Analysis: Rumour that China, not Canada, will build Gateway adding to pipeline controversy

On the same day:

  • In Davos, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the World Economic Forum that his government consider it a “national priority” to ensure the country has the “capacity to export our energy products beyond the United States, and specifically to Asia…In this regard, we will soon take action to ensure that major energy and mining projects are not subject to unnecessary regulatory delays — that is, delay merely for the sake of delay.” (See Globe and Mail Harper vows ‘major transformations’ to position Canada for growth)
  • The New York Times in In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad exposes the horrendous, almost slave like conditions in China’s dark satanic mills that create and polish the shining iPads (that probably millions actually to use to read the Times.)
  • In The Ottawa Citizen, Terry Glavin writes Questions Canadians should be asking about China. The University of Victoria journalism professor takes a hard look at the growing power around the world of Sinopec, the Chinese state petroleum company, one of the biggest backers of the Northern Gateway pipeline, saying that “Sinopec became co-author of Stephen Harper’s new foreign policy and energy strategy.”
  • In the Vancouver Sun, Mark Jaccard, of Simon Fraser university, takes a wider view of the Northern Gateway pipeline and its effect on greenhouse gas emissions in Pipeline itself not the only problem we should worry about and also questions the role of China in oil sands and pipeline development.
  • A quiet rumour has been heard more and more in Kitimat for the past month, that China, not Enbridge, will build the Northern Gateway pipeline, bringing in thousands of Chinese workers, living in work camps for the pipeline construction.

You hear a rumour once, it’s just a rumour, not worth reporting.

You hear it three or more times; a couple times in quiet conversation with different people, then overhear it in a Shoppers Drug Mart lineup, it means that rumour, unlikely, in fact far fetched, as it would be in reality, shows that the pipeline debate is touching a raw nerve in northwestern British Columbia.

On its surface, the rumour could never be correct, Canada would never agree (as this country did when building the railways more than a century ago) to bring in thousands of Chinese workers to build the pipeline across the British Columbia wilderness.

On the other hand, one thing fuelling the rumour is that when China invests in other countries, often there are compounds full of workers and managers from China, who capture the best jobs in a project, leaving the low-level work to local labour. The media has reporting Chinese abuse of workers in Africa for the past few years. The latest in The Guardian on January 2, 2012, reported Workers claim abuse as China adds Zimbabwe to its scramble for Africa

Underlying the rumour is fear, fear of further loss of jobs to China.

In northwestern BC, the saw mills are closing, while raw logs are shipped to China. Each day CN hauls huge coal trains (coal, of course, one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gases) to the port of Prince Rupert, returning with intermodal trains, averaging 170 cars, with containers full of cheap Chinese made goods destined mostly for the United States.

According to new poll, published in The Calgary Herald, 84 per cent of Albertans want the bitumen upgraded in the province. (Marc Henry The politics of upgrading Alberta bitumen )

At the same time, the Harper government continues to demonize the environmental objections to the Northern Gateway pipeline, which leads at least one columnist on The Calgary Herald, Stephen Ewart, to say Northern Gateway pipeline debate could stand better diplomacy quoting Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver as saying

“You wouldn’t hear from American special interest groups, celebrity environmentalists and champagne socialists that Canada’s oilsands are subject to the toughest environmental monitoring and regulation in the world,” Oliver said.

Ewart, who is pro-pipeline, goes on to say:

Canada needs an export pipeline to a location on the West Coast to sustain the economic impact on the national economy from oilsands development. What isn’t needed is more antagonistic comments from government ministers.

 

It will likely take a lot more than diplomatic niceties to calm the pipeline controversy.

The one promise from Enbridge, the Alberta bitmen sands and the Harper government that may have some traction in northwestern British Columbia is tens of thousands of temporary construction jobs. It is well known that there will be very few permanent jobs from the Northern Gateway pipeline in this part of Canada.

Now it appears that some people here in the northwest are starting to believe there won’t even be construction jobs along the Northern Gateway pipeline.

The Calgary oil-patch, who today cheered Environment Minister Peter Kent when he said he would fast track the regulatory process for energy development, should take note, the rumour about vast compounds of Chinese workers building a pipeline through the BC bush is not coming from “champagne socialists” but from working people who want solid, good, long-term, well-paying jobs. These are people who also fish, hunt, hike and boat and are worried about the environmental impact of the pipeline and trying to balance jobs and the environment.

The campaign against “foreign” environmentalists, fronted by Ezra Levant and Ethical Oil but  likely originating in the inner circles of the Conservative political war room, may be backfiring.

Raise the question of foreign interference and that incites all kinds of political rumours,  rumours unintended in the political bubble just inside the Ottawa Queensway.

The China worker rumour appears to have started just a short while after Ethical Oil’s campaign against the foreign environmentalists began to attract widespread media attention.

SinopecThe China worker rumour doesn’t come from the political commentary set who published columns today, but from the coffee shops, drug store lineups and Legion Halls.

