Morgan document, from the company’s Calgary lawyer, Shawn Denstedt, of Osler, Hoskins and Harcourt, filed May 31, appeared among all the final arguments filed on Friday by intervenors and governments to the Joint Review Panel on Northern Gateway.
Kinder Morgan’s letter to the JRP comes long after the final deadline for such comments.
Kinder Morgan is a registered intervenor in the Northern Gateway hearings, but has only filed four previous documents during the entire multi-year process. The company does not appear on the list of intervenors scheduled to appear for oral final arguments in Terrace beginning on June 17.
On April 12, 2013, the JRP issued a preliminary list of 199 conditions for the planning, construction and operation of the Northern Gateway project.
Now Kinder Morgan is worried. Denstedt’s letter notes:
we believe a number of the proposed conditions may have a material impact on pipeline and infrastructure development in Canada and consideration should be given to the conditions from this perspective.
Diplomatically, Denstedt goes on to tell the panel:
Our comments are intended to assist the JRP in understanding the potential outcomes of the proposed conditions if they become generally applicable to industry.
Under what Detstadt calls “Commercial considerations”, Kinder Morgan says “we observe that several of the proposed conditions are likely to affect the manner and risks involved in procuring pipeline facilities and services.
The list points to
Three layer composite coating or high performance composite coating is required for the entire pipeline although other pipeline coatings are commonly used in the pipeline industry depending upon ground conditions encountered
Complementary leak detection systems must be identified that can be practically deployed over extended distances of pipeline.
The construction of purpose-built tugs involves significant cost and lead time
A volume is prescribed for the secondary containment facilities at the marine terminal without reference to existing codes.
The letter goes on to say that if the conditions proposed by the JRP for the Northern Gateway come into effect, in Kinder Morgan’s opinion, it could adversely affect other pipeline projects in the future.
If broadly applied to industry, such conditions may limit the ability of pipeline companies to obtain competitive quotes because there are few sources of the required materials or services. The effect of conditions that require the use of a particular material or service may be to grant commercial benefits to certain suppliers through the regulatory process beyond the requirements of existing codes. Since several export pipelines are currently proposed, there will be a heightened demand for labour and materials in the coming years. The commercial effect of conditions that may exacerbate shortages of labour and materials should be a relevant consideration for the JRP.
One of Kinder Morgan’s objections is to the timing the JRP proposes for the Northern Gateway project if it applies to other pipelines.
Several of the proposed conditions contain NEB approval requirements and filings deadlines several years prior to operations. For example, plans related to the marine terminal and research programs must be filed for NEB approval three years prior to operations.
We are concerned that requiring reports to be filed for approval several years before operations can create significant schedule risks for infrastructure development projects. For example, a project with a two year construction schedule could take three years to complete with such conditions. Any changes to the construction schedule and anticipated date of operations would affect the filing deadline. Project proponents need sufficient schedule certainty in order to plan major expenditures on labour and materials.
To mitigate such risks, it is relevant for regulators to consider whether the filing deadlines and approval requirements prescribed in conditions could materially alter a project’s schedule. Filing deadlines should be set at a reasonable time before operations in order to minimize the risk that such deadlines materially affect the critical path for a project.
Many of the conditions require NEB approval, and in some cases the participation of other parties in the approval process, in order to be satisfied. Fulfillment of those conditions will require additional time, a Board process and potentially litigation. For example, certain reports must be filed with the NEB for approval prior to commencing construction activities. Other conditions require reports to be filed for approval by the NEB prior to construction with a summary of how concerns from other government agencies and Aboriginal groups were addressed.
So Kinder Morgan says:
In our view, conditions that require subsequent board approvals and that attract the potential for additional regulatory processes should be the exception and not a new standard or norm. There must be clear, well understood rationales given as to why additional approvals are in the public interest.
And so Kinder Morgan asks:
As an alternative, the NEB may utilize its existing powers and processes to ensure that when filings are made to satisfy imposed conditions an additional approval process is not required.
Overall the company sees the rules for Northern Gateway as a step back to the days before deregulation.
A number of the conditions may be interpreted as reflecting a return to a prescriptive approach to regulation. These conditions prescribe detailed audit requirements instead of setting a goal oriented approach to allow the proponent flexibility in mitigating any adverse effects. Such conditions tend to focus on operational aspects that are covered by existing codes and regulations rather than setting goals for the proponent to mitigate any significant adverse effects.
