In BC, Ample Fuels for Union Debates

Tom Sandborn
If you want jobs, you need to pump and transport oil and gas, albeit as safely as humanly possible. That’s been the mantra from B.C. premier Christy Clark — a key, many would argue, to her surprise victory in the 2013 provincial election.

It’s a message one might assume resonates with organized labour in B.C., given that resource extraction has been vital to the province’s economy. But union support for Clark’s agenda is more complex and even fragmented.

The arguments within, and among, unions turn on a couple of debates:

Whether, while creating jobs, mining gas or transporting bitumen can in fact be done safely and socially responsibly.

And whether various petro-projects will produce significant numbers of good, lasting jobs at all.

In B.C., there’s no union consensus even about the build-up of a liquefied natural gas export industry, despite the fact that labour-aligned NDP leader Adrian Dix was, like Clark, pro-LNG development in the last election.

The promised LNG boom requires “fracking” — a process that gulps water, mixes it with toxic chemicals, and by injecting the fluids into the ground shatters buried rock formations, releasing trapped gas.

Proponents of the LNG industry, including Christy Clark, portray fracked natural gas as a greener alternative to coal or oil.

But there is nothing ambiguous about the view of the nationwide Canadian Union of Pubic Employees, which “Says Frack Off.”

And in November the leadership of Unifor, the massive new private sector union created last year when the Canadian Autoworkers merged with the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers, called for a national moratorium on all fracking.

Unifor cited pollution risks and opposition by First Nations who oppose development while their land claims are unresolved. Those First Nations, said the Unifor statement “would be hard hit by the heated, profit-hungry rush which the [LNG] industry is set to quickly unleash.”

Lee Loftus, president of the BC and Yukon Building Trades Council, told The Tyee he was disappointed by Unifor’s call for a fracking moratorium. He added that he thought that First Nations concerns about resource projects were legitimate, and that government needed to engage First Nations in a respectful conversation.

The Building Trades Council has also spoken out strongly in favour of both the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipelines that would deliver Alberta bitumen to B.C ports.

“There’s nothing wrong with pipelines,” Loftus told The Tyee. “We build pipelines and modern pipelines are very safe,” Loftus said. “B.C. is already safely crisscrossed with pipelines. Even building one LNG plant would keep all my local’s 500 members employed for five years.”

“We have taken a position,” said Loftus. “We are not going to idly stand by while others do our work. If these projects are built, we should build them.”

Add to the fossil fuel debates within B.C.’s labour circles proposals to expand coal exports dramatically from facilities in Surrey and on Texada Island.

Citizens, including environmentalists, have organized protests, denouncing the plan as potentially toxic to locals and an accelerator of climate change. Among the critics sounding health alarms: the BC Nurses Union.

But Steve Hunt, director of District 3 (Western Canada) for the United Steelworkers, says he and other trade unionists who support the expansion understand coal’s contribution to global warming, and that it is wrong to suggest they don’t care about public health. For example, he said, his union had demanded that B.C. coal leaving mines in the Elk Valley bound for the coast be loaded differently — with lower levels in each car, and sprayed with a resin product to prevent coal dust exposures to people living close to tracks or loading depots.

Most of the coal his members mine in B.C., Hunt told The Tyee, is relatively low-polluting metallurgical coal, which is required for steel production around the world. There is, he said, no viable alternative to metallurgical coal, and if it did not get exported from B.C., it would be sourced elsewhere.

Hunt co-wrote a November 27 opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun with Mark Gordienko, president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada; Brian Cochrane Business Manager, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115; and Tom Sigurdson Executive Director, B.C. Building Trades. An excerpt.

“Our unions’ members are responsible for mining and transporting metallurgical coal from British Columbia to markets overseas. So we welcome the positive Environmental Impact Assessment released Nov. 18 by Port Metro Vancouver on the proposed Fraser Surrey Docks expansion.

“The study, by experts such as Dr. Leonard Ritter, Professor Emeritus of Toxicology at the University of Guelph’s School of Environmental Sciences, shows that many complaints by environmental groups and others are misinformed or exaggerated.

