Youth Speak Out!

We are devoting this section of the website to youth. Its about youth concerns over the oil industry, pipelines, tankers and climate change. We will share video of youth speaking about these issues and links for further reading. See the Youth Committee. Give us your suggestions! (We are under construction)

School Project:

How high school students discovered a chemical leak: Chevron’s MTBE spill

Video Links:

Video links Stories of the Spills Ta’Kaiya Blaney Vancouver, B.C. January 31, 2013

Video links No Pipelines Ta’Kaiya Blaney Burnaby, B.C. October 10, 2012

Video links Suzuki

Robyn Allan

Robyn Allan speaks about the economics of pipelines and climate change at the Confederation Center, Burnaby B.C. March 27, 2013. Doors open at 6:30 PM. But come early. Seating is limited.
Institute for the Humanities, Environment Committee UVC, BROKE, ForestEthics,

Oil tankers, not pipelines, are the hot potato issue

First published in The Vancouver Sun

By BARB JUSTASON, Special to The Vancouver Sun (April 3, 2012) — Thursday’s federal budget is raising a lot of eyebrows in British Columbia — especially the vow to speed up the review of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline and tanker project.

Two polls released this past week indicated this is going to be a hot-potato issue for B.C. politicians, and the announcements out of Ottawa only increase the urgency for the provincial government to take a stand one way or another.

A Mustel poll commissioned by Burnaby-Douglas New Democratic MP Kennedy Stewart found growing opposition to the Enbridge proposal (although, due to differing methodologies, this is hard to back up).

Mustel tracked a question based on a project description designed by Ipsos Reid on behalf of Enbridge and last asked in December. Here’s the wording they used:

“As you may know, Enbridge is the company leading the Northern Gateway pipelines project, which is a proposal to build an underground pipeline system between near Edmonton, Alta., and Kitimat, in northern B.C. One pipeline will transport oil to Kitimat for export by tanker to China and other Asian markets. A second pipeline will be used to import condensate [a product used to thin oil products for pipeline transport] to Alberta.

“Based on what you know to date, would you say that you generally support or oppose the Northern Gateway pipelines project? Is that strongly or somewhat?”

The results? 50 per cent support and 42 per cent oppose.

But what about the oil tankers? Stewart’s poll barely touches on the crucial role of tankers in Enbridge’s proposal, instead masking the scarcity of this information with content the public can’t possibly have an opinion about — condensate.

My firm, Justason Market Intelligence, also released a poll this week, commissioned by four of B.C.’s leading environmental groups, that probed public opinion on the Enbridge proposal, but our poll included important information about the pipeline and the role of supertankers:

“One of the world’s largest oil transport companies, Enbridge, has asked Ottawa to approve a plan to allow crude oil to be transported from Alberta’s oilsands across British Columbia, where it would be loaded onto oil supertankers en route to refineries in Asia. This would bring crude oil supertankers to the coastal inlets of the Great Bear Rainforest for the first time. Have you heard of this plan?

“Up until now, crude oil supertankers have not entered B.C.’s inside coastal passage because of concerns about oil spills. Ottawa is now considering allowing crude oil supertankers to transport crude oil through these waters. Do you support or oppose allowing crude oil supertankers through B.C.’s inside coastal waters?”

The results? 22 per cent support and 66 per cent oppose, including 50 per cent who strongly oppose. Only 11 per cent strongly support.

Another way of looking at it: If the researcher asks British Columbians about pipelines, about 50 per cent are relatively tolerant right now. If the researcher asks about pipelines and supertankers, tolerance diminishes.

What an interesting foray into the world of opinion research question design. But what does all this mean?

The reality is that the Enbridge proposal relies completely on the presence of supertankers to travel to and from Kitimat through one of the most ecologically sensitive regions of B.C.’s coastal waters, the Great Bear Rainforest.

Eventually, possibly not too long from now, British Columbians will get it. It won’t just be a survey question. They will fully understand the real implications, and potential environmental risk, of the pipeline-tanker proposal.