Denstedt, again diplomatically, concludes by saying:
Kinder Morgan wishes to thank the JRP for the opportunity to present these high level perspectives regarding its proposed conditions. Our comments are intended to ensure that the wider implications of the proposed conditions on the pipeline industry and infrastructure development are given appropriate consideration in the deliberations and final recommendations of the JRP.
That’s where the pollsters failed and have failed time and time again for the past decade. As long as the pollsters keep asking the stupid question “What’s more important the environment or the economy?” a majority of voters, especially in uncertain times, will choose the economy. Politicians will campaign, as Christy Clark did brilliantly, by promising that there are better economic days ahead, putting the environment far down the priority list.
By the time Canadians and all human beings realize that a viable economy is based on a sustainable environment it may be too late to save either.
The Liberal majority under Christy Clark was a big surprise; the polling data indicated, at first, that there would be a big NDP majority and in the final days that the Adrian Dix and the NDP would sneak into the Legislature still in majority territory.
Instead, Christy Clark, who until (if) she finds a seat, will be running the province as premier from the legislature galleries.
The trouble is that the eastern establishment mainstream media are as out of touch as the pollsters. The Globe and Mail editorial, like most of the eastern media, once again sees British Columbia as nothing more than a junior partner in Confederation, existing to serve the interests of Alberta, with the concerns about our future secondary.
It now falls to Ms. Clark, who was cagey about her position on the Trans Mountain project, to take an objective look at the proposal, let go of her populist, B.C.-first rhetoric, and ensure that her government is an open-minded partner with Alberta in its bid to get its oil to tidewaters for export. Any reviews of the pipeline project must be done quickly and with a deadline.
It’s just plain unmitigated arrogance, but rather typical, to tell a premier who just won a majority in the legislature and the popular vote to “let go of her populist BC-first rhetoric.”
The liquifaction factor
There’s one big problem, a very big problem, with Clark’s promises. She opened her campaign in Kitimat by promising that the liquified natural gas developments will not only slay the deficit but pay down the BC provincial debt in 15 years.
I asked Clark in the media scrum after her announcement how she could make such a prediction when the LNG market is so volatile. She replied that her predictions were based on very conservative estimates. That was spin.
Clark based her election campaign on a promise that not only hopes to foretell the future for the next fifteen years but on liquifaction.
Now liquifaction has two meanings. First is the freezing of natural gas to LNG. Second is the problem that occurs during an earthquake when water saturated ground turns into a liquid, bringing about the collapse of countless buildings with the death and injury that follows.
Clark based her campaign on the hope that the LNG market will not liquify—as in the second meaning.
The LNG market looked so simple two years ago. Buy natural gas at low North American prices, pipeline it to the west coast, load it on tankers and sell it in Asia at the higher natural gas price there which is based on the price of oil. But, wait, the free market doesn’t work that way (sorry free enterprise coalition). Customers in Asia don’t want to pay the full oil-based price for natural gas if they can get it via the US Gulf ports at a cost plus North American price. If the export price of LNG falls, even if the BC projects proceed, the price will be a lot lower than Clark and the energy cheerleaders expect and there will be no new golden age for the BC economy.
Changes in the LNG market are happening at warp speed and it is hard to keep up (And many people in Kitimat are trying to keep up with the daily volatility since the future of the town may depend on LNG). Unfortunately, the dying mainstream media failed to explain, even in the simplest terms, that Christy Clark’s LNG promises might be as empty as a mothballed tanker. This is one case where concentrating on the horse race—and the grossly inaccurate polls—was a blunder, when there should have been reality checks on the LNG promise. The conservative cheerleaders in the media actually didn’t do their readers much good when they failed as reporters to check out the real state of the energy industry or predicted economic catastrophe if there was an NDP victory.
The NDP failure
The NDP campaign under Adrian Dix was not up to its appointed task of explaining the need for both a viable economy and a sustainable environment. Most pundits point to Dix’s mid-campaign switch to opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion as the beginning of the NDP decline.
More telling, for me, was Dix’s failure to explain the proposed two-year moratorium on fracking. There are lots of moratoriums and holds on fracking in North America and around the world. The Canadian media, however, failed miserably (if it even bothered to check) that fracking moratoriums are becoming a standard, although controversial, practice worldwide. A moratorium on fracking today is prudent given the uncertainty over current practices.
