Mount Polley Mine tailings pond breach called environmental disaster

A complete water ban affecting about 300 local residents is in effect after five million cubic metres of tailings pond wastewater from the Mount Polley copper and gold mine was released early Monday into Hazeltine Creek.

That’s an amount of water equivalent to about 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Local residents are calling it an environmental disaster.

UPDATE | Mount Polley Mine tailings pond dam stabilized, says Imperial Metals
RAW VIDEO | Aerial view of massive B.C. mine tailings spill
The waterways affected by the ban, which earlier included Quesnel Lake, Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Cariboo Creek, now also include the entire Quesnel and Cariboo river systems right up to the salmon-bearing Fraser River.

Authorities are asking people in the region to stop using water from both rivers.

Cariboo Regional Emergency Operations Centre map shows the debris area and the effluent path down Hazeltine Creek to Quesnel Lake. Quesnel Lake feeds into the Quesnel and Cariboo Rivers. Click here for an expanded map. (Cariboo Regional Emergency Operations Centre)

Those areas are sparsely populated and the Cariboo Regional District has not determined how many additional people have been affected.

The ban does not apply to people in Williams Lake or other towns along the Fraser River.

Authorities had previously said the small town of Likely, B.C., was not directly affected, because it was unclear how many people in the town used water from Quesnel Lake.

But since then, the Cariboo Regional District has decided to start delivering water to Likely because the main supplier of bottled water in the area, a small grocery store, could not keep up with the demand.

Effluent from copper-gold mine operations can include harmful chemicals such as arsenic, mercury, and sulphur.

On mobile? Click here to see video of swollen Hazeltine Creek

The district has not received any reports of injuries or people getting sick from drinking water.

After the breach, search and rescue crews removed campers from the immediate area, but shelters have not been provided for them, as they appear to have set up camp elsewhere without any problems, said Cariboo Regional District chair Al Richmond

The mine is located in central B.C. and is owned by the B.C. mining company Imperial Metals.

Testing to take 48 hours

Richmond says the waterways are being tested for contamination.

“I’m hoping that within 48 hours, we’re going to have details of what exactly the chemical analysis is,” said Richmond.

“Again, we’ve hit a holiday, so we’ll pull all the stops out to get that water analyzed, and I’m sure working with Interior Health and the Ministry of Environment, we’ll get that done as quickly as humanly possible.”

A video of Hazeltine Creek shot by Williams Lake RCMP shows the effluent-swollen rushing water of the normally placid creek. (Williams Lake RCMP)

A helicopter sweep of the area Monday showed a small amount of debris backed into Polley Lake. District officials said the main flow of slurry from the tailings pond went down Hazeltine Creek where it meets Quesnel Lake.

The slurry and an accompanying large pile of debris appear to be stationary. Hazeltine Creek, originally about 1.2 metres wide, is now almost 46 metres wide, washing out the Horsefly Likely Forest Service Road, known locally as Ditch Road.

The water use ban is currently limited to the Mount Polley region and does not extend to Williams Lake or Quesnel to the west.

Waste partially contained in creek

Richmond said most of the waste appears to have been contained in the creek, though some of the material has flowed into Quesnel Lake and Polley Lake.

“The majority of the slurry and the debris was contained at the mouth of the creek,” said Richmond. “While there has been some flow of that material into the lake, it hasn’t been substantial in consideration of the size of the spill.”

A rendering of the Mount Polley mine intended to show planned stockpile areas also shows the layout of the tailings pond in relation to Polley and Boot Jack lakes. (Imperial Metals Corporation)

The Horsefly-Likely Road, which joins Likely to the town of Horsefly, has been washed out, and authorities have closed it down until cleanup crews finish making repairs.

No property damage reports have been filed, though that may change with time, Richmond said.

The Ministry of Environment said it is working to determine how much environmental damage has been done.

“Further monitoring and testing of waterways will be required before the full extent of potential environmental impacts can be determined,” the ministry said in a written statement.

