Keith Stewart

Why Trudeau Should Call Off the Reviews of Trans Mountain and Energy East

The National Energy Board is fundamentally broken.

That was a point repeatedly highlighted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the 2015 federal election — and one confirmed for many with recent revelations that former Quebec premier Jean Charest had privately met with senior NEB officials while on the payroll of TransCanada.

Trudeau and his federal cabinet have the chance to change that: in June, the government announced dual review panels to assess the mandates and operations of the NEB and the country’s oft-criticized post-2012 environmental assessment processes (it also announced five interim principles until those reviews are completed, including a requirement to assess upstream greenhouse gas emissions although it’s unclear how that information is being used).

Suncor Opens Conversation about ‘Stranded Assets’ in Alberta’s Oilsands

Suncor Energy CEO Steve Williams rocked the oil industry boat Thursday when he announced a plan to leave some of the company’s oilsands reserves unrecovered during a conference call with investors.

Williams said the company is working to develop a plan with Alberta to “strand” its least economical reserves, a proposal that appears to align with the call of environmentalists to leave the high-cost and high-carbon fossil fuels in the ground to prevent catastrophic global warming.

Tweet: Whoa: ‘We’re advocating in a modest way to work with govt so we can strand some of the oil in the oilsands’ #ablegWe are advocating in a modest way to work with government so that we can strand some of the oil in the oilsands,” Williams said, as reported by The Canadian Press.

Our regulation is written so that we take to a very high percentage the last piece of oil out. That tends to be the most expensive both economically and environmentally. What we would like to do is leave that last piece in (the ground),” he said.

I’m very optimistic we are making some breakthroughs with government to do that.”

The proposal is about more than leaving some oil deposits undeveloped, according to Simon Dyer, director of the Pembina Institute.

We’re talking about Alberta moving philosophically from maximizing production to optimizing value,” Dyer told DeSmog Canada.

Kinder Morgan Pipeline Review to Continue Under Flawed Review Process, According to Natural Resources Minister

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr told reporters Wednesday that ongoing oil pipeline reviews will continue on as usual, despite a promise by the Liberal government to make the environmental assessment process more robust.

They have not stopped,” Carr said. “The process continues.”

Ongoing National Energy Board reviews will continue for projects like the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion even though the Liberal party platform promised an immediate review of the process, saying the renewed assessments will “restore robust oversight and thorough environmental assessments” and “restore lost protections” resulting from weakened environmental laws under the Stephen Harper government.

Minister Carr indicated the National Energy Board review process will undergo a transition but until that time, project reviews will remain unchanged.

There will be a transition as we amend the ways in which the National Energy Board goes about the process of evaluating these projects,” Minister Carr said, “and we will announce those changes as soon as we can, but the process continues.”

The announcement has some wondering what to make of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assertion that a more robust process would apply to the to Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

In August, Dogwood Initiative’s Energy and Democracy Director Kai Nagata pressed Trudeau to confirm if an NEB overhaul would apply to the Kinder Morgan project.

Yes. Yes,” Trudeau said. “It applies to existing projects, existing pipelines as well.”

July 2015 is Officially Hottest Month on Record. Ever.

Raging wildfires and apocalyptic smoke. Huge algal blooms visible from space turn seafood on the Pacific Northwest toxic. California’s drought. Alberta’s drought. Alberta’s floods.

There’s no doubt: it’s hot and weird out.

According to officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) July was the hottest month ever recorded, putting 2015 well on track to beat out 2014 for the hottest year on record. Records date back to 1880.

NOAA climate scientists Jake Crouch said the new data “just affirms what we already know: that the Earth is warming.”

The warming is accelerating and we’re seeing it this year.”

Stephen Harper Forgets Stephen Harper’s Pledge to End Fossil Fuels

If the recent frufrah over NDP candidate Linda McQuaig’s comment that “a lot of the oilsands oil may have to stay in the ground” is indicative of anything, it’s that Canada’s election cycle is in full spin. May all reasonableness and sensible dialogue and accountability be damned.

Perhaps that’s the blunt and singular reason behind the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s outrage at McQuaig’s entirely non-contentious assertion that, because of our international commitments to curtail global climate change, Canada won’t exploit the entirety of its oil reserves.

Harper accused the NDP of having a “not-so hidden agenda,” saying the party “is consistently against the development of our resources and our economy.”

That’s why they…would wreck this economy if they ever got in, and why they must never get into power in this country.”

But Harper’s reaction seems conspicuously overwrought given the Prime Minister’s own pledge, along with the other G7 nations, to phase out the use of fossil fuels by 2100.

