This week’s column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Changing the rules doesn’t make LNG ‘clean’ energy

Yes, yes, yes, I know I’ve teased you with hints of the post on the BC NDP, and a couple other gems, but I’ve come down sick with a nasty head cold and cough that makes me feel like my brain is cotton.  Thankfully,I managed to get this weeks column done just as I was starting to get sick, but that’s going to be it for a day or two until this passes.

This week, Brent and I debate this question” Are LNG profits worth the trade-offs in B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions targets?

I say no, but this is a tricky question to debate  because as the narrative gets pushed along that burning LNG is dirty, so begins the push for Site C and other ‘clean’ projects – regardless if they could even be constructed in time to run any LNG plants on Clarks timeline. Therein lies the real danger of these debates.


The BC Liberals, under the leadership of former premier Gordon Campbell, passed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act in 2007, requiring the province reduce emissions by at least 33% by 2020.

A lofty goal, and one the province has adhered to. Now Premier Christy Clark and her liquefied natural gas dreams could change all that.

Clark has found herself under fire from critics over her claims that B.C.’s proposed LNG facilities will be the cleanest in the world. In fact, she has gone as far as saying they will do the world a “favour,” a comment predicated on her theory that exported B.C. LNG could replace the use of coal in China, thereby reducing world air pollution.

Like all things that seem too good to be true, her claims of B.C. having the cleanest LNG facilities in the world one day are as premature and foolhardy as her assertions about related job creation and profits.

The Clark government knows that natural gas would most likely be needed to power the proposed LNG plants. Knowing this, the Clean Energy Act was changed in 2012 — meaning from that point on any natural gas burned to fuel LNG plants was to be considered “clean energy.” In fact, it is anything but clean.

Read Brent Stafford’s column


READ the rest of this weeks column, and vote for whom you think should win this weeks debate here:

Don’t worry Kitimat, it’s all just part of the BC Job Plan.

Christy Clark told the world last year, Kitimat is where it’s at and now the press is heralding the transformation of the ‘doom-town’ into a ‘boom-town’…. boom shaka laka laka… that is.

Now it seems like the entire world is heading to Kitimat looking for a job, and a new business is trying to set up shop in town… much to the chagrin of Kitimat’s mayor and council.

Pacific Trails Pipeline Project clears the path for Enbridge, largely under the radar of most British Columbians.

If there is one thing that can be said about all the attention being paid to the Northern Gateway Project, it is that it provides a good distraction for other projects and issues to move along without getting the same ass kicking Enbridge is.

Take for example, the Pacific Trails Pipeline project ( also referred to as the KSL line). While there has been protest here and there, and media coverage during the approval process, by and large it has flown completely under the radar of most British Columbians. That is a damn shame in my opinion, and I’m going to tell you why.

First of all, this pipeline is owned by Apache Corporation,  Encana and EOG Resources (formerly Enron). It is going to be transporting LNG to Kitimat in an expanded 42 inch diameter pipe and will assist in driving expansion of fracking in Northeastern BC, something the Liberals are all over like flies on dung. Unfortunately for the people in that area of BC, the NDP are right on board with fracking as well, energy critic John Horgan extolling the virtues as he perceives them in this linked interview.

It’s all the same junk,different piles… the pipeline, the LNG plant in Kitimat, expansion of fracking in BC and the proposed Site C dam – something Clark already admitted is needed to power LNG plants and expansion in BC.  We are rushing around trying to get resources to a Chinese market that has already bought up so many LNG supply contracts around the world, and is now showing signs of the same economic decline and crunch the rest of the world has been experiencing for far longer.

But wait, if that isn’t contentious enough for you already, here is the real point you might not have known about yet.  The Pacific Trails Pipeline runs from just north of Summit Lake, ( about 55 kms north of Prince George) to Kitimat…. and  a large portion of this pipeline right of way follows the same route Enbridge plans for the Northern Gateway pipeline.

In fact, Pacific Trails is beginning to clear the pipeline route this summer, logging and cutting brush and many fear this is going to pave the way for Enbridge and mitigate much of the environmental impact in this area… and Enbridge has it all that much easier for a portion of their total route.

