Enbridge pipeline controversy now on both coasts, Maine residents object to plan to send bitumen to Portland

It didn’t take long for the plans to send bitumen eastbound, perhaps as an alternative to Kitimat, to start controversy. The bitumen would go through the Montreal-Portland pipeline, thus the terminal could be at Portland, Maine.

The Maine coast is likely even more delicate than the British Columbia coast, and environmental groups are already gearing up to fight the pipeline as reported in the Kennebec (Maine) Journal, in tomorrow’s edition, June 21, 2012.

Tar sands oil transit meets objections

As speculation grows about the possibility of tar sands oil flowing from Canada through Maine, environmental advocates are banding together to oppose what they see as a risky proposition.

On Tuesday at Portland City Hall, [fisher Brooke] Hidell joined representatives from the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the local chapter of the Sierra Club to protest what they say is a growing threat to Maine’s quality of life.

Enbridge Corp., a major petroleum company in Canada, has applied for a permit to reverse the flow of oil between Ontario and Montreal. Dylan Voorhees of the Natural Resources Council of Maine and others predict a similar reversal of the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line, so Canadian oil could be loaded onto tankers in Casco Bay, then shipped to refineries.

Voorhees said that would provide no real benefits to Maine but would threaten the environment while increasing profits for oil companies.

If Enbridge thinks the fight in British Columbia was a headache, it is likely that any plan to use Maine as a conduit for bitumen, will be as equal, if not more controversial.

The area is often home to prominent members of the American establishment.  The Bush family compound, summer retreat for presidents George W and George H. W. Bush, is in nearby Kennebunkport.

The state is also home to a large, vibrant and vocal artistic community.

Editor’s note:  Thirty years ago, in 1983, I took an Outward Bound course on the coast of Maine at the Hurricane Island School (it has since closed).  Unlike the rugged islands of the coast of British Columbia, the offshore islands where I sailed in Maine, are considered environmentally delicate and there are restrictions on the number of visitors and use of the island.



Editorial: Harper wants to cut off funding for JRP intervenors. Conservatives allow hate speech, while curbing green speech.

The Conservative Party of Canada are sickening hypocrites on free speech.

Hate speech is OK. Green speech is not.

Hate speech is permitted, for it is “free speech.”  “Green speech,” on the other hand, is under constant attack from the Conservatives and their followers. While not subject to legal curbs (for now), we are seeing increasing pressure on those who advocate for the environment to shut up.

The Conservatives  today repealed sections of the human rights act concerning “hate speech” delivered by telephone and the Internet.  There was a free vote,  the Conservative MPs supported the repeal by 153 to 136.  It was a private members bill from Alberta Conservative MP Brian Storseth that repealed Section 13 of the human rights code, which covered with complaints regarding “the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet.”

On the same day, in SunMedia, that Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government will no longer fund any organization that comes before the Northern Gateway Joint Review opposing the pipeline.

According to Sunmedia story Taxpayer Funding Oil-Sands Activitists

The taxpayer tap pouring cash into the coffers of oilsands opponents could be turned off.

“If it’s the case that we’re spending on organizations that are doing things contrary to government policy, I think that is an inappropriate use of taxpayer money and we will look to eliminate it,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Paris on Thursday.

Harper was responding to reports by Sun News Network that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has showered more than $435,000 on groups participating in the review of the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, that would connect Alberta’s oilsands to a tanker port in northern B.C.

So there we have it, a prime minister who heads a government elected by just 30 per cent of the Canadian electorate, who now decides who can afford to come before a public quasi-judicial body, the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel. Support the government and the bitumen sands, fine, we’ll give you taxpayers’ dollars, even if you don’t need it. Oppose the government, and you do  it on your own dime.

Transnational energy companies have millions to spend to support their views on the oils sands, whether before the JRP or in a multi-million PR campaign. A poor community that could be devastated by an oil spill off the BC Coast doesn’t count.

In the age of the web, Facebook, Twitter and other social media, all speech is hard to control, as despotic governments around the world are finding.   Hate speech on the Internet is impossible to control.  All someone has to do is  have a server in a country like the United States, where the First Amendment permits it. Green speech will continue to be free on the Internet. The difference is that Conservatives are making every effort to make green speech ineffective in the political and public spheres in Canada.

The change in the Canadian hate law means little in a practical sense. So why did the Conservatives change the law?  Like their efforts to crush “green speech,”  repealing those hate speech clauses has absolutely nothing to do with free speech. The repeal is all about ideological control, the very opposite of free speech.