No other details have been released as authorities are still trying to determine the cause and extent of the breach.

A public information line has been set up at 250-398-5581, and updates will be posted to the district’s emergency operations Facebook page.

Why Economists Can No Longer Ignore Environmental Issues

The concept of environmental capital is throughly entrenched in policy dicussions but largely missing from mainstream economic curriculums. This column argues environmental externalities, climate change, and constraints on natural resources will constantly and deeply affect humankind’s future. The teaching of economics, especially growth economics, should stop ignoring them.

Shortly after the inception of the financial crisis, The Economist published an article on the split the crisis had brought about among macroeconomists and on the self-criticism some of the most renowned names of academia were applying to the discipline they have been teaching.

Economists such as Robert Barro, Bradford DeLong, Paul Krugman, and Willem Buiter questioned the ‘economic model’ they had long used as a reference tool to initiate crowds of students to the dismal science.

In Robert Barro’s view, the last 30 years of apprenticeship in American and English universities have been ‘a costly waste of time’. According to Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, most macroeconomics of the last 30 years runs the risk of having been ‘spectacularly useless at best, and positively harmful at worst’.

In many countries a debate broke out among university macroeconomics professors concerning the way the functioning of the economic system is presented to students and how economic problems are discussed in terms of causes and possible remedies.

Environmental Crisis And Macroeconomics

It took the deepest economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression to provoke an open debate amongst macroeconomists as to whether the ‘economic model’ taught in economics programmes is adequate.

We do hope it will not take the full realisation of the adverse consequences of climate change for the profession to come to its senses regarding environmental economics and the way natural capital is ignored in most macroeconomic work.

How many Superstorm Sandys will it take? By how much does the sea level have to rise? How many severe droughts and floods (and where) will it take before we come to the realisation that ignoring natural capital and its many externalities is simply bad economics?

The difference between the financial and environmental crisis is that we actually do have a good body of work that incorporates natural capital in models of growth. The problem is that it has remained to a large extent the restricted domain of environmental economists. The vast majority of us were able to get degrees in economics without ever reading a single paper on environmental economics or encountering natural capital as an argument in the production functions we studied. We did hear about Pigouvian taxes of course – and so figured the problem had been solved…

Environmental economists have long modified growth models to account for the role of the environment, thus revisiting the conditions that ensure growth, whether sustainable or sustained. Classical references are three 1974 articles by Partha Dasgupta and Geoffrey Heal, by William Nordhaus, and by Robert Solow (though Solow could be hardly defined an environmental economist). More generally, existing work is summarised in the survey chapters by Tasos Xepapadeas and by William Brock and Scott Taylor, both published in 2005. A more recent example that compares ‘traditional’ (brown?) and ‘green’ models of growth is a 2011 World Bank working paper by Stephane Hallegatte, Geoffrey Heal, Marianne Fay, and David Treguer.

As a result, environmental economists tend not to talk about economic growth per se, but about sustainable economic growth. When macroeconomists refer to sustainable growth, however, they usually mean sustained growth. When growth economists study the role of externalities in the growth process they almost exclusively refer to technological and knowledge externalities, and generally ignore environmental ones, even though the latter are likely to become largely more relevant in the coming decades. Even social capital, a relative newcomer in economics, appears better integrated into the growth literature.

Why such disregard for an issue that epitomises market failures from externalities, common property issues, and whose importance in both growth processes and human well-being is well documented? Sheer ignorance, likely – or a vague notion that innovation will come to the rescue. But why would markets generate the technology to solve a problem that combines both knowledge and environmental externalities?

The Teaching Of Economics

Here is a plea then for an urgent change in the economics curriculum, at both introductory and advanced levels. Growth chapters in today’s macroeconomics textbooks make no reference to the environment – whether as an input into the production function or as a limiting factor affecting the productivity of human or physical capital. This is the case, for example, of David Romer’s textbook, in its fourth edition in 2011; of Jean-Pascal Benassy’s 2011 volume; or those of the Chicago School economists, such as Nancy Stokey, Robert Lucas and Edward Prescott’s (1989) and of Lars Ljungqvist and Thomas Sargent (third edition, 2012); or even that of Neo-Keynesian economists such as Olivier Blanchard and Stanley Fischer (1989); or, finally, the very recent example of Michael Wickens (2012).