In May 2011, Damien Gillis reported on an interview Enbridge CEO Pat Daniels did with Fox News in which he said the following:

“We think we’re in a very strong position with regard to exporting Canadian natural gas in particular. We’re currently putting forward our credentials to the proponents – EOG, Apache, Shell and others – that are working on moving Western Canadian natural gas out to the West Coast; and we would hope to be able to see some synergies with the right-of-way that we’re working on with our Gateway pipeline out to the West Coast. So, yes, we’re very interested in doing that and we would hope to be the the pipeline provider for one or both of those alternatives. (emphasis added)”

While largely unreported by major media outlets, there has has already been physical opposition to the Pacific Trails Pipeline by the Unist’ot’en and the Likhts’amisyu of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, who evicted and escorted out Pacific Trails Pipeline drillers and their equipment back in November. They are continuing to protest this pipeline and others that cross their territories and will threaten the  two main salmon spawning and food supply streams they rely on as the staple in their diet. They don’t go to Choices to buy eco friendly, organics, they live off the land – the very land both these pipelines cross and I believe you can toss Kinder Morgan in there too. They need support. This is their way of life.

With active clearing already begun for the Pacific Trails/KSL line, the time has come for all British Columbians to inform themselves about what’s going on and what they can do about it. This pipeline has already been approved, without a lot of fuss or fight and this portion of the line, is crucial to Enbridge who must already have an agreement in place with the partners behind  Pacific Trails to use the same right of way in this area. It might even be that if Enbridge’s Bitumen line is tanked, they will be in place to offer the option of LNG transport…. another synergy between partners?

I don’t hold all the answers.

I support sustainable and environmentally sound resource extraction and believe this can be achieved… if the dedication and values are there in government to set the standard for such. Unfortunately, our governments are not in line with this goal, are willing to sell BC to the highest bidders and for that reason I do believe the people must set the standard and ensure their lands are protected, at any cost.

“Only when the last tree has died  and the last river been poisoned  and the last fish been caught  will we realise we cannot eat money.”   ~Cree Proverb

The people of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have issued a call to action: Indigenous people are asking for solidarity to stop the bulldozing of the Enbridge pipeline route in Northern BC. This summer, Pacific Trails Pipeline company plans to clear hundreds of kilometers of forests, streams, and wetlands for their gas pipeline. Clans in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation say NO. They are calling for support at Unis’tot’en Camp in the path of the pipelines.

Answer the call. Complete information on this event can be found at

The not often talked about downside to foreign investment in British Columbia.

A little something for you to digest while I finish up the Port Mann story, something very relevent to my ongoing interest in how much of British Columbia is being bought and sold by foreign interests.

First up, let’s take a trip down memory lane to the emotional little moment Pat Bell had last year when he announced that a subsidiary of an Asian( Indonesian) forestry giant had bought the disaster known as the Mackenzie Pulp Mill. Don’t get me wrong, that community badly needed the jobs that mill provided – still does, matter of fact-  however all is not well for the new owners and Pat Bell knows it.

The mill underwent a routine shutdown last fall to perform maintenance work and for unknown reasons, simply did not pay many contractors who have been left holding the bag. For all intents and purposes, the work performed and supplies provided were completely satisfactory to mill owners,the mill was back up and running as it should have been, however payment has not been forthcoming and sources indicate some contractors were left owing amounts of $ 700,000.00 plus!

Sources close to Pat Bells office also indicate that Bell himself is completely aware that the new owners of Mackenzie Mill did not pay these contractors after the shutdown and that  Bell has stated that “they were encouraging the new owners to pay the bills, because that is how it works here.”

Indeed it does – most of the time. And one would hope that with Clarks gosh darn amazing Job Plan, this government would want to make sure new investors in BC understand that before they step up to the plate. And that leads us to number two interesting tidbit about how some foreign companies do business in BC.

Sources indicated as well, that a similar situation has occurred in Kitimat, where the new Chinese owners of the closed Methanex plant ( Ko Yo Development) abruptly terminated the contract with Blue Horizon Industries who had been in the final stages of dismantling the plant which will be shipped to China. The Methanex plant site will be the future location of none other than Shells LNG plant often heralded by Christy Clark.