And once they get it, it will be a very big deal indeed.

Opposition exists across all groups in the province according to our poll. B.C. New Democrats oppose the proposal in the highest numbers, but even among B.C. Liberal and B.C. Conservative voters, opposition to the Enbridge pipeline-tanker proposal exceeds support.

The pressure on Premier Christy Clark to state her position on the proposal is growing. In the coming months, this pressure will be deafening. Coming out in favour of the proposal will win her no love in British Columbia, even among B.C. Liberal supporters. Coming out against it will alienate the federal Conservatives.

At the end of the day, the B.C. government must take a position. Timing is everything. A decision now may pre-empt growing public concern about the Enbridge proposal.

A delayed decision may backfire because, as we see in the polling results, the more British Columbians know about proposals that would bring supertankers to B.C., the more opposed they get.

Barb Justason is the principal of Vancouver-based Justason Market Intelligence.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Burrard Inlet First Nation calls for renewables

Faced with a six-fold increase in oil tanker traffic in their Burrard Inlet home if Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion project goes ahead, the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation says it’s time for Metro Vancouver and British Columbia to get serious about alternative energy.

And to drive the point home, the Tsleil-Waututh, whose community sits directly across the inlet from Kinder Morgan’s Westridge oil export terminal, are organizing a summit in Vancouver later this spring that they say is a call to action on exploring clean energy alternatives to oil.

The Tsleil-Waututh initiative comes at a time of unprecedented investment in energy in this province. The largest oil and gas companies in the world are lining up with offers of multi-billion dollar investments aimed at developing totally new industries and new markets that proponents say Canada needs if its most valuable export, energy, is to survive, let alone thrive.

But these investments bring their own issues.

“You can only have so many pipeline corridors across British Columbia, there’s only so much water to produce the natural gas,” said Vancouver energy lawyer David Austin, referring to proposals for new or expanded energy export terminals at Vancouver, Kitimat and Prince Rupert.

The Tsleil-Waututh conference, Transitioning From Oil Dependency, is not just about opposition to Kinder Morgan’s $5.4 billion pipeline expansion, said Tsleil-Waututh chief Justin George, but about looking at clean alternatives and creating business partnerships to make those alternatives happen. “I see this issue as multi-faceted,” George said. “It’s not just a First Nations issue. It’s all of us as human beings making it better for the next generation.”

“We don’t disregard that there needs to be an economy but it has to be sustainable.”

The conference is specifically aimed at First Nations, municipalities, environmental groups, federal and provincial government representatives, renewable energy organizations, the legal and risk management communities, unions and the academic community, said conference organizer Geoff Greenwell of 2G Group.”Of course all concerned citizens and community members are welcome as well,” he said.

The 500 members of the Tsleil-Waututh, whose name means People of the Inlet, fear an oil spill is inevitable if Kinder Morgan’s proposal to increase the capacity of the Trans Mountain Pipeline from 300,000 barrel a day to 890,000 barrels a day goes ahead. But the increase in tanker traffic alone, from the current level of five a month to 34 a month passing in and out of Second Narrows, will bring its own pollution which George said will harm the sea life that the Tsleil-Waututh have depended upon for generations.

The Tsleil-Waututh support development; they have a deep history of trade, George said, citing Russian beads that have been found at old village sites as examples of a centuries-old trading economy on the inlet. They are partners in a subdivision development on reserve lands, have profitably invested in a wind turbine company and have their own wind turbine distribution business. They are committed to economic development, George said.

“We understand the importance of economic development,” he said. “But we also understand our deep-rooted connection with this waterway.”

The First Nation’s effort to raise awareness over Vancouver’s developing role as an energy exporting port comes at a time when Canada needs to find export markets outside of North America if the oil and gas industry itself is to transition away from dependency on the U.S. market. New horizontal drilling technologies and hydraulic fracturing of shale oil and gas deposits are turning North America into a global energy giant. The U.S., now Canada’s major market, is expected to be the world’s largest oil producer by 2017, according to the International Energy Agency.