“The Environmental Impact Assessment states: ‘The project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental, socio-economic, or health effects, taking into account the implementation of the main risk mitigation measures described above, in addition to mitigation measures, construction and operation management plans, best management and standard practices.’

“These conclusions match our experience in safely transporting coal for over 40 years.”

Hunt told The Tyee he has concluded that “opponents of coal export are mainly people who want to ban fossil fuels altogether.”

That wouldn’t necessarily describe, however, the membership of the BC Nurses Union, which in October issued an open letter stating calling a halt until the plan has been fully assessed by health professionals.

“A coal export expansion project of this size would impact the health and well-being of thousands of citizens in B.C. communities and cause considerable damage to an already fragile coastal environment,” said BCNU president Debra McPherson and vice-president Christine Sorenson in the letter.

— T.S.

Benefits vs. risks

Other large unions officially backing the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan bitumen pipeline projects, as well as fast tracked LNG infrastructure, include the Teamsters, Plumbers, Operating Engineers and Labourers unions.

“As proud trade union members representing tens of thousands of hard-working Canadians, we believe that Northern Gateway will benefit working families. It will create thousands of well-paying jobs and training opportunities we need to build strong communities,” stated Lionel Railton, acting Canadian regional director of the Operating Engineers, signaling his union hopes the federal government’s decision on the pipeline, due any day, will be a go ahead.

Labour groups who take the opposing view include the BC Teachers Federation and the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada, which has posted a statement on its website declaring,”We strongly believe this project is not in the public’s interest and would cause long-term damage to our environment.”

Building pipelines to tankers, concludes the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers, doesn’t do enough for B.C.’s economy or workers. “Shipping raw bitumen foregoes important value-added economic development opportunities involving refining and upgrading the oil in Canada.”

A more radical denouncement of unions that back more fossil fuel extraction comes from the Vancouver Eco-Socialist Group, a dozen rank and file members of various unions who pronounced in May: “We should oppose the climate-wrecking agenda of the fossil fuel industry and its government backers. We believe there is a better way forward for unions and for society.”

That includes liquefied natural gas, according to one of the group’s founders, retired millworker Gene McGuckin, who says “balderdash” to the claim LNG is a clean fuel. “If you measure all the emissions, well to wheels, LNG is as bad as bitumen.”

Burnaby as ground zero

The bitumen pipeline debate literally hits home in Burnaby, where Kinder Morgan’s proposed TransCanada pipeline expansion will increase the amount of crude flowing through the community and onto more numerous, bigger tankers.

Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the Building Trades Council, told Burnaby Now that union support for pipelines such as the Kinder Morgan line expansion that will end in Burnaby does not mean that unionized building trades workers were indifferent to the environment. “We share the same concerns as the public when it comes to ensuring that these projects are built with the highest quality and the most minimal impact to the environment,” Sigurdson told the local paper on May 8.

Sigurdson said the project should undergo a “rigorous and thorough set of hearings” to ensure it meets environmental standards before any ground is broken. We are not going to, for the sake of a couple of paycheques, put the environment at risk. We want to make certain that it is done safely.”

That’s not how Patrick Parks, first vice president of the Burnaby Teachers’ Association, reads the balance of risk and reward regarding the Kinder Morgan expansion. “To be promoting policies that destroy the environment and the climate expansion” said Parks, is “cynical and counterproductive.”

Parks belongs to BROKE, a Burnaby citizens’ group against the project.

BROKE’s stance “is ethical and moral,” said Parks. “We think there should be a moratorium on anything that adds to climate change. But we are also concerned about the number of schools close to the proposed route.”

Jobs in transition?

Estimates of how many and what sorts of jobs B.C.’s various proposed oil and gas pipeline projects would create vary widely depending on the source.

Last year, for example, Dave Byng, deputy minister of jobs, tourism and skills training predicted in a paper on job training in the north of B.C. that LNG pipes and plants in that area would create 354,200 person years of employment, with 74,700 full time jobs in the predicted peak year of 2017.

Last year, too, Sandy Gorossino, writing in HuffpostBC said the job creation potential in natural gas was quite modest, arguing “While natural gas contributes fully 3.2 per cent of our total GDP, its work force is tiny, just 3,500 souls, or .15 per cent of provincial employment. Electrical equipment manufacturers employ more people in B.C. than oil and gas.”