At the time of signing — a whole two months ago — Harper said the plan would “require a transformation in our energy sectors.”

So You've Been Publicly Shamed Into Climate Action: On Harper’s Promise to End Fossil Fuels

Stephen Harper’s participation in the G7 leader’s declaration to decarbonize the global economy by 2100 was a massive headline generator in Canada, and not surprisingly so.

For a Prime Minister who has openly mocked the idea of carbon pricing, mercilessly driven an expensive (both financially and politically) energy superpower agenda and earned a reputation for pulling out of or stalling climate negotiations, the very idea of an ‘end’ to fossil fuels would seem … counterintuitive.

Although the shock of seeing Harper even touch something called ‘decarbonization’ is still reverberating, experts were quick to point out a long-term goal that shoves off concrete climate policy is likely just what Canada was hoping for.

Has Stephen Harper Helped or Hindered The Oil Industry?

At an estimated 2,700 litres, the bunker fuel spill in English Bay was relatively small — yet the stakes of that spill couldn’t be much higher.

With Enbridge and Kinder Morgan both hoping to build oil pipelines to B.C., which would significantly increase oil tanker traffic in the province’s inside coastal waters, a dramatically mishandled marine oil spill raises all sorts of questions — questions the federal government does not appear well-positioned to answer, despite its aggressive push for West Coast oil exports.

Obviously, from the oil industry’s perspective, you couldn’t have picked a worse place to have an oil spill,” Jim Stanford, economist at Unifor and founder of the Progressive Economics Forum, told DeSmog Canada.

While the federal government insisted its response was “world-class,” a former commander of the shuttered Kits Coast Guard station blamed the six-hour delay in even deploying a boom to contain the oil on the closure of that station in 2013 — a move that is reported to have saved the federal government at estimated $700,000 a year.

The English Bay spill, beyond being a systemic failure, has been a total PR disaster.

Kinder Morgan CEO's TransMountain 'Hubris' Underestimates Pipeline Opposition in B.C.

Richard Kinder, Houston-based billionaire and CEO of Kinder Morgan Inc., told an industry audience last week the TransMountain pipeline expansion project “will go forward” if granted approval at the federal level, despite growing and very vocal opposition to the project in British Columbia.

Kinder said pipeline opponents are using “spurious arguments” to purposely strangle pipeline projects across North America as a means of fighting development in the Alberta oilsands.

I am sure there are legitimate concerns about any mega infrastructure development, but a lot of this is [about] the pipeline as a choke point to get at production of the oilsands, which there are people in Canada and the U.S. who want to strangle that altogether,” Kinder said.

Kinder’s comments seem to affirm criticism that the company is refusing to take local opposition seriously.

Rich Kinder's optimism shows he really does not understand B.C.,” Tzeporah Berman, adjunct professor of environmental studies at York University, told DeSmog Canada. “British Columbians love this coast,” she added, noting the recent bunker fuel spill in Vancouver’s English Bay “was a real wake up call.”

DeSmogCAST 12: Canada's Anti-Terrorism Bill, Who it Targets and How it Helps Kinder Morgan

Bill C-51, anti-terrorism, RCMP, Kinder Morgan

This weekend thousands of Canadians marched against the Conservative government's proposed anti-terrorism bill C-51. In this episode of DeSmogCAST we take a close look at the proposed legislation and discuss how it relates to the recently-leaked RCMP intelligence report that names pipeline opponents and First Nations “violent anti-petroleum extremists.” Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, discusses the significance of the internal intelligence report and Greenpeace's role in its release.

We also take a look at Kinder Morgan's secretive behaviour in the Trans Mountain pipeline review and how anti-terrorism laws meant to protect 'critical infrastructure' like pipelines may benefit oil, gas and pipeline companies unwilling to disclose information to the public.

DeSmogBlog contributor Farron Cousins hosts this episode and is joined by Greenpeace's Keith Stewart, DeSmog Canada's Emma Gilchrist, and yours truly.

Derailments Raise Questions About Volatility of Oilsands Diluted Bitumen

Oil train explosion in Gogama Ontario

When a CN train carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire last weekend near Gogama, Ontario, it became the fifth loaded oil train to leave the tracks in North America in the past two months — and it's raising new questions about the volatility of diluted bitumen from Alberta's oilsands.

In the March 7th accident, several cars slid into the Mattagami River and ignited, leading local officials to issue a drinking water warning for the Mattagami First Nation.

The accident comes less than a month after another CN tanker train carrying crude derailed in the same region, about 200 kilometres north of Sudbury, spilling an estimated more than one million litres of diluted bitumen into local waterways. Twenty-nine cars left the tracks, causing an explosion that left fires burning for six days.


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