“The U.S. is reducing its reliance on imports quite phenomenally, and if we don’t build pipelines like Northern Gateway, or the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline into Burnaby, I think we are going to stunt the growth of the oil industry in Western Canada. I think this will become self-evident very quickly – in about three years’ time,” said Sco-tiabank commodities analyst Patricia Mohr.

Enbridge’s $5.5 billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline proposal from Alberta to Kitimat has been the focus of most public attention, mainly because it is the most advanced, already at the public review stage. Enbridge’s website describes it as the largest private investment of capital in the history of British Columbia. But that is only the tip of the energy investment iceberg. At $5.4 billion, the Kinder Morgan expansion is a close second.

Further, five of the world’s largest energy companies have announced plans to pipe natural gas across northern B.C. to the West Coast where they intend to build plants to liquefy the gas and send it by ship to lucrative markets in Asia. Just one of the major projects, Shell Canada’s pipeline and LNG terminal proposal, is expected to cost over $12 billion.

Coastal First Nations, an alliance of eight north and central coast tribes, is one of the loudest voices saying this new gold rush should provide more than jobs and investment. The alliance is seeking legacies in terms of renewable energy investments to power the LNG plants for the day when the oil and gas runs out.

“Nobody is thinking the LNG industry is going to last more than 20 or 30 years,” said Coastal First Nations executive director Art Sterritt. “We are going to be left exactly where we are right now with no energy to do anything else.

“What we need is a process where all of the information goes into the middle and the provincial government and industry and First Nations come together and say ‘This is the way it can be done.'” The Tsleil-Waututh summit is aimed at bringing provincewide attention on the role of renew-ables in British Columbia’s new energy gold rush, said George. It is scheduled for April 18 and 19 at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Read more:

School District plans to consult Kinder Morgan

Burnaby Now

January 5, 2013


The Burnaby Now reported that the outgoing chair of the Burnaby school district plans to consult Kinder Morgan, the US based oil pipeline giant, on oil risks and school safety. (January 2, 2012)

If this intended consultation is part of a broader plan to solicit advice on how to protect schools, daycares and residence that may be affected by a pipeline, substation or tank farm rupture, spill or leak then it would have some merit. If the plan is to consult only the oil industry, then there is concern.

It is well known that the oil industry has an extremely poor safety record and I worry that existing risks to the public and to environment have been severely underestimated. For example, there have been major oil and gas related incidents that we know about in Burnaby in the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. All required an emergency response by the Fire Department and the 2008 incident required establishing a joint command center of the Fire Department, RCMP and city personnel to coordinate the evacuation of approximately 500 residents near Seaforth Elementary and at least two daycares.

The Burnaby Fire Department, RCMP and city personnel – not private oil companies – respond to these and other gas and oil related emergencies on public property and private homes. These agencies are our first line of defense and it is to these agencies that we turn in an emergency. These agencies should naturally be part of any school district safety planning and training process.

If anything, we should be expanding the training and resources available to our first responders. The bill for the emergency response to leaks, spills and ruptures from pipelines and tank farms and for training should fall on the oil companies themselves, NOT the taxpayers. Taxpayers should not have to bear the costs of responding to oil and gas related emergencies or to prepare for them.

The Burnaby residents organization, BROKE, and the Burnaby Teacher’s Association, have proposed to the Ministry of Education that a comprehensive emergency plan be developed for schools and staff based on the very different dangers posed by jet fuel and gases leaks, on the one hand, and heavy oil and diluted bitumen, on the other. The school district would do well to consult with community partners, not just the oil industry.

There are many daycares licensed to operate near oil pipelines, tank farms and substations in Burnaby as well as community centers and other public facilities. Daycares and other facilities may need to develop their own plans based on their specific risk and the capacity of clients.