On the website of the Canadian Labour Congress, the national umbrella group that represents the majority of Canadian workers who belong to unions, can be found a 25-page document dated 2000 and titled “Just Transition For Workers During Environmental Change.” The policy proposal argues for funds to be created so that workers displaced when fossil fuel operations are shut down can be retrained and moved to equally well paying jobs in other sectors, especially ones tied to the expansion of the non-carbon economy.

Having resources and a strategy for transitioning workers is the “flip side,” says the document, of policies to promote the creation of more green jobs. In this province an organization formed to help do that, called Green Jobs BC, boasts a steering committee drawn from both labour and environmental organizations, including the Building Trades Council’s Loftus and the Sierra Club’s Bob Peart. Green Jobs BC has not taken positions on the contentious resource projects like Northern Gateway, co-chair Lisa Matthous told The Tyee.

“We try to focus on common ground,” said Matthous. “We want green job expansion, and we don’t want the province tied to a dying fossil fuel economy. There is no conflict between the jobs and the environment. A non-sustainable economy is bad for jobs.”

The Just Transition blueprint for greening jobs “is a fallacy,” in the view of Steve Hunt Director of District 3 (Western Canada) for the United Steelworkers. “It looks good on paper, but it isn’t practical.”

McGuckin of the Vancouver Eco-Socialists rejects the Green Jobs BC initiative, too, but because he doesn’t think it goes far enough.

“It isn’t an answer to climate change,” said McGuckin. “It is only a reform to shift jobs to less hurtful activities. We won’t end human contributions to climate change until we make basic changes. Capitalism by its nature demands constant growth. We can’t get rid of climate change without eliminating capitalism.”

McGuckin and likeminded critics, said Hunt, “are living in Nirvana. If we shut down extractive industries in Canada, they will go elsewhere.”

Read more: Energy, Labour + Industry, Environment

Harper: Canada More ‘Frank’ Than Rest Of World On Climate Change

OTTAWA – Stephen Harper solidified his government’s like-mindedness with Australia’s hard-right Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday as the two meshed their views on the environment, job creation and political manoeuvring.

There’s not a single country in the world that would take action on climate change at the expense of its own economy, Harper said as the two leaders held a joint news conference in Ottawa.

Canada wants to deal with climate change without crippling the economy, Harper said.

“No country is going to undertake actions on climate change, no matter what they say … that is going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country,” he said.

“We are just a little more frank about that, but that is the approach that every country is seeking.”

For his part, Abbott made clear that while his government recognizes the issue, it does not consider tackling climate change a top priority.

“We think that climate change is a significant problem. It’s not the only or even the most important that the world faces, but it is a significant problem,” he said.

“It’s important that every country should take the action that it thinks is best to reduce emissions, because we should rest lightly on the planet.”

Still, Abbott told a business roundtable later in the day that, much like the Harper Conservatives have done, he will take further actions to reduce the “regulatory burden” that often gets in the way of job creation, and pointed to the number of environmental hurdles that have been overcome for Australian business by his government over the past nine months.

“Our aim over time is to make it significantly less burdensome,” Abbott told the roundtable as he promoted Canadian investment in Australian businesses and his country’s increasingly privatized infrastructure.

Abbott has carried an ‘open for business under new management’ sign for Australia ever since being elected to power last September, and has also made no secret of his political bromance with the Harper Conservatives.

Paying homage to Harper’s newfound role as the elder statesman — and mentor — among conservative-minded world leaders, Abbott bowed Monday to a man he called an “exemplar of centre-right leadership.”

“I cherish our first meeting back in late 2005 when you were an opposition leader, not expected to win an election,” Abbott told Harper as the two men stood at twin podiums.

“But you certainly impressed me on that day,” he added.

“Much for me to learn from the work you’ve done.”

Later, Abbott made a point of stressing the commonality between Australia and Canada to encourage Canadian business investment in Australia, if for no other reason than the two countries share similar judicial and government systems.

“We speak the same language in every sense, Abbott told his audience.

“We are such like-mind comparable countries, we are both multicultural, resource driven federations.”

