The September issue of National Geographic includes a large map of British Columbia it calls “Claiming British Columbia.”
The map has three themes: First Nations’ traditional territory, the routes of proposed pipeline projects, both LNG and diluted bitumen, and it features a sub map that looks at what the map calls the “Troubled Salmon” fishery.
The cartographers at National Geographic are being very careful, avoiding such troubling issues as competing land claims among First Nations, unresolved land claims with the federal and provincial governments and treaty status.
So by and large the map groups First Nations by language group unless there are definite treaty or reserve boundaries. Large reserves under the Indian Act are on the map, but given the post stamp size of many reserves in British Columbia, those reserves are too small to be seen on the map. Towns and cities are identified as “First Nations” communities which often overlap with settler communities. Again the map misses many smaller communities, so Kitimat is on the map, while Kitamaat Village is not.
The map identifies Haisla traditional territory as “Xenaksilakala/Xa”islakala” and also includes the Kitlope Heritage Conservancy Protected area.
The article in the September issue is called The Pacific Coast, but unfortunately there is not much of a tie-in with the map, since it concentrates on California and Alaska with only a passing mention of British Columbia.
On the obverse side of the map is the poster that is promoted on the magazine cover, a beautiful painting of “The Changing Pacific Coast” which covers kelp and every creature from phytoplankton and zooplankton all the way to humpback whales and sea gulls (but for some reason no bald eagles). It is likely that poster will be on display in classrooms up and down the coast before school opens next week.
The headline on Thursday’s CBC.ca coverage of the sudden controversy over a boycott in British Columbia of Tim Horton’s over the Enbridge ads sums up everything that’s wrong about media coverage not only of the boycotts, but of northwest energy and environment issues overall.
“Tim Hortons yanks Enbridge ads, sparks Alberta backlash.” The anger at Tim Hortons across northwest British Columbia over those Enbridge ads, the calls for a boycott have been building for more than two weeks but no one in the media noticed despite widespread posts on Facebook and other social media.
As usual, the concerns of the northwest didn’t really become a story until Alberta got involved and the story has become the “Alberta backlash.” Now, there’s a backlash on social media to the Alberta backlash, with northwestern British Columbians tweeting and posting their displeasure, angry at the usual blinkered views of Alberta-centric coverage of energy issues.
Let’s make one thing clear– despite the outraged cries of the usual suspects like Defence Minister Jason Kenney, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, who represents Calgary Centre-North and Kyle Harrietha, the Liberal candidate for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake that the boycott was aimed at Alberta’s entire energy industry and the province’s views of a manifest destiny as an energy super power, the doughnut boycott was really aimed specifically at Enbridge, and the company’s arrogance and incompetence.
Of course Jean, like most Albertans, isn’t looking at the bigger picture. The question that Jean should really be asking, is the continuing unquestioning support for Enbridge actually harming the rest of the Alberta energy industry by increasing the resistance in northwestern BC to other energy projects? When are Alberta politicians, whether federal or provincial, ever actually going to show even a Timbit of respect for the issues in northwestern British Columbia?
Look at what Enbridge is doing
There is strong support (with some reservations) for the liquified natural gas projects. There is a level of support for pipelines that would carry refined hydrocarbons to the coast, something that the new premier of Alberta, Rachel Notley is seriously considering. But it is so typical of Alberta, the Alberta media and most of the Canadian media, to believe that the boycott was an attack on the entire energy industry.
Ask any executive of an energy company that wants to do business in northwestern British Columbia and they’ll come up with the a joke that is now so old and so often repeated that it’s become a cliché, “We look at what Enbridge is doing and then do the exact opposite.”
The fact is that Enbridge has been dealing with northwestern British Columbia for more than ten years and they still can’t do anything right. Shell, Chevron, Petronas (and before them Apache) and even TransCanada make more efforts to listen to the people, First Nations and non-Aboriginal residents alike, than Enbridge ever has or ever will (despite their claims in their PR campaigns).
While these energy giants may not agree with what they hear, they are respectful and depending on their corporate culture are making genuine efforts to come up with ways to make their projects work. After a decade of blunders, however, Enbridge still hasn’t shown that much respect for anyone here. Those touchy feely ads that appear on television and at Tim Horton’s are just another example of how not to run a public relations campaign.
There are those who oppose any bitumen sands extraction who signed the online petition, but the core of opposition, as always, comes from northwestern BC and the issue is an ill-conceived pipeline.
Enbridge has been successful in one area of its public relations strategy. They’ve convinced Albertans that Enbridge and the Northern Gateway pipeline is an essential part of not only the Alberta economy but Alberta culture. Any attack on Enbridge becomes an attack on Alberta. Hence the unreasoned anger when after Tim Hortons pulled the ads.
The big blame America lie
The other Big Lie we keep hearing from the Harper Government, is that this all orchestrated by American NGOs and activists. Again this shows Alberta-centric contempt for British Columbia. It’s very easy and convenient to keep believing that everyone in northern British Columbia are dumb and stupid and are being led by the ear by those nasty green Americans who have it in for the efforts to make Canada an energy superpower. That idea, promoted by the more conservative Canadian media has always been animal waste. The battle to protect the environment of northwestern British Columbia while at the same time attracting resource projects that have recognized and obtained social licence to operate has always and will always in BC on a case by case, community by community basis.
A morning shock with your morning coffee and Timbits
Social media across northwestern British Columbia, mostly Facebook, began spreading the news within hours of the ads appearing in the local Timmys. There were angry posts from individuals who had walked in Tim Hortons and saw the ads.
Why didn’t the media get the story?
So why wasn’t the story covered by the media at least ten days ago?
That’s because in this age of tight budgets, it’s considered easy and economical to try to all of northern BC cover from either Vancouver or Calgary; that means covering from far away both the coast where the pipelines and tankers may or may not operate to the east near the Rockies where the natural gas extraction is on going
If you look at map of northern BC, and the two federal ridings Skeena Bulkley Valley and Prince George–Peace River–Northern Rockies, the population is about 200,000 spread over an area about half the size of Europe. Both ridings in this region are supposedly vital to the future of the Canadian economy, but you wouldn’t know it from most of the media. (The Globe and Mail is an exception, with more ongoing coverage of northern BC than you will find in either The Vancouver Sun or The Province).
As for CBC, there are just eight radio staff, two in Prince Rupert and six in Prince George to cover all the apparently vital issues across half the province. ( Almost all the staff work mostly for the Daybreak North morning show which dominates the regional rates but it looks like with the latest CBC cutbacks that at least one of those positions will be eliminated). CBC TV and Global cover the region from Vancouver.
At least the Vancouver based media make efforts to cover the north from time to time. The Alberta media, however, especially the Calgary Herald, is hopeless, and so biased against British Columbia and so dismissive of the issues here, that the coverage across Alberta is completely unreliable about 90 per cent of the time—it’s no wonder that the majority of Albertans have no understanding of British Columbia culture and issues.
Then there are the punditi, pontificating from their cubicles in Ottawa and Toronto without a clue, without doing the basic journalism of picking up the phone (or writing an e-mail) to actually find out what’s going on.
Andrew Coyne, for example, made these rather silly two tongue-in-cheek tweets Thursday night. While Coyne’s tweets do often exhibit a sense of humour, his excellent coverage of the decline of our democratic parliament has to be compared with his blind, unchecked ideological assumptions about the issues of the northwest, which are simplistic, cubicle bound and far off the mark. The same can be said for Jeffrey Simpson in his occasional writing about this region. Neither the view from the Hill, where you can see as far as the Queensway, nor from Bloor Street, where you can see part of the Don Valley, are vantage points to understand what is going in northern British Columbia.
