oilsands

Why the Oil to Tidewater Argument for Pipelines is Bunk

This article originally appeared on the Council of Canadians' website.

If you follow mainstream media you’ve probably heard the argument ‘we need to get our oil to tidewater’ ad nauseam.

Be it Natural Resource Minister CarrPrime Minister TrudeauPremier Notley or pipeline and tar sands industries, it’s a drum beat that’s building in intensity. As the argument goes, if we could only get a pipeline built and oil shipped, Canada’s crumbling oil industry could recover from its current woes.

Here’s the thing… it’s totally wrong.

I’m not the only one calling this bluff.

Pipelines or Indigenous Rights? Premier Notley Can't Have Both

The speech Alberta Premier Rachel Notley gave to over 1,000 federal NDP delegates on Saturday in Edmonton’s Shaw Convention Centre was a stunning thing to behold.

In a mere half-hour, she received around a dozen standing ovations, cracked a pretty solid joke about Donald Trump and delivered a unabashed appeal for the approval and construction of pipelines “that are built by Canadians, using Canadian steel.”

But even more stunning was the fact that she completely failed to mention the rights or interests of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.

B.C. Orders Enbridge to Seek New Environment Certificate for Northern Gateway

Enbridge will have to secure an environmental assessment certificate from the B.C. government if it wants to proceed with its Northern Gateway oil pipeline according to an order issued by B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office on Friday.
 
Early on in the Northern Gateway process, the B.C. government signed an “equivalency agreement” with the federal government, giving Ottawa the responsibility for the environmental assessment.
 
However, a Supreme Court of B.C. decision this January found that the B.C. government acted improperly and that the province must still make its own decision about issuing an environmental assessment certificate.

In a letter to Enbridge posted last week, B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office states that it will accept the National Energy Board’s (NEB) joint review panel report as the assessment report, but it will carry out its own consultation with Aboriginal groups — if and when Enbridge indicates it’s ready to proceed (it’s clear Enbridge must make a move here).

Does National Unity Have to be a Casualty of Canada's Energy Debate?

Workers are laying down their tools across the Canadian oilpatch as the price slump draws on. Alberta had a net loss of nearly 20,000 jobs in 2015, with skilled workers being laid off and little hope in sight. The reaction, then, to talks of climate action has been often hostile, with people fearing more economic damage from carbon pricing or other new environmental regulation.
 
But for some there is an upside to the glut of out-of-work skilled people: it’s an opportunity to shift gears and put them to work in a growing green sector. Former oilsands tradesman Lliam Hildebrand started a non-profit group, Iron & Earth, to get oilpatch workers back to work on the next generation of green energy projects. (Investment in clean energy now doubles that of fossil fuels world-wide.)
 
“We have the skills to build the renewable energy infrastructure required for Canada to meet their climate target,” Hildebrand told CBC News. “That will open up a huge amount of opportunity for us if we can start diversifying our energy grid and it would ensure that we are less vulnerable to price fluctuations.”
 
The new organization brings a fresh perspective to a longstanding perceived tension between climate action and its spinoff benefits and the fear of damaging existing emissions-intensive industries.

In a panel discussion last week Environment Minister Catherine McKenna assured Albertans that the Liberal government would not risk damaging “national unity” by acting quickly on climate change. For some, her comment begs the question: when exactly will the Liberals be ready to start acting on their emissions reductions targets?

'Failed Experiment': Alberta Folds Oilsands Monitoring Agency

Tailings pond in Alberta oilsands

The Alberta government has shuttered its arm’s length environmental monitoring agency after a report concluded the program was a “failed experiment.”
 
Minister of Environment Shannon Phillips announced Tuesday the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) would be disbanded and environmental monitoring will return back to the government.

“It ensures government is directly accountable for environmental monitoring and that issues or gaps in monitoring are responded to immediately,” Phillips said at a press conference.

Phillip’s ministry commissioned a report that described the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency as overly expensive, poorly co-ordinated and plagued by bureaucratic bickering.