As he prepared to head of to Washington for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama, Abbott said he was “encouraged” by regulations introduced in the United States last week to chop carbon emissions from U.S. power plants by 30 per cent by 2030.

Harper noted that Canada has actually done more to lower carbon emissions in its electricity sector than the U.S.

“The measures outlined by President Obama, as important as they are, do not go nearly as far in the electricity sector as the actions Canada has already taken ahead of the United States in that particular sector,” he said.

American approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, designed to move Alberta crude to the Gulf Coast, has been stalled in the U.S. while the Obama administration drops hints that Canada must do more on the environment.

Convergence: #SacredWaterWarriors

Convergence: #SacredWaterWarriors

Hundreds March from Sunset Beach and Rally at Vanier Park Against Pipelines! The Harper Government is days away from announcing their decision on Enbridge’s …

Convergence – Sunset Beach Vancouver, British Columbia 12:00 Noon

March from Sunset Beach and Rally at Vanier Park!

The Harper Government is days away from announcing their decision on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Project. Join us to support all First Nations and all Peoples who will stand against pipelines to protect our coast, our waters and our future. We are all #SacredWaterWarriors

Modern Ocean Acidification Is Outpacing Ancient Upheaval: Rate May Be Ten Times Faster, According to New Data

The deep-sea benthic foram Aragonia velascoensis went extinct about 56 million years ago as the oceans rapidly acidified. (Ellen Thomas/Yale University)

Some 56 million years ago, a massive pulse of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere sent global temperatures soaring. In the oceans, carbonate sediments dissolved, some organisms went extinct and others evolved.

Scientists have long suspected that ocean acidification caused the crisis—similar to today, as manmade CO2 combines with seawater to change its chemistry. Now, for the first time, scientists have quantified the extent of surface acidification from those ancient days, and the news is not good: the oceans are on track to acidify at least as much as they did then, only at a much faster rate.

In a study published in the latest issue of Paleoceanography, the scientists estimate that ocean acidity increased by about 100 percent in a few thousand years or more, and stayed that way for the next 70,000 years. In this radically changed environment, some creatures died out while others adapted and evolved. The study is the first to use the chemical composition of fossils to reconstruct surface ocean acidity at the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a period of intense warming on land and throughout the oceans due to high CO2.

“This could be the closest geological analog to modern ocean acidification,” said study coauthor Bärbel Hönisch, a paleoceanographer at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “As massive as it was, it still happened about 10 times more slowly than what we are doing today.”

The oceans have absorbed about a third of the carbon humans have pumped into the air since industrialization, helping to keep earth’s thermostat lower than it would be otherwise. But that uptake of carbon has come at a price. Chemical reactions caused by that excess CO2 have made seawater grow more acidic, depleting it of the carbonate ions that corals, mollusks and calcifying plankton need to build their shells and skeletons.

Ocean acidification in the modern ocean is already affecting some marine life, as shown by the partly dissolved shell of this planktic snail, or pteropod, caught off the Pacific Northwest. (Nina Bednaršek/NOAA)

In the last 150 years or so, the pH of the oceans has dropped substantially, from 8.2 to 8.1–equivalent to a 25 percent increase in acidity. By the end of the century, ocean pH is projected to fall another 0.3 pH units, to 7.8. While the researchers found a comparable pH drop during the PETM–0.3 units–the shift happened over a few thousand years.

“We are dumping carbon in the atmosphere and ocean at a much higher rate today—within centuries,” said study coauthor Richard Zeebe, a paleoceanographer at the University of Hawaii. “If we continue on the emissions path we are on right now, acidification of the surface ocean will be way more dramatic than during the PETM.”

The study confirms that the acidified conditions lasted for 70,000 years or more, consistent with previous model-based estimates. “It didn’t bounce back right away,” said Timothy Bralower, a researcher at Penn State who was not involved in the study. “It took tens of thousands of years to recover.”

From seafloor sediments drilled off Japan, the researchers analyzed the shells of plankton that lived at the surface of the ocean during the PETM. Two different methods for measuring ocean chemistry at the time—the ratio of boron isotopes in their shells, and the amount of boron –arrived at similar estimates of acidification. “It’s really showing us clear evidence of a change in pH for the first time,” said Bralower.
What caused the burst of carbon at the PETM is still unclear. One popular explanation is that an overall warming trend may have sent a pulse of methane from the seafloor into the air, setting off events that released more earth-warming gases into the air and oceans. Up to half of the tiny animals that live in mud on the seafloor—benthic foraminifera—died out during the PETM, possibly along with life further up the food chain.

