Posts tagged ‘Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines’

January 10, 2012

Has Harper’s Conservative Government been Hijacked by Foreign Oil Interests?

Recently, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, wrote an open letter claiming that  “...foreign special interest groups (sounds like Assad?) are opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline. He is singing the tune of the absurd Ethical Oil group (who won’t reveal who they are supported by), not mentioning that Enbridge’s initial supporter for the pipeline was the Chinese company Sinopec; and that the oil will be shipped to a country whose human rights record can only be considered as unethical. As usual the Conservatives are displaying new and massive levels of hypocrisy.

Let Elizabeth May have a word: here is her Open Letter to Joe…

Dear Joe,

Your letter caught my attention.  I respect you and like you a lot as a colleague in the House.  Unfortunately, I think your role as Minister of Natural Resources has been hijacked by the PMO spin machine.  The PMO is, in turn, hijacked by the foreign oil lobby. You are, as Minister of Natural Resources, in a decision-making, judge-like role.  You should not have signed such a hyperbolic rant.

I have reproduced a short section of your letter. The idea that First Nations, conservation groups, and individuals opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline are opposed to all forestry, mining, hydro-electric and gas is not supported by the facts.  I am one of those opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline.  I do not oppose all development; neither does the Green Party; neither do environmental NGOS; neither do First Nations.

I oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline for a number of reasons, beginning with the fact that the project requires over-turning the current moratorium on oil tanker traffic on the British Columbia coastline. The federal-provincial oil tanker moratorium has been in place for decades.  As former Industry Canada deputy minister Harry Swain pointed out in today’s Globe and Mail, moving oil tankers through 300 km of perilous navigation in highly energetic tidal conditions is a bad choice. In December 2010, the government’s own Commissioner for the Environment, within the Office of the Auditor General, reported that Canada lacked the tools to respond to an oil spill.  These are legitimate concerns.

Furthermore, running a pipeline through British Columbia’s northern wilderness, particularly globally significant areas such as the Great Bear Rainforest, is a bad idea.  Nearly 1200 kilometers of pipeline through wilderness and First Nations territory is not something that can be fast-tracked.

Most fundamentally, shipping unprocessed bitumen crude out of Canada has been attacked by the biggest of Canada’s energy labour unions, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, as a bad idea. The CEP estimates it means exporting 40,000 jobs out of Canada (figure based on jobs lost through the Keystone Pipeline). They prefer refining the crude here in Canada.  (The CEP is also not a group to which your allegation that opponents of Gateway also oppose all forestry, mining, oil, gas, etc is anything but absurd.)

The repeated attacks on environmental review by your government merit mention.  The federal law for environmental review was first introduced under the Mulroney government.  Your government has dealt repeated blows to the process, both through legislative changes, shoved through in the 2010 omnibus budget bill, and through budget cuts.  In today’s letter, you essentially ridicule the process through a misleading example.  Your citation of “a temporary ice arena on a frozen pond in Banff” requiring federal review was clearly intended to create the impression that the scope of federal review had reached absurd levels.  You neglected to mention that the arena was within the National Park. That is the only reason the federal government was involved.  It was required by the National Parks Act. The fact that the arena approval took only two months shows the system works quite well.

Perhaps most disturbing in the letter is the description of opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline as coming from “environmental and other radical groups.”  Nowhere in your letter do you mention First Nations.  (I notice you mention “Aboriginal communities,” but First Nations require the appropriate respect that they represent a level of government, not merely individuals within communities.)

The federal government has a constitutional responsibility to respect First Nations sovereignty and protect their interests.  It is a nation to nation relationship.  To denigrate their opposition to the project by lumping it in with what you describe (twice) as “radical” groups is as unhelpful to those relationships as it is inaccurate.

“Radical” is defined as “relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.”  (Merriam Webster).

By that definition, it is not First Nations, conservation groups or individual opponents that are radical.  They seek to protect the fundamental nature of the wilderness of northern British Columbia, the ecological health of British Columbia coastal eco-systems, and the integrity of impartial environmental review.  It is your government that is radical by proposing quite radical alteration of those values.

Your government has failed to present an energy strategy to Canada.  We have no energy policy.  We are still importing more than half of the oil we use.  Further, we have no plan to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, even as we sign on to global statements about the need to keep greenhouse gases from rising above 450 ppm in the atmosphere to keep global average temperatures from exceeding a growth of 2 degrees C.  The climate crisis imperils our future – including our economic future – in fundamental ways which your government ignores.

By characterizing this issue as environmental radicals versus Canada’s future prosperity you have done a grave disservice to the development of sensible public policy.  There are other ways to diversify Canada’s energy markets.  There are other routes, other projects, and most fundamentally other forms of energy.

I urge you to protect your good name and refuse to sign such unworthy and inaccurate missives in the future.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth May, O.C.

Member of Parliament
Saanich-Gulf Islands

Leader
Green Party of Canada

July 21, 2011

Alberta’s threat to coastal British Columbia

National Geographic magazine is featuring an article that shows how Canada’s push to become a player in the world oil market will threaten key habitats along the British Columbia coast. Included in the threat? The Great Bear Rainforest, home of the Spirit Bear.

From the article Pipeline Through Paradise:

With the Northern Gateway proposal, the Gitga’at and the rain forest that surrounds them have been caught up in a great geopolitical oil game. The Northern Gateway isn’t just a pipeline. It’s Canada’s bid to become a global player in the petroleum market.

The proven reserves in Alberta‘s oil sands are second only to Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, yet the United States today is virtually the sole export market for oil sands crude. A Canadian company, Enbridge, wants to build a $5.8 billion ($5.5 billion Canadian) pipeline to transport oil 731 miles, from Alberta to Kitimat. The double-barreled pipeline would carry oil west and send condensate, a liquid used to dilute the thick crude and allow it to flow, east to Alberta. Giant tankers—some nearly as long as the Empire State Building is tall, loaded with condensate or up to 2.15 million barrels of crude—would thread between a jigsaw of islands to and from Kitimat.

A West Coast oil port would open the Alberta oil sands to Asian markets, including China. Sinopec, China’s state-owned oil company, is among the Asian refiners and Canadian oil firms that have invested $105 million into moving the Northern Gateway pipeline through the planning and permitting stage.

Canada has been slow to deal with the reality of global warming due to the use of fossil fuels. It is a shame that both the federal and provincial governments are promoting oil when they have done so little to prevent the fallout of its consumption.

Read the full article online in Pipeline Through Paradise.

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