Behind this vote is the fact that conservatives have made it clear over the years that they despise human rights codes. Today’s act of repeal is nothing more than part the Conservatives  wide-ranging plan to incrementally, millimetre by millimetre, (probably through other private member’s bills) to dismantle all the progress that has been made in this country over the past 70 years.

The right wing media loves to promote the far out wacko cases of people who use the human rights law process, stories the right-wing repeats again and again. There have been wackos who use other legal procedures, including the civil courts and other judicial and quasi-judicial bodies. But the conservatives and their media allies only emphasize the wacko cases before a human rights tribunal.

Of course, the majority of comfortable (and most of whom are, as far as we know, white, male and straight) conservatives are never going to have to use a human rights tribunal to redress a grievance.  They were never beaten up on the school yard, never denied a job or housing.  Most of the people who go before human rights tribunals are on the margins of society.

At the same time, we see the ongoing campaign by conservatives to demonize “green speech,” speaking out for the environment. Conservatives, in politics and the media, are trying to curb the funding of foundations that support the environment, the government routinely calls environmentalists “radicals” and even “terrorists.” Now we have Harper saying, yet again, don’t you dare oppose government policy on the bitumen sands.

The right-wing media routinely heaps their scorn and yes, even hatred, for those who believe that life on this planet is threatened. Those right wing columnists will, of course, fight to death to protect their own free speech but most won’t even put in a single sentence of objection in their columns or reports about the conservative campaign against “green speech.”

Which brings us to the man, who while claiming to be a free speech advocate, is actually now the self-appointed head of Canada’s thought police, Ezra Levant of Ethical Oil. (Ethical Oil today triumphantly tweeted Harper’s statement  @EthicalOil Taxpayers funding anti-oilsands activists #EthicalOil #Cdnpoli… fb.me/V1AS7Tg2 )

Writing in the National Post, Jonathan Kay is full of praise for Levant:

a vigorous network of right-wing bloggers, led by Ezra Levant, began publicizing the worst abuses of human-rights mandarins…. In absolute numbers, the readership of their blogs was small at first. But their existence had the critical function of building up a sense of civil society among anti-speech-code activists, who gradually pulled the mainstream media along with them. In this sense, Mr. Levant deserves to be recognized as one of the most influential activists in modern Canadian history.

Influential activist, yes.  Free speech advocate? No. It is time the media stopped calling Levant a champion of free speech. He is not. Levant is a champion of causes he himself approves of,  especially the bitumen sands.  Free speech for anyone who opposes his agenda is subject at very least to attack and ridicule.

In his columns,  Levant advocated the curbing of the free speech of the thousands of  people of British Columbia who are defending their back yard from the energy industry. Levant is, of course, free to disagree with them, but don’t you dare oppose Ezra Levant or the bitumen sands,

Levant, rather than calling for more free speech in his columns, as his personal PR spin maintains,  advocated cutting off the people who live here in northwestern  British Columbia from the hearings of the Northern Gateway Joint Review panel, by saying too many people had signed up to testify.

Writing in SunMedia on December 10, 2011, Levant let off a broadside at the thousands of ordinary Canadians living and working along the route of the Northern Gateway pipeline who signed up to comment on the project, calling on Stephen Harper to fire chair Sheila Leggett for permitting too many people to speak at the hearings

[A]s of Friday, 4,453 people had typed in their names into Leggett’s website, signing up for the right to make a presentation.

[The JRP] allows anyone in the world — literally any person, any child, any foreign citizen — to simply type their name and address and get the right to testify before her panel.

It’s as trivial as clicking “like” on a Facebook page. That’s why Leggett needs another year. If another 40,000 people click on her website, will she delay things 10 years?

Skimming through the names is like reading petitions where wiseacres sign up as “I. P. Freely” or “John A. Macdonald.” Much of it is just junk, to jam up the system.

The website allows people to write a comment. Many of them are word-for-word replicas of each other. It’s a form letter campaign, arranged by professional environmental lobbyists. And it’s working. The only question is whether Leggett is naive, incompetent or biased against the pipeline.

Some of the forms have been faxed in. They helpfully have the fax signature stamp at the top of the page, showing which foreign-funded lobby group is working to gin up names. Like the Sierra Club, which received a $909,000 contract from the U.S. Tides Foundation and their Canadian affiliate to gin up opposition to the “tar sands.”