Although it was reported that as of November 2011, Ko Yo Developments had paid Blue Horizon approximately $15 million of the $20 million contract, sources have confirmed to me that other contractors and suppliers on site remain unpaid as a result of the main contractor being taken off site. Calls to Blue Horizons CEO were not returned at the time of this posting, nor were calls to the other parties mentioned in both instances.

This kind of questionable business behavior poses some troubling questions, because pursuing legal remedies against foreign-owned companies is more often than not a cost prohibitive t remedy to all but the largest unpaid companies. Smaller companies will simply have to absorb the loss or place the debt into corporate collections where no fee is paid unless recovery of the debt is achieved.  And while a larger company might be able to still pay their employees and keep jobs after non-payment of a large contract, mid size or small, growing companies are at risk of lay-offs and the trickle down implications of lack of expected revenue. Let me be clear, these unpaid contracts and invoices are not insignificant to the bottom line of every company involved.

My source laid it out best when he said:

 ” Our various governments spend a lot of time in China, which has bothered me a lot when we were talking about shipping raw logs, raw minerals and then some of the mills that were sent, but if we wind up with a lot of investment from companies who are discovering that they don’t have to pay their contractors, I’m even more alarmed.”

Now what would the Gosh Darn Amazing Christy Clark have to say about this?


Close call on BC coast, should be ‘Wake- Up call’ for British Columbians.

A couple days ago, one of my  regular readers( astro)  shared a shocking story here in the comments section. His source for the information was

During one of last weeks storms and ensuing high seas, a cargo ship that was anchored offshore Mayne Island was pushed onto a reef, where it immediately became a serious threat to the coastline.  While the ship was a cargo freighter, the fuel tanks may have been carrying up to 1.2 million gallons that- had the hull been punctured or breached- would have had catastrophic impact on our coast line.

Now, ships run aground more frequently than one thinks, so the fact that a ship became grounded on a reef is not the shocking  part of the story  that I refer to.

What is shocking, is that the BC Ministry of Environment saw the seriousness of the situation, and immediately notified the American government – but did not tell British Columbians one word. The American government issued a press release immediately, and swiftly mobilized staff to monitor the situation.  I can not find one word of a press release from our government, still, today.

From Paul Willcock’s Blog:

So the B.C. Environment Ministry told Washington State, but provided no information to British Columbians.
The DFO, as far as I can tell, provided no public information.
The Gulf Islands Driftwood had the story by Friday afternoon.
But 72 hours after an incident that “could have oiled the islands on both sides of the border,” according to the government of Washington State, only a small number of British Columbians knew about the grounding. Governments were silent.
The argument for tanker traffic relies heavily on the effectiveness and accountability of governments in protecting the public interest.
But only Washington seemed to think this important enough to tell the public about.

The B.C. and Canadian governments didn’t think you needed to know.

Today is Tuesday, November 24th, and as of yet I have heard, nor read any coverage of this locally. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

In fact, had it not been for ‘astro’ bringing us that bit of information from Paul’s website, I would never had heard about the incident that ” posed a significant risk of a large black oil spill” and ” could have oiled  the islands on both sides of the border”. Likely you would not have either, unless you read Paul’s site.

To me, it is completely unacceptable that the BC government would see fit to warn Americans of the possible danger of this grounding, but leave British Columbians in the dark! It makes me wonder at what point would they have issued a press release? When the oil was lapping on our shores?

***UPDATE: November 25th- I found this item on the NDP site : ” Liberal minister clueless about major threat to our coast”


When questioned by media in the legislature on Monday about the threat caused by the Hebei Lion, a large freighter that ran aground near Mayne Island last week, the B.C. Liberal Environment Minister, Barry Penner, had no idea an incident had even occurred.


Fleming is especially concerned about the Mr. Penner’s lack of awareness about the situation given that other B.C. Liberal ministers are lobbying heavily for expanded crude oil supertanker traffic and for the lifting of the federal moratorium on coastal drilling.

“If the B.C. Liberal environment minister doesn’t even pay attention to the environmental threats caused by routine shipping activities, how can the people of British Columbia trust him to protect our coastal wilderness from coastal drilling and crude oil supertanker traffic?” asked Fleming.

Carole James and the New Democrats are fighting for an environmental action plan that respects communities, offers families positive choices and commits to concrete action to protect species at risk.

According to this release, the media questioned Barry Penner about this incident in the legislature, and he clearly had no clue it even happened, so what happened next?

