Corporations are Sacred – The Great Salmon Send-Off

The Stoney Creek Environment Committee held its annual salmon send off today. Lot’s of kids and sponsors – including Kinder Morgan.

I raised the issue with some of the speakers; “What about Kinder Morgan’s planned expansion and what about the gas, jet fuel and heavy oil pipeline running across Stoney Creek and the other creeks around Burnaby Mountain?”

They were unanimous. Raising the issue of the Kinder Morgan expansion, more tar sands, bigger tank farms ON Burnaby Mountain and many more tankers through Burrard Inlet and Salish Sea is too – wait for it – POLITICAL. “We don;t want politics here. We have kids.”

I responded saying that the kids in the school right here are learning about the pipeline expansion and the threat to the environment of tar sands.

But no! The organizers think that it is not right to criticize Kinder Morgan – it’s a CORPORATION and corporations are now sacred.

When “environmentalists” don’t think we should be questioning Kinder Morgan – it’s too political – a fundamental change has occurred that needs to be understood. It is not just that Kinder Morgan gives a few thousand a year to groups, schools, etc.. A fundamental change has occurred in western thinking about corporations.

The corporation has become the new god, daddy and mommy. The corporation is now god. It is the Church and State all in one and that’s scary. We have replaced the Church with Corporations and the Corporations own political parties.

The corporation as mommy and daddy can’t be criticized – they know best. They have the answers and we must trust them or the world as we know it will disintegrate.

The corporation is god and god is not political.

(pictures to follow)



Election hopefuls receive rating based on their response to Kinder Morgan pipeline concerns

Lowermainland, BC – With less than a week left until election day, BROKE has pulled together score cards on the positions of the candidates in the four Burnaby ridings on the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion plans to export tar sands diluted bitumen. Following the lead of the Pipe-Up Network in 4 other lower Mainland ridings, members of BROKE have spoken with many candidates and examined party platforms to highlight where their candidates stand on key concerns. These score cards are an easy to read, easy to share tool, to better understand how the candidates will address the risks from existing and proposed transport of a heavy toxic oil product that runs by our local schools, across our drinking water sources and through highly populated residential and commercial areas.

Members of BROKE have been active throughout the ridings of Burnaby-Lougheed, Burnaby North, Burnaby Deer-Lake and Burnaby Edmonds attending local all candidates meeting and getting answers from their candidates on a range of questions that relate to Kinder Morgan.

Pipelines have been a hot issues this election, however many residents Burnaby and the Lower Mainland still don’t know how much we have to lose. The Kinder Morgan pipeline is 60 years old and yet they have started to pump highly toxic diluted bitumen without any upgrades to the pipe, monitoring regulations, or first responders. Now they want to build another pipeline to pump more of this lethal product? We need to ensure we have elected officials who are going to pay attention to this issue and speak up for our local needs and well-being.

PDFs of the score cards will be posted here

For more information and to arrange interviews

Alaska to Oregon: Building Resistance to the Fossil Fuel Empire

Alaska to Oregon: Building Resistance to the Fossil Fuel Empire

Saturday 18th May, 7pm, Free

Grandview Calvary Baptist Church – 1803 East First Avenue

Join Portland Rising Tide and Rising Tide Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories explore the recent struggles and successes of the North American Climate Justice Movement. As the Fossil Fuel Empire strains to expand, with increased fracking, mountain top removal, coal exports, tar sands production, and new pipelines and extraction sites from North to South, hear from those actively building resistance and taking direct action to confront the root causes of climate change.

Members of Portland Rising Tide will present on the state of the climate movement in the United States and the emerging resistance in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon to more than a dozen proposed oil, gas and coal export terminals. The presenters will discuss the context in which this debate is happening in Oregon and Washington and will offer a local case study of the 2010 defeat of a LNG facility along the Columbia River in Oregon, the Bradwood Landing project. They will also discuss resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline in the US by groups such as the Tar Sands Blockade and Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance. Both case studies are offered in light of current and future resistance to the discussed terminals and pipelines.

Members of Rising Tide Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories will provide the first report back from their 2013 BC Fracking Tour. Hear and see what fracking looks like on the frontline, listen to activists recall experiences on the tour and re-tell the stories gathered in communities directly impacted by fracking in the province.