What is needed is not simply that more environmental economics be offered, but rather that the macroeconomics courses teach that natural capital is a key input into production processes, and that the environment – through massive mismanagement and a chronic failure to apply the basic principles of economics – has now become a serious macroeconomic problem, one that requires a profound and dramatic change in our model of growth. The development model of the industrial revolution (‘grow now and clean up later’) partly worked for a world of 1.5 million people; it simply won’t do for a global population approaching 9 billion.

If introducing the notion and role of the environment is necessary in macroeconomics teaching, it is a fortiori necessary when the student is presented with the theory and models of economic growth. There are a few economic growth textbooks written by well-known growth economists who are very active in that area. Going through the tables of contents, however, one is quickly disappointed. Neither the volume by Robert Barro and Xavier Sala-i-Martin (2003) nor the one by Daron Acemoglu (2008), for instance, consider explicitly the role of the environment in the process and in the perspectives of economic growth of a country. The same holds for the textbook by Olivier de la Grandville (2009), while Charles Jones and Dietrich Vollrath (2013) include a chapter on economic growth and natural resources, which is only a component of natural capital. Only the book by Philippe Aghion and Peter Howitt (2008) includes a chapter – the sixteenth – where the authors study ‘how new growth theories can integrate the environmental dimension, and in particular how endogenous innovation and directed technical change make it possible to reconcile the sustained growth objective with the constraints imposed by exhaustible resources or the need to maintain the environment’ (p.377).

Related: Bring Sustainable Development Back into Mainstream Economics!

Related: The World Needs an Era of Great Social Change: Jeffrey D. Sachs

Related: Economic Growth, Human Adversities: Who Is Responsible For Climate Solutions?

It is remarkable that all textbooks on which undergraduate and graduate students learn the fundamental of economic growth invariably include a chapter on the role of human capital and of technological change, but always miss addressing the issue of the environment and natural capital.

As we believe that it is time to stop teaching that economic growth is uniquely measured by the growth of the production of all goods and services, we also firmly believe that the time has come to teach – from the first steps – that economic growth cannot abstract from the explicit consideration of the constraints and opportunities imposed by the environment and natural exhaustible resources. It is clear from many recent assessments (including the recently released IPCC Fifth Assessment Report) that environmental externalities, constraints on natural resources, and climate change – largely a macro problem – will constantly and deeply affect mankind’s future. The teaching of economics can no longer ignore it.

By Carlo Carraro, Marianne Fay, Marzio Galeotti

© voxEU.org

Carlo Carraro is Professor of Environmental Economics and Econometrics at the University of Venice and Vice Provost for Research Management and Policy. Marianne Fay is Chief Economist of the Sustainable Development Network of the World Bank and co-Director of the World Development Report 2010 on Climate Change. Marzio Galeotti is Professor of Economics at the Università degli Studi di Milano where he teaches Microeconomics and Environmental and Energy Economics.

Greening Economics: It is time was first published on VoxEU.org.

City of Burnaby Challenges Constitutional Basis of NEB 73(a)

The City of Burnaby is challenging the constitutional implications of s. 73(a) of the National Energy Board Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. N-7 generally and specifically with respect to Kinder Morgan’s plan to survey and perform geotechnical studies of conservation and other lands on Burnaby Mountain — near the unstable and perilous Northridge.

Yedlin: Federal government’s policy shift only a stop-gap in dealings with First Nations

The federal government’s latest attempt to break the log jam that exists in obtaining First Nations’ consent for resource development in British Columbia looks more like a Hail Mary pass from a football playbook than a longlasting solution to what remains a very complex problem.