So let’s look at the specific errors in the media coverage of the Tim Horton’s story.
Both Shawn McCarthy in the Globe and Mail and Kyle Bakyx on CBC.ca seem to accept without question that SumofUs, was the instigator of the petition. Like many issues in northwestern BC, the Lower Mainland or US based activist groups follow the lead of northwestern BC and jump on the bandwagon, not the other way around. Jason Kirby in MacLean’s says the boycott movement began a week ago. Here in Kitimat, it began within hours of the ads appearing in the local Timmys and was picked up on activist social media groups before the SumofUs petition site.
McCarthy repeats the conventional wisdom: “The Conservatives and oil industry supporters have been waging a public relations war with the environmental groups that oppose expansion of the oil sands and construction of new pipelines.”
CBC.ca quotes Alan Middleton of York University “Enbridge, of course, is not just pipelines and oilsands; they are a whole range of products including heating people’s homes. Tims should have thought about that.” Again a mistake. I lived in Toronto for many years. A company called Consumers Gas supplied natural gas to homes until it was taken over by Enbridge, so Enbridge does heat the homes in Toronto. But what has that got to do with northwestern British Columbia? Why didn’t CBC.ca call the University of Northern British Columbia? Easier to call York (which by the way is where I got both my BA and MA)
McCarthy quotes Rempel as saying, “One has to wonder whether head office talked to their franchise owners in Alberta before making the decision. I imagine those calls are being made this afternoon – certainly there are a lot of people voicing their displeasure.”
The question that should have been asked whether or not Tim Hortons consulted their franchise owners in British Columbia before ordering them to play the ads. People here were “voicing their displeasure” from the moment the first Kitimatian walked into the local Timmys for an early morning coffee and had to stand in line while being told how wonderful Enbridge is.
Of course, if Albertans force Tim Hortons into reinstating the ads, that will only trigger a bigger boycott in British Columbia. As Maclean’s asks, “what were they thinking?”
Jason Kenney, flying in, flying out
As for Jason Kenney, who is quoted by the CBC as tweeting: “I’m proud to represent thousands of constituents who work for Enbridge & other CDN energy companies,” if Kenney aspires to be Prime Minister one day, he had better start thinking about representing more Canadians than just those employed by the energy industry—a mistake that his boss Stephen Harper keeps making.
Jason Kenney did visit Kitimat for a just a few hours in February 2014 for a tour of the Rio Tinto modernization project and an obligatory and brief meeting with the Haisla First Nation council. If Kenney had actually bothered to stick around a few more hours and talk to the community, everyone from the environmentalists to the industrial development advocates, he might not have been so quick on the trigger in the Twitter wars.
Not one of the major media who covered this story, not The Globe and Mail, not CBC.ca, not MacLean’s, no one else, once bothered to actually call or e-mail someone who lives along the Northern Gateway pipeline route in British Columbia, the area where the boycott movement actually began to ask about Enbridge’s track record in this region. The media still doesn’t get it. This morning’s stories are all about Alberta. As usual, my dear, the media doesn’t give a damn about northwestern British Columbia.
That is why the coverage of the Tim Hortons boycott is a double double failure of the Canadian media.
Where else the media is failing northwestern BC
Full disclosure. Since I took early retirement from CBC in 2010 and returned to Kitimat, I have worked as a freelancer for CBC radio and television, Global News, Canadian Press, The National Post, The Globe and Mail and other media.
However, largely due to budget cuts, freelance opportunities, not only for myself, but others across the region have dried up. The media seems to be concentrating more on the major urban areas where there is larger population base and at least more of the ever shrinking advertising dollar. I am now told more often than I was a couple of years ago that “we don’t have the budget.”
Now this isn’t just a freelancer who would like some more work (although it would be nice). If the media these days actually had environmental beats for reporters the boycott of Tim Hortons in northwest BC would have been flagged within a couple of days, not almost two and half weeks and later only when Alberta got hot under its oily collar.
So as well as the Tim Horton’s boycott here are two major ongoing stories from Kitimat that the media haven’t been covering.
100 day municipal strike
-Kitimat’s municipal workers, Unifor 2300, have been on strike since February 28. Three rounds of mediation have failed, the union has refused binding arbitration, the pool, gym and community meeting halls have been closed since February, the municipal parks and byways are now returning to the wilderness. Only essential services are being maintained (but residents still have to pay their property taxes by July 2, taxes that are skyrocketing due to increased assessments for home values based on LNG projects that haven’t started) By the time most people read this the strike will have been on for 100 days. There is no settlement in sight and both sides, despite a mediator ordered blackout, are fighting a press release war on social media. Can you imagine any other place that had a 100 day municipal workers strike with no coverage in the province’s main media outlets, whether newspaper or television? Local CBC radio has covered the strike, as has the local TV station CFTK. (Update: District of Kitimat says in a news release that the mediator has now approved the DoK news releases.)
Of course, in the bigger picture the media concentrates on business reporting. There haven’t been labour reporters for a generation.
So if most Canadians were surprised that there was a boycott of the unofficial national symbol, Tim Hortons, it’s because of that double double media fail and as the media continues to decline, as budgets are cut, as “commodity news” disappears, expect more surprises in the future. Oh by the way Kitimat is vital to the national economy but we can cover it from a cubicle in Toronto.
Final disclosure: I am not a coffee drinker. When I go to Timmy’s I prefer a large steeped tea and an apple fritter.
There’s a dumb, dumb, really dumb idea that just won’t go away—that Enbridge could solve all its problems if only, if only, it would send the Northern Gateway Pipeline to Prince Rupert.
Enbridge long ago rejected the idea. Before Enbridge updated its website to make Gateway Facts, to make it slick and more attractive, the old website had an FAQ where Enbridge explained why it wasn’t going to Prince Rupert.
Did you consider running the pipeline to Prince Rupert where a major port already exists?
We considered Prince Rupert and Kitimat as possible locations. We carried out a feasibility study that took into account a number of considerations. The study found that the routes to Prince Rupert were too steep to safely run the pipeline, and that Kitimat was the best and safest option available.
Here in the northwest even the supporters of the Northern Gateway roll their eyes when they hear the old Prince Rupert story come up again and again – and it’s not just because these people support the Kitimat plans for Northern Gateway, it’s because those supporters (not to mention the opponents) have driven along the Skeena from Terrace to Prince Rupert.
There just isn’t any room for a pipeline. It’s a game of centimetres.
Alternatives to Kitimat?
Now the new premier of Alberta, Jim Prentice, who should know better if he’s going to lead that province, is hinting that Kitimat isn’t the only possible solution for the Northern Gateway.
Without specifying Prince Rupert, according to Gary Mason reporting in The Globe and Mail, Prentice was speculating about an alternative to Kitimat.
Asked whether he believes the Gateway terminus should be relocated to Prince Rupert or another destination, Mr. Prentice said, “Everything I’ve heard from the Haisla who live there is they don’t agree with the terminal being in Kitimat.” Is it possible to get First Nations approval if there is no support at the planned terminus site? “It’s pretty tough,” the Premier said.
Prince Rupert has a thriving local fishing industry that employs hundreds of people and is critically important to the local First Nations. He is convinced the community would not be willing to put that at risk.