Saturday 18th May, 7pm, Free
Grandview Calvary Baptist Church – 1803 East First Avenue – accessible through side door.

Rising Tide Vancouver, Coast Salish Territory is a grassroots environmental justice group committed to fighting the root causes of climate change and the interconnected destruction of land, water, and air.

When Harper Kills Science

As far as the government scientist was concerned, it was a bit of fluff: an early morning interview about great white sharks last summer with Canada AM, the kind of innocuous and totally apolitical media commentary the man used to deliver 30 times or more each year as the resident shark expert in the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). So he sent an email off to Ottawa notifying department flaks about the request, and when no response had been received by the next morning, just went ahead and did it.

After all, in the past such initiative was rewarded. His superiors were happy to have him grab some limelight for the department and its research, so much so they once gave him an award as the DFO’s spokesperson of the year. But as he found out, things have changed under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Soon after arriving at his offices, the scientist was called before his regional director and given a formal verbal reprimand: talk to the media again without the explicit permission of the minister’s office, he was warned, and there would be serious consequences—like a suspension without pay, or even dismissal.

“He can’t understand it. The interview was of no consequence and had absolutely no relevance to government policy,” says Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the union that represents 30,000 government researchers, technicians and science support workers. “It really burst his bubble. They’ve taken away the impetus to educate the public.” Corbett shared details of the incident for the first time with Maclean’s but not the scientist’s identity, for fear he might face further sanction. It’s just one of many such stories of muzzled federal scientists and suppressed research that are being brought to the union’s attention, he says. All against the backdrop of sweeping cuts to water, air and wildlife monitoring programs, a total restructuring of federal environmental reviews, and the downloading of responsibility for lakes and rivers to the provinces. “It’s almost like this government doesn’t want any of this stuff to be open to public discussion,” says the union leader. “What we’re seeing is a total lockdown.”Since taking power in 2006, Stephen Harper’s government has rarely been caught on the wrong foot. Disciplined on the hustings, in the House, and above all with the media, Tory ministers and MPs have largely avoided the gaffes and unvarnished opinions that used to plague the conservative movement. But to many of its critics, Ottawa’s obsession with controlling the message has become so all-encompassing that it now threatens both the health of Canada’s democracy and the country’s reputation abroad.

And the principal battleground—where the micromanaging impulse seems to have taken on a zeal fuelled by ideological distrust—is the environment. Since Harper pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, citing skepticism about the cost and efficacy of international efforts to halt climate change (and saving the country as much as $14 billion in penalties for non-compliance) his government has been stuck with an unenviable sales job: trying to promote the expansion of Alberta’s oil sands—a significant driver of the national economy—while downplaying the sector’s rapidly growing greenhouse gas emissions and the government’s own inaction. One strategy was to brand the bitumen as an “ethical” alternative to oil from corrupt or repressive regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere. Another was to go on the attack. Environmental groups opposing pipeline plans have been denounced as “radicals,” accused of taking funding from “foreign special interests” and subject to special audits regarding their charitable status from the Canada Revenue Agency. And just this past week, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver picked a fight with NASA’s James Hansen, accusing the recently retired climate scientist of “crying wolf all the time” and exaggerating the oil sands’ contribution to global warming.

Neither approach has borne much fruit. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would pump Canadian crude to refineries along the Texas Gulf coast, remains mired in the U.S. approval process, while activists and even some policy-makers make it the focal point of their fight against “dirty oil.” Meanwhile Canada’s global reputation on green issues has taken a beating. (A January 2013 report card on international environmental performance based on indicators like air quality and biodiversity ranked Canada 15th among the world’s 17 most developed nations.) And all those audits—almost 900, at a cost of $5 million—resulted in just one group, Physicians for Global Survival, losing their tax-deductible status for exceeding the limits on political spending.