The China worker rumour shows a lack of trust in northwestern BC for Enbridge, for Sinopec, for the province of Alberta, for the Harper government.

As far fetched as the rumour is, the idea that Chinese workers will build the pipeline can only escalate the controversy over the Northern Gateway pipeline.

 

 

 

 

Editorial: Any one who believes the Northern Gateway can be fast tracked is out of touch with reality

Editorial

In the past few days there has been a lot of  comment from politicians, pundits, columnists and business analysts about “fast tracking” the Northern Gateway pipeline project now that the United States has postponed  approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

If anyone wanted proof that these people are completely out of touch with reality, the past three days has proven it beyond any reasonable doubt–and it has absolutely nothing to do with politics.

For the purposes of this editorial, let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, that there was no opposition, but one hundred per cent support for Enbridge’s  project to build the pipeline from the Alberta bitumen sands to the port of Kitimat. Let’s assume that the Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver,  was successful, as he is quoted today, in expediting the approval process by the Northern Gateway Joint Review Process. 

After all that, could the Northern Gateway be “fast tracked?”

No.

Let’s ignore, for this argument, any of the objections that the environmental movement has raised against the pipeline.

Let’s instead take one argument that Enbridge has used to promote the pipeline project, that the Northern Gateway is another  “national dream,” the equivalent of building the Canadian transcontinental railway more than a century ago.

The problem with the majority of economists, as always,  is that they think that they are dealing with  a spreadsheet not the real world. Just move everything from the Keystone column to the Northern Gateway column.  The bitumen goes to China instead of Texas, and the money rolls in.

The problem with cabinet ministers like Joe Oliver and Jim Flaherty,  proponents of fast tracking the pipeline, is that either they are not getting the proper briefing notes or they are ignoring those briefing notes.  (That is scary when it comes to Flaherty since he is supposed to be guiding the Canadian economy).

As noted earlier, the business columnists and analysts don’t even bother to read the technical studies posted by Enbridge on the Northern Gateway Joint Review site.

The bitumen pipeline is planned to cross 1,172 kilometres of challenging terrain from the bitumen sands to Kitimat. The parallel condensate pipeline is planned to cover 1,172 kilometres from Kitimat to the bitumen sands
.
Why does Enbridge call the  pipelines the equivalent of the great railway construction of the nineteenth century?

The pipelines will have to cross some of the most rugged territory on this planet;  mountain ranges, including the Rocky Mountains, The Bulkley Ranges, the Coast Ranges.

 Even the valleys and plateaus the pipeline must cross are considered geologically unstable.

The weather is often terrible.  Rain.  Snow.  More rain.  Wind storms. Lots and lots of rain.  The pipeline will come to close to Lakelse Lake, just east of Kitimat, that has a Canadian record for a one day snowfall, 118 centimetres.

Just ask DriveBC how difficult it is to maintain the highways in this region, highways that have been around for at least 60 years and where the engineering has improved over those decades from the tracks my family drove when I was a kid.  Washouts happen, even in “mild” years.

Then there’s the possibility of earthquakes. As Enbridge, correctly, points out, the tectonic plates where the major quakes can be triggered are far off shore and at least according to the maps, the pipeline is not in  a quake zone. Yet Kitimat was badly shaken by the  magnitude 9.2 1964 Good Friday  earthquake in Anchorage, thousands of kilometres away. 

So terrain, weather (summer or winter) and even earthquakes could hold up construction.  

The building of the Canadian Pacific Railway was held up, not just by the challenging terrain but by the Northwest Rebellion,  financial mismanagement by the CPR, (they ran out of money) and political scandal. That was in the nineteenth century when health and safety regulations were non existent and no environmental precautions were required. 

Some of the first locomotives and rolling stock were not built for crossing some of the biggest mountain ranges on Earth.

Yes the CPR was built. It didn’t come in on time and on budget. The CPR certainly wasn’t “fast tracked.”

In the end one has to wonder if any of the politicians, pundits, columnists and analysts  who are so certain they can  fast track the Northern Gateway pipeline have attempted a home renovation.   Perhaps they should try to finish their basements before pronouncing on building a pipeline fast tracked across the west.
   

   

Keystone XL decision – more questions than answers: Blog

A blog by Edmonton based, University of Alberta business professor Andrew Leach, Keystone XL decision – more questions than answers, analyzes the Keystone postponement through the rose coloured glasses we see often from Alberta (referring, of course, to the provincial flower, not the political party) and is more intelligent than what we’ve seen from the business press across Canada.