“Overwhelmingly people in my community are much more comfortable with liquefied natural gas, with wood pellets, with coal, than any oil product,” he said.
The Prince Rupert Port Authority also rejected the idea
A spokesman for the Prince Rupert Port Authority said Wednesday there is currently no room for Enbridge to build at the port even if it wanted to. “We are fully subscribed,” Michael Gurney said. There are two large vacant lots within the port authority’s jurisdiction, but both are locked by other energy companies, earmarked for LNG projects.
So not only is there no room on the road to Prince Rupert, there is no room in Prince Rupert.
Let’s just consider for a moment that if Prince Rupert was the ideal location for the Northern Gateway terminal (which it is not), what would be needed to get the project going today.
The Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel would have be reconstituted or a new JRP created by the National Energy Board. That’s because the bitumen comes from Bruderheim, Alberta, crossing provincial boundaries and thus it’s in federal jurisdiction.
Even under the fast track rules imposed on the NEB by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, new environmental and social impact studies would be required, starting from scratch. So add another five years of paperwork before a single shovel goes into the ground.
The pipeline would have to cross the traditional territory of First Nations that, so far, have not been part of the negotiations, mostly the Tsimshian First Nation as well as the Nisga’a First Nation which has a treaty establishing local rule over their territory.
In February 2012, the largest anti-Enbridge demonstration outside of the Lower Mainland took place in Prince Rupert, with the elders of the Tsimshian First Nation welcoming the elders and members of the Gitga’at First Nation, at Hartley Bay, which had organized the protest.
When I say there isn’t room for a pipeline along the Skeena, it also means that there isn’t any room for the pipeline corridor right-of-way. Enbridge, in its submissions to the Joint Review Panel, said it requires a 25 metre wide right of way for the pipeline corridor. (For the record that’s just over 82 feet).
Along that highway, as you will see, there’s barely enough room for the CN mainline and Highway 16 (also known as the Yellowhead Highway) and on a lot of places both the highway and the railway roadbed are built on fill along the side of a cliff.
Albertans’ desperate desire to see the Northern Gateway go to anywhere to what they call “tide water” keeps coming up like the proverbial bad penny. The latest came when Jim Prentice speculated about a new route for the Northern Gateway.
I knew I had an appointment coming up in Prince Rupert on Monday, September 29. So I decided that only way to prove to people sitting in Calgary, Edmonton and Fort McMurray playing with Google Maps that the pipeline to Prince Rupert was a really dumb idea was to shoot photographs to show just why the Northern Gateway will never go to Prince Rupert—at least along the Skeena.
As you drive out of Terrace, you pass two large swing gates (also called by some “Checkpoint Charlie” gates after the Cold War era crossing in Berlin.) At the first rest stop west of Terrace, there are another set of gates at the Exstew. There’s a third set of gates just outside Prince Rupert.
The swing gates are avalanche gates and, in the winter, Highway 16 can be shut down if an avalanche closes the highway or the danger from avalanche is too great to allow motorists to proceed. When you drive the highway from Terrace to Prince Rupert in the winter (the signs were covered up when I drove Monday) you are warned “Avalanche danger Next 13 kilometres. No stopping.”
The drive along the Skeena from just west of Exchamsiks River Provincial Park all the way to Tyee where the highway turns inland to reach northwest to Prince Rupert on Kaien Island is one of the most spectacular drives on this planet. The highway snakes along a narrow strip of land with steep mountain cliffs on one side and the vast river on the other.
The problem is that apart from locals and tourists, none of the “experts” whether journalist, think tanker, bureaucrat or politician have, apparently ever driven from Prince Rupert to Terrace.
When both Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau were in the northwest earlier this summer to “engage” with the local people, apart from short boat trips down Douglas Channel, they flew everywhere. Scheduling you know. Stephen Harper has never visited northwest BC and probably never intends to. His cabinet members fly in for photo ops and then are on the next plane out of town.
Of all the visiting journalists who have come to the northwest only a couple have bothered to drive around the region. Most fly-in fly-out. These days, most often budget-strapped reporters never leave their offices, interviewing the same usual suspects by phone on every story.
On Monday, I took most of the photographs on my way back from Prince Rupert to Terrace after my appointment, so the sequence is from west to east. There are also very few places along the river where you can safely stop. There are concrete barricades on both sides of the highway to prevent vehicles either going into the river or onto the narrow CN right-of-way.
There are, however, two rest stops and a number of small turnoffs on the highway, the turnoffs mainly intended for use by BC Highways, but which are also used by tourists, fishers and photographers.
The first image was taken at one of those highway turnoffs just east of Aberdeen Creek. This is what the highway and rail corridor are like all along the Skeena, the highway, bounded by concrete barricades, the CN rail line and then the towering mountains. Note where the telegraph and telephone lines are—further up the cliffside.
A closer view of the highway and rail corridor just east of Aberdeen Creek.
Here is the view of the Skeena River from the Aberdeen Creek turnoff. You can see to the east, a mountain and the narrow strip of fill land that supports the highway and the rail line.
You see the broad width of the mighty Skeena, the Misty River, as it is called by the Tsimshian First Nation and by everyone else who lives in the northwest and on the right side of the image, the highway and rail corridor built on fill.
Any room for a pipeline?
There’s another turnoff on the other side of the headland east of Aberdeen Creek, looking back the way we came.
The final small turnoff is just by the Kylex River. Again you can see how narrow the highway and rail corridor are.
A few kilometres further along—as I said the highway snakes and curves its way along the riverbank– you come to the Basalt Creek rest area. So this telephoto image shows a logging truck heading west, taken from Basalt Creek, looking back at the highway.
Again you can see both the highway and CN line are built on fill. Is there any room for a pipeline?
Any room for a 25 metre pipeline right-of-way?
Between Basalt Creek and Telegraph Point, a few kilometres to the east, again the highway and rail line hug the narrow strip between the river and mountains.
This shot, taken from Telegraph Point, in October 2013, shows a CN intermodal container train heading to Prince Rupert. The container trains and the coal trains usually have between 150 and 180 cars. If a winter avalanche took out a train, there would be environmental damage, but that damage would be insignificant from coal or containers compared to a train of railbit tankers carrying diluted bitumen.
At Telegraph Point, the second of the three rest stops between Prince Rupert and Terrace, again there is just a narrow strip between the mountain, the highway and the river.
Across the highway from the rest stop, you can again see the narrow corridor, the first shot looking west the rail line close to the cliff face, the second, east, with the waterfall, which you don’t see during the rest of the year, fed by the fall monsoon.
Two shots from the same location, Telegraph Point, taken in March, 2013, of a CN locomotive hauling empty coal cars back to the fields around Tumbler Ridge. (No waterfall in March)
Everyone has assumed that if Northern Gateway changed its route, the most likely choice given the configuration of the pipeline at the moment is to follow the Skeena.
If Enbridge wanted to try a northern route, similar to the one TransCanada contemplates for Petronas, Northern Gateway would again run into trouble.
It would require reopening or creating a new Joint Review Panel, many more years of environmental and social impact studies of the route, even under Stephen Harper’s fast track system. The TransCanada/Petronas pipeline would also cross the traditional territory of the Gitxsan First Nation and if Enbridge tried that the company would have to deal with the fact that it signed a controversial agreement with Elmer Derrick that was immediately repudiated by most members of the Gitxsan First Nation and eventually dropped by Enbridge.