Yes, fracking has been used for 50 years but on a much smaller scale. There are two new factors. First is the sheer volume of operations, with no idea what the massive increase in fracking will do to the environment, especially the ground water. Second is the stubborn refusal of companies to release proprietary information on the chemicals they use—the same “public be damned” attitude toward environmental concerns that has got pipeline companies in trouble as well.
Christy Clark and the conservative commentators successfully painted the fracking moratorium as stopping all economic development in the province. Dix and the NDP completely failed to emphasize that their platform was that the party wanted industrial development in the province, but didn’t want to rush into development that will cost the province and its taxpayers down the road. (And taxpayers will eventually have to pay to clean up unfettered development long after the companies that profited have left town, something deficit and debt hawks always conveniently ignore.)
The Orange Coast
As Tyler Noble (formerly with CFTK News and now with the District of Kitimat) pointed out in a Facebook post, the electoral map shows perhaps the real story of the election. The British Columbia coast is entirely NDP orange. The Interior of BC went Liberal. The fight over tankers and pipelines is not going to go away with the result of this election, it’s going to get louder and a lot nastier.
So the University of Calgary pundits, the conservative columnists and editorialists from Calgary to Toronto and the Globe and Mail editorial board will soon have to forget their cheers and go back to complaining about the BC peasants who have to be “educated” about how good pipelines are for the economy.
The turnout, as currently reported, was 52 per cent. The student vote (an actual vote) went heavily to the NDP and the Greens. Part of the student vote result is traditionally, younger people generally tend to vote “progressive” parties. Young people, increasingly disillusioned by partisan politics, are not turning out to actually vote. With high unemployment among millennials and teenagers, these potential voters want jobs, but they’re also worried about the future of the planet. They’re not turning out to vote because many say they have no one to vote for (despite the appeals of the NDP and the Greens.)
Many older people, both on the left and the right are trapped in an obsolete world view of progressive views versus big business or the dreaded socialism versus free enterprise. Older people, worried about their economic future do vote and are often more small c conservative.
Clark campaigned on that paradigm and she won.
Be careful for what you wish for.
The failure of the economy vs environment question
It may be that by the next federal election in 2015 and by the next BC election in 2017, there might be, it is hoped, a profound change in the political narrative. If the pollsters hadn’t asked that obsolete and stupid question about the environment verus the economy, business versus socialism, they might actually have had some good data in this election.
In the United States, green conservatives are adding to the ruptures in the Republican Party. There is even a branch of the Christian Coalition, that is splintering because it too supports the idea of green values because it sees green as supporting family values, helping the poor and the idea of stewardship.
We see lots of green conservatives here in northwest BC among the hunters, fishers and fishing guides and those who work in the industrial sector who like hunting, fishing, hiking and boating. Did they vote for the NDP or the Liberals? Usually the sample size in northwest BC is too small, but drilling down might indicate that there were enough green conservatives who voted for what should now be called the Orange Coast.
If Adrian Dix and the NDP had campaigned effectively with an eye on the green conservatives, there might actually be an NDP majority. If Christy Clark actually keeps her hints of a possible tilt toward green conservatism and moves away from the free enterprise at any cost faction of the Liberals (including that 801 coalition that died at 802), she might actually be in for a long run as BC premier.
If, on the other hand, as the Globe and Mail advocates this morning, if Clark does move, bowing to Alberta’s demands, toward more unfettered development, as environmentalists fear and the aging free entrerprisers would love, the next provincial election will be one to watch, perhaps with the Greens filling a vacuum created by the Liberals and the NDP.
As for the pollsters, there have been two major failures in Canada, the BC and Alberta elections. The pollsters were wrong about the Israeli election as well, which means polling failure is not confined to Canadian politics. It’s time for the pollsters to stand down, go back to the beginning, and take a look at all their practices, including the basic questions they are asking and to wonder if the questions reflect an unconscious bias in favour of the party paying for the poll (good professional pollsters do usually try to avoid open bias question sequences).
If the polling companies don’t change, they too will soon follow the dying mainstream media into oblivion, so neither will be around to see a possible future where the concerns for the environment are a given and the debate is over the real solution to stave off catastrophe.
This post has been updated to clarify that those who I call Conservative cheerleaders failed to be clear about the energy industry, not the overall campaign.
The federal government outlined new tanker safety measures in Vancouver Monday, measures aimed at increasing support for the Enbridge Northern Gateway project and the Kinder Morgan pipeline twinning projects.