And once again – just as when the federal cabinet granted approval to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline – Monday’s announcement aimed at winning support for natural resource projects in B.C. was done via a government news release, without access to the cabinet minister involved.

Given the importance of resolving First Nations’ issues regarding resource development, that lack of opportunity for further clarity is nothing short of cowardly.

For those who have closely watched the Harper government’s modus operandi, however, the announcement was another example of its divide and conquer approach to governing – playing one side against another – instead of working toward a consensus on something as contentious as First Nations’ treaty rights.

This is a government, after all, that won’t hold First Ministers meetings. No one, therefore, should expect it would be willing to do something along those lines with First Nations groups.

While some are pleased the announced policy changes represent an attempt to address the barriers to agreements outside the treaty process – including interim agreements – the more likely result is that it will only serve to make things even more complicated, not to mention promote an atmosphere of oneupmanship.

There are 198 First Nations bands speaking 30 di erent languages in B.C., with 57 groups currently involved in a treaty negotiation process. It’s therefore di cult to envision real progress being made, in real time.

Monday’s announcement isn’t the only development muddying the waters in B.C.

The B.C. government previously showed it’s playing favourites in terms of the resource development projects it’s chosen to support when it signed a revenue-sharing agreement with two north coast First Nations in exchange for access to lands deemed important for the development of export access for liquefi ed natural gas terminals.

One surmises – particularly given the Grassy Lakes ruling handed down July 10 by the Supreme Court which upheld the rights of the Ontario government to permit industrial logging on traditional First Nations lands – the B.C. government could become similarly involved with respect to oilsands transportation infrastructure, but is choosing not to, for political reasons.

What was interesting about the LNG revenue agreement were the remarks of Metlakatla Chief Harold Leighton, who said the status quo for his people was no longer an option and that the nation wanted to be part of the opportunity presented by economic development in northwest B.C.

A similar message was heard this week in Alberta, when the Stoney Nakoda First Nation signed a joint venture agreement with a Chinese company – Huatong Petrochemical Holdings – to explore and develop oil and natural gas on the Stoney Nakoda lands.

Again, one of the chiefs involved said the deal was important because it brings the Stoney Nakoda Nation closer to self sufficiency.

It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that the underlying factor driving the signing of these agreements is that these First Nations leaders envision a better future for their members and are prepared to take the necessary steps to realize it.

Seeing other First Nations achieving a measure of economic success because they chose to sign an agreement or enter into a joint venture has the potential to be more effective in breaking the impasse around resource development and the building of transportation infrastructure.

Even better, involving First Nations leaders who have taken that leap of faith on behalf of their members to meet with those who are stalled would also be helpful. It defies logic to think taking a piecemeal approach will be at all timely. And last anyone checked, the clock is ticking. Fast.

What the federal government is proposing is nothing more than a stop-gap measure and the furthest thing from a long-term solution. It also didn’t come with any information about the resources – both dollars and people – the government was prepared to provide to achieve its objectives. What’s likely to happen is that certain projects will be put on a priority list. The question is what happens to those that aren’t deemed as critical, even though the issues are no less complicated? What’s really needed in all of this is a willingness (and commitment) to apply the law, which continues to be defined and refined through rulings such as what the Supreme Court has handed down in recent months. Just as parents often tell their children, there are no shortcuts, the same applies in this situation.

The federal government might want to reflect on that.

Deborah Yedlin is a Calgary Herald columnist dyedlin@calgaryherald.com

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Northern Gateway pipeline: First Nations outline constitutional challenges: Nine legal challenges launched

Several B.C. First Nations are launching at least nine court challenges to try to block Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, leaders revealed at a news conference this morning in Vancouver.

The First Nations leaders said they will argue the proposed pipeline and its recent approval by the federal government is a constitutional violation of their aboriginal land rights in their respective territories, particularly in light of the Supreme Court of Canada victory last month by the Tsilhqot’in First Nation.

Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said he was aware of at least nine separate legal actions being launched by various First Nations, as part of a co-ordinated effort to stop the project.