Environment commissioner’s farewell: Protections have not kept up with risks

Environment commissioner’s farewell audit screams the obvious: Tim Harper

Scott Vaughan, in his final report as environmental commissioner, calls for an “environmental boom” to match our “resources boom.”


Kevin Page is taking on folk hero status in some quarters, Sheila Fraser flirted with sainthood and Michael Ferguson has already made his mark on the proposed F-35 purchase.

We elevate our watchdogs and auditors in this country because we see them as speaking truth to power. The Parliamentary press gallery likes them because they make news.

Scott Vaughan doesn’t have the profile of some of his contemporaries but as the environmental commissioner bowed out with a final report Tuesday, he reminded official Ottawa how much he will be missed.

Vaughan is leaving after five years of what he calls — in typical understatement — identifying “gaps” in the environmental policies of the Conservative government. More often than not, those gaps are more like chasms.

He also departs at a time when the environment and the economy has never been so intertwined in this country, a point he hammered home before taking his leave.

As he pointed out, about 30 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product is fuelled by exports, and natural resources account for half those exports. More than 750,000 Canadians were working in the resource sector in 2010 and that number is growing. Ottawa estimates more than 600 major resource projects, representing $650 billion in new investments, are under way or planned across the country for the next decade.

“We know that there’s a boom in natural resources in this country and I think what we need now, given the gaps, given the problems we found, is a boom in environmental protection in this country as well,” he said.

As Vaughan delivered his final environmental audit to Parliament, Alberta Premier Alison Redford and New Brunswick Premier David Alward met to discuss moving oil from west to east, Redford sits on a revenue-sapping “bitumen bubble,’’ the Keystone XL pipeline was the subject of U.S. Congressional hearings and Canada’s First Nations are demanding both environmental protection and revenue-sharing from the valuable resources on their lands.

None of this will happen unless we match the environment and economy in lockstep, Vaughan said.

He listed some stunning “gaps.’’

He pointed to Canada’s lack of preparedness for a major offshore oil spill on its east coast and warned of a potential 300 per cent jump in tanker traffic on the west coast.

He reminded us the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil and the clean-up and other costs of civil damages has hit $40 billion.

In Canada, the corporate liability for such spills is $30 million on the east coast, and the liability for the nuclear industry is $75 million and has not been updated in more than 35 years, something Vaughan called “pretty shocking.” The liability limit in the U.S. for a nuclear accident is $12 billion.

Environment Minister Peter Kent, who received this report weeks ago, signaled that liability limit will rise considerably, so score another victory for Vaughan.

The commissioner said environmental oversight of the number of mining projects in the booming north is lacking and he pointed to another boom, this one in hydraulic fracturing, known generically as “fracking.”

There are 200,000 fracking wells in the country today, but that number will hit 400,000 by 2032, and there are more than 800 substances used in the procedure, 33 of them known to be toxic, the overwhelming majority remain untested by the government, making the health risk to Canadians impossible to quantify.

The bill for the clean-up of environmentally contaminated sites in this country has risen to $8.3 billion, Vaughan reported.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper maintained his government will continue down a road of “responsible resource development,” and he called Vaughan’s report a “useful piece of advice.”

Vaughan is leaving two years before the end of his mandate to take a post with for a Winnipeg-based public policy institute, but he denies he is leaving with any frustration.

Instead, he points to a series of measures the government had taken in response to his reports, including better pipeline inspections and better preparedness for oil spills from vessels in Canadian waters.

One is left to wonder where this government’s environmental policies would be without the constant push from Vaughan.

After five years of probing those “gaps,” he says he can draw a cumulative portrait and it is one frightening work of art.

“There are serious questions about the federal capacity to safeguard Canada’s environment,” he says.

Tim Harper is a national affairs writer. His column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Environmental protection fails ‘to keep pace’

Chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process — commonly called fracking — were of particular concern to Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan in his last report as auditor of Canadian environmental regulations that was tabled today in the House of Commons.