But if Ottawa hasn’t found a way to manage the activists or foreign public opinion, it’s shown remarkable resolve—and success—in denying its opponents federally funded ammunition. According to internal Environment Canada documents, obtained by Climate Change Network Canada via Access to Information, the amount of attention the media paid to federal climate change research dropped precipitously—80 per cent fewer stories—once the procedures for gaining access to government scientists were tightened during Harper’s first mandate. In the first nine months of 2008, for example, the department’s four leading researchers were quoted in a total of 12 newspaper stories, versus 99 over the same period the year before.

Meanwhile, the list of cases where government scientists have been effectively gagged from speaking about peer-reviewed research—sometimes even after its publication in prestigious international journals—grows.

• David Tarasick, an Environment Canada scientist, was prevented from doing interviews about a Nature paper on an unprecedented hole in the ozone layer over the Arctic in the fall of 2011. Reporters were instead provided with “media lines” he had no hand in creating. (Tarasick was eventually given permission to talk two weeks later, well after interest had died down.)

• Scott Dallimore, a Natural Resources geologist, was denied permission to talk about 2010 work for the same journal on a massive flood that inundated northern Canada 13,000 years ago—despite his attempts to assure his bosses via email that it was “a blue sky paper,” with no links to “minerals, energy or anthropogenic climate change.”

• Kristi Miller, a salmon researcher with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, produced a 2011 paper raising the possibility that a mysterious virus was responsible for the rapid decline of the sockeye population in the Fraser River. It took eight months before government minders finally freed her to discuss her findings in an appearance before the Cohen commission, a federal judicial inquiry into the dwindling fish stocks.

• Mary Waiser, an Environment Canada water researcher, was denied permission to speak about two papers she’d written for the department disclosing the presence of chemicals and pharmaceuticals in Saskatchewan’s Wascana Creek, downstream from Regina’s sewage treatment plant.

Sometimes, the efforts to silence scientists verge into the Orwellian. In one widely reported 2012 incident, Environment Canada researchers attending the International Polar Year conference in Montreal were shadowed by media handlers tasked with squelching any impromptu conversations with reporters about climate change or dying polar bears.

At first, federal researchers reacted to the restrictions with bewilderment and anger. Last summer, hundreds of them gathered in their white lab coats on Parliament Hill to protest what they see as Stephen Harper’s “war on science,” staging a mock funeral to mark the death of evidence. But now, with funding cuts and program closures that were buried in two successive omnibus budget bills starting to bite—close to 1,900 scientists have received layoff warning letters as part of wider cuts across the public service—morale has hit an all-time low. “To call the current environment ‘dysfunctional’ would not be overstating things,” one federal scientist, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions, told Maclean’s. “Your bosses are only ever following marching orders, so people are made to feel that there’s no use in complaining because we are so far away from the level at which decisions are made that there’s no hope our concerns will ever make it anywhere.”

Another researcher, who is scheduled to lose his job this summer, but fears speaking out will hurt his severance, laments how the current government has “politicized” the role of public servants. “It’s almost as if that job we had as scientists to explain things to the Canadian public is gone.” The scientist says he and his colleagues always understood that certain lines couldn’t be crossed when they dealt with the media—stepping outside your area of expertise or criticizing government policy were both definite no-nos, for example. But soon after Harper won his first minority in 2006, it became clear that the minister’s office viewed every media interaction as a minefield—to be entered into only if absolutely unavoidable. The interview requests he received from national media were routinely denied by political staff in Ottawa, he says, while even the most low-key local demands would take as long as four weeks to be approved. “They’re just not keen on having any expert knowledge delivered from Canadian government scientists to the outside world,” he says. Lately, he finds the media have stopped even trying to seek his input.

To be fair, ….were at odds with official department policy. But that was an exception, he says, not the rule. Current policy doesn’t just seek to dampen the odd controversial story, it passes every bit of information through a political filter from which almost nothing emerges. “All the government scientists I know tell me that it’s never been worse,” says Hutchings. “It’s like an Iron Curtain has been drawn across the communication of science in this country. And I think there’s reason for all of us to be worried about that.”

