Divest from fossil fuels – Vancouver City Council

Divest from fossil fuels – Vancouver City Council

The City of Vancouver are having a Council meeting this Wednesday, among other things they will be discussing a new report on how their Municipal Pension Plan is heavily invested in fossil fuels, including Kinder Morgan.

It’s late notice I know… but this is a great opportunity and if anyone can get down there in person or submit a letter, all the info and background on how to do that is below.

Key info:

Vancouver city council will be meeting on Wednesday, October 9 to receive the staff report. The report and link for getting on the speaker’s list is here: http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20131009/ptec20131009ag.htm

The meeting starts at 9:30 am, and it is estimated that this item will come up around 10:30 am. Can’t be there in person? Written submissions are accepted by email to: mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca with a cc to andrea.reimer@vancouver.ca

Subject: Pushing for fossil fuel divestment at the City of Vancouver

Hi Climate Justice Project partners and friends,

One of those interesting moments has come up where you can make a difference. The emergence of a student-led fossil fuel divestment movement in the US, since expanded to churches and municipal governments, has been an exciting development over the past year. This conversation has now started on Canadian campuses, and is popping up in churches and union halls.

Earlier this year, the City of Vancouver asked its staff to investigate its investments in relation to the goals of various city ethical policies. That staff report just got released, and will be discussed at Council this coming Wednesday. I’m writing to encourage you to make your voice heard – and challenge Council to walk the talk of being the “greenest city” – by pushing for fossil fuel divestment.

Most of the action is around the City’s pension fund money. The City and its employees contribute about $100 million a year to the Municipal Pension Plan, invested through the BC Investment Management Corp (BC IMC). The staff report has some interesting findings about how that pension fund money is invested:

* Enbridge and Kinder-Morgan? BC IMC has got ’em, even though the vast majority of British Columbians do not want their pipelines.

* Heard about that uncontrolled tar sands spill in Alberta caused by in situ extraction practices? The Municipal Pension Plan owns $115 million of that company, Canadian Natural Resources.

* Then there is Royal Dutch Shell, named this year by California’s Global Exchange as the number corporate criminal in the world. The Plan has $62 million there.

In fact, three of the Municipal Pension Plan’s top ten holdings are oil and gas companies, including Exxon, key funder of the massive climate change denial campaign. Linking the economic security of City of Vancouver’s workers to the success of fossil fuel giants is deeply problematic.

In the report, you will see that the BC IMC is, strangely, hailed for being a leader in responsible investing. That bar must be pretty low because these examples make it clear this is not the case. To the extent BC IMC has been using their ownership stake to “engage in dialogue” with companies about changing their ways, that’s been a failure.

Moreover, the BC IMC is not considering climate risk, the harsh reality re-emphasized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last week, that most fossil fuels need to stay in the ground in order for us to have a habitable planet over the long term. When that climate action comes, hopefully sooner than later, those assets will lose most of their value. Divesting is not just the right thing to do, its the prudent financial move to make.

Vancouver city council will be meeting on Wednesday, October 9 to receive the staff report. At a time when fossil companies are doing everything they can to expand coal exports, lay down bitumen pipelines and build dirty LNG plants, your voice can make a difference. The report and link for getting on the speaker’s list is here: http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20131009/ptec20131009ag.htm

The meeting starts at 9:30 am, and it is estimated that this item will come up around 10:30 am. Can’t be there in person? Written submissions are accepted by email to: mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca with a cc to andrea.reimer@vancouver.ca

I’ve added some links for more background info below. I hope you can add your voice to this important conversation, and if you agree with me that this is important please forward to your networks.

Uncontrolled CNRL Tar Sands Spill Ongoing, 1.4M Litres Recovered

New figures released yesterday from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) show a concerted effort is still underway to clean up the growing amount of bitumen emulsion – a mixture of tar sands oil and water – that is pooling in a forested area surrounding Canada Natural Resource Ltd.’s Cold Lake project.

The cause of the seepage, which shows no sign of subsiding, has yet to be determined.

AER’s updated volumes show that the total amount of bitumen emulsion recovered on four separate spill sites amounts to 1444.4 cubic metres, a volume equivalent to 1.4 million litres of oil.

In addition, cleanup crews have removed 494 cubic metres of oily vegetation from the forested landscape and an additional 1049.62 metric tonnes – equivalent to 2.3 million pounds – of “impacted soils.”

The AER’s previous figures, released August 29th, stated 1275.7 cubic metres of bitumen emulsion had been recovered to date, the equivalent of 1.2 million litres.

Between the dates of August 29th and September 6th roughly 168,800 litres of bitumen emulsion were recovered, equaling around 1062 barrels of oil equivalent, or an average of 150 barrels per day.

CNRL, the company responsible for the in-situ operations that led to the seepage, put out a release dated August 25-31 that claims the rate of bitumen emulsion release amounts to less than 20 barrels of bitumen emulsion per day.

The disparity between CNRL’s figures – a release of 20 barrels per day – and the AER recovery figures – of 150 barrels per day – is due to unrecovered bitumen emulsion on site, according to CNRL public affairs advisor Zoe Addington. CNRL is cleaning up more per day than is currently leaking, she said.

