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Thu, 2014-10-23 12:00Peter Wood
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B.C. Ought to Consider Petronas’ Human Rights Record Before Bowing to Malaysian Company's LNG Demands

Penan people of Sarawak blockade a Petronas pipeline

It should come as no surprise that Petronas expects B.C. to cave in to its demands to expedite the process of approving its Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal and natural gas pipeline, lowering taxes and weakening environmental regulations in the process.

After all, Petronas has a well-established record of getting what it wants in the other countries it operates in, such as Sudan, Myanmar, Chad and Malaysia.

This week, the B.C. government did cave to at least one Petronas’ demands — cutting the peak income tax rate for LNG facilities from seven to 3.5 per cent, thereby slashing in half the amount of revenue it’s expecting to receive from the liquefied natural industry.  The government also introduced a standard for carbon pollution for B.C.’s LNG industry, which was hailed as a step in the right direction, but not enough.

In considering Petronas’ bid to develop B.C.’s natural gas resources, it is vital that we consider the company’s track record.

In 2011, I had the opportunity to witness the destruction caused by a Petronas pipeline, while working with the international NGO Global Witness. While staying with the semi-nomadic Penan people of Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo), I heard testimony of how the company had treated them in the course of constructing the pipeline.

Fri, 2014-07-11 05:00Derek Leahy
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Ontario Town Accepts Donation from TransCanada On Condition It Won’t Publicly Comment on Pipeline Company’s Business

A small town is northeastern Ontario has become the centre of attention in the Energy East pipeline debate for accepting a $30,000 donation from TransCanada while agreeing not to publicly comment on the pipeline company’s operations for the next five years.

The Town of Mattawa will not comment publicly on TransCanada’s operations or business projects,” states the agreement between TransCanada, Canada’s second largest pipeline company, and the Town of Mattawa. The agreement is valid for five years. 

The clause reads like a gag order,” Sabrina Bowman, climate campaigner for Environmental Defence Canada, says.

It makes me wonder how many donations by pipeline companies to other municipalities across Canada have been given on condition of silence,” Bowman told DeSmog Canada.

Thu, 2014-06-19 11:06Derek Leahy
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Energy East, Line 9 Pipelines Will Have “Insignificant” Economic Impact on Quebec, Says Report

Energy East export pipeline, Line 9 pipeline, desmog canada

Quebec will gain “minimal economic benefits” from west-to-east oil pipeline projects such as TransCanada’s Energy East and Enbridge’s Line 9 according to a new report released this month. Both projects would transport western Canadian oil and oilsands (also called tar sands) bitumen to refineries and ports in Quebec, but would only make a combined 0.50 per cent contribution to economic activity and 0.30 per cent to jobs in the province.

Quebec will bear almost all of the risks and costs associated with spills and other environmental impacts, without any offsetting economic gains,” Brigid Rowan, senior economist with the consulting firm The Goodman Group Ltd., and co-author of the report says.

Oilsands producers, pipeline companies, and the owners of the two refineries in Quebec have the most to gain from Line 9 and Energy East concludes the report by The Goodman Group Ltd. in collaboration with Greenpeace and Equiterre. The fifty-five-page report also refutes claims by pipeline proponents that supplying Quebec with cheaper western Canadian bitumen will make things cheaper at the gas pump for Quebecers.

Refineries will not provide discounts for Quebec markets when they can also sell their refined products to profitable markets outside Quebec,” the report states.

Consumers who think that oil companies will give them a break at the gas pump have another thing coming,” Pierre-Olivier Pineau, an energy specialist at HEC Montreal Business School warns.

Thu, 2014-05-29 05:12Derek Leahy
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Oilsands in the EU: European Union Receives its First Bitumen Shipment Today

Oil tanker

Today an oil tanker carrying between 500,000 and 600,000 barrels of western Canadian oilsands (also called tarsands) bitumen arrives in Bilbao, a port city in northern Spanish. It is the first shipment of Canadian bitumen to the European Union and a sign the federal government’s “pan European oilsands advocacy strategy” is succeeding.