The federal government told Vaughan that fracking is an emerging issue, and it is only now looking into it. Provinces, for the most part, are responsible for regulating the oil and gas sector, but Ottawa is in the driver’s seat when it comes to toxic substances.

“According to the government, until it has a better understanding of hydraulic fracturing, it cannot determine whether risk assessments and control measures are warranted,” wrote Vaughan.

Fracking is the process of injecting water and chemicals into underground rock formations. The idea is to break the rock apart, thus freeing trapped shale gas and oil.

The government doesn’t have a good handle on the type of chemicals the industry uses in the process. It has developed a partial list of 800, of which 33 are toxic.

Each shale gas well uses between 55,000 and 200,000 litres of chemical cocktail. In B.C. alone, 7,300 wells have been fractured since 2005, and between 500 and a 1,000 new ones are being permitted each year.

Ottawa will finish a review on fracking in March 2014.

Environmental protection fails ‘to keep pace’
The fracking mention in Vaughan’s report is in keeping with its theme that “environmental protection may not be keeping pace with resource development.”

“We know that there’s a boom in natural resources in this country and I think what we need now, given the gaps, given the problems we found, is a boom in environmental protection in this country as well,” said Vaughan at a news conference after the release of his report.

Another example of government regulation lagging the pace of resource development was in the area of offshore oil and gas. Vaughan pointed out two striking examples.

He found two offshore petroleum boards in Atlantic Canada were not adequately prepared to take control of a potential spill. In particular, Vaughan pointed to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB).The Hibernia platform stands tall above the waters of Bull Arm, Trinity Bay, Nfld. The Environment Commissioner is concerned about spill preparedness in the Atlantic coast offshore oil and gas industry. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

The board “has yet to complete its review of operators’ spill response capabilities and, therefore, does not have adequate assurance that operators are ready to respond effectively to a spill,” wrote Vaughan.

The commissioner also found that fines for damages caused by spills or other industrial accidents are woefully outdated and inadequate. He noted they are much lower than in other countries.

The government has hinted this is about to change.

“I can’t break cabinet confidence, but I can assure you we are well aware, not only as it pertains to diversifying markets and increased pipeline traffic, but in terms of liability for offshore drilling,” Environment Minister Peter Kent said last week.

Still, the opposition parties and environmental critics finds Vaughan’s comments disturbing.

“There is a profound lack of information here, a lack of co-ordination of that information and a profound lack of follow-through by this government,” said NDP environment critic Megan Leslie.

“You hear the government talk a lot about responsible resource development,” said Clare Demerse, director of federal policy at the Pembina Institute.

What the environment commissioner is saying today is that it’s still “just a slogan, it’s not yet a reality,” said Demerse.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May said Bill C-38 and Bill C-45 — the two omnibus budget implementation bills — have created “tremendous confusion.”

“The failure to have strong environmental protections in place when you’re entering a period of rampant resource development at a breakneck pace” is akin to “inviting economic disaster as well as environmental loss,” said May.

$4B in tax rebates to industry

There currently is no liability cap when a company is at fault. But if there is no negligence, the top cap is $30 million in the Atlantic and $40 million in the Arctic. The rest of the tab is picked up by taxpayers.

Sources suggested to the CBC that the new caps would be “in the billions.”

“If you’re an oil and gas company and you don’t have to worry about the risks, then the planning for those accidents is going to be a lower priority,” said Ted Hsu, the Liberal natural resources critic. “So what we’ve got to do is eliminate the moral hazard of taxpayers covering the liability for oil and gas drilling companies.”

During Tuesday’s question period, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae asked the prime minister if he agreed with the report’s conclusions.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “the government has already been clear that responsible resource development means that as we see the growth in resource development … there will have to be enhanced measures of environmental protection.”

The government took some measures over the course of the past year and has indicated, in a number of areas, it intends to take additional measures. It will be a useful piece of advice as we move forward with these additional measures,” said Harper.

The report had two other chapters on federal support for the fossil fuel sector and marine protected areas.

