Good Sunday Morning,
I was hoping to offer some good news stories today. Or maybe write about political financing proposals in Bill C-50. Or about the Omnibus bill that entrenches a Harper like "fox in charge of the henhouse" regulatory agency that ensures the blind pursuit of oil industry profits is not hampered by independent environmental reviews.
But Rachel Notley's w(h)ine and poses war against BC made that pretty much impossible. After listening to Jim Carr basically dismiss British Columbia out of hand in his CBC interview on The House, I revved up my search engines. He started the interview by making it clear yet again that his government (with their 39% majority) made a decision in approving a pipeline that's in "the national interest." Then he ended the interview by basically telling British Columbia to get out of the way, we're going to build this pipeline.
When I saw Trudeau robotically repeat the same talking points he used at the Nanaimo town hall as an answer to a perfectly legitimate question Elizabeth asked in Question Period about Oil Sands employment, I was reminded of why Canadians are so fed up with politics and political parties. There is no discussion, there is no debate, there are no real answers to real questions. There are only talking points to drive home an agenda cooked up in the back rooms of power.
Interviewing BC's Environment Minister George Heyman, the host of CBC's The Early Edition was clearly pro-pipeline in his questioning of the Minister. It shows just how far the oil industry has its talons into Canadian media, even the CBC. He references Heather Dettman, a Natural Resources Canada scientist who spent the last five years studying the behaviour of bitumen in a tank located in her lab at, of all places, 1 Oil Patch Dr., in the Alberta town of Devon. She concluded that the density of spilled diluted bitumen stays lower than that of salt water — so it floats. "Just like a vinaigrette," said Dettman.
However, her research also confirmed that the bitumen does actually sink after about three weeks. This is presented as mostly harmless because apparently so does conventional crude if exposed to sediment in the water. Hmmm, like the sediment plume that often extends into Georgia Straight from the Fraser river perhaps? Minister Heyman is spot on when he insists the science around bitumen isn't conclusive.
In his commitment to be prudent and protect our coast, the Minister points to the experience of past dilbit spills including the massive Enbridge Tar Sands Oil Spill into the Kalamazoo River, which after five years is still not cleaned up. When dilbit gushed into Talmadge Creek in 2010, the mixture broke apart. The volatile natural gas liquids vaporized and wafted into the surrounding neighbourhoods. The airborne chemicals were so difficult to find and eliminate that Enbridge decided it would be better to simply buy some of the homes that were evacuated, preventing the residents from ever returning.
Not sure about you but I've been out on Haro Straight in December with 5-knot currents, two-meter high chop and 80 km/hr winds. It's like taking your vinaigrette and putting it in a blender. Hard to imagine what a boom could possibly accomplish in those conditions. At 5 knots the spill would travel 40 kilometres or more during a single tide cycle and extreme tides happen at night that time of year. So an event anywhere between Vancouver and the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca would devastate hundreds of kilometres of shoreline basically overnight.
When we consider that twenty-five years after the Exxon Valdez spill, it still was not fully cleaned up and that the oil from that spill eventually covered 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of coastline and 11,000 square miles (28,000 km2) of ocean, it should be clear why this is not an abstract issue of shipping goods to market.
But don't worry. Last week Trudeau put everyone at ease about the Kinder Morgan project because it is located in a highly populated area where there are resources at hand to clean things up. And Catherine McKenna put our mind at ease by enjoying this photo op, flipping pancakes at an Enbridge sponsored event with Jim Sanders, President of Enbridge Gas Distribution.
"When you want to have projects go forward in the 21st century you have to understand that the economy and the environment go together. So if you actually listen to people in the front end, if you engage with indigenous peoples, if you look at the science, you're going to get to a better spot so at the back end when the project is actually being reviewed it will go faster. Business wants certainty. They want to know decisions will be based on science and evidence."
You could be forgiven if you thought this quote sounded a bit like Andrew Weaver or Elizabeth May but in fact, it's Catherine McKenna's. It comes at the same time that she echoes Trudeau's talking point in the House of Commons that "This project (Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain) is in the national interest and it will go ahead." On CTV's Power Play, McKenna said that when Harper gutted our environmental review "we ended up with polarization, we ended up with projects before the courts, with opposition..."
Wait a minute, how is our current situation not exactly like that? The doublespeak is so incredibly Orwellian. Misleading rhetoric is now flowing faster than oil through a pipeline. The "science" they accepted as gospel from the NEB, did not allow cross-examination of evidence nor did it consider the evidence of an expert panel report that was prepared at the request of the Royal Society of Canada for the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, entitled: "Behaviour and Environmental Impacts of Crude Oil Released into Aqueous Environments."
Instead of heeding that report and coming to grips with the risks and consequences of a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic, this piece in the Edmonton Journal proposes that pipeline proponents were counting on the B.C. government to simply wink and approve the pipeline with the most cursory of environmental impact assessments. Boy, must they be surprised that BC isn't just rolling over to make up for decades of resource mismanagement.
In a world committed to solving climate change and driven by the technological convergence, the Tar Sands are a bad bet. As Mitchell Anderson points out in the Tyee, it's now official: "Suncor announced it was eliminating 400 bitumen-mining jobs by purchasing self-driving ore trucks. This is only the latest indignity (or “efficiency” as the industry calls it) for a sector that produces more carbon and less and less employment and public revenue."
"The reality is that it's a race to the bottom." Andrew Weaver points out in this CBC interview on The House that if Alberta were refining the bitumen and not shipping jobs overseas, at least the local environmental concerns would be mostly mitigated. At the same time Elizabeth, while applauding the changes to the navigable waters act, is unequivocal in taking the government to task about rolling it into a Harper-style Omnibus bill that also implements a woefully inadequate regulatory regime going forward. The new Liberal bill ignores many of the recommendations from the government’s expert panels and breaks important election promises that helped bring the Liberals to power.
What I find most interesting is how Premier Notley and Prime Minister Trudeau are framing BC's insistence on confirming the safety of shipping diluted bitumen as blocking the pipeline. Their united response of sabre rattling and petty trade wars amount to a public admission that this project can never stand up to any thorough scientific scrutiny.
So before anyone wakes up to the shoddy snow job of the NEB in its environmental assessment of this project, they are now desperate to change the channel and move the discourse over to Federal versus Provincial jurisdiction. However, while they are parading experts to state that the constitution is clear on this, it seems anything but.
In the meantime, British Columbians show no sign of cowering in fear of this bullying from big oil politicians. We are gathering at events like next Sunday's showing of An Inconvenient Sequel; Truth to Power in Sidney to galvanize our resolve.
This petty trade war may just energize us into an alliance with Washington State, who has as much to lose to Kinder Morgan as we do, to stand up against the power plays of our respective national leaders. When it comes to political campaign financing we may not be the wild west anymore but Trudeau and Notley surely have underestimated how much our pristine coast means to us.
Have a great week,
"It is our job to work tirelessly for justice, for peace, and for a planet that can survive with a human civilization that thrives. This is the challenge that we take on as Greens." Elizabeth May, October 19th, 2015
This weekly missive is authored by Thomas Teuwen, our SGI EDA coordinator. Opinions expressed are his own. We welcome your comments and feedback. If you were sent here by a friend and would like to subscribe to our weekly email simply click here. You can also go to the archives section of our SGI website to read back issues.