A recent report compiled by the University of Victoria’s environmental law clinic details a variety of ways in which government scientists are being muzzled. There’s the growing use of “approved lines” or sometimes full-on scripts—crafted by everyone but the researchers—to cast findings in the least controversial, and often most boring, way. And then there are the now-institutionalized delays, where interview requests aren’t necessarily denied, but put off so long that stories appear without comment from federal experts, and the media moves on. Part of that may just be the bureaucracy catching the no-news-is-good-news zeitgeist. After the National Research Council denied an interview request about a study of snowfall patterns last March, Ottawa Citizen reporter Tom Spears filed an Access to Information request and discovered that 11 government employees had spent the better part of a day worrying about what he might write, exchanging more than 50 emails. It was a sharp contrast to what happened when he called NASA—also a party to the study. It took the U.S. agency just 15 minutes to put him in contact with one of their climatologists.

The creeping level of paranoia within the government is even apparent in the training materials its departments hand out to designated spokespeople. Meeting the Media, a 2008 DFO publication, stresses vigilance at all times—even the most banal interaction can be twisted into a story. “You may be situated on an ice floe when the questions pop up on your handheld device from someone in a warm newsroom many kilometres or even continents away.” As a consequence, says the pamphlet, it’s always better to “stay inside the box,” reverting to prepared “anchor answers” and “top line messages.” And on the odd occasion where scientists or bureaucrats end up face-to-face with reporters, they should treat it like an encounter with a bear. Loss of eye contact shows discomfort, crossed arms appear defensive, says a section on non-verbal communication. If trapped in a scrum, it instructs, keep your responses brief, then at first opportunity excuse yourself, leaving “at a regular pace, not a run.”

The 128-page UVic report, prepared at the behest of Ottawa-based Democracy Watch, formed the basis of a February complaint to federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault, charging that the government is systematically obstructing the rights of the media and the Canadian public to timely access to scientific information. In early April, Legault’s office launched an investigation, notifying seven departments—including Environment Canada, DFO, Natural Resources and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency—that it expects full co-operation.

Calvin Sandborn, the law professor who oversees the clinic, says he’s pleased that the complaint is being taken seriously. “I don’t think there are many more important issues than this question of concealing scientific information from the general public,” he says. “It’s such a threat to the democratic process.” The information chill that has settled over government reaches far beyond the media, he argues. Even in his own work, he’s noticed that regulatory questions that used to be answered via a quick phone call now must be submitted in writing, with the responses often arriving weeks later.

The Harper government hasn’t offered any official reaction to the information commissioner’s investigation, but its general response to the charges that scientists are being muzzled has been to deny that any problem exists. Maclean’s requests for interviews with Keith Ashfield, the minister of fisheries, was denied. And there was no response from the office of Peter Kent, the minister of the environment. A promised interview with Gary Goodyear, the minister of state for science and technology, never materialized. His spokeswoman provided a brief statement: “There have been no recent changes to the government’s communication policy for federal civil servants,” it reads. “Government scientists and experts are readily available to share their research with the media and the public.” It goes on to note the 500 studies published last year by Natural Resources Canada, and the “nearly 1,000” scientific papers from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. And it states that Environment Canada participated in more than 1,300 media interviews in 2012. (Although how many of those were weather-related—the department’s meteorologists are free to speak to reporters without seeking approval, unlike the rest of their colleagues—is unclear.)

The government also points out that it has been supporting Canadian science in very tangible ways, steadily increasing investments in research and technology—more than $11 billion in the current budget—even as it has tightened its belt in other areas.

To its critics, however, that funding boost—which has favoured applied science and commercialization over basic research and “pure” sciences—only serves to underline what they say is the government’s true agenda. “They’re all for science that will produce widgets that they can sell and tax,” says David Schindler, a professor of ecology at the University of Alberta. “But it’s clear that environmental scientists are lumped right down there with Greenpeace in their view.”

