Guest's blog

Thu, 2014-07-24 13:26Guest
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Is B.C.'s LNG Plan Destined to Fail?

christy clark bc lng

This is a guest post by Mark Jaccard, professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University and a convening lead author in the Global Energy Assessment. 

During B.C.’s 2013 election campaign, at a conference of energy economists in Washington, D.C., I spoke about how one of our politicians was promising huge benefits during the next decades from B.C. liquefied natural gas exports to eastern Asia. These benefits included lower income taxes, zero provincial debt, and a wealth fund for future generations. My remarks, however, drew laughter. Later, several people complimented my humour.

Why this reaction? The painful reality is that my economist colleagues smirk when people (especially politicians) assume extreme market imbalances will endure, whereas real-world evidence consistently proves they won’t. For B.C. Premier Christy Clark to make promises based on a continuation of today’s extreme difference between American and eastern Asian gas prices was, to be kind, laughable.

Wed, 2014-07-09 09:32Guest
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The Fish Are Fine, Kinder Morgan Says

Chinook salmon

Ecojustice lawyers were among the many to file motions to the National Energy Board late last week regarding Kinder Morgan’s poor and non-existent responses to questions posed to it by intervenors. And while we were generally disappointed by Kinder Morgan’s evasive approach, we were shocked at one reply in particular.

When asked whether there is any evidence from cold water oil spills to suggest marine fish are impacted, Kinder Morgan’s response was that: “Harm to marine fish populations seems to be the exception, rather than the rule, following marine oil spills.”

That’s right   Kinder Morgan’s view is that when oil is spilled in water, there is little harm to fish, and it is more likely the fish will be just fine.

The motion Ecojustice lawyers filed on behalf of our clients, Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation, asks the Board to order Kinder Morgan to fully respond to our clients’ first round of information requests about the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

Kinder Morgan received more than 10,000 questions from intervenors. As we wrote last month, the company asked for an extension of the time limit to respond, but got only 14 of the 23 days they asked for. Our clients supported the request, in the interest of allowing Kinder Morgan time to provide as much information as possible.

Kinder Morgan's slippery responses

But now that the responses are in, we wonder whether the extra nine days would have made a difference. Responses from the company have ranged from vague to incomplete to non-existent. In short The information provided by Kinder Morgan is not nearly good enough. Of the 253 responses our clients received from the company, at least 77 – approximately 30 per cent – were inadequate. 

In 20 responses, Kinder Morgan refused to answer the question in whole or in part, by:

  • Claiming it was “not relevant” to the review (including the record of leaks and ruptures on Kinder Morgan’s other pipeline systems, and the make and model of clean-up equipment); or
  • Stating that it did not have the information (including air monitoring information), because the data do not exist, because the answer was not in the documents they relied on in the application, or because they had not done the necessary work to answer.

In five responses, Kinder Morgan gave a response which only partially answered the question or provided an answer but not the supporting data requested.

In the remainder of the responses, Kinder Morgan simply didn’t answer the questions it was asked. Here’s a snapshot of the ways the company answered questions with non-answers:

  • Cited a large document or report rather than provide an clear answer;
  • Referred to a document that did not contain any answer to the question; 
  • Said it would file an answer later; or
  • Cited a legal standard rather than address facts. 

As we mentioned above, when our clients asked if there was evidence from cold water oil spills, beyond evidence from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, of marine fish communities or habitat being impacted for more than two years after a spill, this was Kinder Morgan’s response: “Harm to marine fish populations seems to be the exception, rather than the rule, following marine oil spills.” 

In support of that mystifying non-answer, Kinder Morgan cited a 264-page report from Enbridge’s reply evidence in the Northern Gateway pipeline hearings. 

We’ve written about how, in the wake of the 2012 omnibus budget bill, reviews of major pipeline projects have been scaled back dramatically, sacrificing good science and process for “efficiency.” The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project hearing, with its 15-month time limit and lack of oral cross-examination, is a prime example of how this shift is deeply problematic. 

We are now halfway through the two rounds of intervenor information requests, which are intervenors’ only chance to ask Kinder Morgan questions about its 15,000-page application. Our clients are increasingly worried that they will be unable to meaningfully challenge Kinder Morgan’s evidence, particularly given its evasive approach to our information requests. 