So why does this idea of a pipeline to Prince Rupert keep coming up?
In most cases, the idea of the pipeline to Prince Rupert is always proposed by Albertans, not from any credible source in British Columbia, or the suggestions come from desk bound analysts in Toronto and Ottawa both in think tanks and in the newsrooms of dying newspapers who have never seen the Skeena River apart from a tiny handful who have looked at Google Street View
(Yes you can Google Street View Highway 16 along the Skeena, I recommend it if you can’t do the drive)
Perhaps the worst example of this failure of both analysis and journalism came in the Edmonton Journal on July 7,2014, when it published a piece by Bob Russell, entitled Opinion: Make Prince Rupert the terminus, which went over the same old inaccurate arguments.
The overland route currently proposed by Enbridge is fraught with environmental issues because it goes over coastal mountains and streams before entering Kitimat’s port. This port will also be the base of perhaps as many as four liquefied natural gas terminals, which will result in the channel always busy with LNG ships outbound and returning from many Asian ports.
There are existing rights of way for the major highway, the Yellowhead, and CN Rail line from Edmonton to the Port of Prince Rupert, so this eliminates the issue of transgressing First Nations lands. The technical issues of narrow passages can be overcome with engineering. In fact, the pipeline can be buried in the roadway at some restricted locations if absolutely necessary, but two different engineers have assured me that for the most part, the right of way should be able to handle the pipeline. A vital factor, of course, is to reduce the impact by eliminating the need for two pipelines.
The clue is how the Edmonton Journal describes Russell;
Bob Russell has an extensive background in planning and was a member of the Edmonton Metro Regional Planning Commission. He has flown the Douglas Channel, visited Kitimat and toured the Port of Prince Rupert.
This is so typical of the Albertan attitude toward northwest British Columbia, people fly in for a couple of days, make a quick observation, and fly out again and present themselves as experts on the region. (Some “experts” on Kitimat, very active on Twitter have apparently never left Calgary).
It obvious that the “two engineers” who assured him “the right-of-way could handle of pipeline” have no idea what they’re talking about. As the photos show there is barely enough room for a highway and a rail line much less a 25 metre wide pipeline corridor.
If the pipeline was to be built as Russell proposed, the only highway between Prince Rupert and the rest of Canada would have to be closed for years, there are no detours. All so a pipeline can be buried under the asphalt not in solid ground, but in the fill on the side of a riverbank in an avalanche zone?
Of course, closing a highway up here won’t inconvenience anyone in Edmonton or Calgary, will it?
Would CN be happy with years of disruption of their lucrative traffic to Prince Rupert with grain and coal outbound to Asia and all those containers coming in to feed Chinese products to the North American market? (you can be sure Walmart wouldn’t be happy about that, not to mention prairie farmers including those from Alberta)
There are existing rights of way for the major highway, the Yellowhead, and CN Rail line from Edmonton to the Port of Prince Rupert, so this eliminates the issue of transgressing First Nations lands.
Is also inaccurate.
I was told by First Nations leaders during the Idle No More demonstrations in the winter of 2013, that, a century ago, when the Grand Trunk built the railway along the Skeena , they did just that, built it without consulting the First Nations along the route, sometime digging up native cemeteries and sacred spots.
While apparently CN has worked in recent years to improve relations with the First Nations along the rail line, according to those leaders some issues of right-of-way remain to be resolved.
If there were any plans to build a diluted bitumen pipeline along that route, that would likely mean another court battle adding to those already before the Federal Court, a court battle that would cost Enbridge, CN, the federal government, environmental NGOs and the First Nations more millions in lawyers’ fees.
It’s doubtful if in the long gone (and perhaps mythical) days of “get it right” journalism that the Russell opinion piece would have passed the scrutiny of an old fashioned copy editor and fact checker.
In 2012, the Edmonton Journal (in a story no longer available on their website) also cited former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed and former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge, as also favouring Prince Rupert.
Dodge, who was in Edmonton Tuesday to deliver a speech on the global economic outlook at MacEwan University, said Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat looks like even more of a long shot.
“I think the project to Kitimat looks, objectively, more risky. So why hasn’t much greater effort gone into looking at Prince Rupert and taking (bitumen) out that way? My guess is, the easiest place to get B.C. to buy into the project would be to go to Rupert.”
Dodge’s views echo those of former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed, who also favours looking at an alternate pipeline route to Prince Rupert, where ocean-going supertankers can navigate more easily.
Back in 2012, I finished my piece for the Huffington Post by saying:
So why do people insist, despite the evidence, that the Northern Gateway go to Prince Rupert? It’s no longer an pipeline; it’s emotion and ideology. Ideology in that opposition to the Northern Gateway is seen by conservatives as heretical opposition to free enterprise itself. Emotion among those who see promoting the oil patch as an issue of “Alberta pride” and even Canadian patriotism.
For the promoters of the pipeline to Prince Rupert, ignoring the science of geology and the study of geography across all of northwestern B.C. is no different than repeatedly knocking your head against the Paleozoic metamorphic greenstone of the mountain cliffs along the Skeena. It only gives you a headache.
Things haven’t gotten much better in the past two years. In fact they’re getting worse as opposition to pipelines mounts.
It seems that in 2014 the Alberta and the federal government policy in promoting pipelines Northern Gateway, KinderMorgan’s TransMountain, Keystone XL, Line 9 Reversal and Energy East (slick PR and smiling representatives at open houses, politicians at strictly controlled photo ops) is to ignore facts on the ground and to refuse to deal with the concerns of local people from coast to coast.
There could, perhaps, be a more inclusive and truly science-based pipeline planning process that could see pipelines go on optimum routes but that isn’t happening.
The policy for the oil patch and its politician supporters when it comes to pipelines is facts and geology don’t really matter. So they put on ruby slippers, knock their heels together three times and send pipelines down a yellow brick road to an Emerald City (while telling the locals to ignore the man behind the curtain)
A New York hedge fund, also known as an aggressive activist investor, which just bought a huge stake in Apache, is urging the company to get out of the Kitimat LNG project.
Numerous media reports say that Jana Partners recently bought a one billion dollar stake in the Houston and Calgary based oil and natural gas producer.
Bloomberg reports that Jana is a $10 billion hedge-fund firm run by Barry Rosenstein “known for pushing corporate managements to make changes”
According to both Bloomberg and theWall Street Journal, Jana wants Apache to get out of LNG projects in both Canada and Australia and concentrate on the United States. Bloomberg says
Jana said it has “engaged in discussions with management” and urged Apache to sell its international businesses to focus on U.S. shale opportunities, exit its investment in liquefied natural gas, and be more forthcoming about how much oil and gas lie beneath its holdings in West Texas’s Permian basin, among other demands.
The Wall Street Journal says Jana believes that Apache should free up cash flow:
by exiting two major projects in Canada and Australia that aim to export natural gas, which will take years and billions of dollars to fully develop. If the company doesn’t take further steps to increase its value,
“Investors are unimpressed by [Apache]’s global diversification and have voted with their feet,” Jana wrote in a letter to investors on Monday that was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Investors apparently consider the Kitimat project a drain on Apache’s capital, so far costing $2 billion in 2014. The hedge fund said the company had poor performance compared with rivals, several of which are pure-play companies that drill exclusively in U.S. shale formations such as the Permian Basin. Jana also wants Apache to consider selling itself.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Apache raised $10 billion from selling assets around the world. In both February and May Apache said it is looking for a buyer for some of its stake in Kitimat LNG.