Interestingly Leach says:

It took exactly 3 minutes after I first heard the news for me to hear
someone say, “if they don’t want our oil, we’ll send it to China!”
Surprisingly, it took another 3 hours for me to hear someone make
reference to letting Americans freeze in the dark

And later, Leach goes on to advise Albertans:

If Alberta wants to grow oilsands production beyond about 3 million barrels per day, we are going to need others to accept infrastructure in their backyards to get it to market. In the past, landowners along 1000s of miles of pipeline would have no easy way to come together and oppose the project – that has all changed and if you don’t believe me, ask the 4000 people who have signed up to intervene at the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel hearings, or the 10000+ people who converged on the White House to oppose Keystone XL.

Editor’s Note: Leach was part of a wide ranging Twitter debate after the Keystone XL was postponed. A key article that sparked the debate was a piece in the New York Times by Michael Levi, that talked about NIMBYism in the Keystone case, A Shortsighted Victory in Delaying the Keystone Pipeline.  That three minute record seems typical of the attitude on Twitter from many Albertans, who assume that the Northern Gateway pipeline  will go ahead.

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

In her column in The Calgary Herald, Nov 4, 2011 aimed at making the Northern Gateway Joint Review process quick, efficient  and excluding a lot of  people who want to make oral comments pro-pipeline columnist Deborah Yedlin raises once again what is a big deal for the mostly conservative  Postmedia  columnists.   (See Part One of this analysis:  Calgary Herald columnist advocates curbing free speech on Northern Gateway Hearings)

It could be called ” The Great American Energy Conspiracy,” which has apparently now gone international since a tiny minority of those wishing to  give oral comments to the Northern Gateway Joint Review panel are not only from the United States, but from the United Kingdom and even Germany. Yedlin doesn’t want non-Canadians (at least non-Canadian environmentalists, no mention of oil executives flying up from Houston) to give oral testimony at the Joint Review Panel.

So where does this conspiracy originate? It was uncovered from the research by blogger  Vivian Krause, who has detailed all the contributions made by US-based foundations to support environmental issues in Canada, especially on the bitumen sands, protecting the coastline and salmon farming.

Several  Postmedia columnists, including Yedlin,  go completely ballistic over this issue, quoting Krause as saying, in effect: How dare these foreigners interfere in a Canadian issue
(They don’t actually use the term foreigners)

Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Sea Change Foundation and San Francisco Oak Foundation. She will show you how these organizations have heavily funded the opposition to the oilsands in Canada.

To wit: a tax return filed for 2009 by Sea Change indicates $2 million was given to the Tides Foundation to be used for “promoting awareness and opposition to oilsands.”

(I should note here that Postmedia’s reporters continue with generally fair and accurate coverage of the pipeline issues, although the chain as a whole tends to tilt in favour of the energy  industry)

Yedlin goes on to say

the involvement, nay, interference, by U.S. foundations in the development of Canada’s natural resources constitutes a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement or of Canadian economic sovereignty.

Were the shoe on the other foot, and Canadian organizations were sending money to U.S. environmental concerns opposing development of, say, shale gas reserves, it’s a good bet steps would be taken in short order to shut it down.

Really?

Has the United States taken any steps to stop the millions of dollars Canadian corporations are spreading along Washington’s lobbying central, K Street, not to mention throughout the six western mountain and southern states the Keystone XL pipeline will cross, to  promote that  proposed pipeline?

Is the United States objecting to Ambassador Gary Doer crisscrossing the United States until he will equal George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air, building up frequent flier points  lobbying in favour of the bitumen sands and cross continent pipelines?

Yedlin’s statement is the height of hypocrisy. For conservative columnists in Canada, it is unacceptable for American foundations to support the groups concerned environmental issues and opposing the bitumen sands.  Yet apparently there is nothing wrong for Canadian companies to spend millions of  dollars to lobby the United States on behalf of the Keystone XL pipeline:

The Globe and Mail reported on  Oct. 20, 2011 that

In the past two years, TransCanada Corp. which is seeking to build the $7-billion pipeline, has spent over $1.5-million on U.S. federal lobbyists, and even more in individual states like Nebraska, where opposition has been the most vocal. That’s in addition to the money it has poured into advertising campaigns, which include a current print, TV and online effort in Washington, D.C., aimed at persuading decision makers that the pipeline will help “real Americans.”

TransCanada has been joined by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), which has marshalled the considerable connections of Gordon Giffin and David Wilkins, both former U.S. ambassadors to Canada, to press the case for the pipeline and the Alberta oil sands. The American Petroleum Institute has banded together with the Laborers International Union of North America to feed union workers and ferry them to public meetings, clothe them in orange shirts and ask them to make the case for the pipeline.
 

Now, of course, the United States is taking some action, with the Inspector General of the State Department investigating possible undue influence by TransCanada, as reported by the Globe and Mail.

The U.S. State Department’s Inspector-General on Monday launched a conflict-of-interest review of the pipeline’s permitting process to examine “the Department of State’s handling of the Environmental Impact Statement and National Interest Determination for TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL permit process.”

The Inspector-General review comes after a request by several powerful U.S. senators, who questioned the impartiality of Cardno Entrix, the consultant hired to conduct the Keystone XL permitting process. Cardno Entrix has listed TransCanada as one of its major clients, raising conflict-of-interest concerns.