Original CNRL images released to reporter Emma Pullman show oil pooled high in a forested area, presenting both the company and provincial regulators with an extraordinarily difficult cleanup.

The CNRL statement also claims the company is “focusing on a reduced impact area of 13.5 hectares, a 35% reduction” since original reporting.

The AER report states 20.7 hectares have been impacted from the ongoing release.

CNRL is still working to recover bitumen, remove soil, manage contaminated water and expose fissures where bitumen emulsion is migrating to the surface on three of the leakage sites, says the AER. The company is also recovering bitumen, agitating and skimming oil from the surface of a water body and removing vegetation from the fourth site.

The AER also reports that to date 2 beavers, 43 birds, 104 amphibians and 40 small mammals are deceased as a result of the release.

CNRL’s latest statement reads, “unfortunately some animal fatalities have occurred and three beavers, seventeen birds and two small mammals are being cared for at a Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre…”

As part of an ongoing subsurface investigation CNRL is drilling hydrogeological and delineation wells around the affected locations and has cited “mechanical failures” as the presumed cause of the continuous leaks, although the AER recently told DeSmog Canada the cause remains unknown.

CNRL was responsible for a similar release in 2009 that was likely caused by underground fractures, according to a report by the Energy Resources Conservation Board, the former AER.

According to Cara Tobin, spokesperson for the AER, the current spill “is in the same operational area” as the 2009 release. “These are releases coming up from basically cracks in the ground, not from the well pad,” she said. Although, she adds, it is too early to say what might be the cause of this particular series of underground leaks.

“We do not have the technical data or evidence to verify what that cause might be…We will determine that through our investigation process,” she said.

Last week Environment Canada announced a federal investigation into the seepage is underway alongside two separate investigations at the provincial level.

Christy Clark warns Canada unprepared for tanker oil spills

If a tanker were to spill oil off the coast of British Columbia today, the federal government would not have the resources to handle a large-scale disaster, warns B.C. Premier Christy Clark.

In an interview with CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge, Clark sounded the alarm over Canada’s inability to handle a major coastal oil spill now, let alone in the future should new pipelines be approved.

“We are woefully under-resourced,” Clark said.

Her comments come amid a recent video ad campaign by Coastal First Nations in B.C. directed at Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The video shows devastating images from the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska in 1989. The song The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel accompanies the dramatic pictures.

The video tells viewers a similar oil spill could cost taxpayers $21.4 billion to clean up and notes that 80 per cent of British Columbians oppose oil tanker traffic in the province’s coastal waters.

“British Columbians have spoken. Will Stephen Harper listen?” asks the video ad campaign.

Clark conceded that the federal government is taking some measures to address the danger, but “that’s going to have to happen before any more heavy oil comes off the coast,” the premier said.

“They’ve begun to look at safety on the coast and the coast guard resources, and so that’s a start, that’s encouraging.”

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt recently travelled to B.C. as part of the federal government’s push to woo First Nations into supporting the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipeline projects.

“Part of the reason why we’re going out to the West Coast is to engage and to speak with those groups that are very interested in what we’re doing on the world-class tanker system,” Raitt told CBC News on Sept. 14.

The federal government announced in March a number of steps to develop a world-class tanker safety system, including the creation of a panel to review Canada’s current system and propose further measures to strengthen it.

Joe Oliver, federal minister of natural resources, said the system in place now can handle a fairly large spill off the B.C. coast. He has also set up a panel on tanker safety to look at other measures.

“We’re going to improve it to the extent necessary because … we’re utterly committed to world-class safety, and whatever needs to be done to get us there we will do,” Oliver told CBC News.

Clark made it clear nearly 15 months ago that “world-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for British Columbia” were among the conditions the federal government and the province of Alberta had to meet in exchange for her support of any pipelines running through her province.

The Joint Review Panel into Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline is expected to give Oliver a decision by Dec. 31, 2013.

On Wednesday, an Enbridge official said the company expects the federal government to approve the pipeline, which would move oil from northern Calgary to a tanker terminal in Kitimat, on the north coast of B.C., by 2018.

Senior vice-president Vern Yu said the Calgary-based company expects the federal government’s decision to be challenged by pipeline opponents.

“We expect that there would be some appeals to that decision and that would take us into early 2015 and at that point we would be able to start construction, which would allow for somewhere around a 2018 in-service date,” Yu said.

The full interview with B.C. Premier Christy Clark will be seen in an upcoming broadcast of Mansbridge One on One on CBC Television and CBC News Network.

Judge rebukes Alberta for banning enviros from oil sands hearing

Andrew Nikiforuk
The Alberta Court of Queen’s bench decision also declared the ban illegal.

Last year, the Oil Sands Environmental Coalition (OSEC), which consists of the Pembina Institute, Alberta Wilderness Association and Fort McMurray Environmental Association, raised concerns about a new steam-assisted gravity drainage tar sands project on the MacKay River.

The project needed 1.7 million litres of groundwater a day and directly impacted the living rooms of woodland caribou, a threatened species in the region.