Vaughan calculated Ottawa gave the oil and gas industry nearly $4 billion in tax rebates between 2006 and 2011. Nearly half of that amount will be phased out in the next four years.

Vaughan’s last day as commissioner of the environment and sustainable development is March 31. He will then take over as president and CEO of the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Taxpayers on hook for environmental disasters: outgoing commissioner


Canadian taxpayers may have to foot the bill for future environmental disasters like oil spills, according to Scott Vaughan, outgoing federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

In his Fall 2012 report, published on February 5, Vaughan discussed the tension between environmental protection and resource development, with special attention to marine protected areas, the risks of offshore oil and gas development, and setting financial guarantees and liability limits for mining, shipping, offshore oil platforms, and nuclear power.

Vaughan noted that marine protected areas (MPAs) are a good way to protect the oceans while allowing offshore resource development, but said Canada is still far short of the goal of 10 percent of ocean areas falling under such protection:

Here in Canada, 20 years after signing the Convention on Biological Diversity, only about 1 percent of our oceans and Great Lakes is protected. Our audit showed that at the current rate of progress, it will take Canada many decades to establish a fully functioning MPA network and achieve the target to conserve 10 percent of marine areas. While the process of establishing MPAs takes time, and there are many reasons for this slow progress, the fact remains that conservation actions are not keeping up with the increasing pressures faced by our oceans.

The commissioner also raised concerns about the way offshore oil spills can result in very high cleanup costs, beyond those required by law:

The Macondo (Deepwater Horizon) incident in 2010 captured global attention, with the well blowout resulting in an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil being spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. That incident demonstrated starkly the absolute importance of being ready to respond to a spill of that magnitude and the need for strong regulatory oversight to help prevent environmental disasters. The Macondo spill reminded us how quickly environmental damage can occur, and how expensive that damage can be—the estimated cost of that single incident is over $40 billion US dollars.

… Are the boards and their federal partners adequately prepared to respond to a major oil spill? In my view, the boards and their federal partners are not adequately prepared and, although the probability of a major spill in the Atlantic offshore area is relatively low, they need to do more to prepare for one. This is particularly the case given the potential for increased risks due to deepwater drilling and expanding exploration and development activities.

… The federal government requires financial assurances for several key industries to operate in Canada. These assurances help manage risks to the environment and to the public purse by ensuring that funding is available from operators to decommission and restore sites after major resource projects have ended and to clean up incidents such as spills.

… We found that the federal departments we examined had procedures in place to obtain environmental financial assurances. We noted, however, that the departments lacked complete inventories of the assurances they held and did not know whether these assurances were sufficient to address the risks they were meant to cover. More concerning, given the expected increase in activity in the natural resource sector, we found that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the department responsible for resource development in the North, was not conducting the required inspections that are essential for ensuring that the terms and conditions of project approvals are being met.

We also found that liability limits have not kept pace with the potential consequences of an incident. For example, the $75 million absolute liability limit for nuclear facilities has not changed since it was introduced in the 1970s, while the absolute liability limits for incidents involving offshore oil and gas development (which range up to $40 million) have not been updated in nearly 25 years. We found that Canada’s limits are significantly lower than those of other countries.

To put it in context, the United States’ National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling found the US$75 million absolute liability limit for offshore incidents in the United States was “totally inadequate,” and placed the economic risk on the backs of taxpayers. As noted above, the Macondo (Deepwater Horizon) incident has resulted in estimated costs of over $40 billion US dollars.

This year’s report has identified other shortcomings. For example, the current level of inspections of major resource projects in the North is very low relative to the level of activity. The government does not know the actual cost of its support to the fossil fuel sector. Meanwhile, offshore resource development continues to expand even as the government makes slow progress establishing marine protected areas. As well, the petroleum boards on the east coast and their federal partners are not adequately prepared to respond to a major oil spill should they need to step in.

Vaughan is leaving the commissioner’s post to become the president and CEO of the International Institute of Sustainable Development, effective April 1.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.