Other measures as outlined in the news release are:
Today, the government has also tabled the Safeguarding Canada’s Seas and Skies Act, which is amending the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. The proposed amendments will:
strengthen the current requirements for pollution prevention and response at oil handling facilities;
increase Transport Canada’s oversight and enforcement capacity by equipping marine safety inspectors with the tools to enforce compliance;
introduce new offences for contraventions of the Act and extend penalties relating to pollution; and
enhance response to oil spill incidents by removing legal barriers that could otherwise block agents of Canadian response organizations from participating in clean-up operations.
In addition, the Ministers announced eight measures to strengthen Canada’s tanker safety system:
Tanker inspections: The number of inspections will increase to ensure that all foreign tankers are inspected on their first visit to Canada, and annually thereafter, to ensure they comply with rules and regulations, especially with respect to double hulls.
Systematic surveillance and monitoring of ships: The government will expand the National Aerial Surveillance Program.
Incident Command System: The government will establish a Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) Incident Command System, which will allow it to respond more effectively to an incident and integrate its operations with key partners.
Pilotage programs: We will review existing pilotage and tug escort requirements to see what more will be needed in the future.
Public port designations: More ports will be designated for traffic control measures, starting with Kitimat.
Scientific research: The government will conduct scientific research on non-conventional petroleum products, such as diluted bitumen, to enhance understanding of these substances and how they behave when spilled in the marine environment.
New and modified aids to navigation: The CCG will ensure that a system of aids to navigation comprised of buoys, lights and other devices to warn of obstructions and to mark the location of preferred shipping routes is installed and maintained.
Modern navigation system: The CCG will develop options for enhancing Canada’s current navigation system (e.g. aids to navigation, hydrographic charts, etc) by fall 2013 for government consideration.
Skeena Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen called the statement by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver and Transport Minister Denis Lebel as “greenwash.”
Cullen called the announcement in Vancouver “another attempt to distract from the real and serious environmental, social and economic threat the Northern Gateway pipeline poses to British Columbia.”
The government’s announcement that it will take new steps to increase inspections and aerial surveillance of tankers does not come close to addressing the real concerns that British Columbians and Canadians have about oil spills on the majestic BC coast, said Cullen.
“I think concerned citizens will look at these proposals and, like we have, conclude they’re half-measures,” said Cullen. “People have credible fears about the project,” noting a recent study from the University of British Columbia which pegged the potential costs of a major oil spill on BC’s north coast at $9.6 billion, and the fact that Northern Gateway hasn’t provided convincing real-world evidence that their primary spill response mechanisms – booms, skimmers and dispersants – will be able to work along the BC coast. Cullen also pointed to calculations by a 25-year veteran in the oil spill response industry, which used Enbridge’s own research to show a 8.7% to 14.1% chance of a major oil spill in the project’s first fifty years.
“The risks are enormous, and the consequences of a spill would be devastating,” Cullen noted. “But the prime minister and his cabinet appear to have already made up their minds about the project, so rather than actually listen and respond to the concerns of British Columbians, they’ll resort to half-measures and playing the public relations game.
“Since they came to a majority, the government has taken every opportunity to undermine our environmental assessment process, muzzle scientists, and slash protections for our lakes and rivers. And now they’re realizing they’ve axed their own credibility on the environment and public engagement. If the government were serious about convincing the public that this is a safe project, they’d take the time to sit down with the communities and address the big picture facts about this project, instead of going for the low-hanging fruit like they’ve done today.”
The future of tankers sailing along the British Columbia coast, and the export of crude through BC could change drastically by the end of 2014.
By some time in 2014, the planned expansion of the Panama Canal will be complete, allowing more large ships, including tankers, to pass through the Canal and ply up and down the west coast.
It is also possible that British Columbia coastal ports could not only be used for export of bitumen from the Alberta oil sands and liquified natural gas from northeast BC, but also for oil shale crude found in the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota and Montana, possibly later shale oil from Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
The Keystone EIS surprisingly contains a number of scenarios in British Columbia, even though BC is thousands of kilometres from the proposed TransCanada pipeline from the bitumen sands to the refineries on the US Gulf Coast.
The State Department report had to give President Barack Obama all possible options and that it why the EIS report included what it calls “no action alternatives” –what would happen to the bitumen and oil if Obama rejects the Keystone pipeline. Assuming that the oil, whether bitumen or Bakken oil shale has to get to the Gulf refineries by other means, the EIS takes a close look at one case, via CN rail to Prince Rupert, from Prince Rupert by tanker down to the expanded Panama Canal, then through the Panama Canal to the oil ports of Texas and Louisiana.
