Questions Answered, Part 2

I understand a strong economy and the positive attributes that it brings to our society and social programs in terms of taxes. That being said, I really appreciate the insight on “Dutch Disease” and its economic trap as well as the point on protecting our national reserves here in Alberta. Which federal politician has a platform that differs from Harper’s rapid expansion? Voting him out is the only voice we have.

All of the other parties have more measured policies on oilsands expansion than the Conservatives. The new leader of the NDP, Thomas Mulcair, has already been vocal about Dutch Disease. In between election cycles, platforms can be hard to pin down, but at election time, we will be sure to communicate with our supporters about which parties have the strongest positions on oil tankers.

The B.C. provincial election in May 2013 will also be a key moment for the No Tankers campaign – so far the B.C. Liberals are on the fence about Enbridge, the NDP are opposed and the Conservatives are in favour.

People are saying there is no power in petitions. Is there truth to that also?

Petitions in and of themselves are of limited effectiveness. It’s their ability to create an active and engaged network that’s truly powerful. In Dogwood Initiative’s case, those who sign the No Tankers petition are given the opportunity to participate in or organize their own local actions. These additional actions then combine to produce an overall impact that far exceeds that one initial petition signature. For example, those who signed the No Tankers petition in the Capital Regional District were recently asked to encourage their local governments to pass motions opposing the expansion of oil tankers – and some of them did! This means the campaign now has new and influential allies at the local government level.

Is it legally possible for the B.C. government to levy a carbon tax on the carbon flowing through B.C. pipelines? I know it gets added if B.C. citizens burn it, but could a B.C. government require a carbon tax on carbon passing through B.C.? A $30 per tonne carbon tax would return more than $100 billion over the 30 years of this pipeline.

It is feasible that the government could charge a carbon content export fee, which would be a step in the right direction, especially as it related to the export of coal. But it would not alleviate the risk of oil supertankers plying B.C.’s waters.

How can I address the Enbridge Joint Review Panel?

The deadline to register to speak to the panel was last October, but you can still file a written comment until Aug. 31, 2012.

How close are we to winning or losing?

The nature of politics is such that we could feasibly win or lose at any moment, with the caveat that First Nations are likely to tie the project up in court for years. The fluid nature of politics is why we need to keep up the momentum every single day. That being said, we’re about one year away from the next predictably decisive moment in our struggle: the 2013 B.C. election. After all the votes are cast we will know whether we have a government that will stand up for our coast. If we do, then we’re within a stone’s throw of victory. If we don’t, then we’re considering launching a provincial initiative that would trigger a referendum. Overall, the momentum is on our side and we’re closer to victory than defeat.

What would happen if there was a condensate spill, either from a tanker or a pipeline rupture on land? There is no discussion around this and I doubt that many realize there two pipelines side by side being proposed.

You are correct to be concerned about a spill of condensate, as it contains a nasty mix of toxic substances. Studies elsewhere in the world suggest that a spill of condensate into the ocean or a river from a tanker, terminal or pipeline could kill a lot of living organisms very quickly in the spill area and downstream through acute toxicity. However, the spilled condensate would not persist in the environment the same way that the heavy, gooey components of crude oil does. A worst-case scenario condensate spill might involve a spill into a river, sending a toxic pulse down its entire length during a major salmon run or a spill into the ocean in an area of marine mammal congregation or herring spawning.

Curious what routes the tankers would take – would they vary? What do navigation charts tell us about the difficulties of getting supertankers in and out of the deep-water port which would have to be constructed?

The Globe and Mail recently published a great article on this subject with a really helpful infographic outlining the different perils along the three proposed approaches to Kitimat.

I recently read in the business section that Warren Buffet and Bill Gates were buying up shares in CP Rail. CP rail has recently talked about shipping more oil by rail, first to the U.S., but what about the West Coast?  They do have a direct rail line to Prince Rupert or Kitimat.

There have been talks of shipping oil via rail to Prince Rupert for export to China, however, this does not get around the fundamental stumbling block that all western oil export proposals share — bringing more and larger oil tankers to B.C.’s coast.. That’s where a big chunk of the risk is, and that’s where a lot of British Columbians draw the line. We oppose all expansion of oil tanker traffic on B.C.’s coast, and so do the 100,000 people who have signed our No Tankers petition and more than 70 B.C. First Nations.