But as for the fish, according to Kinder Morgan, they will be just fine.

- See more at: http://www.ecojustice.ca/blog/the-fish-are-fine-kinder-morgan-says#sthas...

Ecojustice lawyers were among the many to file motions to the National Energy Board late last week regarding Kinder Morgan’s poor and non-existent responses to questions posed to it by intervenors. And while we were generally disappointed by Kinder Morgan’s evasive approach, we were shocked at one reply in particular.

When asked whether there is any evidence from cold water oil spills to suggest marine fish are impacted, Kinder Morgan’s response was that: “Harm to marine fish populations seems to be the exception, rather than the rule, following marine oil spills.”

That’s right   Kinder Morgan’s view is that when oil is spilled in water, there is little harm to fish, and it is more likely the fish will be just fine.

The motion Ecojustice lawyers filed on behalf of our clients, Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation, asks the Board to order Kinder Morgan to fully respond to our clients’ first round of information requests about the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

Kinder Morgan received more than 10,000 questions from intervenors. As we wrote last month, the company asked for an extension of the time limit to respond, but got only 14 of the 23 days they asked for. Our clients supported the request, in the interest of allowing Kinder Morgan time to provide as much information as possible.

Kinder Morgan's slippery responses

But now that the responses are in, we wonder whether the extra nine days would have made a difference. Responses from the company have ranged from vague to incomplete to non-existent. In short The information provided by Kinder Morgan is not nearly good enough. Of the 253 responses our clients received from the company, at least 77 – approximately 30 per cent – were inadequate. 

In 20 responses, Kinder Morgan refused to answer the question in whole or in part, by:

  • Claiming it was “not relevant” to the review (including the record of leaks and ruptures on Kinder Morgan’s other pipeline systems, and the make and model of clean-up equipment); or
  • Stating that it did not have the information (including air monitoring information), because the data do not exist, because the answer was not in the documents they relied on in the application, or because they had not done the necessary work to answer.

In five responses, Kinder Morgan gave a response which only partially answered the question or provided an answer but not the supporting data requested.

In the remainder of the responses, Kinder Morgan simply didn’t answer the questions it was asked. Here’s a snapshot of the ways the company answered questions with non-answers:

  • Cited a large document or report rather than provide an clear answer;
  • Referred to a document that did not contain any answer to the question; 
  • Said it would file an answer later; or
  • Cited a legal standard rather than address facts. 

As we mentioned above, when our clients asked if there was evidence from cold water oil spills, beyond evidence from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, of marine fish communities or habitat being impacted for more than two years after a spill, this was Kinder Morgan’s response: “Harm to marine fish populations seems to be the exception, rather than the rule, following marine oil spills.” 

In support of that mystifying non-answer, Kinder Morgan cited a 264-page report from Enbridge’s reply evidence in the Northern Gateway pipeline hearings. 

We’ve written about how, in the wake of the 2012 omnibus budget bill, reviews of major pipeline projects have been scaled back dramatically, sacrificing good science and process for “efficiency.” The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project hearing, with its 15-month time limit and lack of oral cross-examination, is a prime example of how this shift is deeply problematic. 

We are now halfway through the two rounds of intervenor information requests, which are intervenors’ only chance to ask Kinder Morgan questions about its 15,000-page application. Our clients are increasingly worried that they will be unable to meaningfully challenge Kinder Morgan’s evidence, particularly given its evasive approach to our information requests. 

But as for the fish, according to Kinder Morgan, they will be just fine.

- See more at: http://www.ecojustice.ca/blog/the-fish-are-fine-kinder-morgan-says#sthas...
Dyna Tuytel, staff lawyer

This is a guest post by Ecojustice staff lawyer Dyna Tuytel.

Ecojustice lawyers were among the many to file motions to the National Energy Board late last week regarding Kinder Morgan’s poor and non-existent responses to questions posed to it by intervenors. And while we were generally disappointed by Kinder Morgan’s evasive approach, we were shocked at one reply in particular.

When asked whether there is any evidence from cold water oil spills to suggest marine fish are impacted, Kinder Morgan’s response was that: “Harm to marine fish populations seems to be the exception, rather than the rule, following marine oil spills.”