Such distrust of Conservative motives seems to be spreading, even beyond our borders. Nature, the BBC and most recently The Scientist have all raised the alarm about the soundness of federal research in Canada. And foreign scientists are becoming increasingly leery of collaborating with their Canadian government counterparts. This past winter, Andreas Muenchow, an oceanographer at the University of Delaware, revealed details of a sweeping new non-disclosure agreement he was asked to sign before embarking on a joint study of Arctic waters. “I feel that it threatens my academic freedom and potentially muzzles my ability to publish data and interpretation and talk timely on science issues,” he wrote in a blog posting. And a new publication procedure that will see all DFO collaborations vetted by bureaucrats before the manuscripts can be submitted to journals is causing similar consternation. Anna Kuparinen, a fisheries researcher with the University of Helsinki, told Maclean’s that she’s currently reconsidering a project with a DFO scientist. “There’s a possibility that something in our research could cause problems,” she says. “And for a young scientist, not being able to put your work into an article is a nightmare scenario.” With funding from the Finnish government already in hand, she thinks it might be wiser to move the project to a different country.

Of course, such threats are unlikely to change Ottawa’s course. Harper has a lengthy record of picking fights with number-crunchers of all varieties—firing the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, provoking the resignation of the chief statistician of Canada, and repeatedly refusing to play ball with Parliament’s independent budget officer. One recent Ipsos Reid poll suggests that combative approach might be chipping away at the Prime Minister’s reputation—69 per cent of respondents called the Harper government “too secretive,” while 63 per cent said they weren’t living up to past promises to be “ethical, open and transparent.”

But other surveys indicate that the party can still yield political gains from positions that are at odds with a majority of Canadians. An Angus Reid survey on global warming, released earlier this month, found that 58 per cent of Canadians now accept climate change as a fact, attributing it to man-made activities. But that’s a position that’s endorsed by just 42 per cent of Albertans, and only 38 per cent of Tory voters.

The approach the Harper government is taking to its scientists isn’t that dissimilar to that of George W. Bush during his two terms as U.S. president, when there were frequent charges of muzzling on climate and environmental issues. “Information control is an explicit form of power,” notes Heather Douglas, a chair of science and society in the University of Waterloo’s department of philosophy. Douglas, an American who has only been in the country for 15 months, is still a little shocked by the naked and unapologetic manner in which the Harper government is going about it all, as well as the muted response of most Canadians. “If this was happening in the States, we’d be well past the tipping point,” she says. “This is the kind of thing that makes Americans go crazy.”


Joe Oliver: Al Gore’s Comments On Canada’s Climate Change Record ‘Wildly Inaccurate’

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver has accused a former U.S. vice-president of making ‘wildly inaccurate’ claims about Tory record. (CP/Getty)

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver has accused former U.S. vice-president Al Gore of making “wildly inaccurate and exaggerated” claims about the Harper Tories’ record on climate change.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail published Saturday, Al Gore said that while he has always respected Canada, he is disappointed with decisions made by the current government.

In fact, Gore said the Alberta oilsands boom and pipeline debate “ultimately… hurts Canada.”

The Nobel Peace Prize winner suggested Canada is suffering from a “resource curse,” where revenue streams are tied to the exploitation of a single resource.

“The resource curse has multiple dimensions and [that includes] damage to some extremely beautiful landscapes, not to mention the core issue of adding to the reckless spewing of pollution into the Earth’s atmosphere as if it’s an open sewer,” Gore said.

The “open sewer” reference struck a chord with Oliver.

“Using words like ‘open sewer’ are unfortunate and an attempt to create an impression which is false,” the minister told the Globe on Monday.

Oliver claims Canada’s oilsands industry has reduced emissions per barrel by 26 per cent, giving Conservatives a solid record on which to stand.

Gore’s comments come at an inconvenient time for the minister who will be in Europe this week to fight what he sees as a discriminatory policy against Canadian crude.

Oliver will make a case against the European Union’s new Fuel Quality Directive, which calls on fuel suppliers to reduce greenhouse gases and singles out oil from Alberta’s oilsands as more polluting than others, The Toronto Sun reports.

Of course, this is not the first time the minister, seen as a pipeline prophet pushing the merits of both the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL proposals, has had to get his back up.

Last month, Oliver had harsh words for renowned NASA scientist James Hansen, who said it would be “game over” for the climate if oilsands development isn’t stopped.

In a much-discussed column in The New York Times, Hansen wrote that “Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history.”

Oliver slammed that argument as nonsense and said Hansen should be “ashamed” to be using such “exaggerated rhetoric.”

Hansen recently returned fire by calling the Conservatives a desperate and “Neanderthal” government on CBC Radio’s The House.