Those foreign billionaires are getting their money’s worth — they’ve managed to delay the hearings by a year before they’ve even started.

Levant was giving a completely inaccurate account of the Joint Review process. His column which echoes the ideological blindness of most his conservative columnist colleagues, speaks of foreign influence, repeating the big lie being propagated by the Conservative party,  started largely by blogger Vivian Krause, that there is an International California Conspiracy to undermine the Canadian energy industry.

Dealing with a pipeline coming through some of the most geologically unstable country on the planet is not “trivial.”  The threat of a major oil spill on the British Columbia coast is not “trivial.”

I’ve attended, listened to the remote webcast or read the transcripts of much of the hearings. None–none– of the testimony can remotely be considered: “Much of it is just junk, to jam up the system.”

A fair estimate would say that 95 per cent of people who registered to comment live along the pipeline route or the BC coast. At least a dozen or more letters of comment are posted on the JRP site every day, which means thousands since Levant wrote the diatribe,  and it is clear that they are written by individuals with valid concerns, and none in recent months are form letters. (I check them, I doubt if Levant does)

In that column, Levant goes on about JRP chair Sheila Leggett:

She’s Stephen Harper’s bureaucrat, but she’s taking direction from foreign meddlers. For “whatever time it takes.”

What a fool. No court would permit such a gong show. And Leggett has court-like powers.

Last month, when Barack Obama delayed the Keystone XL pipeline from the oilsands to the U.S., Harper was appalled.

But Leggett was appointed by Harper. And she just pulled an Obama on our own country.

Leggett must be fired. Her job is not to listen to everyone in the world with an Internet connection. It’s to make the best decision in Canada’s interest.

Her Oprah-style hearings are unacceptable, and Harper should make that clear by sacking her.

Leggett was not fired. In fact, over the past six months, she has had a difficult time confining testimony to the narrow rules of evidence that do not permit someone to actually say they oppose the pipeline.  An intervenor had to testify “from personal knowledge” or if First Nations “from traditional knowledge.” So no hearings came close to being “a gong show.”

There hasn’t been a single “foreign meddler” testify in the past six months (although some intervenors, including the energy companies themselves, use experts from outside Canada).

In a later column, on January 7, 2012, the weekend before the hearings began here in Kitimat, Levant again toed the conservative party line in Pipeline review hearings allowing foreign input is ridiculous — we don’t need another country’s permission. It’s all Canada, Levant again repeated his big lie.

Those who testified at the Kitamaat Village hearings in the following days were from the Haisla Nation as well as Douglas Channel Watch and the Kitimat Valley Naturalists (both groups consist of mainly retired Kitimat residents).  There wasn’t a foreign billionaire in sight. Same with the hearings in the days and weeks that followed, First Nations, fishers, hunters, guides, birders, and yes environmental groups. (How dare those BC NIMBYs get in the way of an Alberta pipeline and its manifest destiny?)

In today’s SunMedia article, Environment Canada cautioned:

A spokesman for Environment Minister Peter Kent tells QMI Agency while that funding is often legally required, Kent wants to make sure “common sense prevails” in how it’s awarded.

With its majority, it is likely the Conservatives will change the rules, just as they are by abolishing DFO fisheries protection for salmon spawning streams. Again bottom line, if you support the government and you are rich, you can testify.  If you are poor, even if you are “directly affected,” tough luck.

The sad fact is that Levant has won, for now, his fight against free speech in BC, probably without knowing it.

More and more people are dropping out of the Joint Review Panel process, hearings scheduled for days now last just a day or an afternoon. That’s because given the position of Stephen Harper, Joe Oliver and Peter Kent, that the pipeline is going ahead no matter what, many of these people  who signed up to comment now see no reason to testify for 10 minutes on a subject that is a foregone conclusion. Here in the northwest, where long distance travel is concerned, it takes time and money to make the effort of participate. Why testify, if the government is going to ignore the concerns of the people who live here?

No wonder Ethical Oil sent out the celebratory tweet this afternoon.

The Conservatives have won a major in battle in their war on free speech in this country by making it not worth their while for many ordinary citizens, those who don’t have deep pockets for research and lawyers, to speak on the Northern Gateway Pipeline, at least before the Joint Review Panel. Now Harper government wants to cut off funds for the poorer intervenors.  If that happens, more opponents will drop out of the proceedings.

Kay, in his attack on the hate law calls it a  “system of administrative law that potentially made de facto criminals out of anyone with politically incorrect views about women, gays, or racial and religious minority groups.”