Another possibility, although less detailed in the EIS, also considers scenarios where bitumen from the Alberta oilsands or shale crude from the Bakken formation was shipped to Vancouver via the Kinder Morgan pipeline system, to Kitimat via the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.
The State Department rejected the Kinder Morgan and Northern Gateway options for detailed analysis because of the controversy over both projects.
The Keystone EIS was released by the State Department on Friday, March 1, 2013, and is seen as generally favouring TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline project. Despite the EIS report conclusions that the Keystone project would have little adverse impact, the final decision by President Obama will be largely political.
The Prince Rupert scenario
The State Department “Supplementary Enviromental Impact Statement” on the Prince Rupert and several other scenarios were undertaken
In developing alternative transport scenarios, efforts were made to focus on scenarios that would be practical (e.g., economically competitive), take advantage of existing infrastructure to the extent possible, used proven technologies, and are similar to transport options currently being utilized.
The State Department studied a scenario that would
Use of approximately 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometres) of existing rail lines from the proposed Lloydminster rail terminal complex to a new approximately 3,500-acre (1,400 hectare) rail terminal complex where the oil would be offloaded from the rail cars, with a short pipeline connection to the port at Prince Rupert.
That possible replacement for Keystone scenario calls for adding approximately 13 trains with 100 tanker car per day on the CN and Canadian Pacific rail lines between Lloydminster and Prince Rupert. (There is also a separate scenario for a rail route from Alberta to the US Gulf Coast. That scenario is not examined in this report)
That, of course, would be in addition to the already heavy rail traffic to Prince Rupert with grain and coal trains outbound and container trains inbound, as well as the VIA Skeena passenger train.
(David Black who is planning a possible refinery at Onion Flats, north of Kitimat, has said that if the Northern Gateway pipeline is stopped, the Kitimat refinery could be serviced by six trains per day, 120 cars in each direction.)
The railway to Prince Rupert is evaluated using the same criterion under US law that was used to evaluate the Keystone project, including affects on surface water, wetlands, the coast, wildlife, threatened and endangered species, fisheries, landuse, construction, green house gases and even sea level rise.
The EIS for Prince Rupert, however, dodges one of the key questions that is plaguing the Northern Gateway Joint Review panel. While it points out the possible dangers of an oil spill, the report does not go into any great detail,
The overall EIS view of the impact of a Prince Rupert project would likely bring protests from those who already oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline project.
the transport of the crude oil via tankers from Prince Rupert to the Gulf Coast area
refineries would not have any effects on geology, soils, groundwater, wetlands, vegetation, land use, socioeconomics, noise, or cultural resources, other than in the event of a spill.
The State Department scenario says there would be
one to two additional Suezmax tanker vessels per day (430 tankers per year) would travel between Prince Rupert and the Gulf Coast area refinery ports via the Panama Canal.
That, of course, could be in addition to any tankers from the Northern Gateway project, if it is approved, as well as tankers from the liquified natural gas projects at both Kitimat and Prince Rupert.
Expanded Panama Canal
The concept of the Suezmax tankers is critical to the west coast, even if none of the scenarios eventually happen.
The State Department report notes that the Panama Canal is now being expanded, and that beginning sometime in 2014, larger ships, including tankers, can go through the canal. The current size is Panamax (maximum size for the current Panama Canal) to Suezmax (the maximum size for the Suez Canal).
According to the State Department that means even if the even bigger Very Large Crude Carriers are not calling at west coast ports to take petroleum products to Asia, the Suezmax tankers might likely be calling in Vancouver at the terminal for the existing (and possibly expanded) Kinder Morgan pipeline.
Both Kinder Morgan and Port Metro Vancouver have said that the ships that call at the Kinder Morgan Westridge Terminal are Aframax tankers, and even they are not loaded to capacity, because of the relatively short draft in the Burnaby area of Vancouver harbour. Both Kinder Morgan and Port Metro Vancouver say that there are no current plans for larger tankers to call at Westridge.
So one question would be is the State Department report pure speculation or is there, perhaps, somewhere in the energy industry, a hope that one of Vancouver’s deeper draft ports could be the terminal for a pipeline?
Rails to Rupert
The Keystone EIS for the first time outlines the railway to Rupert senario, which has long been touted by some supporters as an alternative to the Northern Gateway project, but without the detailed analysis provided for Northern Gateway by both Enbridge and those opposed to the project. Although based largely on published documents and in some ways somewhat superficial (the State Department can’t find any cultural resources in Prince Rupert), the EIS largely parallels the concerns that are being debated by in Prince Rupert this month by the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel.