“It is hard to escape the conclusion that AEMERA is a failed experiment in outsourcing a core responsibility of government to an arm’s-length body,” wrote report author Paul Boothe, director of the Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management at Western University’s Ivey School of Business.

Canada Must Adapt to Low Oil and Gas Price Environment, International Energy Agency Warns

If Saudi Arabia’s oil minister’s dire warning about high-cost energy producers didn’t effectively get the message across that Canada needs to adjust to a new market reality, perhaps a new warning by the International Energy Agency (IEA) might.
 
“We are likely to see continued capacity increases (in) the near term, with growth slowing considerably, if not coming to a complete standstill, after the projects under construction are completed,” the IEA said in an oil market overview published Monday.
 
According to the IEA, Canada’s oil era may be coming to an end due to dramatically low prices, increasing environmental concerns, a lack of public support for pipelines and evolving climate policies.
 
In an in-depth review of Canada’s energy portfolio and policies released Thursday, the agency urged Canada to adopt strong climate goals as it considers future energy production.
 
“As a leading exporter of oil, coal, natural gas, uranium and hydropower, Canada is a cornerstone of global energy markets and energy security,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said as he presented the report, Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Canada 2015.

Oilsands Monitoring Programs Collecting But Not Using Data, Report Finds

Oilsands monitoring programs aren’t quite living up to expectations.

That was the conclusion presented by a six-person expert panel in Edmonton on February 22.

The two organizations that were examined — the Joint Canada-Alberta Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring (JOSM) and Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) — have improved in performance in recent years, according to the review.

But the organizations have largely failed at actually conducting analysis of the data collected about the four component areas: air, water, wildlife contaminants and toxicology, and biodiversity and land disturbance.

In addition, both JOSM and AEMERA have lacked clear mandates, a fact that has “severely hampered” success.

“The work of the Panel was made more challenging by the absence of an overarching document that clearly articulates the policy and scientific goals of the Governments of Canada and Alberta for oil sands monitoring,” according to the report, which was commissioned by AEMERA and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Canada’s Oil Exports Up 65 Per Cent Over Last Decade

Canada’s oil exports increased by 65 per cent in 10 years under former Prime Minster Stephen Harper’s leadership according to analysis of the most recent figures issued by BP’s annual Statistical Review of World Energy.

Between 2004 and 2014, Canadian exports soared from 2,148,000 barrels per day to 3,535,000 barrels per day.

The BP data, compiled by Carbon Brief in its Global Oil Trade interactive, shows that the majority of this oil went south of the border — exports to the United States increased by 60 per cent during this time from 2,119,000 barrels per day to 3,388,000 barrels per day.

4 Key Questions for Canada's New Pipeline, LNG Climate Test

This article by policy analyst Matt Horne originally appeared on the Pembina Institute website.

Last week, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr 
announced Canada’s intention to apply a climate test to major energy infrastructure proposals. This was the fifth of five new principles they announced to improve environmental assessments in the country.

The change is good news because it will fill a long-standing gap in the country’s environmental assessment process. The standard approach has been to look at individual oil pipeline or LNG terminal proposals without worrying about the oilsands mines or gas fields they’re connected to. The new approach will include the carbon pollution from the project being proposed and the carbon pollution from the development associated with it.

What the federal government hasn’t said yet is how they plan to evaluate the new information and integrate it into their eventual decisions. Here are four questions I’d like to see included in their climate test, using Petronas’s Pacific NorthWest LNG project to illustrate how they might work. In many cases, the federal government — as opposed to the proponent — is in the best position to address these questions.

Trans Mountain Oil Pipeline Review ‘Vexed from Outset’

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan

The review of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has been plagued by a critical lack of evidence, members of a National Energy Board panel heard in Burnaby last week.

Chris Tollefson, lawyer from the Environmental Law Centre representing intervenors BC Nature and Nature Canada, said the evidence presented in the hearings is insufficient to prevent the panel from discharging its duty under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Fundamentally we say there is a lack of evidence for you to do your job,” he said.

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