Other species thrived in this changed environment and new ones evolved. In the oceans, dinoflagellates extended their range from the tropics to the Arctic, while on land, hoofed animals and primates appeared for the first time. Eventually, the oceans and atmosphere recovered as elements from eroded rocks washed into the sea and neutralized the acid.

Today, signs are already emerging that some marine life may be in trouble. In a recent study led by Nina Bednaršek at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than half of the tiny planktic snails, or pteropods, that she and her team studied off the coast of Washington, Oregon and California showed badly dissolved shells. Ocean acidification has been linked to the widespread death of baby oysters off Washington and Oregon since 2005, and may also pose a threat to coral reefs, which are under additional pressure from pollution and warming ocean temperatures.

“Seawater carbonate chemistry is complex but the mechanism underlying ocean acidification is very simple,” said study lead author Donald Penman, a graduate student at University of California at Santa Cruz. “We can make accurate predictions about how carbonate chemistry will respond to increasing carbon dioxide levels. The real unknown is how individual organisms will respond and how that cascades through ecosystems.”

Other authors of the study, which was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation: Ellen Thomas, Yale University; and James Zachos, UC Santa Cruz.

Bärbel Hönisch Lecture on Ocean Acidification
Ocean Acidification Rate May Be Unprecedented, Study Says

Kinder Morgan could force access to Burnaby’s land with National Energy Board order

The City of Burnaby refuses to work with the company over new Trans Mountain pipeline route

Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson said Tuesday the company may seek an order of the National Energy Board to gain access to Burnaby city lands to test a new route for the Trans-Mountain pipeline.

Kinder Morgan is considering seeking orders from the National Energy Board to access land to test a new tunnel route under Burnaby Mountain for its Trans Mountain pipeline, a sign of how contentious the $5.4-billion project is in Burnaby.

The company announced last week the tunnel is its preferred route because recent public consultations showed it was least disruptive to residents.

However, Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson said Tuesday the City of Burnaby is preventing the company from going onto city lands and doing the necessary geotechnical work to determine if tunnelling is possible.

The previous preferred route would have directly affected four homes, while the new route affects no residences and could also potentially be used as a location for the existing pipeline, noted Anderson. The existing pipeline was built in 1952, but the city has since expanded around it.

The company proposes to triple capacity of the pipeline to nearly 900,000 barrels a day by building a second pipeline along a similar route, and bring about another 400 tankers to its Westridge Terminal in Burnaby on Burrard Inlet. The project is meant to open new markets in Asia for bitumen from the Alberta oilsands.

“The focus on Burnaby that I’ve taken at this stage is to make every effort to listen and understand the concerns of the residents in and around the pipeline,” Anderson said in an interview.

“(Burnaby mayor) Derek Corrigan and his council have taken the position that they won’t speak with us, they won’t engage with us, they won’t co-operate in any way with what we are considering … I’d much rather see a healthier relationship between us.”

But he noted the next step would be “us seeking an order of the board to gain access to do the necessary preliminary work” for the tunnel.

The National Energy Board Act allows companies to have access to Crown and private land for surveys and other examinations along proposed pipeline routes.

The NEB has issued orders in the past to force land owners to allow access, but it’s relatively uncommon, said NEB spokeswoman Sarah Kiley.

The NEB has only received one such request this year, she noted.

Corrigan said to co-operate with Kinder Morgan implies support, so the city won’t.

Asked if the city would fight an order from the NEB, Corrigan said yes.

“We’re fighting them every inch of the way,” Corrigan said in an interview. “We’ve made it clear we are opposed to the pipeline, and they’ve made it clear they want to impose it on us whether we want it or not.”

Corrigan said Canada must develop a national energy strategy that outlines how its natural resources should be developed and contend with climate change and renewable energy before it can be determined whether projects such as the Trans Mountain expansion is in the public interest.