Phillip ruled out any sort of deal with Enbridge that could see the project go ahead for a share of the revenue or a cash payment.

Traditional chiefs from the Heiltsuk First Nation in Bella Bella lead a 2010 protest rally outside National Energy Board review panel hearings in Kitimat, B.C. on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project. (Robin Rowland/Canadian Press)

“When I am standing out on the land … shoulder to shoulder, it’s not going to be for a better deal. It’s going to be to protect the land and the environment,” said Phillip.

Ellis Ross, chief councillor for the Haisla, said compared with the efforts of the provincial government in B.C., the federal government has failed to properly consult with First Nations.

“That day and age of us being ignored is over. This is a tremendous waste of taxpayers’ money when we are all trying to build an economy.”

“It is a shame we have to go to court, not to establish case law, but to uphold existing case law,” said Ross.

Martin Louie, chief councillor of the Nadleh Whut’en, said the majority of British Columbians and many people across Canada support their fight to block the pipeline.

“We call this beautiful B.C., and that is what we want to keep it as,” said Louie.

Clarence Innis, acting chief councillor for the Gitxaala, said his First Nation filed a court action Friday.

“Canada has a duty to consult and that hasn’t happened. Gitxaala will protect its rights. Eighty per cent of our food comes from our territory,” said Innis.

Jessie Housty, councillor for the Heiltsuk, said her First Nation was applying for a judicial review of the federal approval of the project.

Peter Lantin, the president of the council of the Haida Nation, said they plan to challenge the project’s approval by the federal government, because the mandate of the joint review panel excluded meaningful consultation with First Nations.

Tsilqot’in ruling outlined aboriginal title

In last month’s landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the Tsilhqot’in First Nation’s aboriginal title over a wide area to the south and west of B.C.’s Williams Lake, which it considers its traditional territory.

The court also established what title means, including the right to the benefits associated with the land and the right to use it, enjoy it and profit from it.

However, the court declared that title is not absolute, meaning economic development can still proceed on land where title is established as long as it has the consent of the First Nation, or where the government can make the case that development is pressing and substantial.

The court also made it clear that provincial law still applies to land over which aboriginal title has been declared, subject to constitutional limit.

Other First Nations have also been quick to push forward their claims on traditional lands in light of the ruling.

The Gitxaala First Nation, with territory on islands off the North Coast, have already announced its own plans to file a lawsuit in the Federal Court of Appeal challenging the Northern Gateway pipeline.

Last week the hereditary chiefs of the Gitxsan First Nations served notice to CN Rail, logging companies and sport fishermen to leave the 33,000 square kilometres they claim as their territory along the Skeena River by Aug. 4.

And the Kwikwetlem First Nation also raised the ruling in its claim to title of all lands associated with the now-closed Riverview Hospital in Metro Vancouver along with other areas of its traditional territory.

Kinder Morgan Wants Access to Conservation Lands on Burnaby Mountain

Kinder Morgan has gone to the National Energy Board in hopes of surveying Burnaby Mountain for its latest route for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, something the city is opposing.

On Friday, July 25, Kinder Morgan’s lawyer wrote the National Energy Board, arguing why the company should be allowed to survey Burnaby Mountain, citing the National Energy Board Act. Also on July 25, Kinder Morgan formally applied to the City of Burnaby to survey the land with full expectation of rejection, citing a NOW article where Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said the request would be denied. The mountain area in question is a city-owned conservation area, and Corrigan has already vowed not to let the company have access. Kinder Morgan wants to tunnel or drill through it to connect a new pipeline from the tank farm to the Westridge Marine Terminal. The company needs to drill two boreholes on the mountain and one just off of North Road as part of the initial work to see if the new route is feasible. The company also wants to install a helicopter-landing pad on the mountain to bring in the drill rig.

NEB spokesperson Sarah Kiley said the City of Burnaby has until Friday to comment on Trans Mountain’s position.

“We’re going to hear from everybody, then we’ll make a ruling on our letter from Trans Mountain,” she told the NOW.