So that’s why the EIS took a couple of looks at Kitimat, with two possibilities for replacing the Keystone XL with a Kitimat terminal.
• Rail to Vancouver or Kitimat, British Columbia and tanker to the Gulf Coast area refineries
• The proposed Nothern Gateway Pipeline project.
The study doesn’t just include various forms of diluted bitumen from the Alberta bitumen sands, but petroleum products from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) and crude oil from the Bakken shale shipped to the refineries on the US Gulf Coast which would be served by the Keystone XL pipeline if it was not approved.
The EIS examined the Northern Gateway project and rejected the Enbridge pipeline as a possibility for Alberta bitumen and crude because of the continuing controversy.
However, a reading of the report shows that there could be pressure in the future for a bitumen or crude export terminal at Kitimat that would be served by the existing CN rail line (even though the State Department report prefers Prince Rupert as the best choice as an alternative to Keystone).
Enbridge is proposing to construct the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would transport up to 525,000 bpd of crude oil 1,177 km from Bruderheim, Alberta, to the Port of Kitimat, British Columbia. The port would be improved with two dedicated ship berths and 14 storage tanks for crude oil and condensate. Enbridge intends for the pipeline to be operational around 2017. A regulatory application was submitted in 2010, which is undergoing an independent review process led by the Canadian National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. The pipeline would traverse First Nation traditional lands and important salmon habitat. The project has been controversial and has encountered opposition from some
First Nation bands and other organizations. Opposition to the project remains strong as evidenced by media reports of the January 2013 public hearings in Vancouver on the permit application. It remains uncertain at this time if the project would receive permits and be constructed, and therefore the option of moving additional crude to Kitimat was eliminated from detailed analysis.
The report goes on to say that Enbridge is moving the target for the Northern Gateway due the controversy and the longer than expected Joint Review Panel hearings
Enbridge is now stating in investor presentations that the Northern Gateway pipeline
(525,000 bpd expandable to 800,000 bpd) may be operational by “2017+”
However the State Department report does seriously consider transportation of WCSB crude by rail to Vancouver, Kitimat and Prince Rupert. The report takes an in-depth look at the railway to Prince Rupert option.
One reason is that even if it is transported by rail, the market in Asia is still more attractive to the energy industry than using Kitimat or Prince Rupert as a possible terminal for export to the US Gulf.
The transportation costs of shipping to Asia via the Canadian or U.S. West Coasts
would be significantly cheaper than trying to export it via the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The total per barrel cost of export to Asia via pipeline to the Canadian West Coast and onward on a tanker is less than just the estimated pipeline tariff to the U.S. Gulf Coast for the proposed Project, and is less than half the cost of the Gulf Coast route to Asia. If pipelines to the Canadian West coast are not expanded or approved, even incurring the additional cost of rail transport to the West Coast ports (Vancouver, Kitimat, or Prince Rupert), estimated at $6 per barrel, results in a total transport cost to Asia that is still 40 percent cheaper than going via the Gulf Coast Absent a complete block on crude oil exports from the Canadian West Coast, there would be little economic incentive to use the proposed project as a pass through. The high costs of onward transport to other potential destinations tend to mitigate against WCSB heavy/oil sands crudes being exported in volume from the Gulf Coast.
The EnSys 2011 study found that the rail systems of the United States and Canada were not at that time running at capacity, that there is significant scope to expand capacity on existing tracks through such measures as advanced signaling, and that adequate cross-border Canada/U.S. capacity exists to accommodate growth in rail traffic that would be associated with movements at the level of 100,000 bpd cross-border increase per year or appreciably higher. In addition, rail lines exist to ports on the British Columbia coasts (notably Prince Rupert, Kitimat, and Vancouver), which could be used for export of Western Canadian crudes.
And later in the report:
both of these proposed pipeline projects to Canada’s West Coast face significant
resistance and uncertainty, but there are strong cost advantages when compared with moving WCSB crude to the Gulf Coast even if rail were used to access the Canadian West Coast In fact, using rail and tanker to ship crude oil from the WCSB via the West Coast to China is comparable to the pipeline rate to reach the U.S. Gulf Coast. An increase in the transport costs to the Gulf Coast (utilizing alternative transport options such as rail) would have a tendency to increase the
economic incentive to utilize any West Coast export options, if they are available.
