Pembina urges Harper to follow US “objective perspective” of Keystone in looking at Northern Gateway

Energy Environment

The Pembina Institute, the Alberta based environmental and energy think tank has reacted to the decision by the United States Department of State to delay approval of the Keystone XL bitumen pipeline by urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to under take a similar “objective perspective” on the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline from the Alberta bitumen sands to Kitimat.

In a news release, Pembina spokesman Dan Woynillowicz said that US President Barack Obama “has made it clear that he has heard the concerns of Americans about environmental protection, climate change, and the need for the United States to create a clean energy future.”

The State Department release on the decision did include “climate change,” which Pembina interprets as, “The fact that climate change will be explicitly considered in the final decision is notable given the higher greenhouse gas pollution associated with oilsands compared to other sources of oil.”

Woynillowicz said the US decision shows that the regulatory process should be ” based on the best available information and analysis, and will take into account the views and concerns of American citizens.”

He then goes on to say:

“This decision stands in stark contrast with the Canadian government’s approach to the proposed Enbridge Gateway pipeline that would transport oil sands product to the West Coast. Rather than maintaining an objective perspective on this pipeline, Prime Minister Harper and his cabinet have been actively promoting its approval before public hearings on the environmental impacts of the project have even begun.

“The Canadian government should take a lesson from the U.S. and ensure a broader and more rigorous review of Gateway is completed, including the upstream environmental and greenhouse gas impacts of expanding oilsands development to fill the pipeline.”

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Harper appears to endorse Northern Gateway in TV interview

Energy Politics

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Prime Minister Stephen Harper strongly endorsed the bitumen pipeline from Alberta to Texas, the controversial Keystone XL project and then went on to apparently push for the Enbridge Northern Gateway project by saying “there is all the more reason why Canada should look at trade diversification and particularly diversification of energy exports.”

In the interview with the business news service Harper said U.S. approval of TransCanada Corp.’s proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline is a

 “no-brainer” because it will create jobs and add to America’s secure energy reserves.

“The need for energy in the U.S. is enormous, the alternatives for the U.S. are not good, on every level,”

Harper said he’s “confident” the pipeline will be built.

Keystone would link Canada’s oil sands to U.S. refineries on the Gulf of Mexico coast. The 2,673-kilometer pipeline would begin in Hardisty, Alberta, and cross Saskatchewan, Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

The alternatives for the United States are not good. And, you know, on every level, not just economic (but) political, social, even environmental, the case is very strong for this…”The fact that there are these kinds of pressures to, you know, to potentially take decisions which would, in my judgment . . . to avoid a decision would be a complete no-brainer.”

Shawn McCarty of The Globe and Mail interprets Harper’s statement this way:

the federal government has broadly endorsed the oil industry’s efforts to build new pipelines to the West Coast to open up new markets in Asia.

The National Energy Board is reviewing plans for a natural gas pipeline to Kitimat, B.C., and a plant to liquefy the gas so it can be exported via tanker.

The NEB and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency are holding a joint review of Enbridge Inc.’s more controversial Northern Gateway oil pipeline to the coast. The Gateway project is opposed by environmental groups and first nations, whose traditional lands would be affected.

Harper has now added his voice to cabinet ministers Joe Oliver and James Moore in pushing for the Northern Gateway Pipeline, which once again raises the question, why have the Joint Review Panel since it appears the decision to go ahead has already been made?

Related Link Vancouver Sun U.S. approval of Keystone a ‘no-brainer’: Harper

Harper’s decision to defund coast management group may blow back on Enbridge, lawyer says

Energy Environment Link

The West Coast Environmental Law blog says the decision by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take funding away from the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area plan may actually blow back on Enbridge, delaying the Northern Gateway pipeline project for years.

 The cancellation of the funding is  perceived as part of the Conservative government’s aim of pushing the
Northern Gateway pipeline through no matter what the cost.   (Two cabinet ministers, Joe Oliver and James Moore are publicly endorsing the Northern Gateway, despite the fact the Joint Review Hearings don’t even begin until January 2012. It is unlikely either minister would make an endorsement like that without Harper’s approval.)

In the blog post, Why Harper’s shot at PNCIMA also hit Enbridge in the foot, lawyer Andrew Gage argues that Harper’s move,  apparently motivated by fears that the PNCIMA process could block the pipeline, fears created by Vancouver blogger Vivian Crause and her allies among PostMedia’s right wing columnists, will actually delay the pipeline for years because it negates the legal obligation to consult First Nations and thus will likely throw the entire process into the courts for years.

Litigation by any of the Coastal First Nation against the Enbridge Pipeline could pose a serious problem for Enbridge and its Northern Gateway Project.  Because of First Nations title and rights that are protected by Canada’s constitution, the federal government has a duty to “act honourably” and to consult and accommodate First Nations who have a “credible but unproven claim” of rights that may be adversely affected by a government decision (such as approving the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project and related tanker traffic.)

As a result,  anything that the federal government does in relation to consultations with the Coastal First Nations about tanker traffic and the Enbridge Pipeline that might be considered “dishonourable” creates legal uncertainty and problems for Enbridge.  So was the decision to withdraw from the current PNCIMA funding arrangement “dishonourable?”