In Australia,Bloomberg says Apache is in early discussions with potential buyers for its stake in the $27-billion Wheatstone LNG project in Western Australia, which like Kitimat LNG it operates in partnership with Chevron. First LNG deliveries from Wheatstone are expected in 2016.
Bloomberg quotes a Jana newsletter as saying that selling Wheatstone and its stake in Kitimat would free $3 billion to $4 billion cash to fund share buybacks and reduce future spending risks.
A Calgary-based spokesman for Apache told the Financial Post said joint marketing efforts for LNG by the company and Chevron on the project are progressing, but did not offer detail. It is well known that Kitimat LNG has had a problem finding customers for the project, due to the increasing volatility of the LNG marketplace.
The Shell-led LNG Canada project has customers in the partners, KoGas, Mitsubishi and PetroChina but is also under pressure due to growing costs.
Apache management has been active over the past 12+ months managing the portfolio. Since the February 2014 analyst meeting where the baseline expectation was that the LNG business would be retained (selling down the 50% interest in Kitimat has been a consistent goal), there has been a change in Apache’s messaging on the topic. Recent investor presentations and press articles have suggested all or part of Wheatstone could be monetized (we remove LNG capex from our EV/DACF target multiple valuation as a result). From this perspective, Jana’s proposal is likely to reach more sympathetic ears at Apache (today relative to 6 months ago), in our view. The good news for current shareholders is that the substance of the activist proposal has likely already been substantially evaluated by management and a process to this end could already be underway, if not nearing completion.
Jana Partners’ core investment strategy is primarily based upon a value-oriented (interestingly towards both value and growth stocks) and event-driven investment methodology with the ever-present tagline being “ignore the crowd”. Mr. Rosenstein…is often an activist investor, using Jana Partner’s capital (sometimes combined with others’, most famously with Carl Icahn) infusion into a company to promote change against management directives that he perceives as detrimental to shareholders.
The way the Financial Post/National Post laid out the web page, you soon read about Distl, a Toronto developer putting a condo on the moon.
Next you see the subhead “Bye-bye beaver” and right underneath it, an ad for the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.
Is this a joke? I ask myself. Nope the ad is a legit Northern Gateway ad.
Keep scrolling down and you find Root’s April Fools joke about replacing its iconic beaver symbol with a loon. Roots called “April Fool” on its Facebook page, saying: “Admittedly, we were a little ‘loony’ this morning. The beaver is and always will be at the heart and soul of Roots Canada! (P.S. Happy April Fools!) JF”
Of course it’s all about tracking cookies the place the ads. Someone in Toronto, Montreal or Ottawa will likely see a different ad.
But given the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline which will cross streams where beavers live, it’s also all cookie crumble for Enbridge.
(On a serious note, inappropriate ads normally would never have appeared in the old days when a human actually checked page. These days it’s always an algorithm)
That was 25 years ago. The media loves anniversary stories and the Exxon Valdez look-backs and updates are already ramping up—right in the middle of the Kitimat plebiscite on the Northern Gateway pipeline and terminal project.
The hashtag #ExxonValdez25 is beginning to trend, based on a Twitter chat for Monday sponsored by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The voters of Kitimat who will have to cast their ballots on the Joint Review Panel’s interpretation of the Northern Gateway proposal will find once again that the JRP tilted toward the industry and downplayed the lingering risks from a major tanker disaster—and that means neither the pro nor the anti side can be happy with the events that will be marked on March 24, 2014.
The Exxon Valdez accident is part of the Joint Review Panel findings that the economic benefits of Northern Gateway outweigh the risks. The JRP generally accepted the industry position, taken by both Northern Gateway and by ExxonMobil that Prince William Sound has recovered from the Exxon Valdez incident, something that is fiercely debated and disputed.
One area that is not in dispute is that the Exxon Valez disaster brought laws that forced energy companies to use double-hulled tankers. However, commercials that indicate that Northern Gateway will be using double-hulled tankers because the company respects the BC coast is pushing things a bit far, since those tankers are required by law.
Northern Gateway told the Joint Reivew Panel that
on a worldwide basis, all data sets show a steady reduction in the number
and size of oil spills since the 1970s. This decline has been even more apparent since regulatory changes in 1990 following the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which required a phase-in of double-hulled tankers in the international fleet. No double-hulled tanker has sunk since 1990. There have been five incidents of double-hulled tankers that have had a collision or grounding that penetrated the cargo tanks. Resulting spills ranged from 700 to 2500 tonnes
The Haisla countered by saying:
The Haisla Nation said that, although there have been no major spills since the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, there were 111 reported incidents involving tanker traffic in Prince William Sound between 1997 and 2007. The three most common types of incidents were equipment malfunctions, problems with propulsion, steering, or engine function, and very small spills from tankers at berth at the marine terminal. The Haisla Nation said that, in the absence of state-of-the-art prevention systems in Prince William Sound, any one of those incidents could have resulted in major vessel casualties or oil spills.
The herring of Prince William Sound still have not recovered. Neither have killer whales, and legal issues remain unresolved a quarter of a century later. Monday is the 25th anniversary of the disaster, in which the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef and spilled at least 11 million gallons of oil into the pristine waters of the sound.
Prince William Sound today looks spectacular, a stunning landscape of mountainous fjords, blue-green waters and thickly forested islands. Pick up a stone on a rocky beach, maybe dig a little, though, and it is possible to still find pockets of oil.
“I think the big surprise for all of us who have worked on this thing for the last 25 years has been the continued presence of relatively fresh oil,” said Gary Shigenaka, a marine biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The legal dispute over the spill is still ongoing, with the Telegraph’s Joanna Walters noting:
[S]tate senator Berta Gardner is pushing for Alaskan politicians to demand that the US government forces ExxonMobil Corporation to pay up a final $92 million (£57 million), in what has become the longest-running environmental court case in history. The money would primarily be spent on addressing the crippled herring numbers and the oiled beaches.
“There’s still damage from the spill. The oil on the beaches is toxic and hurting wildlife. We can’t just say we’ve done what we can and it’s all over – especially with drilling anticipated offshore in the Arctic Ocean – this is significant for Alaska and people around the world,” she told The Telegraph.
An ExxonMobil spokesman then told The Telegraph, the energy sector’s standard response:
Richard Keil, a senior media relations adviser at ExxonMobil, said: “The overwhelming consensus of peer-reviewed scientific papers is that Prince William Sound has recovered and the ecosystem is healthy and thriving.”
But federal scientists estimate that between 16,000 and 21,000 gallons of oil from the spill lingers on beaches in Prince William Sound and up to 450 miles away, some of it no more biodegraded than it was at the time of the disaster.
Overall, the Exxon Valdez disaster was, as US National Public Radio reported, a spur to science. But NPR’s conclusion is the exact opposite of that from the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel—at least when it comes to fish embryos.
Twenty-five years of research following the Exxon Valdez disaster has led to some startling conclusions about the persistent effects of spilled oil.
When the tanker leaked millions of gallons of the Alaskan coast, scientists predicted major environmental damage, but they expected those effects to be short lived. Instead, they’ve stretched out for many years.
What researchers learned as they puzzled through the reasons for the delayed recovery fundamentally changed the way scientists view oil spills. One of their most surprising discoveries was that long-lasting components of oil thought to be benign turned out to cause chronic damage to fish hearts when fish were exposed to tiny concentrations of the compounds as embryos.