The National Post’s conservative friends (in its own newsroom and both in and out of Parliament)  are now looking for ways to make “defacto criminals out of anyone with the politically incorrect” view that the Northern Gateway Pipeline is not a new version of the “national dream.” After all,  Stephen Harper’s statement today means “that doing things contrary to government policy” is now politically incorrect.

Of course, if the pipeline breaches along the Kitimat River and the town is without a drinking water system for up to four years (in the worst case scenario), it will be Kitimat’s nightmare, not Canada’s. (In Don Mills, columnists will still be able to drink Toronto’s water or, perhaps, run to the corner store for a Perrier.)  If a bitumen tanker hits the rocky coast and sinks in the deep  cold-water fjords, it will largely be BC’s nightmare, and the BC taxpayers’ nightmare, not Edmonton’s or Toronto’s. If a pipeline buried under nine metres of west coast snow in a remote valley has a small–undetectable by computer– breach  in the darkest days of January and  the ongoing oil leak isn’t discovered for weeks or months, by that time it might also be “politically incorrect” for anyone Canada to object. (Of course, people in the region will object and strongly).

The fact is that these small c and large C conservative campaigns  against hate laws in terms of “free speech” are nothing more than the rankest hypocrisy. What most (not all) conservatives want is free speech for their ideas and only those ideas, especially if they want to shout their own hatred of certain groups from the rooftops or on the world wide web, while at the same time, many conservatives have been trying to shut down anyone with opposing views.

To a conservative, the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion that still drives too many numbers of gay teenagers to suicide, is always protected free speech, no matter the body count.

On the hand, to the same conservatives, free speech in Canada doesn’t include protecting the environment of the only planet we live on, especially if a small portion of the funding that speech comes from California. In conservative Canada, free speech belongs to American (that is foreign) oil billionaires like the Koch brothers. To conservatives, free speech does not apply to local BC groups, coalitions of often left-wing environmentalists and  often conservative anglers and hunters, trying to protect wild salmon.

Where’s George Orwell when we need him? In the Canada of Stephen Harper, the National Post and Sunmedia,  homophobic hatred is protected, preserving the planet is not protected.  In Canada in 2012 (or I should I say 1984+), the only acceptable political speech is support for the bitumen sands and the pipeline projects.

And you wonder why the public has such contempt for majority of politicians and most of the media?

Related links:

Editorial: Just asking: why didn’t anyone object to the Americans at the NEB LNG hearings in Kitimat?

Joint Review media analysis Part one: Calgary Herald columnist advocates curbing free speech on the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings

(Deborah Yedlin of the Calgary Herald was another columnist who advocated limiting the number of people appearing before the Joint Review Panel. Perhaps this is another case of free speech for Albertans, but not people in BC?)


Kitimat to “fully participate” in Northern Gateway Joint Review procedural planning meeting: Council

The District of Kitimat will “fully participate” in the Northern Gateway Joint Review procedural planning meeting conference call on May 30, Councillor Rob Goffinet told Northwest Coast Energy News Wednesday, May 23.

Goffinet said the District had been aware of the problem of the JRP bypassing Kitimat for the questioning and final argument phases of the hearings and took steps to register for the planning meeting to be held in Calgary on May 30.

Goffinet, saying he was speaking on behalf of Mayor Joanne Monaghan and the entire council, said as many members as possible will attend, along with District staff, listening in to the conference call from a board room in the District offices in City Centre.

Both the Haisla Nation and the province of British Columbia have filed formal objections to the JRP’s plans to bypass Kitimat for the final sets of hearings.

District of Kitimat Participation at Procedural Conference of 30 May   (pdf)

US National Transportation Safety Board releases photos, documents on Enbridge Kalamzoo oil spill

NTSB staff examine ruptured pipe
US National Transportation Safety Board staff examine a ruptured pipe from the Enbridge oil spill in August, 2010. The photo was released by the NTSB May 21, 2012. (NTSB)

The United States National Transportation Safety Board today released more than 5,000 pages relating to its investigation of the 2010 of the Marshall, Michigan, Enbridge pipeline rupture and oil spill.

The NTSB release says it is adding the documents to the “public docket” on the case.

