Entries in oil (3)


Tankers and Whales 

I lived on Vancouver’s North Shore for eight years. During that time, our family took the ferries across to Vancouver Island and up the coast on a regular basis. Always, we eagerly watched and hoped for a whale sighting and occasionally were rewarded.

Orca, humpback and fin whales (all species at risk) travel to the waters of the Northern Pacific coast every summer. When water temperatures and atmospheric pressure force coastal waters to move eastward, a phenomenon called upwelling, moves nutrient and krill-rich water from the deep ocean to the surface attracting all manner of sea life.

Those who live and work in this area have shared their experiences with these magnificent creatures of the sea.  Pictures speak much louder than anything I could say about them.

The Pacific Northwest Whales:



The Rare Fin Whale

These magnificent beasts deserve consideration when we make plans to put their habitat at risk of a crude oil spill. Is there another option?

We must reinvent a future free of blinders so that we can choose from real options. David Suzuki



The National Energy Board 

The Rt. Hon. John Diefenbaker opened the 1959 Parliamentary Session with a promise to his MPs: " the earliest opportunity you will be invited to authorize the establishment of a national energy board to ensure, so far as it lies within the jurisdiction of Parliament, Canada's energy resources are used effectively and prudently, to the best advantage of Canadians."

Today the National Energy Board (NEB) is an independent federal regulatory agency that regulates the Canadian energy industry. It reports through the Minister of Natural Resources to the Parliament of Canada. Its primary responsibilities include:

  • ·      Inter-provincial and international oil and gas pipelines and power lines,
  • ·      Export and import of natural gas under long-term licenses and short-term orders,
  • ·      Oil exports under long-term licenses and short-term orders      

The first NEB appointees were lead by the chairman of the Alberta Oil and Gas Conservation Board, Ian MacKinnon, a personal friend of then Alberta Premier Earnest Manning.

The first order of business was to create the National Energy Board Act.

The very busy NEB grew from five to eleven members by 1984. In it’s early years the NEB was supportive and protective of Canadian economic and environmental interests; it rejected several applications.

The Supreme Court had to deal with some shenanigans in 1976 when NEB Chair Marshall Crowe, at one time a member of the Arctic Gas management committee, the very company applying to build a gas pipeline to the Mackenzie Delta, got himself on the Arctic Gas Project review panel. A new panel was created and after a two year delay the application was reviewed and then rejected for environmental reasons with the added recommendation that construction in the Mackenzie Valley should be put on hold for at least ten years to allow for native land claims to be settled.

1981 - The National Energy Board Act is amended to include provisions for appropriating land for a pipeline right-of-way.

1982 - The Canada Oil and Gas Act is proclaimed. It includes subsidies for exploration on federally owned oil and gas properties in the North and offshore.

1991 - Finance Minister Michael Wilson announced the move of the National Energy Board from Ottawa to Calgary in his budget speech.

The NEB and various Federal Governments have often come to different conclusions. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau created the National Energy program without NEB input. Today, we have a Federal Government that is interfering with the NEB as it processes the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline application. Industry complains bitterly that the regulatory process is hurting Canadians: “The biggest single impediment is the regulatory process” says former TransCanada Corp CEO Hal Kvisle. Also, First Nations groups are not convinced that the NEB will take their concerns seriously.

I don’t envy the task that is before the NEB. Canada is the only country in the 27-member International Energy Agency without strategic petroleum reserves and the only one with no plan to deal with a sudden international oil crisis, "even though one is almost certain to hit soon," says University of Alberta political economist Gordon Laxer.

Having a plan in place would surely help the NEB make decisions that are truly in Canada’s best interest.

The biggest challenge of the Northern Gateway Pipeline lies with Alberta.Their resource is landlocked and they cannot behave like a lone ranger. Premier Redford appears to understand this very well and has called for a discussion on Canada’s energy policy.

Ultimately, the NEB, has to stick to its mandate.

The purpose of the NEB is to regulate pipelines, energy development and trade in the Canadian public interest. The NEB is accountable to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources Canada.

Parliament is accountable to Canadians first; not industry, not the PMO, not just one province.


Pipe Dreams or Pipe Lying?

O Canada, our true patriot love is really being put to the test.

The Northern Gateway Pipeline Hearings have now started and my head already hurts. Canadians are getting bombarded with rhetoric that is divisive, dismissive and downright frightening. When Minister Oliver said: “We can’t let unlawful people oppose lawful development,” he’s really engaging in the lowest form of political doublespeak. “unlawful people”? Quick, hand me a copy of 1984.

I’m surprised no-one has been called a terrorist yet. For some reason our PM is very concerned about “foreign money” and influence (as if Canada hasn’t benefitted hugely from both). We definitely want foreign money in Canada, check out  "Invest in Canada" for more on that.

Enbridge has their lawyers at the ready. Environmentalists, many 1st Nations and others are clearly stating their opposition. Visions of all that riot gear used during the G20 protest keep coming to mind.

I like facts. I like solid data. I like history. I like hearing from the trenches. If our government and the oil industry has any respect for Canadians they should respond to this list of concerns immediately.

1. Safety

Why not immediately institute a program where industry workers who witness safety problems or violations in any and all areas of work are given a bonus and recognized for helping the company be more responsible. That sounds like a serious commitment to CSR. Quite the opposite is done when people with integrity are called “whistleblowers” and end up fired or demoted like this pipeline engineer. Stop demonizing those who are trying to protect the communities affected by the industry. Calling award winning author Andrew Nikiforuk a lunatic just because he writes a book that reveals the problems of the industry does not help the situation. If I could trust that you were doing absolutely everything to encourage a culture of safety and protection I may not be so interested in fighting you on building yet another pipeline.

2. Safety (yes, a second point is necessary!)

Do not obfuscate your own history of leaks and/or other pipeline failures. Indicate that you will be fully responsible for funding any and all situations where your pipeline has failed and caused damage to communities or resources (land and water). No socializing the losses. As my mother was fond of saying: “you’ve made your bed, now lie in it.”

3. Research

Show me that you care enough about Canada by spending as much money on researching, acknowledging, understanding, and reducing the damage extraction and production etc. causes, as you do, on a legal team. I suspect that there is more value in retaining 125 scientists as there is in paying 125 lawyers.

4. Job Creation

Outline clearly what kind of jobs will be created. How many are longterm permanent positions? How many shortterm permanent positions? Defend your numbers with facts. Compare this project to other projects of similar size and scope.

Canada may have oil resources equal to those of Saudi Arabia but we certainly cannot develop that resource in the same manner that they have. After all our oil is ethical and theirs isn’t…right?