The report also notes the change in Canadian laws in the omnibus bills pushed through by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government:
Also not examined above, are more speculative political impacts that might occur as a result of a decision on the permit application for the proposed Project. In 2012, the Canadian government enacted new laws changing the way some major infrastructure projects, such as pipelines, are reviewed. Among the changes made were limits on the amount of time for such reviews. A declared intent was to promote alternative routes for the export of WCSB crude oils, especially
ones that would reduce reliance on the United States as, essentially, the sole market option.
In other words, even if Northern Gateway is stopped, there could be considerable pressure to export bitumen and crude oil from Alberta not only through Prince Rupert, the site preferred by the State Department EIS, but though Kitimat as well.
That might just open the door for David Black’s proposed $16 billion refinery at Onion Flats near Kitimat. As noted elsewhere on the site Black has possible investors for construction of a new oil refinery approximately 25 kilometers to the north of Kitimat BC on a 3,000 hectare site.
Black’s Kitimat Clean website says the refinery would process 550,000 barrels per day (87,445 cubic meters per day) of diluted bitumen from the oilsands region of Alberta delivered to the site by pipeline or by rail. The diluent will be extracted at the refinery and returned to Alberta if needed there. If not, it would be processed into gasoline. The bitumen will be converted into fuel products, primarily for export.
Black’s plans call for connecting the Northern Gateway bitumen Pipeline to the site. From the refinery six dedicated product pipelines will run to a marine terminal on the Douglas Channel. The Douglas Channel is a wide and deep fjord. VLCC (Very Large Crude Carrier) tankers will transport the refined fuels to markets around the Pacific Rim.
If the Northern Gateway is stopped, Black’s plans call for 12 additional 120 car trains running through every day. (Six in each direction) Northwest Coast Energy News Special report links
The US State Department report on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project also looks at the Kinder Morgan Transmountain pipeline (both the existing line and the proposed second line) and, in at least one part of the report, seems to speculate that, once expansion of the Panama Canal is completed in 2014, there could be larger tankers in Vancouver harbour, something that up until now, both Kinder Morgan and Port Metro Vancouver have denied. However, the State Department report does not say how the port of Vancouver could handle larger tankers.
The State Department EIS says if larger tankers were loaded at Vancouver, it could be economic for crude from the Kinder Morgan Transmountain pipeline to be moved to the US Gulf Coast.
Using heavy crude as a basis, a present day movement via Trans Mountain to Vancouver and thence on a Panamax tanker via the Panama Canal to Houston would have a total freight cost (pipeline tariff plus tanker freight and Panama toll) of around $8.50-9.50/barrel (bbl).
Recognizing that Kinder Morgan plans to enable future shipment in larger Suezmax tankers, and that the Panama Canal Authority is expanding the Canal to take tankers of that size, the rate using a Suezmax would be approximately $1/bbl lower. These rates compare to approximately $8/bbl to move heavy crude via pipeline from Hardisty to Houston. Thus, while in normal markets, a tanker movement from Western Canada would be somewhat more costly than via pipeline, in a scenario where ability to move WCSB crudes by pipeline to the U.S. Gulf Coast were constrained, refiners in the U.S. Gulf Coast could opt for tanker transport.
According to the progress report the current Panama Canal has the capacity for ships that are 32.3 metres wide by 304.6 metres long, This will increase to 49 metres wide by 366 metres long.
Later in the report the State Department goes on to say that bitumen and crude could, as an alternative to Keystone, go to Vancouver:
Under this option, WCSB [Western Canada Sedminetary Basin] would be shipped by existing railways or new pipelines from the Hardisty region to Vancouver or Kitimat, British Columbia for shipment by marine transport through the expanded Panama Canal and delivery to Gulf Coast area refiners. This option considers moving up to 730,000 bpd of heavy crude to the Port of Vancouver and then to the marine docks at the Westridge marine terminal in Vancouver or the port in Kitimat. Under this option, crude oil could move either via rail or by a new pipeline from the Hardisty region.
Currently, Kinder Morgan is planning an expansion of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline originating at Edmonton, increasing its capacity from 300,000 bpd (current) to up to 890,000 bpd(planned for operations in 2017).
The Trans Mountain pipeline runs into Vancouver via the existing Burnaby terminal over to the Westridge dock for loading heavy crude onto vessels. The pipeline has sufficient commitment from shippers to proceed with engineering and permitting processes. Kinder Morgan indicates that the project would significantly increase tanker traffic from about 5 to 34 cargoes per month, or up to about 400 cargoes per year . The increased marine traffic is due to increased volume to be shipped, and lack of sufficient channel draft to load larger vessels.