Kiley explained that Kinder Morgan has not actually asked the NEB to grant access to the mountain; the company is arguing it already has the right, according to the act.

“The company could have asked for an order (for access), but they didn’t. All they asked for is confirmation in their right to access the land,” she added, after talking with her lawyer.

Kiley said the NEB has dealt with similar situations before.

“It’s not super common, but we have had them,” she said. “The board has granted orders like this in the past.”

The NOW reached Corrigan for comment, but he hadn’t seen the letter or the application, as he was also on vacation.

“They’ll be given the due process. The choice will be made whether staff agree or disagree,” Corrigan said. “I anticipate they won’t agree with it.”

Corrigan also said the city will respond to the NEB.

“I imagine we will comment to them, … that we will make a response,” he said. “It’s difficult time of the year. Council is off for the bigger part of August. … I’m going to have to try to deal with it while I’m away.”

Kinder Morgan switched its route preference to Burnaby Mountain in April. On July 15, the National Energy Board extended the hearing by seven months so the company could conduct additional studies and provide more information on the new route.

© Burnaby Now

Yet Another Kinder Morgan pipeline route

The City of Burnaby is blasting Kinder Morgan for yet another route change for the proposed pipeline, but the oil company and the National Energy Board say the path is nothing new.

On July 29, the mayor’s office issued a press release criticizing the company for flip flopping on the pipeline route, after Kinder Morgan indicated the secondary route option for the Westridge neighbourhood is down Cliff Avenue.

“By changing their route proposal yet again, Kinder Morgan is continuing to demonstrate its complete lack of concern and respect for the tremendous impact of their proposals on the lives of Burnaby citizens,” said Mayor Derek Corrigan in the news release.

This “new” alternative route is Kinder Morgan’s second choice if the company can’t drill or tunnel through Burnaby Mountain. This same Cliff Avenue route, however, was Kinder Morgan’s original preferred choice when the company filed its application to the National Energy Board last December. It wasn’t until April that the company announced it would prefer the Burnaby Mountain route instead, mainly to avoid opposition from residents who didn’t want the pipeline in their neighbourhood.

The Cliff Avenue option would start at the Burnaby Mountain tank farm, head down Burnaby Mountain Parkway and then down Hastings, before turning right onto Cliff Avenue, then it would cut through backyards on Northcliffe Crescent before connecting to the Westridge Marine Terminal, where tankers fill up with crude.

The city’s criticism came after Kinder Morgan filed some documents with the National Energy Board, stating they had accidently omitted the alternative Cliff Avenue route in their previous paperwork.

“The NEB must lose confidence in them,” Corrigan told the NOW. “The way they see how they handled this application, if this application is any indication of the work they want to do, … then we have every right to be concerned.”

Kinder Morgan’s Carey Johannesson explained the Cliff Avenue route is nothing new, and has always been under consideration, first as the preferred and then as the secondary option.

NEB spokesperson Sarah Kiley said the Cliff Avenue alternate route was already filed with the board on June 10, but the errata was issued for a later omission.

“That’s the way I’m reading it,” she said. “It appears to be they already filed it.”

© Burnaby Now

Chief blasts Harper for pushing oil pipeline, blatantly ignoring climate change

The chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band south of Kamloops, B.C., whose territory is crucial to the $5.4-billion Kinder Morgan expansion project, wrote a strongly worded letter to the Prime Minister today about his “serious reservations” about the project.

Kinder Morgan’s pipeline recently spilled 12 barrels of oil in June 2013 on the Aboriginal territory, in the province’s interior.

Chief Aaron Sam gives a sharp critique of Prime Minister Harper’s lack of policies to address climate change, and said First Nations near Alberta’s oil sands need more meaningful consultation in light of the environmental destruction on their territory.

Kinder Morgan owns a pipeline that has transported oil from Alberta to Burnaby for 60 years. It is now is applying to the federal government to twin the pipeline, to increase the oil flow from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day.

