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McKibben: B.C. Premier John Horgan could strike a blow for climate sanity

In late July, new B.C. Premier John Horgan and newish Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sat down.

And while their meeting was pleasant on the surface, just beneath was a study in contrasts. With Trudeau, it’s become clear he’ll talk a good game and then bow to oil interests. Horgan has said the right things too — and with the haze from forest fires still hanging in the air it’s possible he may actually decide to walk the talk.

In fact, for those of us concerned about climate change, it’s possible that B.C. will emerge as an actual leader, reaping the benefits that will come with pushing ahead into the 21st century instead of lingering in the 20th. So far, Justin Trudeau seems more like the kind of figure we’re used to: a rhetorical leader, who says all the right things and then keeps building pipelines and pushing fossil fuels.

But John Horgan, with his NDP/Green agreement, has promised to take a different tack: he’ll use “every tool in the toolbox” to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

If he does, he’ll be striking a blow for climate sanity: Alberta’s oilsands, if fully exploited, will produce more a third of the carbon necessary to blow past the Paris climate targets. But if people stand up across North America to the web of pipelines stretching out from Athabasca country, that prospect will keep diminishing: B.C. is a key cork in the bottle, keeping a giant share of the planet’s carbon underground. The numbers are astonishing: this one pipeline is the pollution equivalent of adding 34 million cars to the road.

So B.C. would be doing the planet an enormous favour.

And of course that’s very much in the province’s best interest, and not only because the hotter and drier climate is what triggers forest fires like the ones that drove 40,000 residents from their homes. It also cuts the chances of a disastrous tanker accident along some of the globe’s most alluring coastlines—just ask your Alaskan neighbours about the cost, economic and psychological, of a big spill. And if B.C. takes climate change as seriously as the new government has promised, it could leap ahead: by building on the already-existing carbon tax, it has the chance to build a clean energy economy much like the powerhouse California is assembling to the south.

In fact, the NDP/Green deal points to even more profound change: new transit money, a serious increase in the minimum wage, and other steps that recognize environmental progress and social justice operate in tandem. Of course he could as easily go the other way — and his early nod to press on with plans for big LNG infrastructure is a bad sign.

Even if he did want to really address climate change, the premier will of course face stiff opposition — the fossil fuel industry is relentless, mostly because it knows it has just a few more years to lock in its infrastructure before the ever-falling price of renewable energy renders it a relic. But he also has real allies, if he wants them.

The Squamish and the Tsleil-Waututh First Nations at the pipeline’s terminus have been putting up a courageous battle for years, and they’re being joined by Indigenous groups across the province. Last week, the Secwepemc Nation, whose terrain the pipeline bisects, issued a statement as profound in its urgency and scope as any climate policy I’ve ever read. Amidst the smoke of raging fires, they pointed out that the pipeline is a serious safety risk — how’d you like a superheated oil pipe in your backyard? And they added that because it poured carbon in the air it would up the chances for fires far into the future.

“We explicitly and irrevocably refuse its passage through our territory,” said the tribal assembly. “Investors take note, there is no Secwepemc consent for Kinder Morgan. Kinder Morgan will not pass through Secwepemc Territory.”

Let’s hope that the Horgan government acts with the same courage and consistency. The election has demonstrated that British Columbians want change — and the rest of the world would be immensely grateful.

See article here……..

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Kinder Morgan says pipeline construction will start next month, despite NDP government statement

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  • Burnaby has been a hotbed of opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. Stephen Hui

This morning, Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman announced a tough new approach toward Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project.

Heyman told reporters that the company “cannot put shovels in the ground” on public land as the government awaits advice from lawyer Tom Berger, an expert in Indigenous legal issues.

It didn’t take long for Kinder Morgan Canada Limited to issue a response.

“We are committed to working with the province and permitting authorities in our ongoing process of seeking and obtaining necessary permits and permissions,” president Ian Anderson said in a news release. “We have undertaken thorough, extensive and meaningful consultations with Aboriginal peoples, communities, and individuals, and remain dedicated to those efforts and relationships as we move forward with construction activities in September.”

Kinder Morgan can engage in construction on its own property and in the province of Alberta, so Anderson’s statement doesn’t directly contradict what Heyman said.

The corporation’s share price was off 1.77 percent today, closing at US$19.39.