TransCanada denies any wrong doing and told the Globe

… spokesman James Millar welcomed the Inspector-General’s review “so that these latest claims by professional activists and lawmakers who are adamantly opposed to our pipeline project can be addressed.”

“At TransCanada, we conduct ourselves with integrity and in an open and transparent manner,” he wrote. “We are certain that the conclusion of this review will reflect that.”

Note that the Inspector General is not investigating the money that Canadian corporations and the Canadian government is showering on the United States, but the fact that a company that had worked for TransCanada was reviewing the company’s plans for the State Department.  Is it just “professional activists and lawmakers” who perceive that as a conflict of interest?

In her column Yedlin says one of the foundations Krause has “exposed” has lobbied against Keystone.

Sea Change was apparently a signatory to a letter signed by 251 environmental organizations and sent to the U.S. State Department asking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to block approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline

Just what is going on here?  Sea Change is, as Krause and Yedlin point out,  an American foundation. Now these two object to an American foundation lobbying the US Secretary of State on the issue of a bitumen sands pipeline crossing United States territory. Huh?

Why? Apparently this is all a giant conspiracy to cripple the Canadian energy economy:

it’s hard not to wonder if some of what is going on vis-a-vis Northern Gateway in particular is a (not so) veiled attempt by the U.S. foundations to ensure there is a wide differential between the continental North American price of oil price and the world price.

After all, low oil prices are better for the U.S. economy than are higher prices and what better way to do this than by cloaking oneself in an environmental cape?

So  American environmental foundations, worried about the effects of a giant oil spill along our mutual coast, are secretly in the pocket of the American energy companies. Quick call Dan Brown and  hire a boat to look for a Da Vinci Code among the petroglyphs along the cliffs of the Inside Passage and rocks on the shores of Douglas Channel.

Then there’s the issue of Chinese investment in the bitumen sands and various pipeline projects. Some of those millions of yuan will surely make their way into the lobbying funds used by Canadian energy companies. Apparently there’s nothing wrong with China having its hand in Canada’s natural resources, as long as they’re sending money to energy companies and not to environmental groups.

No conspiracy, just more hypocrisy. 

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

615-shannonpresentation.jpgDave Shannon, an engineer and a member of Douglas Channel Watch discusses Enbridge’s planned oil spill response for the Northern Gateway Pipeline along the critical Hunter Creek region at a meeting of the District of Kitimat Council, Nov.  7, 2011.  The circled numbers indicate the barrels per day of diluted bitumen that  Enbridge planners say would spill from a “full bore breach” of the pipeline.  (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

    With all the scandals around the media these days, one who loves journalism at first cannot imagine  that a Canadian newspaper could hit a new low.  But in these polarized days when you suddenly see a newspaper columnist arguing against free speech, you’re no longer surprised, just a little sicker.

    Writing in The Calgary Herald on Nov. 4, 2011,  columnist  Deborah Yedlin wanted to limit the number  of people who can  make oral comments at the Joint Review Panel on the Northern Gateway Pipeline, because in her view, there were just too many people who wanted to make a ten minute presentation to the panel and horror, of horrors, some of them aren’t even Canadian, they’re foreigners (although Yedlin doesn’t actually use the word foreigners).  For Yedlin, all those didn’t make the cut should simply write letters of comment.

With today’s announcement by the Joint Review Panel of the locations for the panel hearings, it looks like the bureaucracy didn’t take Yedlin’s advice.

Since the Joint Review Panel will make a decision that will affect
peoples’ lives for decades to come,  (whereas having demonstrations,
blogging or
shouting from the rooftops would be totally ineffective in this case) 
speaking before the panel is a free speech issue. To forbid these people
their ten minutes before the Joint Review Panel,
to tell them to just write a letter just to speed things up, as Yedlin
suggests, is a blatant
denial of  effective free speech and another step in chipping away at
the already fragile Canadian democracy.

The column was called  “Does everyone have a right to complain at Northern Gateway pipeline review?” In it, Yedlin asks.

The question – with more than 4,000 individuals, companies and organizations registered to make a 10-minute statement – is whether it will be more of a filibuster than a hearing.
lthough the math suggests about 95 days of hearings, assuming everyone shows up and the panel sits for seven hours each day, it’s highly likely it will go on much longer.

Although, to be fair, she does ask “should individuals who do not live along the pipeline route, are not Canadian residents or citizens, be allowed their 10 minutes?” the  implication of the entire column, read as whole, especially her overall conclusion, is that everyone, not just non-Canadians,  who want to speak are just part of that filibuster against the pipeline and should be excluded, if possible. (More on the non-Canadian issue in part two of this analysis, The Great American Energy Conspiracy)

Yedlin wants to deny ordinary people just 10 minutes to speak. (The lawyers, as anyone who has attended one of the hearings knows, can go on for hours and hours)  She thinks writing a letter is just as good.  Her column is nothing less than advocacy of denying effective free speech on an issue vital to peoples’ lives, their livelihood and their communities.