It seems that some species recovered better than others from the oilspill.
For example, the recovery of the sea otter population has received widespread media coverage, but with widely divergent points of view. The more conservative and pro-industry writers point to the recovery of the otter population, while environmental coverage stresses the quarter century it took for the otter population to rebound.
Although recovery timelines varied widely among species, our work shows that recovery of species vulnerable to long-term effects of oil spills can take decades,” said lead author of the study, Brenda Ballachey, research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “For sea otters, we began to see signs of recovery in the years leading up to 2009, two decades after the spill, and the most recent results from 2011 to 2013 are consistent with recovery
The Joint Review Panel generally accepted Northern Gateway’s and the energy industry’s evidence on the Exxon Valdez incident and concluded
The Panel’s finding regarding ecosystem recovery following a large spill is based on extensive scientific evidence filed by many parties, including information on recovery of the environment from large past spill events such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Panel notes that different parties sometimes referred to the same studies on environmental recovery after oil spills, and drew different conclusions.
In its consideration of natural recovery of the environment, the Panel focused on effects that are more readily measurable such as population level impacts, harvest levels, or established environmental quality criteria such as water and sediment quality criteria.
The Panel finds that the evidence indicates that ecosystems will recover over time after a spill and that the post-spill ecosystem will share functional attributes of the pre-spill one. Postspill ecosystems may not be identical to pre-spill ecosystems. Certain ecosystem components may continue to show effects, and residual oil may remain in some locations. In certain unlikely circumstances, the Panel finds that a localized population or species could potentially be permanently affected by an oil spill.
Scientific studies after the Exxon Valdez spill indicated that the vast majority of species recovered following the spill and that functioning ecosystems, similar to those existing pre-spill, were established.
Species for which recovery is not fully apparent, such as Pacific herring, killer whales, and pigeon guillemots, appear to have been affected by other environmental factors or human influences not associated with the oil spill. Insufficient pre-spill baseline data on these species contributed to difficulties in determining the extent of spill effects.
Based on the evidence, the Panel finds that natural recovery of the aquatic environment after an oil spill is likely to be the primary recovery mechanism, particularly for marine spills. Both freshwater and marine ecosystem recovery is further mitigated where cleanup is possible, effective, and beneficial to the environment.
Natural processes that degrade oil would begin immediately following a spill. Although residual oil could remain buried in sediments for years, the Panel finds that toxicity associated with that oil would decline over time and would not cause widespread, long-term impacts.
The Panel finds that Northern Gateway’s commitment to use human interventions, including available spill response technologies, would mitigate spill impacts to ecosystems and assist in species recovery..
It is clear, however, from the local coverage in Alaska and from the attention of the world’s media that Prince William Sound has not fully recovered from the Exxon Valdez incident (it may yet in who knows how many years). Anger and bitterness still remains among the residents of Alaska, especially since the court cases are dragging on after a quarter century.
Those are the kinds of issues that Kitimat residents will face when they vote in the plebiscite on April 12. Just who do the people of Kitimat believe, those who say the chances for a spill are remote and the environment and the economy will quickly recover? It probably depends on whether or not you consider 25 years quick. Twenty-five years is quick in geological time but it is a third or a half of a human life time.
As for the residents of Kitamaat Village, and probably many people in Kitimat, Haisla Chief Counsellor Ellis Ross summed it up in a Facebook posting on Sunday
If this happens in Kitamaat, all those campaigning for Enbridge will pack up and leave for another coastline to foul. Haisla don’t have much of a choice. We would have to stay and watch the court battles on who should pay what.
Ross is right. Whether it’s Prince William Sound or Douglas Channel, the people who live the region are stuck with the mess while the big companies walk away and the lawyers get rich.
The District of Kitimat Council is in chaos. We’re not referring to Monday’s chaotic meeting where often it was hard to figure out what Councillors were saying and where they were going.
We are referring to “Chaos” as it is defined in physics, “sensitive dependence on initial conditions,” known to most people as the “butterfly effect” (the exaggerated notion that a butterfly flapping its wings in one place could cause a storm in another place). Or we could suggest that Kitimat Council has a critical case of bad karma that is now coming back to haunt them.
How can you trust a council that doesn’t understand and follow its own motions?
District Council claims it is neutral on the Enbridge Northern Gateway project. That is wrong.
District Council decided, in violation of its own resolutions, to do absolutely nothing about the Northern Gateway Project until they have to. Doing nothing is not neutrality. Doing nothing is a default notion that actually tilts council in favour of the Enbridge Northern Gateway project. Doing nothing has meant that Council has become incapable of dealing with Gateway related issues within its own jurisdiction because they have no idea of what is going on.
A tale of two motions
So what were the initial conditions? As Peter Ponter pointed out in his presentation to Council Monday night, the original motion on neutrality called on Council to take an active part in the Joint Review proceedings.
”I move that the Mayor and Council of District of Kitimat go on record neither opposing nor supporting the Enbridge Pipeline Super Tanker Proposal and that we wish to, as a Mayor and Council, with our community, take part in the 1-2 year environmental assessment process and the Joint Review Panel to learn and understand whether this will be a beneficial project to Kitimat, the Northwest and British Columbia.
That motion was carried unanimously.
So then what happened? Nothing. The District of Kitimat did register as a government participant in the proceedings but did nothing to actually actively participate “to learn and understand whether this will be beneficial project to Kitimat….”
With the 2011 election over, the new council, sitting for the first time in 2012, was asked to reaffirm its position. At that time, Phil Germuth presented a motion that council survey the residents of Kitimat to find out what their position was on the Northern Gateway project. Our report here and Kitimat Daily’s report here.
At the time Councillor Mario Feldhoff said:
“The perfect time for the community to indicate whether they support is to reflect upon the JRP report. Do we agree with their submissions? Otherwise, our emotions are getting ahead of us and we may be perceive as being late in the game but, we may have, from my perspective, informed comment from the citizenry after they have had a chance to read a report from the JRP would be preferable in my opinion, in opposed to getting a sense of how people feel about things right now.”
So, in fact, there was not one neutrality motion as Council now maintains.
There were two separate motions, on two separate aspects of neutrality. The first called for council to remain neutral but to participate in the Joint Review Panel. The second called for council to survey the community on their feelings after the completion of the JRP.
The two motions did not, repeat not, cancel each other out. But that was, in effect, what happened. The council seems to have decided that Feldhoff’s comment was actually a motion, and that after that January 2012 meeting, they should do absolutely nothing but wait until the Joint Review Process was complete.
Every time after January 2012, when council was asked about anything, they said we are waiting for the Joint Review Process to be complete, even though council had unanimously passed a motion saying it would take part in the JRP. That is proof of Kitimat Council’s incompetence.
We will repeat that in the long history of regulatory hearings, public inquiries and even coroners inquests there have always been a role for neutral parties, represented by competent and properly instructed counsel, who vigorously look out for their client’s interests, without taking an advocacy position on a matter before the tribunal. The District of Kitimat could have, in fact, should have, actively participated and where necessary in the Joint Review and have its representatives ask tough questions of every side on all matters relevant to the District of Kitimat.
Participation didn’t happen, and, unfortunately, that is now all water under the Kitimat River Bridge.