But government did not allow OSEC to participate in a public hearing on the grounds that they were not “directly affected.”

After OSEC contested the decision, the government submitted a document to the court that it used to ban environmental groups from three other hearings.

The Alberta Environment 2009 Briefing Note underscored the reason for banning environmental groups: they weren’t cooperating with the state.

The note said the OSEC had published “negative media on the oil sands”; had withdrawn from a discredited industry group; and were “less inclined to work cooperatively.”

Justice R.P. Marceau found the briefing note breached “all the principles of natural justice.”

The judge’s decision compared Alberta, which tightly runs all energy hearings, to the authoritarian regime of Maurice Duplessis in Quebec during the 1950s.

“It is difficult to envision a more direct apprehension of bias unless it is the Premier of Quebec telling the Quebec Liquor Commission to revoke a restaurateur’s liquor licence because the proprietor is a Jehovah’s Witness as Happened in Roncarelli v Duplessis,” the judge wrote in the decision.

The judge also said the government’s briefing note “hijacked” the vital object of Alberta’s environmental laws, which is “to give the citizens of Alberta as much input as reasonable into the environmental concerns that arise from proposed industrial development.”

According to the Pembina Institute, a non-profit energy watchdog, there were over 36,000 energy applications in Alberta, including 410 steam plant applications for bitumen mining, in 2012. “The regulator held only seven hearings on energy-related projects and a single hearing for an in situ oil sands project,” it claims.

The Pembina Institute welcomed the court’s decision.

“It’s deeply troubling that the Government of Alberta would attempt to block participation in the regulatory process on grounds that Pembina has raised concerns of its oil sands management policies,” said policy director Simon Dyer in a press release.

“At a time when evidence is mounting that cumulative environmental impacts from oil sands are exceeding regional thresholds, it’s essential that directly affected stakeholders with credible information get a fair hearing.”

Andrew Nikiforuk is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about the energy industry for two decades and is a contributing editor to The Tyee.

– See more at: http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/2013/10/02/Judge-Alberta-Pembina-Decision/#sthash.zuvUKvfh.dpuf

Tanker tracking website gets big ‘like’ out of BROKE

Burnaby residents opposed to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion are giving a new tanker tracking website a great big “like.”

The site, unveiled by the Forest Ethics environmental group, is getting rave reviews from Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE).

“I think the site looks fantastic,” said Alan Dutton of BROKE.

“We are very pleased that this has been done.”

The site, www.tarsandssos.org, allows visitors to see oil tankers docked at Kinder Morgan’s Westbridge Marine Terminal and follow them to their next port of call. On Tuesday, the site showed the Aqualiberty– a Liberian flagged tanker 249-metres long by 44-m wide, docked at the Burnaby terminal.

Dutton said the site makes it easier for those involved in the debate over increased tanker traffic through the Port of Vancouver to track and record the number of vessels actually using the Kinder Morgan facility.

“This will help us with our tracking and help everybody understand the issues involved,” Dutton said.

“We’ll be putting it up on our own website.”

The tanker tracker is a new public engagement tool being used by Forest Ethics, which is ramping up its opposition to the proposed Kinder Morgan expansion. The group is part of a coalition of environmental organizations, First Nations and coastal businesses on either side of the Canada-U.S. border opposed to pipeline expansion in B.C.

Ben West of Forest Ethics said seeing the tankers at dock and following them to their next port of call brings the reality of shipping oil along the West Coast home to a potentially huge audience.

“The idea is to take it from the theoretical to real time,” said West. “People can now see and feel in real time the threats to our coast.”

West said he hopes the next phase of the anti-pipeline campaign will feature a series of “tanker-cams” set up along the West Coast to monitor the tanker traffic.

Up to now, the environmental coalition has focused on fighting the Keystone XL pipeline project in the United States. The groups also oppose Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project.

The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion project would see the number of tanker berths at the Westbridge Marine Terminal triple to three. An additional 30 tankers a month – an average of one a day – would load at the terminal.

The project also proposes to double the number of tanks at the Burnaby Storage Terminal on Burnaby Mountain, adding 14 new storage tanks. That would add another 3.9 million barrels of oil to the facility’s capacity. Currently, the terminal can hold 1.6 million barrels.

The 1,150-kilometre pipeline runs from Edmonton to Burnaby. The expansion to twin the pipeline would nearly triple its capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 if approved.

Kinder Morgan spokesperson Lisa Clement said the company disputes many of the claims made on the site, including that a single accident off the West Coast involving an oil tanker would wipe out B.C.’s Orcas, seals and salmon.

Clement said the corporation encourages the public to check out marinetraffic.com, instead.

“Canada and the U.S. have a shared interest in the safe transportation of petroleum products through the Salish Sea,” she said.

Clement said petroleum products from the Westridge Marine Terminal have been safely carried by tankers in Burrard Inlet for more than 50 years without incident.

She said those interested could also check out the Trans Mountain Expansion website.

© Copyright 2013

– See more at: http://www.burnabynow.com/news/update-tanker-tracking-website-gets-big-like-out-of-broke-1.645427#sthash.YoIhoOzs.dpuf