Then you realize that  her column, like similar columns from other business writers, mainly also employed by Postmedia,  is an off the shelf opinion, based on “reporting” if you can all it that,  that is too lazy to even click a mouse on a website.  That too is something you have come to expect.    
    
It’s pretty clear that Yedlin, sitting at the centre of the oil patch, is in favour of the pipeline. Although she doesn’t spell it, she says: 

 if a national energy strategy were in place, it would be easier for the NEB [National Energy Board] to decide whether Northern Gateway was in the public interest.

(I always thought for Albertans that “National Energy Program” were “fightin’ words.”  Apparently not if it is a “national energy strategy” that favours Alberta.)

The Herald, of course, is free to write as many editorials in favour of the pipeline as it wants.

Just the facts?

A column, while opinion, should have some basis on facts. This where Yedlin and many of her columnist colleagues fall down again and again.

So let’s ask a question. What’s the difference between a columnist and an actor when it comes to the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipeline controversies?

Answer the actors usually do more research. A good actor, in researching a role often undertakes extensive research on the character and the environment of the story  where the action takes place.

What I find astounding is that in covering this story for the last two years, I have seen no evidence that any columnist for any Canadian or American newspaper has bothered check a single document on the Joint Review site that would bolster a pro-pipeline argument.  There are lots of pro-pipeline documents from Enbridge on the site.   It doesn’t cost anything, except time, for a columnist to click down (if you’re too lazy to check here’s the link )  and find documents.  You don’t even have to spend pennies on long distance calls or (imagine that) actually do some on the ground reporting.  The beancounters should be happy.

A journalist is supposed to research a story before they write.   

Several reporters for The Globe and Mail and the Report on Business do check Joint Review site regularly. So does Mike De Souza of The Vancouver Sun, apparently the only Postmedia employee who bothers to do so.

When I
was teaching journalism at Ryerson, journalism students who didn’t do
research failed. These days most columnists don’t bother to do research,
I guess they’re  too important for that.

It doesn’t help the pro-pipeline side that columnists don’t bother check facts that are in favour of their position.  Those columnists, if they wished, could probably make strong arguments if they bothered to read the Enbridge documents. The trouble is they don’t. They just repeat and repurpose each other. 

If Yedlin (and other columnists)  had bothered to click her mouse and read the studies by Enbridge, she would have learned the precautions that Enbridge says are necessary, at the cost of multiple millions of dollars, to protect the coast of British Columbia. If she had clicked a mouse a second time, she would have read the Enbridge studies that tackle the rugged and unstable geological formations of  the mountain ranges that the pipeline will cross, whether buried, in tunnels or on bridges or pylons, where building the pipeline will cost multiple millions of dollars (and perhaps, if the opponents are right, millions that will have little or no effect in case of a pipeline breach and oil spill).

So with same old, same old repetitive writing, the columnists undermine whatever points they are trying to establish, actually strengthening the position of those who don’t support the pipeline, who do make strenuous efforts  and take precious time to  understand and interpret the facts in the Enbridge filings. 

Worse than that, with journalism’s  reputation for accuracy, fairness and thoroughness already in tatters, the pro-pipeline columnists are accelerating that decline, kicking more bricks out from the already weakened foundation. No wonder fewer and fewer in the public, no matter their ideological position, trust the “main stream media.”

Public commentary

So let’s take Yedlin’s objections

Yedlin says:

Thus, the question arises as to whether those who are planning on being present are truly interested in the public process itself or if their real intent is to overwhelm it.

While the review panel has said public commentary is an important part of the process because it might yield information useful to its decision, the 4,000-odd submissions work out to seven times the number that presented to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline hearings – and we know efficiently how that process worked.

Moreover, public hearings are held to raise issues that cannot be easily presented in written form. In other words, the only reason to appear is if your information can only be presented orally.

While environmental groups were encouraging people sign up to make oral comments for the Joint Review Panel, the vast majority of people who are registering are signing up not to filibuster but to express fears about vital concerns.  Also the National Energy Board Joint Review Process, as anyone who has attended a hearing knows, is so arcane that sometimes even lawyers who practice outside of the energy field have trouble understanding the rules of procedure. That’s why people who are worried likely need support from environmental organizations.

If Yedlin had bothered to click her mouse on the Joint Review website, she would have found there are already hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pages of documents on all aspects of the pipeline that have been filed by Enbridge and the consulting firms that Enbridge has employed. Thousands more pages, including extensive questions for Enbridge based on the original filings are being submitted by environmental groups and First Nations. For those “ordinary”  people who are registered intervenors, their slim documents outline those vital concerns.

616-gatewaymap-thumb-250x193-388.jpgYedlin was not in Kitimat for the preliminary oral hearings held here on the Northern Gateway Project in August 2010. 