About 11:17 a.m. EDT on July 26, 2010, Enbridge Energy Partners was notified of a leak on a 30-inch diameter crude oil pipeline (Line 6B) in Marshall, Michigan. The pipeline had ruptured 17 hours earlier and spilled about a million gallons of crude oil into the immediate area resulting in extensive environmental damage to Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

Fifty-eight photographs and 170 documents totaling more than 5000 pages are in the docket. The information being released is factual in nature and does not provide any analysis.

Additional material may be added to the docket as it becomes available. Analysis of the accident, along with conclusions and its probable cause, will be determined at a later date.

This is a document release only; no interviews will be conducted.

Documents are available at this link

More than 800,000 gallons of heavy bitumen crude spilled from the pipeine near Marshall in Calhoun County, Michigan. NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said Monday the NTSB expects to reach a conclusion on the spill sometime this summer.

On May 10, Enbridge announced it would spend $1.6 billion to upgrade and replace portions of the pipeline through Michigan and Indiana. The broken pipeline, however, would be decontaminated and “abandoned in place.”

Nuxalk First Nation withdraws as Joint Review intervenor, Heiltsuk hearings end with more controversy

The Nuxalk First Nation at Bella Coola has withdrawn from the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review process. Both the hereditary chiefs and elders and the elected council say the federal government “has already predetermined its approval of the project.”

A release from the Nuxalk says their withdrawal “withdrawal is another sign that the federal government is mishandling its relationship with First Nations, including its statements last week that it will change the rules for the Enbridge pipeline hearings retroactively, which is unfair and will likely further compromise the regulatory review.”

“There is no honour in the federal Crown’s approach to consulting with First Nations on the Enbridge project,” says Andrew Andy, the elected Chief of the Nuxalk Nation. “Recent statements make it clear that the Prime Minister has already decided to approve the super-tanker project that would violate First Nations’ Title and Rights and put our coastal waters at risk of a major oil spill.”

The Nuxalk support the decision of other Nations to oppose the process through the Joint Review Panel, but say the review is not being done in good faith and has been undermined by repeated and controversial public statements by the Prime Minister and Natural Resources Minister that suggest a predetermined approval.

“Despite our serious concern about this process, including the lack of any decision-making role for First Nations, we entered the process in good faith,” says Andy. “The government’s disrespectful behaviour these past months makes clear that our good faith is not being returned.”

“How can we participate in a process driven by a government that has labelled us ‘socially dysfunctional’?” says Charlie Nelson, a Hereditary Chief of the Nuxalk Nation, referring to recent controversial statements by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver. “Where is the honour in the Crown stating that it’s prepared to violate our constitutionally-protected Title and Rights before the work of gathering information on the scope of infringement is even done?”

The Nuxalk say the Joint Review Panel has no mandate to consult with First Nations, and there has been no clarity provided by the federal government about how it will consult on issues that fall outside of the Joint Review Panel process.

Meanwhile, hearings in Bella Bella ended on Thursday afternoon, with more controversy as they did at when they opened late on Tuesday. Hearings were delayed after a peaceful community demonstration Sunday against the proposed Enbridge project with drumming and singing at the airport. That delay cut one and half days from the hearings and as they ended today, numerous tweets from Bella Bella described how the Joint Review Panel told the Heiltsuk Chief Counsellor Marilyn Slett to “move on” after which some audience members walked out in protest. Later tweets said that a number of speakers were not able to testify and those tweets called that “shameful.” The tweets say that demonstrators followed Joint Review Panel and staff as they left for the Bella Bella airport.

BC understands Gateway won’t create long term jobs, poll for Cullen shows

A poll released by Skeena Bulkley Valley MP and NDP leadership candidate, Nathan Cullen, shows that the majority of B.C. residents understand that the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project will not create long-term employment.

A release from Cullen’s office says that 61% of respondents to the Mustel poll believe that “most jobs are short-term and many long-term jobs will be lost because unrefined oil is being shipped to other countries for refining.”

This result contradicts an earlier Ipsos Reid poll conducted in December 2011. In that poll, respondents cited employment and economic reasons to be the main benefit.

“People get that the project will not create permanent jobs,” said Cullen said. “We certainly want jobs in my riding, but people are not going to settle for short-term cash instead of long-term value-added jobs.”

It its initial submission to the Joint Review Panel, Enbridge states that the project will offer less than 80 direct permanent jobs in B.C., Cullen’s release says.

“Most have understood that this project poses major risks to the environment. These poll results show that British Columbians see that there would be economic losses as well.”

The poll also showed that the majority of B.C. residents are aware of the proposed pipeline project, and that opposition outweighs support for the project.