While the Trans Mountain pipeline project is facing a barrage of concern from Lower Mainland municipalities — over everything from spill effects and response, contribution to climate change and susceptibly to earthquakes — Burnaby has been the most vocal critic.

The four homeowners that were affected by the previous preferred pipeline route had refused to let Kinder Morgan inspect or survey their properties and the City of Burnaby has asked about 1,700 questions of Kinder Morgan as an intervener in the federal review led by the NEB.

They are among more than 10,000 questions that overwhelmed Kinder Morgan, and on Monday the company was given a two-week extension by the NEB to answer them by June 18.

Corrigan also criticized Kinder Morgan for the late change in the preferred route — the fourth change — after interveners already had provided their questions. “At some point someone has to step back and say these guys couldn’t organize a two-car parade,” said Corrigan.

It appears the NEB is also concerned about the route changes in Burnaby. On Tuesday, the federal agency issued a letter asking Kinder Morgan to clarify which route in Burnaby they were proposing to use.

Anderson said he believes Burnaby’s questions are an attempt to antagonize Kinder Morgan, but they will answer them nevertheless.

Burnaby’s slate of questions are blunt and somewhat provocative. For example, they include : Will Trans Mountain build this pipeline and expand the Burnaby Terminal tank farm and Westridge Marine Terminal without the consent of Burnaby or its citizens?

In another query, Burnaby threatens to hold back its emergency services if there is a spill incident and asks Kinder Morgan to calculate how much resources and people it would need to carry out emergency operations by itself.

Anderson noted that Kinder Morgan intends to hire an outside firm to conduct polling within the next month of Burnaby residents’ thoughts on the project. Anderson said they will release those results publicly, noting that he believes there is support for the project in the community.

Karl Perrin, a spokesman for Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion, said that for residents affected by a 2007 pipeline rupture, a tunnel would be a better option.

However, he said there remains other significant issues including what would happen to oil in the tunnel if there was a leak, slope stability on Burnaby Mountain and pipeline integrity during a big earthquake.

Poll finds rising opposition in B.C. to Kinder Morgan mega-pipeline proposal

Opposition to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has risen since the beginning of the year, a poll suggests.

Opposition has grown by six points since January (from 42 per cent to 49 per cent opposed) with women and young people (18 to 34) most opposed, according to a the Insights West poll released Wednesday.

Forty-two per cent favoured the project and 10 per cent weren’t sure.

Among women, 56 per cent opposed the proposed expansion, while 72 per cent of young people opposed it.

Support is highest among men (52 per cent) and British Columbians 55 and over (55 per cent).

In the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, most residents (51 per cent) are opposed to the project, while roughly two-in-five (38 per cent) support it, the poll found.

As well, 82 per cent of British Columbians are aware of the proposed expansion, with 77 per cent describing themselves as “very familiar” or “somewhat familiar” with the project.

“There was a moment at the start of the year when more people were coming on board (Kinder Morgan) as something that was positive,” Mario Canseco, vice-president of public affairs at Insights West, said on Wednesday.

He said the poll shows a “significant shift” in the way British Columbians are analyzing the project with opposition among women increasing markedly.

As for the strong opposition among the young, Conseco said: “There’s always been a level of connectivity from the youngest of B.C. residents on issues related to the environment. And with something like this, the numbers are really off the chart.”

However, Canseco noted there’s a lot of people still on the fence and that they could move.

“I would argue (the rising opposition) has to do with more activity at the municipal level. Both Burnaby Mayor (Derek) Corrigan and Vancouver Mayor (Gregor) Robertson have talked about this within the guidelines of climate change. How will this help us meet our targets down the road?”

Both cities are outspoken in their opposition to the Kinder Morgan proposal.

The survey was released as Kinder Morgan considers seeking orders from the National Energy Board to access land to test a new tunnel route under Burnaby Mountain for its pipeline, a sign of how contentious the $5.4-billion project is in Burnaby.

The company, which said the City of Burnaby is preventing it from going onto city lands and doing the necessary geotechnical work to determine if tunnelling is possible, proposes to triple capacity of the pipeline to nearly 900,000 barrels a day by building a second pipeline along a similar route. It would open new markets in Asia for Alberta oilsands bitumen.