“They’re in the hip pocket of the fossil fuel industry, as you can see, but that doesn’t mean that the Canadian people are,” he said.

Oliver also drew controversy last month when he questioned the science of climate change and told Montreal’s La Presse newspaper that “people aren’t as worried as they were before about global warming of two degrees.”

He later clarified in a federal natural resources committee meeting that he does believe climate change is a “serious issue.”

Supernatural Tanker Free BC

Supernatural Tanker Free BC
Kinder Morgan wants to bring 400 Oil Tankers a year to Vancouver, threatening our tourism industry that is the backbone of our province.See the video here

Send a message to our political leaders here:

Alberta pipeline safety report won’t be made public right away

EDMONTON – The Redford government will not immediately release the results of an independent review of pipeline safety in Alberta despite opposition calls to do so, Energy Minister Ken Hughes said Tuesday.

The report was commissioned in July 2012 after a scathing U.S. National Transportation and Safety Board report and three local pipeline leaks triggered unprecedented public concern.

It was completed by G10 Engineering in December, while a related report by the Energy Resources Conservation Board was completed in March. Hughes said they will both be made public, but he did not give a date.

“It’s important to have the full context. It’s a fairly technical review and we’ll release it in the fullness of time,” Hughes said.

“Meanwhile, the pipeline industry is doing a lot of work to ensure they are performing at the high level that we expect them to perform at. … We have 400,000 kilometres of pipeline in this province; people in this province know how to manage and operate pipelines effectively.

“One of my messages when I sat down with the pipeline industry last summer was that everybody had to perform at the best possible level and to get to a more consistent level of performance right across the pipeline industry.”

Hughes made the comments after NDP MLA Rachel Notley accused the government of delaying the release of the report to avoid a “full, rigorous and public debate about the quality of pipeline safety and oversight in the province of Alberta.

“As Albertans, we have a right to expect that our government will do everything it can to promote and protect our public safety, our health and our environment,” she said.

Notley said that Canada’s auditor general and Saskatchewan’s auditor general have both raised serious concerns about pipeline safety in Canada, as did the NTSB report released last summer. The NTSB report blamed Calgary-based Enbridge for “pervasive organizational failures” that led to a massive pipeline spill in Michigan three years ago.

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

Enbridge breaks safety rules at pump stations across Canada

Company’s defence is that National Energy Board is interpreting rules differently

Video Content

Play VideoThe National Energy Board says 117 of Enbridge’s 125 pump stations in Canada fail to comply with emergency power rulesPump station safety2:58

Play iconEnbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines president John Carruthers responds to comments about the oilsands made by former U.S. vice-president Al GoreAl Gore trashes oilsands10:25

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The biggest oil and gas pipeline company in Canada is breaking National Energy Board safety rules at 117 of its 125 pump stations across the country, but Enbridge says it’s not to blame.

Enbridge was ordered by the Canadian energy regulator to disclose whether or not it had backup power to operate emergency shut-down systems in the facilities that keep oil flowing through its pipes. The company told the NEB only eight of its pump stations complied with the board’s backup power system regulation.

On top of that, Enbridge disclosed that 83 of its pump stations were missing emergency shut-down buttons.

But the NEB admits that it has only just started to concentrate inspections on regulations covering backup power and shut-down systems. The regulations are anywhere from 14 to 19 years old.

“Enbridge would never knowingly operate outside of regulatory requirements. In fact, we do more than ask people to trust us, we say look at the evidence. We say look at our record, which is better than the industry average,” said Enbridge spokesperson Graham White.

He added that the minimum for Enbridge is compliance with NEB regulations, but said at the vast majority of facilities the company goes above and beyond.

In the case of backup power, that rule has been on the books since 1999. The emergency shut-down button has been a must since at least 1994.

Map Canada’s main pipeline network

White said Enbridge’s non-compliance is a problem of interpretation. He said that the NEB has changed the way it interprets the backup power regulation.

“We had an expectation that was indicated to us from previous inspections by the NEB, where these issues were not raised,” said White.