The company obtained National Energy Board approval to nearly triple shipments of Alberta oil to the Lower Mainland through its Trans Mountain system. That would result in about 400 oil tankers per year passing through Burrard Inlet.

Anderson’s statement sets the stage for a messy legal battle over B.C.’s ability to affect a National Energy Board decision over a pipeline that crosses provincial boundaries.

Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema has issued a statement praising the government’s action and declaring that it’s “yet another indication that this pipeline will never be built”.

“Kinder Morgan does not have the permits it needs, and there is now even greater doubt that they will secure them,” Hudema said. “Strong opposition from First Nations, the general public, and even the provincial government should make it clear to banks, investors, and oil companies alike that pipelines like Trans Mountain won’t be part of our future energy economy, which is transitioning ever more quickly to renewables.”

Hudema added that if the B.C. government is serious about using every tool in its toolbox to fight the pipeline, it will “fully implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as part of its stated commitment to respect Indigenous rights, including the right to free, prior, and informed consent”.

Meanwhile, B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver has highlighted the government’s actions in a fundraising email sent out this afternoon.

“Make no mistake: without your support this election this may never have happened,” Weaver wrote. “Please add your name to the list of BC Greens who are donating towards our $45,000 fundraising goal for August 19. The funds will help us keep moving British Columbia away from last century’s fossil fuel industry and towards clean tech and the value-added resource sector.”

See article here……..

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Tesla joins effort to pair batteries with offshore wind

Climate Central by Bobby Magill / August 1, 2017


Tesla and wind farm developer Deepwater Wind are planning to team up to create the largest project in the world that combines an offshore wind farm with large-scale electricity storage, the companies announced Tuesday.

The project, called the Revolution Wind Farm, would generate electricity about 12 miles off the shore of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., and store some of it in large batteries built by Tesla. The project would have the capacity to generate 144 megawatts of wind power, or enough electricity to power 80,000 homes, according to Deepwater Wind.

The Block Island Wind Farm, America’s first offshore wind farm, was built by Deepwater Wind and began operating in 2016.
Credit: NREL/flickr

If approved by the state, the wind farm would begin operating in 2023. It is expected to be built next to another wind farm proposed by Deepwater Wind called the South Fork Wind Project. That project would serve Long Island, N.Y.

The companies proposed Revolution Wind as part of a call in Massachusetts for new sources of renewable energy across the state. The state hopes to generate more clean energy to meet its climate goals by cutting the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Electric power plants running on coal and natural gas have historically been America’s largest source of carbon pollution contributing to climate change.

Revolution Wind brings together two new industries in the U.S. — offshore wind and electricity storage. The expansion and scalability of renewables depends in part on new ways to store wind and solar power, which today can only be used when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. Big batteries are seen as a solution to that problem because they allow renewable energy to be used whenever it’s needed.

So far, batteries are most often used to store solar power. Tesla has teamed up with electric companies in California to build batteries to help them use more solar, but it has not used the batteries for offshore wind power anywhere in the U.S.

Tesla has not said what kind of batteries it plans to use for Revolution Wind, but the large batteries it currently builds, including the Tesla PowerPack, are composed of 16 pods that together weigh more than 3 tons and are 7 feet tall. The pods are daisy-chained together and provide hundreds of kilowatts of power. Tesla declined to comment.

If approved, the Revolution Wind Farm will be built by Deepwater Wind, which switched on America’s first offshore wind farm in Rhode Island last year. That farm lead to the shutdown of a diesel-fired power plant on Block Island.

In a statement, Deepwater Wind said the offshore wind-battery storage pairing will provide clean energy during the times of highest electricity demand. The project will prevent the need for new power plants that operate only when power demand is at its daily peak.

A spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources said he had not seen the proposal and was unable to comment.

See article here……

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Three big pipeliners responsible for one U.S. spill per week since 2010

The Energy Mix by Tim Donaghy/ August 6, 2017

FEMA/Wikimedia Commons

The three major pipeline companies now pushing to complete new infrastructure in Canada have collectively been responsible for one significant spill per week in the United States since 2010, according to a report and interactive map released last week by Greenpeace.