A total of 87% are familiar with the proposal and have read or heard something about it. 46% oppose the construction of a pipeline in contrast to 37% who support it. The remaining 17% are undecided or do not have an opinion.

“The results convey what I’ve already heard on the ground,” said Cullen, who commissioned the survey. “There is simply too much at risk to push the project through.”

These findings also contradict the earlier Ipsos Reid poll where only 42% of respondents were somewhat or very familiar with the project. It also showed that only 32% opposed the pipeline.

“It appears that at the same time knowledge of the project is growing, so is opposition,” said Cullen.

The Mustel survey was based on 500 interviews completed by telephone (landlines and cellular) January 25 to February 8, 2012 with a margin of error of +/-4.4% at the 95% level of confidence.


Elizabeth May issues open letter to counter Joe Oliver

Green Party leader Elizabeth May has issued her own open letter, countering one issued earlier by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, where Oliver claimed that “radicals” opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline were a threat to the Canadian economy. May calls Oliver’s letter a “hyperbolic rant” and says his office has been “hijacked” by the Prime Minister’s Office’s “spin machine.”

May writes (text from the Green Party website)

Dear Joe,

Your letter caught my attention. I respect you and like you a lot as a colleague in the House. Unfortunately, I think your role as Minister of Natural Resources has been hijacked by the PMO spin machine. The PMO is, in turn, hijacked by the foreign oil lobby. You are, as Minister of Natural Resources, in a decision-making, judge-like role. You should not have signed such a hyperbolic rant.

I have reproduced a short section of your letter. The idea that First Nations, conservation groups, and individuals opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline are opposed to all forestry, mining, hydro-electric and gas is not supported by the facts. I am one of those opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline. I do not oppose all development; neither does the Green Party; neither do environmental NGOS; neither do First Nations.

I oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline for a number of reasons, beginning with the fact that the project requires over-turning the current moratorium on oil tanker traffic on the British Columbia coastline. The federal-provincial oil tanker moratorium has been in place for decades. As former Industry Canada deputy minister Harry Swain pointed out in today’s Globe and Mail, moving oil tankers through 300 km of perilous navigation in highly energetic tidal conditions is a bad choice. In December 2010, the government’s own Commissioner for the Environment, within the Office of the Auditor General, reported that Canada lacked the tools to respond to an oil spill. These are legitimate concerns.

Furthermore, running a pipeline through British Columbia’s northern wilderness, particularly globally significant areas such as the Great Bear Rainforest, is a bad idea. Nearly 1,200 kilometers of pipeline through wilderness and First Nations territory is not something that can be fast-tracked.

Most fundamentally, shipping unprocessed bitumen crude out of Canada has been attacked by the biggest of Canada’s energy labour unions, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, as a bad idea. The CEP estimates it means exporting 40,000 jobs out of Canada (figure based on jobs lost through the Keystone Pipeline). They prefer refining the crude here in Canada. (The CEP is also not a group to which your allegation that opponents of Gateway also oppose all forestry, mining, oil, gas, etc is anything but absurd.)

The repeated attacks on environmental review by your government merit mention. The federal law for environmental review was first introduced under the Mulroney government. Your government has dealt repeated blows to the process, both through legislative changes, shoved through in the 2010 omnibus budget bill, and through budget cuts. In today’s letter, you essentially ridicule the process through a misleading example. Your citation of “a temporary ice arena on a frozen pond in Banff” requiring federal review was clearly intended to create the impression that the scope of federal review had reached absurd levels. You neglected to mention that the arena was within the National Park. That is the only reason the federal government was involved. It was required by the National Parks Act. The fact that the arena approval took only two months shows the system works quite well.

Perhaps most disturbing in the letter is the description of opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline as coming from “environmental and other radical groups.” Nowhere in your letter do you mention First Nations. (I notice you mention “Aboriginal communities,” but First Nations require the appropriate respect that they represent a level of government, not merely individuals within communities.)

The federal government has a constitutional responsibility to respect First Nations sovereignty and protect their interests. It is a nation to nation relationship. To denigrate their opposition to the project by lumping it in with what you describe (twice) as “radical” groups is as unhelpful to those relationships as it is inaccurate.

“Radical” is defined as “relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.” (Merriam Webster).

By that definition, it is not First Nations, conservation groups or individual opponents that are radical. They seek to protect the fundamental nature of the wilderness of northern British Columbia, the ecological health of British Columbia coastal eco-systems, and the integrity of impartial environmental review. It is your government that is radical by proposing quite radical alteration of those values.