The proposed expansion at Westridge Terminal is based on the loading of Aframax tankers, the same tankers currently being loaded at Westridge. Larger tankers are not permitted in the Vancouver harbour, and are not under consideration for the expansion. Proposed changes at the dock include new loading facilities, fire protection, vapour recovery, secondary containment, and emergency response equipment.
To connect the Burnaby Terminal with the Westridge Terminal, the proposed expansion includes two new, four-kilometre pipelines each with a diameter of 762 millimeters (30 inches). These two new delivery lines would provide product deliveries to tankers at two new dock berths, and provide the scheduling flexibility required for a marine operation.
The role of Port Metro Vancouver is to conduct a rigorous project review to ensure the safe movement of goods through the Port. Kinder Morgan has yet to submit a formal project proposal to Canada’s National Energy Board. If they do, and should approval be granted, the project would then undergo several other permitting processes, one of which is a Port Metro Vancouver Project Permit Review. Vancouver is a very low volume tanker port. Currently, there are about 100 crude oil and chemical tankers calling the port each year. If the Kinder Morgan project receives approval, that number could increase to approximately 400 tankers a year. Other well-run ports such as the Port of Rotterdam handles 8,206 tankers a year, while Singapore handle 22,280 tankers a year.
Will larger tankers be calling at Port Metro Vancouver as a result of the Kinder Morgan Proposal?
There are no plans to exceed the current maximum size of tankers calling at Port Metro Vancouver. Due to depth restrictions in the Burrard Inlet, the largest dimension of tanker that can be handled is the Aframax, a medium-sized tanker with a maximum capacity of 120,000 tonnes. Even then, these vessels can load to only around 80% of capacity due to draft restrictions.
The State Department EIS was cautious about the Kinder Morgan project and did not do the same deailed analysis as it did for Prince Rupert.
The substantial increase in tanker traffic from the proposed Kinder Morgan expansion has raised safety and environmental concerns. Moving additional volumes of crude oil from the proposed Project into the Vancouver market by either a new pipeline or rail would result in 400 or more additional vessels loading at Vancouver each year and would require considerably more storage to be built than the current Kinder Morgan operations. The expansion of storage capacity, potential rail off-loading facilities and logistics, and increased marine traffic may make this option logistically challenging in a relatively compressed and populated geographical area.
Moreover, even if a separate pipeline from Hardisty could be planned, mapped, engineered, designed, and permitted starting today, it would likely not be available as an option until well after the proposed [Keytsone] Project’s planned start date. As a result of the logistical challenges in increasing the amounts of heavy Canadian grades of crude oil coming into the Vancouver/Burnaby region over and above the volumes from the Kinder Morgan expansion, this option was deemed to be less viable than movements from Kitimat and Prince Rupert and was eliminated from detailed analysis.
It’s not clear from the Keystone EIS, if the State Department was simply speculating on larger tankers in Vancouver harbour or if it was made of aware of possible hopes for a deep water tanker port elsewhere in the Vancouver harbour area.
The State Department EIS goes on to note:
While no new additional pipeline capacity has been added from Canada into the United States or to the Canadian West Coast since the Final EIS in 2011, a number of projects are proposed, including this proposed Project. The 300,000 bpd Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline that runs from Edmonton to the British Columbia coast at Vancouver, with a spur to Washington State refineries, has been over-subscribed for some time. A successful open season led the Kinder Morgan to announce and file for expansion to 750,000 bpd by potentially 2017. After a
second open season, Kinder Morgan has increased the expansion to 890,000 bpd. The bulk of the incremental crude moved on the line would potentially be destined for Asia. The review process for this project is continuing, but there is significant opposition based on concerns over environmental impacts associated with the oil sands and with additional tanker movements in the Port Vancouver harbor.
As noted above, both of these proposed pipeline projects to Canada’s West Coast face significant resistance and uncertainty, but there are strong cost advantages when compared with moving WCSB crude to the Gulf Coast even if rail were used to access the Canadian West Coast... In fact, using rail and tanker to ship crude oil from the WCSB via the West Coast to China is comparable to the pipeline rate to reach the U.S. Gulf Coast. An increase in the transport costs to the Gulf Coast (utilizing alternative transport options such as rail) would have a tendency to increase the economic incentive to utilize any West Coast export options, if they are available.