“Analysis of public data shows that the three companies proposing to build four tar sands pipelines—TransCanada, Kinder Morgan, Enbridge, and their subsidiaries—have seen 373 hazardous liquid spills from their U.S. pipeline networks from 2010 to present,” the organization reports. “Assuming these rates, the Keystone XL pipeline could expect 59 significant spills over a 50-year lifetime. Similarly, the Line 3 Expansion could see 51 significant spills over a 50-year lifetime.”

The study was based on data from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. It showed that the three companies’ pipelines have released 63,221 barrels of hazardous material over the last seven years, including 20,082 barrels of diluted bitumen that Enbridge spilled into the Kalamazoo River in 2010. The U.S. Center for Biological Diversity published a similar analysis of PHMSA data in 2014.

“Despite industry claims to the contrary, history shows that there is simply no safe way to transport fossil fuels, and pipelines are no exception,” writes Greenpeace content producers Ryan Schleeter.

In fact, “the rate and volume of pipeline spills in the United States has increased in recent years, with devastating consequences for communities and our environment. In the past decade, U.S. pipeline spills have led to 20 fatalities, 35 injuries, US$2.6 billion in costs, and more than 34 million gallons spilled. That’s an average of 9,000 gallons of hazardous liquids spilled every single day for ten years.”

“That track record is very worrying and should send alarm bells out to every single community along the pipeline routes,” added Edmonton-based Greenpeace Canada campaigner Mike Hudema.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association said its members reported 46 pipeline spills in 2016, only one of them “significant”. The National Energy Board tracked 1.5 incidents per 1,000 kilometres of pipeline. NEB spokesperson Darin Barter noted the Greenpeace study “is solely focused on incidents in the United States, which the National Energy Board cannot verify.”

But the Greenpeace study “also highlights the absence of comprehensive, accessible, and easy-to-understand data on pipeline spills in Canada,” the National Observer reports.

“In Canada, pipeline databases really leave a lot to be desired,” Hudema said, with each province taking responsibility for its own data. “It would be great to have a standardized federal database,” he told the Observer. “It’s important to have just an overall snapshot of, where is Canada’s pipeline safety?”

See article here…….


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Record number of oil and gas firms go bust as renewable energy revolution begins to bite

The world’s largest private power production company warns the sector that renewables could drive the oil price as low as $10 a barrel.

Independent by Ian Johnston / January 3, 2017

A record number of oil and gas companies became insolvent last year, according to a new study which environmentalists said highlighted the need for the UK to prepare for the move to a low-carbon economy.

They warned that the loss of jobs in the sector when it becomes clear that fossil fuels can no longer be burned because of the effect on global warming would lead to “desolate communities” unless people were retrained to work in the “new industries of the 21st century”.

The study by accountancy firm Moore Stephens found 16 oil and gas companies went insolvent last year, compared to none at all in 2012.

After oil prices fell from about $120 a barrel to under $50 for most of the past year, smaller firms in the sector were unable to cope, Moore Stephens found.

Jeremy Willmont, who carried out the research, said: “The collapse of the price of oil has stretched many UK independents to breaking point.

“The last 15 years has seen a large increase in the number of UK oil and gas independents exploring and producing everywhere from Iraq to the FalklanIslands.

“Unless there is a consistent upward trend in the oil price, conditions will remain tough for many of those and insolvencies may continue.”

His report said North Sea oil producers were facing more “headwinds” because of the need to decommission a number of offshore rigs.

Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, warned the ultimate demise of the fossil fuel industry would create “desolate communities” unless the Government took steps to help the country move to a low-carbon economy.

“As the warnings from climate science get stronger, now is the time to realize – as a utility chief recently warned – that the future is not in fossil fuels,” Dr Parr said.

“It’s also time for Government to recognize that we should not leave the workers stranded, but provide opportunities in the new industries of the 21st century.”

The utility chief cited by Dr Parr is Thierry Lepercq, head of research at French energy company Engie, who recently told Bloomberg that the growth in renewable energy could push the cost of oil down to as low as $10 in less than 10 years.

“Even if oil demand continues to climb until 2025, its price could drop to $10 if markets anticipate a significant fall in demand,” he said.

Engie, the world’s largest private power production company, is increasingly investing in renewables and selling off coal-fired power stations and fossil fuel exploration rights.

The firm recently carried out research which found the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, home to about five million people, could save 20 per cent on energy costs by 2030 by switching to 100 per cent renewable sources.

And Mr. Lepercq added: “The promise of quasi-infinite and free energy is here.”