Corrigan said this week that Burnaby would fight an order with the NEB, adding that the city has made it clear it opposes the pipeline.

In May, Vancouver joined a long list of municipal governments unhappy with the proposal to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The online study conducted from May 22 to May 28 among 771 British Columbians with an expected margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Activists say police drew guns during ‘No Pipelines’ graffiti raid

David P. Ball
Police confirmed they raided the East Vancouver home of four activists this week, but would not comment on residents’ allegations that two of 16 officers pointed handguns at residents during a search related to “No Pipelines” graffiti.

The Vancouver Police Department said it executed a search warrant at the Parker Street house on Tuesday morning, taking four residents into custody. It did not confirm how many officers were involved.

According to a warrant left behind on the kitchen table, officers were searching for “graffiti vandalism paraphernalia” — likely a reference to spray-painted slogans against bitumen and natural gas pipelines that have defaced walls and post boxes in the neighbourhood in recent years.

The raid came as the federal government is poised to announce its final decision on the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline. First Nations and environmental groups have vowed to block the project from reaching the B.C. coast. But the use of graffiti has divided anti-pipeline activists, many of whom draw the line at civil disobedience, others at lawful protest tactics.

“Safety is our priority and that includes the safety of officers who are involved in this aspect of police work,” VPD spokesman Const. Brian Montague said in an email, when asked about the firearm allegations. “Officers are not required to unnecessarily risk their personal safety.

“Every search is different, every search has varying levels of risk and in every search we have various tools for entry and protection available to us. In potentially dangerous situations, such as entering premises where there are always many unknown factors, drawing of a sidearm and having it ‘ready’ is one of those options.”

One of the residents detained but not charged Tuesday was Gord Hill, an outspoken Kwakwaka’wakw nation artist and activist.

“We heard yelling outside our house, we looked out window and we could see cops on the sidewalk,” Hill said, using a friend’s phone as his was confiscated.

“Me and my girlfriend came downstairs, as we entered our living room, there was a man in plainclothes with a pistol pointing towards us. It was a nine-millimetre pistol sidearm. He said, ‘Get down on the ground’… They pointed it right at us, at our centre mass.”

He said that the suspect named on the warrant left on the table faced six counts of mischief under $5,000, but was released mid-afternoon after being interrogated about the spray-painted “No Pipelines” slogans by members of the VPD’s graffiti task force.

“No Pipelines” graffiti has vandalized landmarks in East Vancouver since at least 2009, drawing criticism from moderate activists concerned it may tarnish the image of pipeline opponents or spark a crackdown by authorities.

Among the critics is Ben West, tar sands campaigner with ForestEthics Advocacy, which supports civil disobedience and other forms of protest but not vandalism. He admitted he is “not the biggest fan” of the spray painted slogans, but sees them as a sign of angst and frustration over perceptions the government isn’t listening.

“In many political and social movements over the years, there’s been graffiti of all kinds. There is a legitimate space for street art, but it’s a shame if people are doing more harm than good,” he said.

“When people cover beautiful murals and people’s vehicles with ‘No Pipelines,’ I’m not sure it gets more people on board. But that said, to see this kind of heavy-handed response to at most an act of vandalism seems pretty extreme.”

Hill said that his blog Warrior Publications and the political organizing of the home’s inhabitants would have made them “known to police, they know what elements are in our household.”

“Considering they used graffiti charges to do an armed entry into our house, when there was no evidence of violence associated with the investigation… it’s definitely politically motivated,” he said.

Hill said that the raid did not surprise him, considering the federal government’s launch of an Integrated National Security Enforcement Team to protect oilsands infrastructure in 2012, made up of RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and local police forces.

The VPD’s Montague referred to Hill’s account of the events as “colourful” and added that in the case of most home search warrants, “an attempt is first made to request all of the occupants exit the home and surrender themselves to officers outside before entering.

“Unfortunately this search is part of an ongoing investigation and we would be unable to provide further details at this time,” he said.

David P. Ball is a staff reporter at The Tyee. Follow him on Twitter @davidpball.

Pipeline debate hits local streets with Kinder Morgan, Spectra spats

A pair of skirmishes over access for pipeline companies to landowners’ properties in the Lower Mainland suggests the debate over Canada’s energy future is washing up on local streets.