Yedlin was not in Kitimat for the NEB hearings on the Kitimat LNG project last June. In fact,  no one from a national news organization bothered to attend either hearings, reporter or columnist. Only local reporters, like myself, were present.

On both issues, the Northern Gateway pipeline which most people oppose, and the LNG projects, which most people support,  the NEB/Joint Review hearings  (one hearing completed, another planned, a third, for the Shell project likely) there are all kinds of  issues, local issues,  that can only be presented orally.   These issues are extremely important to a local residents, but apparently of no concern to columnists in Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa.

Take one example from the LNG hearings.  Traditional access to lands for the Haisla First Nation is part of the agreement with the KM LNG partners. However, access to the land around Bish Cove by non-aboriginal people for hunting, fishing and hiking was not part of any agreement.  So Mike Langegger of the Kitimat Rod and Gun club  made that point at the hearings and this was recognized by the NEB in its decision.

At the most recent public forum  in Kitimat on the Northern Gateway pipeline,  (not an NEB hearing),  Liz Thorn of the Nordic Valley Ski Club  pointed out that the pipeline would cross and disrupt the club’s  ski trails.  At the forum Northern Gateway president John Carruthers promised to have his staff look into the issue.  Call that a micro-issue, but an important one for those cross country skiers.

Most of  the people who want to make presentations to the Joint Review Panel  cannot afford  the time or the money to be official intervenors, can’t pay hourly rates for lawyers, and some say they aren’t that good at setting things down on paper.  They can speak eloquently about their concerns.


View Larger Map

One big issue is Wright Sound where the Douglas Channel meets the Inside Passage. Wright Sound is where the BC ferry The Queen of the North sunk in good weather.  I have heard at least a dozen people, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, who have sailed those waters for years and who  can  relate in great detail the potential problems from  the currents, winds and tides that swirl through Wright Sound and the fears of what could happen to a supertanker in Wright Sound, despite the precautions that Enbridge say it will take.

A skipper who can describe being caught in a sudden storm in Wright Sound is not filibustering.

The Gitga’at  First Nation, at nearby Hartley Bay, still complain about  how traditional shellfish beds are still being affected by the relatively little oil (compared to a supertanker) leaking from the sunken ferry.

Local knowledge

While the First Nations who are intervenors have hired competent legal counsel to represent them (as they must to survive the convoluted legal proceedings of a NEB hearing) there are other issues where members of First Nations must have the opportunity to make oral presentations.  For the First Nations collectively there is “TLK”, traditional local knowledge, often about relatively small stretches of river or coastline and TLK is best described in an oral statement.  Then there are the issues where individual members of First Nations are concerned, for example, where the pipeline may cross a family’s trapline, an issue that, according to my First Nations sources, has, so far, fallen through the cracks in the pipeline so to speak.

Yedlin continues her belief that as much as possible should be on paper, while  again in the column she is saying that non Canadians should present their case only in written form, the implication is that everyone else should as well.

Moreover, public hearings are held to raise issues that cannot be easily presented in written form. In other words, the only reason to appear is if your information can only be presented orally. Presumably if there is salient, scientific evidence coming from respondents who live outside Canada, that information could be put forward on paper. That’s the beauty of good science.

There are plenty of  local examples where the information on paper is far from adequate.

Take, for example, Enbridge’s contingency plans for a pipeline breach along the critical Hunter Creek zone of the pipeline route, where the pipeline would emerge from a mountain tunnel, then head downslope by Hunter Creek toward the Kitimat River, in an extremely rugged area, where, if there was a spill, it would be difficult to reach under  even under the most optimum conditions.

In  an oral (yes oral) presentation to District of Kitimat Council on Nov. 7, 2011, John Shannon, an engineer representing the environmental group Douglas Channel Watch described how he and colleague Murray Michin checked out the old logging road that is the only access to the area, only to find landslides and wash outs all along the old road.  That road is constantly washed out in summer, In winter it  would be covered with at least a metre of snow if not more. At that point, a pipeline breach that was below Enbridge’s detection level would mean that the bitumen would flow under the snow perhaps for months before anyone found out.

The beauty of  a good hike is that you find what you isn’t in the scientific report on paper, probably written by a fly-in fly-out consultant, not by a local resident.

All these questions for oral commentary could be called  micro-issues if you will but these micro-issues should not be swept away for the convenience of giant corporations. The Northern Gateway pipeline will snake across Alberta and British Columbia  for 1777 kilometres and there is likely at least one  micro-issue at each of the 1,777,000 metres.

Denying free speech is something you might expect from Stephen Harper’s spinmeisters (and we’re seeing the time limitations at all stages of a Commons bills in the current parliament, especially at the committee hearings on the crime bill)

For a newspaper columnist to suggest that  a lot of  people actually affected by the pipeline  be denied opportunity to speak in person, relying instead on a letter, just because the time it will take is inconvenient,  is, as I said, a betrayal of everything journalism should stand for.