Nothing for those of us on the mainland. The  Victoria Times Colonist ran this story yesterday, but as of this morning I can find nothing in any of the large local dailies or any other evidence this made a newscast in BC.

 Is this not newsworthy for all British Columbians, or is everyone expected to read the Times Colonist?


If anything, this incident give me another reason to make something old, something new again. The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project.

An issue for me the moment I heard about it, this is something I have been blogging about since May of this year, trying to inform as many people as I can.

The following is a re-post of a piece I published here online back in July, and leads you to links on other bits I’ve done previous to then, that will give you even more background on why this latest incident should make you all think about the risks we may shortly face along BC’s beautiful coast.

Debate rages on over Enbridge ‘Northern Gateway’ Project and the Liberals plan to allow oil tankers along the B.C. coast

As I sat and watched the CBC documentary, ” Black Wave: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez” , I couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before a disaster like this hit our beautiful B.C. coastline. That is, if the Northern Gateway project goes ahead in northern B.C., resulting in oil-supertankers zig-zagging their way along-side it.

The focus of intense scrutiny from both residents in the area and environmentalists alike, the project centers around the  construction of two pipelines that  will, when built, originate in the Edmonton area ,cross northern B.C. and will end in the port community of Kitimat. This is where Enbridge will construct a new  port terminal, complete with two berths to accommodate oil tankers.  Residents and environmentalists are worried about the likelihood of oil spills along  both of the pipelines and the coastal waters of British Columbia –  frankly, so am I.

I’ve written about this issue previously HERE and HERE– covering both the political and environmental angles of it. Although the NDP brought this project and the likelihood of oil tanker traffic along our coast up as an election issue,( oil tanker traffic has not been allowed along the BC coast for years, but Gordon Campbell plans to change all that)  I’ve heard nothing since their defeat – a shame on all counts. The issue has certainly become no less important  nor has it gone away.

This is why the timing of an email I received from a Kitimat resident was so relevant to what I learned from the Exxon Valdez documentary. But first, let’s take a look at the statistics.

Contrary to information given by those who support the project, oil spills at sea are not uncommon events at all. In fact, they  actually happen all the time – they are just not highly publicized unless it is such a disastrous event that it merits the fleeting attention of the press. A good majority of spills happen at sea, and never even merit a mention, and some go entirely unreported. The documentary mentioned above covers all of this in complete detail, and is a must see for anyone who cares about this coastline.

According to the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation, there were 13 reported spills in 2007, and 3 of them were over 700 tonnes, which is considered to be a large spill.

It is accurate to say that with the number of oil tankers predicted to be travelling the coast of BC carrying condensate and oil back and forth from the pipeline, it is not a matter of  ” if a spill happens”, but rather “when it happens”.  And unlike spills at open sea, a spill among the islands and channels of the B.C coastline would have devastating and long-lasting  consequences for years to come.

Nearly twenty years after the EXXON spill, there is still oil to be found in the area, not to mention the economic and personal costs inflicted on the residents that have never disappeared.

For example, the bankruptcies that occurred when several fisheries tanked as a result of oil contamination that affected the fish runs.

A class action court case that took so long children grew into adults while it continued on, because Exxon vowed they would do everything they could to NOT pay that judgement.

And the suicides – let us not forget those. Wonderful and vital members of the town of Cordova, Alaska who lost much during the years following the spill – including all hope – and could no longer bear the stress and strain of life after EXXON.  There is no compensation for them, or their families because how can you attach a monetary value to a life.

In the end, the ocean and the town and the people in it were nothing more than a big bill to Exxon, a bill they didn’t even want to pay, because to pay the judgment meant losing money out of their operating capital that could be busy making them more money. Despite telling the people of Cordova they would make it right, and do whatever it took to make that happen, in the end it was not anything good or noble that made them pay- it was the highest court of law in the United States of America.

Is this what the residents of B.C. want? I can’t answer that question, because in my experience, very few people  even know this project is happening, let along being supported fully by the B.C. government.

It is that lack of knowledge , and the lack of attention being paid to this by most local media, that infuriates me. How can someone object to something that they have no knowledge of?  This is just what the Campbell government wants, and does best – keep silent, don’t answer any questions, and keep the people in the dark.