A gift of prophecy
The bigger problem is that a majority on Kitimat council believes that it has the gift of prophecy, naively believing that the Joint Review Panel understands all mysteries and all knowledge. A majority of members on Kitimat council have blind faith, believing that the JRP can safely move pipelines across mountains.
With its gift of prophecy, Kitimat Council believes that all is right with the Joint Review Panel, that its 209 recommendations are gospel and thus council approves a vote question not about the Northern Gateway project but the Joint Review.
Faith is the operative word, for apart from dropping into listen from time to time, council did not participate in the proceedings in any way, and thus did not experience the many flaws in the Joint Review process that led some people to say as early as the middle of 2012 that the JRP had no credibility.
There are already court challenges to the Joint Review Panel. (Update. A media count as of January 23 says there are now 10 court challenges to the JRP)
Most important for Kitimat, a challenge filed by the Haisla Nation which, among the many flaws it finds with the JRP report, says the JRP improperly concluded that a large spill is unlikely either from the pipeline itself, the terminal facilities or the oil tankers tasked with navigating B.C.’s coastal waters.
It doesn’t do much for the already strained relationship between the District of Kitimat and the Haisla Nation that Council continues its uncritical support of the JRP while the Haisla are challenging it in court. That the Haisla motion to the Federal Court of Appeal includes challenges to the procedural unfairness of the JRP proceedings.
The Gitxaala First Nation says Joint Review Panel ignored issues surrounding aboriginal rights and title.
A coalition of environmental groups have told the federal court there was not enough evidence before the JRP to support its conclusion that the Northern Gateway pipeline would not have significant adverse effects on the environment; one key part of the suit is the fact that the JRP refused to consider the federal humpback strategy for Douglas Channel.
Although it is unlikely that the courts will throw out the Joint Review findings before the April vote, it might just happen. At that point, a plebiscite question based on the JRP would look pretty silly.
Who runs the Kitimat River?
We now come to the long term consequences of a do nothing council. We have to ask if the District of Kitimat Council will become lame ducks, at least in some part of town, because they have stood by and, in their misplaced faith in the National Energy Board, ceded the right to decide what happens in Kitimat to the NEB?
According to a report in the Toronto Star, using the new rules under the omnibus bills, this week the National Energy Board approved expansion of the Enbridge Line 7 pipeline in southern Ontario, without a hearing and without notifying Hamilton, the municipality involved (the pipeline actually goes through Hamilton) because the municipality was not “affected in any way” by the project. Since the media got on to the story, Enbridge has kindly said to Hamilton “we have heard and understood it and assured them directly that we will include them in all future consultation and activity on this project.”
There is already one pipeline along the west bank of the Kitimat River, Pacific Northern Gas. If the LNG projects go ahead, as well as more molecule traffic on the PNG pipeline there will be the Coastal Gas Link serving Shell and the Pacific Trails Pipeline serving Chevron and Apache. If it goes ahead, the Northern Gateway Pipeline will mean four pipelines along the west bank of the Kitimat River.
Four pipelines along the banks of the Kitimat River all under the benign eye of the National Energy Board in Calgary since they have “expertise” on pipelines and water courses.
The NEB has shown recently it doesn’t have much respect for municipalities. While the actual regulations under the DFO-NEB deal are likely to be unclear for some time, we know that what the NEB’s mandate is, to promote the oil and gas industry in this country, not to protect rivers and streams. So if the people of Kitimat, especially those who fish the Kitimat River or work in the Service Centre are in the way of what NEB bureaucrats in Calgary decide is best for us and those three, maybe four, pipelines, well too bad, eh? The NEB has the mandate to act in the national and public interest, not the residents of Kitimat.
Kitimat Council with its blind faith in the National Energy Board may very likely be a case of be careful what you wish for, sitting uselessly in the chambers at Northwest Community College while the NEB in Calgary carves up the District’s jurisdiction and does what it thinks is best for the oil patch.
Thus the Council deliberations become a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal, meaning nothing.
The National Energy Board says releasing its decisions in Calgary is standard practice regardless of where in Canada the project is located, and it will not make an exception for its report on the controversial $6.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.
Apparently the NEB doesn’t trust reporters in BC to act as professionals. Also, as usual the stock market is more important than the people of BC.
NEB spokesperson Sarah Kiley told the Globe the board ruled out simultaneous lock-ups in Alberta and British Columbia.
“As far as hosting multiple media lock-ups, we need to make absolutely sure that the report is not inadvertently released before the markets close,” Ms. Kiley said. “This becomes more challenging if there are multiple events due to things like the need to ship reports.”
Because the ruling will affect markets, she said the report must be kept confidential until they close on the day of release.
A couple of years ago, on a visit to the Lower Mainland, I was speaking to man who was considering making a 10 minute comment before the Northern Gateway Joint Review panel. In the end, this man, who is by no means a radical environmentalist, just someone worried about the future, decided not to testify, telling me: “The National Energy Board is nothing more than an extension of the Petroleum Club.”
Once again today, the National Energy Board showed its contempt for British Columbia and proved my source’s belief that it is nothing more than an extension of the Petroleum Club.
Vancouver radio station News 1130 made a routine inquiry to the NEB about a reporters’ “lockup” on the day that the JRP decision is released. A “lockup” allows the media to read an embargoed report a few hours in advance so that at the moment it is officially released, it can print or broadcast an accurate account of a government report.
News 1130 was told by the NEB that there would be no lockup in British Columbia, only reporters in Calgary, the home of the NEB, will have that opportunity, because “logistics did not work out for a lock-up” in Vancouver.
(Reporters who work along the actual pipeline route in the north are even farther off the NEB radar. The Calgary lockup will leave northerners to figure out what the JRP decision actually means from reports from Alberta-based journalists. The history of the past few years has proven that most Alberta-based reporters have little interest or knowledge of the concerns of northwest British Columbia.)
Before the JRP hearings began in January, 2012, a well-known northern First Nations leader predicted all this in a background conversation. He noted that there was no representation from British Columbia on the Joint Review Panel. The JRP had two members from Alberta, chair Sheila Leggett, and member Kenneth Bateman, while the “First Nations member,” Hans Matthews, was from Ontario. The First Nations leader, who would have to appear before the JRP, privately called them “flatlanders” with no knowledge of B.C.
He was right.
Even before that conversation, the Joint Review Panel blundered in its first appearance in Kitimat, the preliminary hearing at Riverlodge on August 30, 2010, by offending the Haisla Nation with a schedule of appearances crafted in Calgary that ignored that Kitimat is on Haisla traditional territory and put then Chief Counsellor Dolores Pollard well down on the schedule. That hearing was held up for about half an hour while the JRP scrambled to undo their mistake.
While the JRP did finally learn to respect the customs of BC’s First Nations, and the panel was often hamstrung by arcane and obsolete rules of procedure, the panel too often proved far too inflexible in understanding the issues along the pipeline route and up and down the coast.
The most recent example was the JRP’s refusal to consider the recent evidence from both scientists and Fisheries and Oceans about the growing importance of humpback whales in Douglas Channel. The JRP’s excuse was that the window for evidence had closed. If the Northern Gateway actually goes ahead, Enbridge speaks about the 30-year-life of the project. Yet the JRP’s continuing inflexibility acts as if all the key issues can be decided by the December 30 deadline and after that everything will be just fine.
In the past few weeks, report after report has been released on projects that will change the lives of the people of the northwestern British Columbia. The media of the northwest, all with very limited budgets, have been ignored time and time again.