This shipment could open the door to more imports of dirty tarsands,” says Franziska Achterberg of Greenpeace from Brussels. “Europe can’t be both a climate champion and a market for climate-wrecking tar sands. The EU must uphold its environmental credentials and stand up to the intense lobbying by the oil industry and the Canadian government.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has been lobbying the EU since 2009 to keep its markets open to bitumen. Internal documents have shown the federal government has used its embassies in Europe “to protect and advance Canadian interests related to the oil sands.”  

Wed, 2014-05-28 04:32Derek Leahy
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Ontario Election: Power Bills, Not Pipelines, Are the Hot Issue

Vote ontario

With two weeks to go until Ontarians vote in a new government, it appears proposed oilsands pipeline projects for the province will not be a prominent election issue.

Ontario’s 2014 election will not be B.C.’s 2013 election.

We would like to see all elected leaders in Ontario — not just MPPs — saying no to tar sands pipelines until sanity can be restored to federal environmental policy and the environmental regulations recently rolled back by the Harper government are put back in place,” says Graham Saul, executive director of Ecology Ottawa.

Last year’s provincial election in B.C. left many (especially those living outside of B.C.) with the impression that the Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain oilsands pipelines were the only election issues. Ontario also faces two proposed oilsands pipelines that would cut through the province — TransCanada’s Energy East and Enbridge’s Line 9 — but no political party has addressed the risks these pipelines pose for the province on the election trail.

Fri, 2014-05-16 09:27Derek Leahy
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Federal Regulator Acting "Impermissibly in Favour" of TransCanada's Energy East Pipeline, Says Lawyer

The National Energy Board (NEB), the federal regulator responsible for inter-provincial pipelines, appears to have jumped the gun on TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline proposal by releasing a 'list of issues' to be considered for the project's approval, before the company submitted an official application for the project. If approved, Energy East will transport 1.1 million barrels of oil and oilsands bitumen 4,600 kilometres across the country from Hardisty, Alberta to Saint John, New Brunswick each day.

It is highly irregular and, as far as I know, unprecedented,” Jason MacLean, an assistant professor of law, and specialist in environmental law, at Lakehead University, said. “Releasing the list of issues in advance is acting impermissibly in favour of the proponent of the pipeline project.”

MacLean is also acting counsel for a legal challenge announced Thursday against the NEB as a result of the 'list of issues' release. In the past the NEB has waited for pipeline companies to apply for projects before deciding what issues are relevant to their approval.

The NEB is acting in bad faith and demonstrating how biased it is in favour of the oil industry by tailoring the list of issues to be considered to the company’s advantage,” Andrea Harden-Donahue, Energy and Climate Justice Campaigner with the Council of Canadians, said. The Council of Canadians – one of Canada’s largest civil society organizations – is spearheading the legal challenge.

Mon, 2014-05-05 11:13Indra Das
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Details of TransCanada Pipeline Safety Whistleblower Scandal Emerge Amid Keystone XL Delay

transcanada keystone xl pipeline

Former TransCanada employee and engineer Evan Vokes, who released thousands of pages of records after he was dismissed by the corporation in 2012, believes that a newly acquired internal email shows his managers tried to discredit him for raising the alarm on their safety practices.

Vokes obtained the email in Feburary 2014 through access to information legislation, reports Mike De Souza for InsideClimate News. Most of the message was censored by TransCanada before release, but the first line clearly mentions “managing the EV [Evan Vokes] credibility issue.”

“My understanding is that we have been reasonably successful at influencing authorities [redacted] and pointing out EV is disgruntled, and actually had the responsibility to correct these same matters and did not,” reads the email, dated July 26, 2013.

Fri, 2014-05-02 10:42Judith Lavoie
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U.S. Officials Search For Answers On Bitumen Spills As Canada Eyes Enbridge, Kinder Morgan Oil Pipelines

EPA sampling during Enbridge bitumen spill

U.S officials are struggling to figure out how bitumen from the Alberta oilsands will behave if there is a spill either from a pipeline or into the Salish Sea, the fragile ocean environment between Canada and the U.S.