However Joseph Dutton, an associate research fellow with Exeter University’s Energy Policy Group, said fossil fuels would be around for some time to come.

“There’s a real battle between fossil fuels and renewables in power generation,” he said.

“But in terms of renewable transport, we are so far behind where we need to be to tackle climate change.

“In fuels and chemicals, I think fossil fuels are set to remain for the foreseeable future.”

And Mr Dutton said any oil and gas supplies held by the insolvent companies would have been taken over by larger companies.

“Their assets are being picked up by the bigger companies. It’s not as if they are falling out of the picture. The companies might be, but the oil and gas reserves are going to different companies,” he said.

“It may well be that what they hold will still be produced further down the line.”

“Whether this represents a shift away from fossil fuels to renewables is maybe too early to say.”

See article here…….


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Full steam ahead for pipeline expansion project

Burnaby Now by Tereza Verenca / August 4, 2017

While B.C.’s New Democrats have vowed to “use every tool in the tool box” to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the company is forging ahead with construction next month.

“We continue to move forward with all aspects of the Trans Mountain Expansion project and are advancing our permitting processes in line with our construction schedule,” says Lizette Parsons Bell, the lead of stakeholder engagement and communications for the Trans Mountain Expansion project, in an emailed statement to the NOW.

“We have initiated our first pipe order and are finalizing our contracts with our general contractors, which we expect to have in place by the end of August. Construction activity will begin in September with completion of the expansion on schedule for the end of 2019.”

The twinned pipeline will transport raw bitumen from outside of Edmonton to Burnaby. Capacity will triple to 890,000 barrels of oil per day and tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet is expected to increase sevenfold.

The project received federal approval in 2016 and the former ruling B.C. Liberals OK’d it earlier this year. However, Premier John Horgan and B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver are opposed to the expansion and have said they’ll work to stop it. What that looks like, however, is unknown at this time. The project is also plagued by numerous lawsuits filed by First Nations groups, who argue they weren’t properly consulted.

Construction in the Lower Mainland includes approximately 35 kilometres of pipeline, the expansion of the Burnaby Terminal and Westridge Marine Terminal, and a new tunnel through Burnaby Mountain connecting these facilities.

Ahead of shovels and excavators hitting the ground in September, Trans Mountain has given its website – transmountain.com – a makeover. The company plans to release local construction information as it becomes available.

The City of Burnaby has been a longtime opponent of the project, and calls the section of the new pipeline route through Burnaby “extensive and destructive.”

Dipak Dattani, the city’s deputy director of engineering, said the portion of the pipeline running through the city is in a completely new corridor from the existing pipeline, and it will cause a host of problems.

According to a staff report released in April, the Burnaby section will carry infrastructure woes, including the North Road crossing, which is jointly owned by Burnaby and Coquitlam. The Kinder Morgan project would “significantly constrain” the ability to repair, maintain or expand the bridge in the future, according to Dattani.

Tree and vegetation removal in residential neighbourhoods is also worrisome, states the report, because they provide visual and noise buffers for residents and businesses in those areas.

The city and Simon Fraser University have also repeatedly expressed concerns about the tank farm expansion, arguing it poses significant health risks should an explosion or fire occur.

Protests erupted on Burnaby Mountain in November 2014 when Kinder Morgan carried out survey work along the Trans Mountain pipeline. More than 100 people were arrested.

Staff Sgt. Maj. John Buis with the Burnaby RCMP told the NOW “we’re prepared for any eventuality” should more protests break out next month.

“We’re always prepared for these kinds of things,” he said.

What to expect during construction

The Burnaby Terminal currently has 13 tanks. One will be demolished and 14 new tanks will be built. Crews will start to clear the site on Sept. 5. According to Trans Mountain’s website, the expansion will also include an enhanced storm water treatment system.

The Westridge Marine Terminal expansion will include a new dock complex with three berths and a utility dock. Most of the work will occur from the water using floating equipment such as marine derricks, barges, tugs and workboats.

“We are currently developing traffic management plans to minimize disruption to neighbours when vehicles move to and from the Westridge Marine Terminal during construction that will take place over 30 months,” reads Trans Mountain’s website.

There will be some pile driving, too.

Construction hours at Westridge Marine Terminal are planned between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday. No work will take place on Sundays and statutory holidays.