On Tuesday, the federal government also used Vancouver to release a report on tanker traffic. While Vancouver is also vulnerable to tanker problems, the feds considered their message could be carried best by the mainstream major metro media. Again, no one bothered with the northwest, where the tankers will be sailing along the coast and up and down Douglas Channel.
A few weeks ago, BC Premier Christy Clark announced her agreement with Alberta Premier Alison Redford on the compensation issue, one of her five conditions for heavy oil development in the province. Clark solved the political dispute with Alberta by handing off the compensation issue from the province to the energy industry with absolutely no guarantee that the energy companies will actually offer compensation for crossing BC. Northern reporters could listen in to an audio feed of the news conference from the BC government website, but could not ask questions.
In the 21st century, of course, these news conferences are not about presenting factual information; the news conferences are about getting out a government message track, so questions from reporters who actually know about issues are not wanted.
The Joint Review Panel (with the NEB one of the “joint” partners) is supposedly, on paper, a quasi-judicial body, independent of the government.
If the JRP wants to salvage even a bit of its crumbling credibility for its Northern Gateway decision, it will show that it respects British Columbia. The means holding two additional lockups. If Terrace was good enough for the final arguments, and a central location for the northwest, one lockup should be held in Terrace, so northerners can read reporting by northwest-based reporters. The second, of course, should be in Vancouver for the province’s major media centre.
Given the record of the past two years, don’t hold your breath, time and time again the bureaucratic priorities and the fact that the NEB is thoroughly embedded in the energy culture of Alberta, it is likely that the release of the report sometime in the coming weeks will be Alberta-centric and will prove my source right, that the NEB is nothing more than that extension of the Petroleum Club.
The board plans to hold a media lock-up in Calgary, but does not have similar plans to brief reporters in British Columbia, says an official with the independent federal agency established to regulate international and interprovincial issues around the electrical utility, gas and oil sectors.
Board spokesperson Sarah Kiley said Thursday that the board recognizes there is an interest in B.C. in the subject, and said there is no final plan yet.
The Globe was unable to get a statement from the Liberal government of BC but for the opposition,Spencer Chandra Herbert (Vancouver-West End) said, the energy board should not be hiding out in Calgary when they announce what they are going to do, regardless of whether they approve or reject the project.
“You would think they would have the ability and respect for B.C. to host it here and explain whatever decision they make here to B.C. media and intervenors,” he said.
Kitimat LNG is in a “horse race” with an LNG project in Western Australia–and at this point, according to the Australian media–Kitimat is winning, even though the Australian Gorgon project is much further ahead while the Kitimat LNG project at Bish Cove hasn’t really started.
The Brisbane Times is quoting Chevron as saying that expansion of the Gorgon “will be in direct competition with exports from North America, which have a cost advantage.”
Chevron has a 47.3 per cent stake in Gorgon. Shell which is developing its own project at Kitimat, LNG Canada, has a 25 per cent stake in Gorgon. ExxonMobil holds 25 per cent.
”In the case of Gorgon train four … we are happy to see both of them move forward,” Chevron vice-chairman George Kirkland told analysts late last week, referring to the competition with Kitimat. ”[There is] a bit of a horse race between them at this point.”
Shipping gas to north Asia from Canada is cheaper than exports from Australia, he said, although the challenge is to find markets for the gas. ”The development cost at Kitimat … may end up being less than in the case of Gorgon,” he said, which ”has the benefit of [being a] brownfield development on the plant side”.
”We’re going to offer volumes … and interest in the plant as a combination,” Mr Kirkland said of the Kitimat marketing plans. ”We think that’s a big advantage.
”Our goal is to maintain our … first-mover advantage … We have had some initial discussions with Asian buyers.”
According to Wikipedia, the Gorgon area of Western Australia is the site for a number of liquified natural gas projects. The projects are off shore and close to the export terminals, much different from British Columbia where the gas fields are in the Peace River district in the northeast of the province.
The Gorgon field is centered about 130 kilometres (81 mi) off the north-west coast of Western Australia, where the water depth is approximately 200 metres (660 ft). Other fields in the group lie to the north, such as Jansz-Io, which covers an area of 2,000 square kilometres (770 sq mi), in a water depth of 1,300 metres (4,300 ft).
It is one of the world’s largest natural gas projects and the largest single resource development in Australia’s history.
The Gorgon Project is developing the Gorgon and Jansz-Io gas fields, located within the Greater Gorgon area, between 130 and 220 kilometres off the northwest coast of Western Australia.
It includes the construction of a 15.6 million tonne per annum (MTPA) liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on Barrow Island and a domestic gas plant with the capacity to supply 300 terajoules of gas per day to Western Australia.
Gorgon LNG will be off loaded via a 2.1 kilometre long loading jetty for transport to international markets. The domestic gas will be piped to the Western Australian mainland.
The Gorgon joint venture is investing approximately $2 billion in the design and construction of the world’s largest commercial-scale CO2 injection facility to reduce the project’s overall greenhouse gas emissions by between 3.4 and 4.1 million tonnes per year. The Australian Government has committed $60 million to the Gorgon Carbon Dioxide Injection Project as part of the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund.
In May, Reuters reported that the $52 billion Gorgon liquefied natural gas (LNG) development was 60 per cent complete. At the time, Reuters said Chevron planned to start engineering and design work for an expansion by the end of the year.
Parts of the Gorgon project are in an environmentally sensitive area, Barrow Island, which has been a nature reserve in Australia since 1910.
Barrow Island’s ecology. The island is a Class A nature reserve, and home to theflatback turtle (classified as a vulnerable species) and numerous other animals not found on the Australian mainland. Other concerns are related to the adequacy of quarantine procedures on Barrow Island to protect against the introduction of non-endemic species, and risks associated with geological sequestration of CO2.It was reported in November 2011 that native animals on Barrow Island had been accidentally killed daily with a known total of 1550 since construction began.
The Gorgon Project is being undertaken in accordance with strict environmental standards to preserve the island’s ecology.
Central to the Gorgon Project’s commitment to protect the conservation values of Barrow Island is the Quarantine Management System (QMS), which directs
the Project’s quarantine operations. The QMS is the largest non-government quarantine initiative in the world and was considered to be “likely world’s best practice” by the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority. The Project’s gas processing facilities are being constructed within a 300 hectare ground disturbance limit, which represents 1.3 percent of Barrow Island’s uncleared land area.
The Dow Jones wire is reporting that Chevron has postponed a final investment decision on the Kitimat LNG project until 2014, “putting a deadline on a project that has already seen delays.”
Competitors are trying to sell natural gas to Asian customers using the cheaper Henry Hub North American market benchmark rather than higher Japanese bench mark which is based on the price of oil.
The Dow Jones report says Chevron, which is partnered with Apache, is still having problems finding customers in Asia. It quotes George Kirkland, head of Chevron’s upstream business, as saying that the company is offering customers equity stakes in the Kitimat project. Kirkland told a conference call that equity should be more attractive to buyers.
Kirkland said the company won’t approve the project until it has lined up customers for at least 60 per cent of Kitimat’s total 5 million metric tons a year of export capacity, although Kirkland expects that to happen in 2014.
“We’ve have had some discussions with Asian buyers,” Mr. Kirkland said during a call with investors. He declined to name the companies with which Chevron was negotiating. “It’s more likely to be a 2014 (decision), not late 2013,” he said.