Your government has failed to present an energy strategy to Canada. We have no energy policy. We are still importing more than half of the oil we use. Further, we have no plan to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, even as we sign on to global statements about the need to keep greenhouse gases from rising above 450 ppm in the atmosphere to keep global average temperatures from exceeding a growth of 2 degrees C. The climate crisis imperils our future – including our economic future – in fundamental ways which your government ignores.

By characterizing this issue as environmental radicals versus Canada’s future prosperity you have done a grave disservice to the development of sensible public policy. There are other ways to diversify Canada’s energy markets. There are other routes, other projects, and most fundamentally other forms of energy.

I urge you to protect your good name and refuse to sign such unworthy and inaccurate missives in the future.



Elizabeth May, O.C.
Member of Parliament
Saanich-Gulf Islands




Linkfarm: The Krause Chronicles

662-linkfarm1-thumb-150x120-661.jpgVivian Krause styles her self as an  “independent researcher.” Her work is increasingly a favourite of right wing columnists on Postmedia and now Sunmedia

The spin from the conservative columnists, now echoed by the Conservative government is that the environmental opposition to the Northern Gateway is all coming from US based environmental foundations, with the hidden agenda of undermining the Canadian economy.

Only one main stream media report doesn’t praise Krause to the skies came from Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail

The next great pipeline debate – and U.S. funding

Whether or not Krause has a legitimate point about American foundations funding Canadian environmental causes, there has, so far, been no balancing investigation of the money spent by American or other energy companies in Canada to promote their cause.

Here are a few relevant links

Vivian Krause’s site Fair Questions

Krause’s list (of mostly positive for her) media coverage. It is quite extensive but will give you an idea of how widespread her message has reached.

Coverage not found in Krause’s list at this posting

Enbridge boss points to ‘curious’ funding of pipeline opposition by U.S. charities: Edmonton Journal

Foreigners funding ‘mischief’ against Canada’s oilsands: Kent   Sunmedia
Environment Minister Peter Kent adds to the controversy.

U.S. billionaires ‘bullying’ Canada on environment: Researcher Sunmedia (with a quote showing that Stephen Harper supports Krause’s campaign)

Ezra Levant writes a  column for Toronto Sun, calling on the Joint Review Panel to restrict the number of people who will testify against the pipeline.

An “ethicial  oil” spokeswoman, Kathryn Marsall then adds to the mix with
The Big Money Behind the Anti-Oil Sands Movement in the Huffington Post

The National Post then claims the it also the UK that is funding the opposition

Anti-oil sands think-tank being funded by U.K.

and  finally a Black Press columnist named Tom Fletcher repeats it all again in The Alberni Valley News.  (I note that as far as I can find out, none of the northern newspapers in the Black Press chain ran this, or at least ran it prominently)

B.C. a playground for eco-stunts

(a Facebook friend linked to the article, somehow our subsequent discussion about Star Trek got posted, probably because Black Press lets you sign in from FB)

Now, the Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, is pushing the Northern Gateway pipeline every chance he gets despite the fact the Joint Review Panel hasn’t even started hearings. but in The Vancouver Sun in Protests won’t stop Northern Gateway pipeline, minister says

He wouldn’t comment on the argument heard in the oilpatch that American money is being driven by broader interests fearful of the U.S. losing its virtual monopoly on the
landlocked oilsands resource.
“I’m not into conspiracy theories.”

In contrast to this huge campaign, there is no one, no one, as of this date, in the mainstream media putting perspective on the story.

One blog from George Ghoberg at the University of  British Columbia is:

Foreign influence on Canadian energy and environmental policy: A request for some balance

I wrote two earlier columns on the subject.

Joint Review media analysis Part one: Calgary Herald columnist advocates
curbing free speech on the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings

Joint Review media analysis Part two: Postmedia and The Great American Energy Conspiracy

From the Environmental point of view. the Pembina Institute has responded to the attacks on its integrity and credibility

Attacks on environmental group supporters are disingenuous and disturbing

The David Suzuki Foundation has responded to Krause’s separate attacks on Suzuki’s opposition to salmon farming

DSF responds to questions about salmon farming

And to put things in somewhat of a wider perspective, The Hill, which covers Capitol Hill in Washington DC had this story on all the companies that lobbied for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Lobbyists go to battle over Keystone pipeline

Protests won’t stop Northern Gateway pipeline, Oliver tells Postmedia

Energy Politics

In an interview with Postmedia News, Natural Resources minister Joe Oliver repeated his contention that the Northern Gateway is vital to the national interest of Canada and suggested the government won’t be pushed around, adding:    “We can’t let unlawful people oppose lawful development.”