Meanwhile, two new 30-inch delivery pipelines will be built in a new tunnel running through Burnaby Mountain. Boring is scheduled to start in 2018.

See article here……

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NDP government sends Site C dam for independent review

Vancouver Sun by Rob Shaw /August 2, 2017

VICTORIA — B.C.’s new NDP government has referred the largest construction project in the province’s history, the Site C dam, to an independent review to see whether it should continue, be paused or completely cancelled.

Energy Minister Michelle Mungall made the announcement at the legislature Wednesday. The review will start on Aug. 9.

“Rather than questioning whether or not the project should have started, the review will focus on looking forward,” Mungall said.

The NDP had promised during the May election campaign to send the $8.8-billion project, under construction on the Peace River in northeast B.C., to a review by the independent B.C. Utilities Commission.

The BCUC will be asked to produce a preliminary report by Sept. 20 and a final report by Nov. 1.

“Once we have the final report, government will consider the advice from the B.C. Utilities Commission, along with other environmental and First Nations considerations, and make a final decision on the future of Site C,” said Mungall.

In the meantime, the approximately 2,200 people working at the site will remain on the job, said Mungall. However, B.C. Hydro will not tender any major contracts during the three-month review, she said.

The BCUC review will look at whether B.C. Hydro can complete the project on budget and on time by 2024. But it will also ask the commission to provide advice on the costs and implications of various scenarios, including proceeding as planned, suspending the project but keeping the option open to resume construction until 2024, or cancelling the project altogether and proceeding with other projects that could provide energy for a lower cost than Site C.

Environmental and First Nations issues aren’t part of the terms of reference, because the Utilities Commission will need to focus on the economics of the project, said Mungall.

That idea of suspending Site C but keeping open possible future construction to 2024 — which Mungall called the “mothballing” proposal — is a new idea that drew criticism from Green Leader Andrew Weaver.

“I suspect the option about delaying and stalling is going to be the kind of kick-the-can decision that will be made,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the right decision. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see that as the decision, because it’s a way of trying have your cake and eat it too, which we’ve seen a lot of in B.C. politics.”

Overall, however, Weaver said he’s pleased at the NDP’s terms of reference for the review. The Greens provided suggestions that were listened to, said Weaver. The NDP and Greens have a power-sharing agreement that props up the NDP government. Weaver said it would not be threatened if the NDP were ultimately to conclude, after the BCUC review, that Site C should continue.

“If they decided to proceed based on what I can only guess will be the economics, I think it will be crazy, and I think it will be fiscally foolish and I suspect they would have troubles within their own caucus if they proceeded,” Weaver said of the NDP.

The Site C dam project, which was started under the Liberals in 2014, has been defended by B.C. Hydro as a necessary way to provide clean, reliable power for the province’s future needs. The NDP and Greens have called it a costly boondoggle when alternative wind, solar and geothermal power sources were not properly investigated.

Hydro has since spent $1.75 billion in construction at Site C, with another $4 billion committed in contracts so far.

Former B.C. Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald had argued in June, during the NDP government’s transition to power, that any delays beyond June 30 in displacing local landowners Ken and Arleen Boon to build a new highway to the dam would result in $630 million in additional costs and a year’s delay in construction.

Mungall said Wednesday those figures were incorrect and that the Ministry of Transportation has found an alternative way to prevent flood while allowing the Boons to remain in their homes during the review without incurring costs or causing delays.

The Site C review announcement Wednesday was praised by some environmental groups and criticized by contractors.

Sierra Club B.C.’s campaigns director, Caitlyn Vernon, applauded the review.

“The reality is that we don’t need Site C power, its hideously expensive and inevitable cost overruns would be paid for by B.C. ratepayers, and more environmentally and economically viable alternatives are available today,” Vernon said in a statement.

The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association held a press conference outside the legislature with more than 2,000 mock pink slips to symbolize the workers who might lose their jobs if the government cancelled the project.

“The review is unnecessary,” said association president Chris Gardner.

“This project has been a decade in the planning, an independent panel took three years and reviewed the project, the federal and provincial levels of government both approved this project. The focus now should rightly be completing this project on time and on budget.

“The message this is sending to businesses in British Columbia and investors from outside British Columbia is that regulatory approvals and environmental assessments are not worth the paper they are printed on. A government can come along and change its mind on a whim and you don’t have a project.”

See article here ……