As the U.S. debates the future of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Alberta oil to the Gulf Coast, and Canada looks at Kinder Morgan's proposed twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline and the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway project, there is a growing urgency to find out how diluted bitumen behaves if there is a spill, said scientists, policy makers and environmentalists gathered in Seattle for the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference this week.

“Does it float or not float? That's the question,” said Gary Shigenaka, marine biologist with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hazardous materials response division, flashing a picture of thick, black bitumen extracted from the oilsands.

NOAA is studying the behaviour of bitumen and the diluent with which it is mixed to make the peanut-butter like substance flow through pipelines, but, so far, there are few concrete answers, Shigenaka said.

Studies show that although diluted bitumen — dilbit — initially floats in water, it sinks when it is mixed with sediment, which would happen in high turbulence or in areas such as a river estuary, Shigenaka said.

Fears about the behaviour of bitumen in water have been growing since the 2010 spill of about 3.2 million litres (843,000 gallons) of thick crude into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. It was the first spill of diluted bitumen from Alberta into a waterway, and agencies struggled to cope with a substance that released toxic fumes from the diluent and then sank as the bitumen mixed with river sediment.

Fri, 2014-04-04 09:17Derek Leahy
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Ontario Launches Provincial Public Forum on Energy East Pipeline, Everyone Welcome to Speak

Energy East export pipeline

The government of Ontario is holding community discussions in northern Ontario to hear opinions on TransCanada’s proposed Energy East oil pipeline project. Part of the $12 billion pipeline project involves converting 1,900 kilometres of pipeline from natural gas to oil in northern Ontario and constructing one hundred kilometers of new pipeline in southeastern Ontario.

Ontario’s public forum on Energy East may be the first of its kind in the country. Provinces do not usually hold community meetings on oil pipelines that cross provincial boundaries such as Energy East. The National Energy Board (NEB) – Canada’s energy regulator – has jurisdiction over interprovincial pipelines, not the provinces.  

The forum appears to be the result of public outcry in Ontario over Enbridge’s Line 9 oil pipeline project and restrictions the National Energy Board (NEB) placed on public participation in the project's review process. Last March, the NEB approved Line 9 despite public safety concerns about transporting oilsands bitumen through the pipeline.

The erosion of the National Energy Board process, in both accessibility and scope, has left a void in need of being filled. That is why the Ontario government stepping in is so commendable and needed. The Ontario Energy Board process is much more inclusive to the broad range of concerns the public has,” says Yan Roberts of North Bay, Ontario. North Bay’s community discussion took place on April 2nd.   

Sat, 2014-03-22 10:41Derek Leahy
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TransCanada’s Proposed Energy East Pipeline Is Clearly An Export Pipeline Says Report

Energy East export pipeline

TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline is more likely to be an export pipeline than supplier of western Canadian oil to eastern Canadian refineries. A new report released this week revealed as much as 90 per cent of Energy East’s oil and bitumen from the Alberta oilsands will be shipped out of Canada.

Publicly available information from TransCanada, as well as sources from industry, government reports and legal documents show that most of the pipeline’s oil would be exported unrefined, with little benefit to Canadians,” reads the report, released by Environmental Defence, the Council of Canadians, Ecology Action Centre, and Equiterre.

The report finds eastern Canadian refineries – two in Quebec and one in New Brunswick – will be nearly fully supplied with oil from Atlantic Canada, rail and tanker shipments from the United States and the recently approved Line 9 pipeline by the time Energy East begins pumping in 2018. Eastern Canada can refine 672,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd). TransCanada wants to ship 1.1 million barrels via Energy East every day.

250,000 bpd of eastern Canada’s capacity will be served by Line 9. Take away another 100,000 bpd of Canadian offshore crude from Newfoundland, and 200,000 bpd of US crude and you're left with a pretty small gap to fill, of 122,000 bpd,” says Shelley Kath, energy consultant and lead researcher of the report.

That means the rest, some 978,000 bpd is likely export bound,” Kath told DeSmog Canada.

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