Yedlin concludes:

As the beginning of the hearings looms near, the panel might want to take a closer look at the list of presenters and determine who truly has the right – and the need – to speak. Chances are if they do this, the list will be significantly shorter, and the process will fulfil the mandate that it is meant to do.

So much for free speech in a democracy.  I guess for The Calgary Herald, and  the mostly Postmedia columnists who want to rush the pipeline hearings,  free speech is just too much trouble when the economy is at stake, especially the Alberta economy.

Flatlanders

The pipeline controversy has created a new term being used in northwestern British Columbia to describe Albertans: “Flatlanders.” 

I first heard the term from an aboriginal leader. He used  “flatlanders” to describe the three members of the Joint Review Panel, none of whom is from British Columbia. (Sheila Leggett is from Montreal and now lives in Calgary,  Kenneth Bateman is a life long Albertan and Hans Matthews is a member of the Wahnapitae First Nation in Ontario). The aboriginal leader was asking how these people on the Joint Review Panel can understand living on the mountainous coast or sailing the waters of Wright Sound. He asked if it was fair that no one from British Columbia is on the Joint Review panel when most of the pipeline route will be in British Columbia.

 A week or so  later, I  heard  a discussion between two non-aboriginal avid salmon fisherman at a supermarket lineup. The two men were worried about the probable death of the Kitimat River if there is a pipeline breach and  they were wondering if the “Alberta flatlanders” would ever care if there was a major pipeline breach (as opposed to their friends from Alberta who actually come to the Kitimat River to fish).

At a reception Saturday night at the Great Bear Rainforest photo exhibit in Kitimat, I heard a couple of local environmental activists, who while they didn’t use the term “flatlanders”  were  discussing why Albertans are so arrogant and so unaware and uncaring about life in northwestern British Columbia.

That  growing feeling  across northern BC is bit unfair to many people in Alberta. 

Then again it appears that some Albertans do have an attitude problem, an attitude that the problems of  people in northern British Columbia don’t amount to a hill of beans in this world.
At least that is the impression one sees reflected in the local  Alberta media, (appearing daily on Google News) as well as the ongoing tide of pro-pipeline tweets from companies, politicians and individuals in Alberta. 

The fact that most of the Canadian media, not just the Alberta media,  feel that they can cover northern British Columbia without leaving a desk in Calgary only compounds the problem.

Perhaps Deborah Yedlin, The Calgary Herald and  those Albertans who deserve to be called “flatlanders” should contemplate about  what would happen to their free speech if the Alberta shoe was on the BC foot.

If the people of the northwest coast were to apply Yedlin’s views from her column, then, of course, the Joint Review Panel, would have downplayed the views of the  Alberta “flatlanders” because the “flatlanders” know nothing about the storm warnings for Douglas Channel, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound you regularly hear  year round on the marine radio forecast. Applying Yedlin’s argument, any advantages the pipeline may bring to Alberta should simply be stated in a letter.

That, of course, will never happen.  The Joint Review panel’s announcement today of wide spread, often two visit hearings to affected communities, combined with training sessions by NEB staff for those unfamiliar with the Joint Review Process, shows that there are at least some government institutions left in Canada that respect the democratic process.

Perhaps the columnists who want to curb the free speech of others for economic convenience, should wonder if some day they will get what they wish for and someone will try to curb their right to free speech.  To start avoiding that, those columnists should start doing the kind of research and reporting expected from a first year journalism student.

After all, if you deny free speech to someone who has something important to say on the Northern Gateway, whether they are from Kitimat, Hartley Bay, Grand Prairie, Calgary, Montreal, San Diego or London, whose free speech are you going to deny on the next issue?

 

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Harper kills bitumen export ban, support for ocean monitoring group: reports

Energy Links

According to media reports,  Prime Minister Stephen Harper has killed support for the Pacific North Coast Integrated Area Management Initiative (PNCIMA) set up to monitor the ocean on the northern BC coast, while at the same time killing a plan to ban export of bitumen to countries with poor environmental records.


The Calgary Herald
, in Harper backs off from initiative that threatens opposition to Northern Gateway pipeline

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has withdrawn support from a deal with the B.C. government and First Nations due to concerns about excessive influence by U.S.-funded environmental groups in the development of an oceans management plan for the B.C. north coast….

There were specific concerns that a new plan being developed under the Pacific North Coast Integrated Area Management Initiative (PNCIMA) could be used to rally opposition to Calgary-based Enbridge Inc.’s proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline that would funnel diluted bitumen crude from Alberta’s oilsands sector to Asian markets docking at Kitimat, B.C.

A letter dated Sept. 1, and sent to the B.C. government, three First Nations groups and the environmental organization Tides Canada, said Ottawa is withdrawing support for a proposed agreement that would have resulted in $8.3 million, from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation of Palo Alto, California, to fund the PNCIMA process.