The problems with Enbridge’s pipeline safety came to light in 2011 during an NEB inspection of facilities on the company’s Line 9 pipeline between Sarnia, Ont., and Montreal and at its Edmonton terminal. Inspectors found that the terminals at Edmonton, Sarnia and Westover (near Hamilton, Ont.) and pump stations at Westover and Terrebonne (near Montreal) were missing emergency shut-down buttons. The pump stations were also missing backup power systems.

Shawn Gaetzman works in the main control room at the Enbridge Pipelines oil terminal facility at Hardisty, Alta. Shawn Gaetzman works in the main control room at the Enbridge Pipelines oil terminal facility at Hardisty, Alta. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

Once the discoveries were made about these stations and terminals, the NEB asked Enbridge for and received information about the rest of the pump stations in its Canadian system.

Enbridge has since installed emergency shut-down buttons at all 83 pump stations. It also has an NEB-approved plan to retrofit all 117 pump stations with backup power although no timeline has been made public for when facilities will be brought in line with regulations.

The NEB admits that it has only just switched the focus of its inspections to make these particular safety regulations a higher priority.

“The company is always at fault. The regulator’s purpose is to make sure the regulations are met,” said Iain Colquhoun, the NEB’s chief engineer. He went on to explain that, in the past, the NEB didn’t see the need for backup power systems as a high risk priority.

“So perhaps it has not got the attention that it has in the past. But now that it has got our attention, we absolutely require companies to have an auxiliary power unit [emergency backup power] that’s capable of closing down the station in an emergency,” Colquhoun said.

To outside observers, the safety situation at Enbridge is problematic for the regulator.

“From a public perspective, going this long never looks good. I mean that’s just common sense,” said Richard Kuprewicz, an independent pipeline safety engineer, based in Seattle, Wash. But Kuprewicz said it isn’t really the regulator’s fault.

“Not having the backup power supplies on pump stations if they’re required to have certain protections to kick in during a power failure is a very serious thing. And so that’s a more grievous issue and that needed to be addressed and should be, like basic pipeline 101,” Kuprewicz told CBC News.

Pipeline galvanizes crowd at all-candidates meet

Nearly 100 Burnaby residents came out on a rainy Sunday evening to hear Burnaby North candidates speak about the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project, among other things.

Kinder Morgan wants to twin the Trans Mountain line, which runs oil – as well as diluted bitumen – from Alberta to the West Coast and a terminal in Burnaby.

The all-candidates meeting was put on by the Capitol Hill Community Hall Association, the Civic Association of Iranian Canadians and BROKE – Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion. The format included four written questions from the audience and six oral questions.

The first question was on whether candidates were aware of the potential health effects of a diluted bitumen spill.

Conservative Party of B.C. candidate Wayne Marklund said he didn’t know what the health effects might be but added his party is in favour of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project.

“I’m an open-minded person,” he said. “I know my party believes in pipelines and believes in good paying jobs for British Columbians.”

But Marklund added he personally believes the environment should come first and all safety standards need to be looked into.

Green Party of B.C. candidate Carrie McLaren said she also wasn’t aware of the effects, but did a quick Wikipedia check at the meeting.

“I already figured out it’s oil and it’s also diluted with other chemicals, so it’s obviously partially carcinogenic, and there are other effects we don’t know of fully because it hasn’t been fully researched,” she said. “Obviously, our stance is we don’t want the expansion of any more of the pipelines in B.C. or in Burnaby. We want to phase ourselves out of the fossil fuels with these big health problems.”

B.C. NDP candidate Janet Routledge said she is also concerned about the potential effects.

It’s my understanding that the components of bitumen are a trade secret, so we don’t know exactly what’s in it,” she said. “But we do know that as a result of the spill near Sumas, there were a number of people that were hospital-

ized. I do think we should be worried not only about the short-term effects but the long-term effects.”

B.C. Liberal candidate Richard Lee, who scan has been MLA in the riding since 2001, said the other candidates don’t know much about the risk and added he didn’t either.

“I think bitumen has been around for so many years, if there are negative health (effects) I think we (would) be talking about it already,” he said. “I’d like to find out more.”

Residents also asked written questions on other topics, such as whether candidates would stop making contracts with private power producers for independent power projects.