Today, we learned that Burnaby Council – long an outspoken opponent of Kinder Morgan’s plans to expand its TransMountain pipeline to a tanker facility in Burrard Inlet – is blocking the company’s access to Burnaby Mountain. In yet another proposed route change, Kinder Morgan is now mulling tunnelling through the mountain, for which it requires permits from the city.

Meanwhile, a group of local farmers has brought a countersuit against gas pipeline operator Spectra and its subsidiary Westcoast Energy. The claim, filed in BC Supreme Court last week, is in response to Spectra’s attempt to force its way through the courts onto Fraser Valley farmland in order to install new pipeline equipment – a step it resorted to after failing to negotiate mutually agreeable terms with landowners.

Both incidents foreshadow the future landscape of pipeline disputes, as they filter down to local streets, farms and backyards.

“Every inch of the way”
Despite Kinder Morgan’s claims of longstanding good relations with Burnaby, Mayor Derek Corrigan tells a very different story. Ever since it spilled oil in north Burnaby’s streets in 2007, Corrigan and council have been wary of Kinder Morgan. Now, with plans to triple the flow of Alberta bitumen through the community, Burnaby’s municipal leaders are upping the ante. “We’re fighting them every inch of the way,” Corrigan told The Vancouver Sun.

We’ve made it clear we are opposed to the pipeline, and they’ve made it clear they want to impose it on us whether we want it or not.
Now the company says it’s prepared to take the extraordinary step of going over the city’s head to the National Energy Board, which in rare cases can trump municipal authority over such matters. The move can hardly improve relations with Burnaby, so it looks increasingly like we’re in for a long, nasty battle in the trenches of a local community.

Existing pipeline damaged soil, hinders farming
Meanwhile, in the Fraser Valley, farmers claim that the old Westcoast Energy pipeline, which carries gas from northeast BC to the Lower Mainland, has violated the terms of its easement. They claim the pipeline has:

Damaged soils
Increased soil temperature, leading to crop mutation
Segmented harvesting, which raises costs to unfeasible levels
Wrought other constraints on harvesting
They further claim that Westcoast has failed to provide adequate compensation for these impacts – all of which add up to a breach of the original terms of the easement, meaning the company has forfeited its right to further access.

The landowners are seeking an injunction to block Westcoast and its agents from accessing their properties until these historical impacts to their land have been rectified.

The NEB’s big stick
While the above dispute is playing out in BC’s courts, the National Energy Board is being asked to intervene in the Burnaby matter, marshalling special federal powers it holds for such situations.

The NEB may wield a big stick for “resolving” local disputes on the land – but it should carefully consider the impact of using it. The Board’s recommendation of the proposed Enbridge pipeline, despite some 96% opposition – through the thousands of official submissions and public comments during the review process – has irked everyone from citizens to expert engineers to scientists, 300 of whom recently called out the panel for its unscientific reasoning.

Early on, the NEB review of Kinder Morgan’s project has already met with similar criticism for rejecting many of the applicants who sought to contribute to the process. Local NDP MP Kennedy Stewart has called out the review panel repeatedly for frustrating public participation and giving Kinder Morgan special treatment.

Backlash brewing
We’re starting to see a backlash on the ground in local communities who want to exercise their own democratic say on these issues – including Kitimat’s recent plebiscite, which rejected the proposed Enbridge pipeline. Judging by the considerable resources and boots on the ground Enbridge invested in its losing campaign there, pipeline companies are wary of the power local communities can wield, even where the law is not technically on their side.

In communities like the Hazeltons and the Kispiox Valley in northwest BC, local landowners and First Nations are getting riled up over TransCanada and Spectra’s attempts to push through gas pipelines bound for LNG terminals on the coast.

With municipal elections looming around the province, we can expect to see these energy issues play out on an increasingly local level. Alberta energy companies dominated campaign funding on both sides of BC’s recent provincial election. Now watch for Kinder Morgan, Enbridge, TransCanada, Spectra and their emissaries to start investing heavily in municipal politics this year. But in doing so, they risk further polarizing the debate and galvanizing local opposition, as they’re already beginning to see.