Gage notes that the federal government is required by the Oceans Act, passed under the Liberals in 1997, to set up integrated management plans for all coastal areas of Canada, not just the northwest, a process that began in 2005.

Gage also points out that Enbrige has, in the past, participated in the process:

A wide range of stakeholders, including one seat for the conservation sector, provide input and consensus based advice on an Integrated Oceans Advisory Committee, but do not determine the outcomes of the PNCIMA process. Enbridge has itself participated on the Integrated Oceans Advisory Committee, along with representatives of the fish farming, commercial fishing, renewable energy, recreational fishing and tourism industries, and even sponsored an early workshop in the PNCIMA process.

In short, PNCIMA is created by the federal government, managed jointly by the federal and provincial governments and First Nations, but with efforts being made to involve a wide range of stakeholders. Because the PNCIMA is co-chaired by a federal government staff-member, and requires sign-off from the government, it was unlikely to have resulted in a complete ban on oil tanker traffic, although it might have placed restrictions on marine travel, or otherwise provided protection for the coast from shipping impacts.

However, progress was slow, in part due to the limits of federal funding available for the process.

He goes onto to say that the Harper government itself agreed to the now controversial foundation funding in 2010. That was before the attacks from Crause and the PostMedia’s business columnists reached a crescendo in recent weeks. But now there is no longer any mechanism that can be perceived as neutral that consult with First Nations and other northwest coast stake holders.

To flip-flop now, slightly more than a year before the process was supposed to wrap up, leaves the PNCIMA process without the funding that the government has acknowledged is required for a thorough planning process. It is also a slap in the face for the Coastal First Nations, the BC government, environmental organizations and industry stakeholders who have worked on this process for years.

Prime Minister Harper’s government may have believed that it was helping Enbridge and its Northern Gateway Pipelines by withdrawing from this funding agreement. But the resulting uncertainty, and the appearance that the federal government has acted less than honourably towards the Coastal First Nations, may well cause Enbridge huge legal head-aches in the future.

Editor’s note: As I said in this post, there appears to be a double standard, since what the Harper government, PostMedia’s columnists and Krause apparently are saying that it is only acceptable if billionaire capitalists spend their money on a conservative or pro-energy industry agenda, but it is not acceptable if a billionaire capitalist decides to spend his money to protect the environment.

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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.


Harper government muzzles scientist who studied salmon collapse, noted possible virus as cause

Post Media News

Feds silence scientist over West Coast salmon study

Post Media News reports that the Privy Council Office, part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office, is refusing to allow a prominent scientist speak to the media and the public about her study on the collapse of salmon stocks on the west coast, suggesting a virus may be involved in salmon deaths, despite the fact her scientific findings have already been published in the journal Science.

Top bureaucrats in Ottawa have muzzled a leading fisheries scientist whose discovery could help explain why salmon stocks have been crashing off Canada’s West Coast, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News.

The documents show the Privy Council Office, which supports the Prime Minister’s Office, stopped Kristi Miller from talking about one of the most significant discoveries to come out of a federal fisheries lab in years….

Science, one of the world’s top research journals, published Miller’s findings in January. The journal considered the work so significant it notified “over 7,400” journalists worldwide about Miller’s “Suffering Salmon” study…

Miller heads a $6-million salmon-genetics project at the federal Pacific Biological Station on Vancouver Island.

Abstract of Miller’s paper in Science. (Subscription required for full text), Jan 14, 2011.

Long-term population viability of Fraser River sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) is threatened by unusually high levels of mortality as they swim to their spawning areas before they spawn. Functional genomic studies on biopsied gill tissue from tagged wild adults that were tracked through ocean and river environments revealed physiological profiles predictive of successful migration and spawning. We identified a common genomic profile that was correlated with survival in each study. In ocean-tagged fish, a mortality-related genomic signature was associated with a 13.5-fold greater chance of dying en route. In river-tagged fish, the same genomic signature was associated with a 50% increase in mortality before reaching the spawning grounds in one of three stocks tested. At the spawning grounds, the same signature was associated with 3.7-fold greater odds of dying without spawning. Functional analysis raises the possibility that the mortality-related signature reflects a viral infection.

National Post editorial board: Ottawa isn’t the oil sands’ enemy, Edmonton is

National Post


National Post editorial board: Ottawa isn’t the oil sands’ enemy, Edmonton is

There’s an old adage in Alberta politics that when all else fails, bash Ottawa. Well, Alberta’s Tory government must feel itself at risk of failure, because it has begun making far-fetched claims about how its federal cousins ­­– Stephen Harper’s new Tory majority — have suddenly turned into anti-oil sands hypocrites bent on hobbling the project’s development with new environmental regulations just to win favour with central Canadian voters.

Alaska pipeline development doesn’t bode well for NWT project: Alberta Oil

Alberta Oil Magazine 

Darren Campbell column

As everyone returns to the office after the Victoria Day long weekend, supporters of the star-crossed Mackenzie Gas Project (MGP) are left to wonder what the future holds for the $16.2 billion proposed pipeline scheme now that BP plc and ConocoPhillips have announced they are dropping out of the race to build an Alaska natural gas pipeline.

What does a couple of Big Oil companies giving up on their plans to build a pipeline have to do with the fortunes of a project proposing to ship natural gas from the Northwest Territories’ Mackenzie Valley to southern markets?