Lee responded to that, saying such project create jobs and energy for the community.

Routledge and McLaren both said their parties would look into it. Marklund said the current agreements are long-term binding contracts that cannot be broken, no matter what party is in power.

“Unfortunately, British Columbians will have to pay for this for many years,” he said.

Other questions included concerns about employment levels in the province, support for small businesses, concerns about B.C. Hydro’s smart meters, services for seniors and proportional representation.

At the end of the evening, Burnaby councillor Pietro Calendino asked the final question in regards to the pipeline project.

He directed it specifically to the Liberal and Conservative candidates but each of the four candidates was given the chance to answer, as per the meeting rules.

After speaking about his knowledge of the proposed pipeline project, Calendino asked if it was worth the risk to the environment and human health, and worth the disruption to residents who live along the pipeline route, for a handful of jobs.

Routledge responded that it didn’t seem worth it to her.

Lee said economic benefits do come with some risks, as did the introduction of the Chevron refinery into Burnaby many years ago.

“Personally, we are not living in a perfect world,” he said. “If I could, I’d ask Chevron to move. I would like to have a clean environment for our residents.”

Marklund said his party thinks the pipelines are the key to creating better paying jobs, but added the party would sit down for a strong discussion on the issue after the televised leadership debate.

McLaren said if the B.C. government’s focus had been on moving toward using green renewable resources, the discussion wouldn’t about pipeline risks wouldn’t be necessary.

“We don’t need any more damn pipelines,” she added.

© Copyright (c) Burnaby Now

Pipelines and schools

Paul J. Henderson
While Kinder Morgan’s plan to nearly triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain oil pipeline has hit the provincial election campaign trail, work is being done to make parents and educators aware of the proximity of the pipeline to schools.

Retired Unsworth elementary teacher Wendy Major is part of a working group backed by the B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) looking to get the word out about the route of the pipeline.

The Working Group on Pipelines and School Safety has also created a questionnaire that has been issued to 15 schools in Chilliwack along the route of the pipeline.

“I taught for 13 years at Unsworth and

I never knew there was that old Kinder Morgan line going through the farmer’s field,” Major told the Times.

“I’ve lived there in Chilliwack since 1967 and I didn’t even know where the pipeline went until less than a year ago.”

With the help of the Wilderness Committee, the working group has also created a map that shows the route of the pipeline and schools along the way.

In Chilliwack, four schools are “red-flagged” as being within 200 metres of the pipeline and a further 15 are “black-flagged” as “within blocks” of the route.

The closest it runs to a school is at Watson elementary, where the pipeline runs under the back sports field. The line similarly runs near the back sports field at Vedder middle.

The other two close schools include Unsworth and John Calvin elementary, however, Major looked at the map and actually thinks Mt. Slesse is within 200 metres of the pipeline at the spot it crosses Tyson Road.

In the questionnaire, the group asks if respondents have heard about the pipeline, if they know about what is shipped in the pipe and if the schools have emergency procedures specific to a spill of something like diluted bitumen.

Kinder Morgan posted a response Monday on the Trans Mountain project website to the question of pipeline safety and schools.

“Living or being active near our pipeline does not pose a health risk,” the message said, in part.

“Where the pipeline runs near schools, we are open to working with individual schools or districts to fully support their safety efforts and ensure their emergency response plans and ours are co-ordinated.”

Kinder Morgan has proposed a $5.4-billion expansion of its 1,150kilometre pipeline that runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, increasing capacity from the current 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 890,000 bpd.

While the company maintains safety is paramount and spills are rare, there have been incidents in recent years. In January 2012 a holding tank at the company’s Sumas Mountain terminal site in Abbotsford was the site of a 110,000-litre leak.

There have also been two other recent leaks on the pipeline, including the 2007 rupture of the pipeline in a Burnaby neighbourhood, which sprayed nearby homes with crude oil after a contractor struck the line.

Retired Burnaby teacher Mary Hatch was one of those evacuated in 2007 and is also involved in the pipeline/school working group.

For details on the project from Kinder Morgan, visit And for information on other schools near the pipeline between Hope and Burnaby visit
© Copyright (c) Chilliwack Times

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