The letter, from Fisheries and Oceans Canada regional director general Susan Farlinger, said the government still intends to come up with an oceans management plan by 2012 in co-operation with B.C. and First Nations.

The Vancouver Sun reports Conservatives’ promise to restrict bitumen exports falls by wayside

The Harper government has quietly buried a controversial promise to ban bitumen exports to countries that are environmental laggards…

One person familiar with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s surprise announcement during the 2008 federal election campaign said the pledge was simply electioneering at the time and was to be “buried and never seen again.”

Alberta’s energy minister also wonders whether the campaign promise is even a government policy any longer, noting the issue has never been discussed with him during his two years in the portfolio.

However, a spokeswoman for federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Wednesday the government policy — designed to halt the flow of raw bitumen and jobs overseas — remains in place but is being regularly examined.

Link Pacific North Coast Integrated Area Management Initiative



Editor’s note:A double standard?

On the issue of the PNCIMA, the controversy is over money for the organization from the foundation set up by the founder of Intel, Gordon Moore.

Moore is famous not only for starting the successful chip company but for Moore’s Law, which has governed the accelerating pace of technological change in the past decades and is described by Wikipedia in Moore’s original formulation: “The number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. This trend has continued for more than half a century…”  That simply means that computer processing power can be expected to double every two years.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, according to the Herald, called for the money to be channeled through a group called Tides Canada.

Support for Canadian environmental efforts by American foundations has long been the subject of a heated campaign by blogger Vivian Krause who told the Herald, “I’m pleased that taxpayers’ money will no longer further a foreign-funded campaign that is against Canadian interests,” Krause said, adding that foundation money should go to the developing world.

Krause says she is an independent commentator. She  once worked as Corporate Development Manager for North America for NUTRECO, one of the world’s largest producers of farmed salmon and fish feed but disassociates herself from current public relations campaigns by the fish farming industry.  Her online biography says she spent some part of her childhood in Kitimat.

Krause is a favourite of many of the right wing columnists across the PostMedia newspaper chain.

While Krause may have some valid points, one wonders why  for Krause and her supporters on the business pages across Canada, that it is perfectly acceptable for the billionaires in the transnational energy industry, many of them American, (as well as the state owned Chinese energy companies)   to spend corporate  millions supporting the oil sands and the pipelines, while is not acceptable for another American capitalist billionaire to spend his money earned in the free market to support his views on the preservation of the environment.

 

First Nations “manipulated” by Americans on Enbridge: National Post columnist

National Post

Columnist Peter Foster

Northern Gateway is being ostensibly opposed by native groups. The question is how far those groups are being manipulated -and paid -by the green movement. Two weeks ago, aboriginal protestors ululated and banged on their drums outside the Enbridge annual meeting. They have also appeared at bank meetings, including that a few weeks ago of the Royal Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh. They are a permanent fixture at UN climate meetings…. 

And just how many informed natives do the protestors represent? One loud group, the Yinka Dene Alliance, has asserted its unyielding opposition to Northern Gateway, no matter how much training, and how many benefits and jobs, are provided to often desperately poor native communities. However, some observers suggest that the alliance represents only 150 people. According to Enbridge, some support the line, although the company is reluctant to identify them because it doesn’t want to stir potential conflict. This reflects the usual situation in which project proponents find themselves silenced while opponents are free to conspicuously drum their moral outrage….

Time to settle First Nations land claims: Financial Post

Diane Francis, columnist, Financial Post

Time to settle First Nations land claims

The time has come for Canada and the provinces to make timely and responsible resource development the country’s number one national interest. This represents a policy priority that has never existed but is absolutely essential today to protect Canadian living standards and rights.

To date, Canada has behaved like a patchwork quilt of special interests and various levels of government whose leaders have bobbed and weaved but never devised a just or swift means of settling, or rejecting, land claims by First Nations…..

This week, the opening shot of what could be a monumental battle was fired when First Nations representatives from British Columbia came to warn Big Oil in Calgary that they would obstruct any linkage to Asia via pipelines, and presumably, rail lines, through their territory. If joined by others, and this is a given, their obstructionism for gain, or ideology, will financially damage landlocked Alberta, the prairies, the North and therefore the living standards of all Canadians.

Frankly, I don’t blame First Nations for obstructing development because they face a politicized and dysfunctional court system that never settles, never seems to reject new claims, never deals with any expeditiously and never imposes a deadline on requests.

Editor’s note: Read the quote from Financial Post business columnist Diane Francis carefully. In the key paragraph quoted here, she mentions the economy of Alberta, the prairies and the North. Somehow she neglected to mention the economy of the British Columbia, and the impact of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, for good or ill on BC. A conservative columnist, Francis, seems to assume that First Nations are against the pipeline simply for gain or “ideology,” and that settling Land Claims will lead to the construction of the pipeline,