Has there been a discussion around the imminent earthquakes that will (and are) happening along the coast?

The risk of a devastating earthquake has been raised in submissions to the joint review panel. It has been pointed out that that the Pacific Coast is “the most earthquake-prone region of Canada.”

According to Natural Resources Canada, the concentration of earthquakes along the west coast is related to the presence of active faults, or breaks in the earth’s crust. The surface of the earth is always changing, as the earth’s crust is made up of “plates” (like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle) that are constantly moving relative to one another at speeds of about 2-10 cm/year (about how fast your fingernails grow). The plates can either slide past one another, or they can collide, or they can diverge (or move apart) . . . The west coast of Canada is one of the few areas in the world where all three of these types of plate movements take place, resulting in significant earthquake activity.

What is Dogwood Initiative’s position on the export of natural gas from Kitimat? Are any scientists talking about the probable effects (noise, stress, collisions) of tanker traffic on marine life, including whales?

The north coast tanker ban Dogwood Initiative is currently advocating for applies solely to the bulk transport of crude oil. This is largely because local First Nations and local governments have supported LNG proposals and one of our founding principles is to advocate for local control over resources. However, there are definitely risks to LNG traffic, including all three of those mentioned: noise and the stress it causes, and collisions.

There is a great animation on this topic called Cetaceans of the Great Bear Rainforest. Also check out the wonderful work of our friends at Cetacealab.

Although a spill of LNG would be less damaging to the environment than a spill of crude oil, there are worst-case scenarios involving large explosions from LNG facilities. Additionally, we are concerned about the ‘upstream’ impacts of natural gas dev
elopment in B.C., including fracking, the massive amounts of electricity required to transport and liquefy the gas, and the substantial greenhouse gas pollution associated with the industry.

If you’re looking for some background information on LNG, check out our 2009 Citizen’s Guide to Liquefied Natural Gas in British Columbia.

The public hearings are required by law. But what does the law say about how the input to the hearings is considered or weighted in making a decision about the pipeline?

There are few hard rules directing the Panel in how to consider and or weigh input. Unlike in the United States where state and federal Administrative Procedures Acts require decision makers to provide rationales and back up their decisions with evidence that can be contested, in Canada there is much deference to the discretion of decision makers. The legal test will be “reasonableness.”

This means that the Panel’s decision could be challenged if they based their decision on something patently outrageous such as a claim that no one made submissions opposing the proposal. That said, a failure to properly weigh evidence would be difficult to challenge.

The exception to this rule is aboriginal issues. In fact, the JRP is on very shaky legal ground in relation to a lot of First Nations issues and we would expect that both the process and their findings will be vigorously challenged by impacted First Nations.

Ironically, the fast-tracking of the process as a result of changes flowing from Harper’s 2012 budget could add significant delays to the process as it gets tied up by legal challenges.

How joint is the joint review panel? It reportedly combines assessments by the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.  I take it that once upon a time there were two federal assessments going, and that the joint panel is a fast-track. Then there is the decision by Gordon Campbell to combine the provincial assessment with the federal.  Is there a provincial assessment incorporated into the federal, or did Gordon Campbell surrender assessment authority to the federal government?

You are correct.  The Joint Review Panel (JRP) is supposed to be “an independent body” struck to “assess the environmental effects of the proposed project (like Enbridge’s pipeline -supertanker proposal) and determine whether the proposal meets the requirements of both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the National Energy Board Act.

The decision about whether or not to appoint a Joint Review panel lies with the Minister of the Environment and the National Energy Board. Some projects undergo two separate processes; others, such as Enbridge’s oil tanker and pipeline project, are combined into a JRP. Although there are attempts underway to combine separate provincial and federal assessment into a “one review” process, the JRP on this project is not combined with provincial assessments.  The Enbridge proposal is undergoing a JRP because it is a large interprovincial pipeline oil tanker project.

Although the JRP is supposed to be “an independent panel,” recent statements and budget measures indicate that Harper’s government has their thumb on the scale of justice.

Ultimately the JRP can reject the proposal (albeit they seldom do so), make a conditional approval, or approve it outright. What few people understand is that the JRP’s decision is not binding, government can ignore the JRP’s recommendations as they did with all but a few of the 176 recommendations made by the JRP in the Mackenzie Gas Project. In other words, ultimately the decision is political, and concerned citizens are wise not to be fooled by politicians hiding behind references to the process.

 

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