That’s right — Kinder Morgan’s view is that when oil is spilled in water, there is little harm to fish, and it is more likely the fish will be just fine.

Tue, 2014-07-08 15:56Guest
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Addressing Global Warming is an Economic Necessity

David Suzuki

This is a guest post by David Suzuki

Those who don’t outright deny the existence of human-caused global warming often argue we can’t or shouldn’t do anything about it because it would be too costly. Take Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who recently said, “No matter what they say, no country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country.”

But in failing to act on global warming, many leaders are putting jobs and economic prosperity at risk, according to recent studies. It’s suicidal, both economically and literally, to focus on the fossil fuel industry’s limited, short-term economic benefits at the expense of long-term prosperity, human health and the natural systems, plants and animals that make our well-being and survival possible. Those who refuse to take climate change seriously are subjecting us to enormous economic risks and foregoing the numerous benefits that solutions would bring.

The World Bank — hardly a radical organization — is behind one study. While still viewing the problem and solutions through the lens of outmoded economic thinking, its report demolishes arguments made by the likes of Stephen Harper.

Sat, 2014-06-14 12:35Guest
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Why Are Pipeline Spills Good For the Economy?

oil spill

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

Energy giant Kinder Morgan was recently called insensitive for pointing out that “Pipeline spills can have both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies, both in the short- and long-term.” The company wants to triple its shipping capacity from the Alberta tar sands to Burnaby, in part by twinning its current pipeline. Its National Energy Board submission states, “Spill response and cleanup creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and cleanup service providers.”

It may seem insensitive, but it’s true. And that’s the problem. Destroying the environment is bad for the planet and all the life it supports, including us. But it’s often good for business. The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico added billions to the U.S. gross domestic product! Even if a spill never occurred (a big “if”, considering the records of Kinder Morgan and other pipeline companies), increasing capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day would go hand-in-hand with rapid tar sands expansion and more wasteful, destructive burning of fossil fuels — as would approval of Enbridge Northern Gateway and other pipeline projects, as well as increased oil shipments by rail.

Fri, 2014-06-13 05:00Guest
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Polarized Pipeline Debate is Preventing Real Dialogue on Oilsands

Alberta oilsands development kris krug

This is a guest post by award-winning environmental campaigner and author Tzeporah Berman. It was originally published in The Globe and Mail and is republished here with permission.

I have family who work in the oilsands. They know that I have been a vocal critic of current oilsands operations and plans for expansion, yet they didn’t hesitate to welcome me last week into their homes and to invite me to a family gathering in Canmore. We had a wonderful time. We shared some memories, laughed a lot and even tackled some hard stuff. The conversations were rich and surprisingly easy. Perhaps in part because although we have different opinions there already was a basis of trust and shared experiences.

The weekend sits in stark contrast for me to the ugly polarizing and simplistic debate about oilsands and pipelines our country is embroiled in. It was also an important reminder for me of a simple lesson I learned during the war in the woods in the ’90’s – that there are good people everywhere and sometimes the people you need the most to figure out intransigent problems are the folks on the so-called other side of the fence. I left thinking about how important it is for us to overcome the ‘taking sides’ attitude over oilsands, pipelines and climate change that has taken root in our country and find ways to create real conversations about solutions to some of the greatest challenges of our age.

Thu, 2014-05-22 11:47Guest
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Should Chevron Pay For the Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic?

Pine Beetle Damage

This is a guest post by Andrew Gage, staff lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law

According to the B.C. Government, the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic – a direct result of climate change – cost British Columbia billions in lost timber value alone – not counting environmental and other damages. This reality has influenced the public consciousness of British Columbians about the cost of climate change, and it doesn’t seem a stretch to suggest that public awareness of climate change’s impacts in B.C. was influenced by the pine beetle epidemic, and therefore that the pine beetle played an important role in B.C. adopting its carbon tax in 2008 – the only jurisdiction in North America to date to do so.

I have suggested that awareness that climate change is costing us here and now may finally drive real climate action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions (because as John Oliver says, we’ve proven that we “cannot be trusted with the future tense”). It may even prompt discussion about whether the taxpayer – or the polluter – should be the one paying for those costs

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