The project would increase the number of oil tankers in the Vancouver area from 60 per year, to more than 400, said the company.

Read the chief’s full letter below:

July 30th, 2014

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P. Prime Minister of Canada
Langevin Block,
Ottawa, Ontario

K1A 0A2

Prime Minister,

My name is Aaron Sam and I am the elected Chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band, part of the Nlaka’pamux Nation. We are located outside of Merritt, B.C. in the heart of our traditional territory in the southern interior of British Columbia. As you may know, the Kinder Morgan pipeline currently runs through our Lower Nicola Indian Band reserve. One of the decisions our community has to make this next year is whether we will agree to the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline through our Indian reserve and traditional territory.

I am addressing this open letter to you because many in our community have serious reservations about the Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline proposal. In this letter, I am not addressing specific impacts or concerns on LNIB lands and our traditional territory; I am addressing broader impacts that affect Canadians and the natural environment.

Many of us at Lower Nicola Indian band are very much concerned that your government hasn’t taken any real steps to address climate change. For us to even consider approving the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline through our territory, it is imperative that the Government of Canada take immediate, real steps to attack climate change in a meaningful way.

In addition, we do not support the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline because your government has not done enough to regulate the oil sands and extract resources in an environmentally sustainable way. We believe that your government should initiate a meaningful dialogue with the First Nations and others who are affected by the extracting, processing and transportation of bitumen from oil sands across Alberta and British Columbia.

We also do not support the proposed project because of the possibility of an oil spill in the Salish Sea. While we know the likelihood of a bitumen spill could be relatively low, we believe it is still a risk not worth taking.

Many Canadians, including Nlaka’pamux people, are dependent on a healthy ocean and healthy salmon. If there ever was a large oil spill in the Salish Sea, it could decimate our salmon and our healthy ocean waters for generations. Although our traditional territory is located in the interior of British Columbia, our members and families still rely significantly on wild salmon as their main food source. We see our interests being compromised by such an oil spill. In addition, such potential decimation of salmon population would have a devastating cascading effect on most other living things in our traditional territory.

If the Government of Canada doesn’t take serious steps to address the above mentioned issues while engaging First Nations in a meaningful way, we will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to support the proposed pipeline expansion through our traditional territory.

Since 2006, your government has revised and weakened many environmental laws and policies dealing with pollution, bio-diversity degradation, greenhouse effect of gas emissions and climate change. You have also made significant budget cuts at Environment Canada and other Federal government departments, leading to criticism that undermines their ability to enforce remaining and weaker environmental laws in any credible way. The restrictions placed upon the ability of government scientists to speak to the public and the media also strengthens criticism that you are trying to limit the debate on environmental issues.

As you have seen in the Supreme Court of Canada Tsilhqot’in decision, it is vital that First Nations are sitting at the table when there is any dialogue about natural resource development in this country. As you know, a genuine process of consultation and accommodation must take place before First Nations can consent to natural resource development projects.

We believe that Canada needs to develop a National Energy Strategy to move forward in a way that benefits everyone (not just a few). In order to accomplish this, I suggest that the Government of Canada spearheads a collaborative initiative where First Nations, communities affected by energy development, those concerned about the environment, academics, energy industry, business leaders, and representatives from the three levels of government engage in the development of this strategy. In order to be effective, the contribution of all involved must be recognized and valued. A National Energy Strategy will help us find creative and effective ways to have a more sustainable and diverse economy, socially relevant for all Canadians today and in the future, and mindful of the impact that the production, transportation and consumption of energy (especially from fossil fuel sources) has on the environment.

In spite of the reservations above mentioned, we are prepared to meaningfully engage in a genuine national conversation with other stakeholders in shaping Canada’s National Energy Strategy. Accordingly, I hereby volunteer my energy and commitment to work with you on such important initiative. Please let me know how I can help.

Sincerely,
(Original Signed by Chief Aaron Sam) Chief Aaron L. Sam
Lower Nicola Indian Band

Cc: BC First Nations & First Nations Organizations & Western Canada press.