See Protests won’t stop Northern Gateway pipeline, minister says

The oil industry’s “nation-building” attempt to link Canada’s vast oilsands resources to Asian markets can’t be stopped by protesters using civil disobedience, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Tuesday.
He said he will respect the regulatory process that Enbridge Inc. must go through to get approval for its $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline, but said the project, if approved by the National Energy Board, shouldn’t be held hostage by aboriginal and environmental groups threatening to create a human “wall” to prevent construction.

Joint Review releases first round schedule, Gateway ruling put off for a year

Energy  Hearings

The Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel has released its schedule for first round hearings for the Northern Gateway Pipeline.

The panel will visit most of the towns along the pipeline route and the coast.  One surprise is that the bulk of the northwestern hearings will be held in Prince Rupert, not Kitimat as expected.  Kitimat,  where the pipeline will reach the sea and where the terminal will be gets just two days of hearings.  There will be eight days of formal hearings in Prince Rupert.  While this may be a logistical decision, there isn’t that much accommodation available in Kitimat, the decision shows that the panel seems to consider Kitimat no different than any other community along the pipeline route.  Prince Rupert is not on the planned pipeline route (at least at this time)  There are also  six days of hearings in Edmonton, which is logical, since that city is the headquarters of the energy industry.

Here is the schedule as posted on the website of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Location Venue Date and Start Time
Kitimat, BC Riverlodge Recreation Center
654 Columbia Avenue West
10 and 11 January 2012
Starting at 9:00 a.m.
Terrace, BC Sportsplex
3320 Kalum Street
12 January 2012
Starting at 1:00 p.m.
Smithers, BC Hudson Bay Lodge and Convention Centre
3251 East Highway 16
16 January 2012
Starting at 9:00 a.m.
Burns Lake, BC Island Gospel Fellowship Church
810 Highway 35
17 January 2012
Starting at 1:00 p.m.
Prince George, BC Ramada Hotel Downtown
444 George Street
18 January 2012
Starting at 6:00 p.m.
Edmonton, AB Wingate Inn Edmonton West Hotel
18220 – 100th Avenue
24, 25, 26, 27, 30 and 31 January 2012
Starting at 9:00 a.m.
Fort St. James, BC Royal Canadian Legion, Branch no. 268
330 – 4th Avenue East
2 February 2012
Starting at 9:00 a.m.
Bella Bella, BC Heiltsuk Elders Building 3 February 2012
Starting at 6:30 p.m.
4 February 2012
Starting at 9:00 a.m.
Prince Rupert, BC North Coast Meeting and Convention Centre
240 – 1st Avenue West
16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 February 2012
Starting at 9:00 a.m.
Masset, BC Howard Phillips Community Hall 1590 Cook Street 28 February 2012
Starting at 9:00 a.m.
Queen Charlotte City, BC Queen Charlotte Community Hall134 Bay Street 29 February 2012
Starting at 1:00 p.m.
Grande Prairie, AB Quality Hotel and Conference Centre
11201 – 100 Avenue
26 March 2012
Starting at 6:00 p.m.
27 and 28 March 2012
Starting at 9:00 a.m.
Courtenay, BC To be determined 30 and 31 March and 2 and 3 April 2012
Starting at 9:00 a.m.

Other locations where the venue availability and logistics have not yet been confirmed include: Klemtu, BC, Hartley Bay, BC, Kitkatla, BC and Bella Coola, BC.

After the Panel has heard all oral evidence, it will then hear oral statements and will follow this estimated schedule.

Estimated Time Frame Activity
Late March – July 2012 Oral statements from registered participants who live in or near the proposed Project area.
September – October 2012 Final hearings where the applicant, intervenors, government participants and the Panel will question those who have presented oral or written evidence.
November 2012 – March 2013 Oral statements from registered participants who do not live in or near the proposed Project area (i.e. Kelowna, Port Hardy, Victoria, Vancouver, and Calgary).
April 2013 Final argument from the applicant, intervenors and government participants.

That schedule means that the Joint Review Panel will not make any decision on the pipeline until the end of 2013. In the original schedule, final arguments were to be held in June 2012, with a final decision in early fall.