You will hear  the premier speaking often about opening up the Asia Pacific Gateway, but has anyone heard the premier speak about how  his government plans to handle an oil spill along the B.C coast that he promotes every where he travels? Supernatural BC alright – I wonder what will happen when boaters and coastal residents wake up and see the tankers along the coast…or worse yet, the stench of crude oil as it laps upon their beautiful seaside retreats – some of them perhaps, Liberal vacation homes.

It is the effort to inform the public  combined with a fierce love for this province that drives the residents opposed to this project up north to soldier on, people like Murrey Minchin.

I received this letter to the editor he sent to the Northern Sentinal newspaper in Kitimat, on July 16th – Mr. Minchin will advise me if it is indeed published, as many publications in the north have developed a reputation for not printing letters that are in opposition to the project. I have inserted the link to the Enbridge webpage where the amount of oilspills they have had can be found, on page 34

 “ Dear Editor,
I’d like to respond to the article, ‘Gateway is a proposal, not a project: Harris’, in the July 8th, 2009 Northern Sentinel. In it, your reporter writes, “As for safety, Harris hoped the project will make the environment they work in” (then Harris is quoted as saying) “safer than without the project”.
When Mr Harris says things will be, “safer than without the project”, he’s probably referring to the aids to navigation on Douglas Channel that are part of the proposal. I can’t imagine even he believes two 1,170 km pipelines, one carrying 193,000 barrels (over 30 million litres) of condensate a day east to Alberta, and the other carrying 525,000 barrels (over 83 million litres) of oil a day west to Kitimat, or having supertankers zig-zagging their way down Douglas Channel can make the environments Enbridge works in, “safer than without the project”.
I’m guessing Enbridge didn’t hire Roger Harris as vice president of Communications and Aboriginal Partnerships for his in-depth knowledge of constructing oil pipelines and oil ports, or his expertise in their operation. My hunch is he was hired to draw on his many years in politics and be Enbridge’s spin doctor; to apply soft focus filters over the wrinkles in Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project. Spin doctors hide things like important details, or uncomfortable truths. They don’t give clear answers or reference their sources. I hope I’m wrong with this assumption, so I’m inviting Mr Harris to give some clear, concise answers to the following questions, and ask him to reply to them here in the Northern Sentinel for all to see.
1) How much time does it take a tethered tug to stop a fully loaded 1,148 foot long supertanker that’s carrying 2,050,000 barrels (over 325 million litres) of oil traveling at six knots, which has lost power?
2) If the powerless supertanker above was drifting at six knots while traveling with a six knot outgoing tide (or twelve knots relative to the shore, islands, shoals, etc), what distance would the tug and supertanker travel before the tug could stop it, then pull it backwards fast enough to gain directional control?
3) The almost 40 year old Pacific Northern Gas underground pipeline has been ruptured once in the Copper River valley and once in the Howson Range by landslides. How much oil would spill into the Copper River if the pipeline is hit by another 1.4 million cubic meter landslide, as happened in the Copper River valley 15.5 kilometers from the Skeena River on June 8, 2002?  Given there are to be ten pumping stations on the pipeline, isn’t there a possibility that 10% of the 525,000 barrels of oil (that would be 52,500 barrels, or over 8 million litres) would spill into the Copper, then Skeena Rivers? 
4) According to the Enbridge website their Canadian and US pipelines spilled 13,777 barrels (over 2 million litres) of oil in 2007. This was east of the Rocky Mountains on comparatively flat terrain. Do you, Mr Harris, believe the Copper and Skeena Rivers as well as Douglas Channel and all its connecting waterways are, “safer than without the project”? If not, why?
5) Why won’t Enbridge agree to have a full public enquiry held in Kitimat, requiring sworn testimony on all aspects of the Northern Gateway project?
My hope is Mr Harris will answer these questions clearly and with definitive numbers, but my fear is they’ll be spin doctored out of harms way. That would mean one of two things; either Enbridge is hiding facts which they know would cause massive environmental harm, or they haven’t bothered to research things fully. Both are unacceptable!
Murray Minchin
Kitimat, BC “
I have emailed the Northern Gateway office to ask if Roger Harris would like to answer Mr. Minchins questions and will post his reply if he chooses to respond. ( he did )