Despite Kinder ruling, NEB wants pipeline emergency response plans made public

The National Energy Board wants companies in Canada to make their emergency response plans public for existing pipelines, even though it has ruled Kinder Morgan can keep its plans secret from British Columbians.

“Our chairman is not very happy. Canadians deserve to have that information,” said Darin Barter, a spokesperson for the NEB.

“There’s a public will for that information, and industry needs to find a way to make it public.”

Companies are not required to disclose their emergency response plans under Canadian law. Barter said the board is not calling for a legislative change, but for a commitment from industry to be more transparent.

He said chairman Peter Watson sent a letter on Feb. 5 about the issue to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. A spokesman for the association said it received the letter and will be discussing how to meet the NEB’s expectations.

But during a conference call on Feb. 20 Kinder Morgan maintained it is not required to release further details of its emergency response plan after the NEB agreed that sensitive security details could be at risk.

Details of the company’s spill response plan in Washington State have been publicly posted online.

The decision to keep the plans secret in B.C. has prompted the provincial government to call for more transparency around Kinder Morgan’’s ability to respond to a potential oil spill. The proposed $5.4-billion Trans Mountain expansion would twin the pipeline and triple the capacity for Alberta oil intended for Asian markets.

Ian Anderson, President of Kinder Morgan Canada, addressed the issue on Friday.

““National security and public safety reasons made it prudent to keep aspects of the plan confidential and private,”” he said.

But Green MLA Andrew Weaver thinks the company should fully disclose the details of its plans. Especially, he said, considering that Washington State–where sections of the Trans Mountain pipeline cross into–already has a much more detailed plan than B.C.

““I do not understand what the security element is,”” he said, “If it’s okay for the US to have the full version, I don’t know why B.C. can’t have it?””

Still, Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former senior intelligence officer with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), said security is a concern.

Information about valve locations and access points could fall into the hands of environmental extremists, who could potentially use it for sabotage, he said. He believes the The NEB was right to keep aspects of the emergency plan a secret.

Acts of sabotage have occurred in the past, said Mr. Juneau-Katsua, citing incidents like the 2008 bombings that targeted gas pipelines near Dawson Creek, B.C.

“If someone lost their life because an extremist wanted to demonstrate against a pipeline–that would be absolutely unacceptable,”” he said.

Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, who works with the Washington State Department of Ecology, said that state officials discussed the security concerns associated with publicly available plans, but ultimately ruled on the side of transparency.

“Pipeline advocates hold us up as an example that others should follow,”” she said, “”but industry gets uncomfortable with the level of information we make available.””

Mr. Juneau-Katsuya, who believes pipelines do pose security concerns, was shocked to hear that Washington State makes their plans public.

““I’’m very surprised,”” he said, ““They might actually expose themselves as a target.””

The NEB will make a decision next January about whether the Trans Mountain pipeline should be approved. The federal government will then make a final decision approximately three months after.

With a report from The Canadian Press

Mulcair: Anti-Terrorism Bill’s Wording Makes It Easier For Government To Spy On Foes

OTTAWA – Information-sharing measures in proposed anti-terrorism legislation are so broadly worded they would allow the government to spy on its political foes, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says.

Mulcair took exception Tuesday to the bill’s mention of interference with infrastructure or economic stability as activity that undermines the security of Canada.

The wording is sufficiently vague to permit a Canadian Security Intelligence Service investigation of anyone who challenges the Conservatives’ social, economic or environmental policies, the Opposition leader said during the daily question period.

“What’s to stop this bill from being used to spy on the government’s political enemies?”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismissed the suggestion, telling the House of Commons the NDP had entered the realm of conspiracy theory. “That’s what we’ve come to expect from the black helicopter fleet over there.”

The bill introduced late last month would give CSIS power to disrupt suspected terror plots, thwart financial transactions and covertly interfere with radical websites.

The legislation would also relax the sharing of information about activity that undermines the security of Canada — “a new and astonishingly broad concept,” law professors Craig Forcese and Kent Roach wrote in an analysis published Tuesday.

It comes close to authorizing a “total information awareness”” approach to security and in that sense “we consider it a radical departure from conventional understandings of privacy,” say the authors.

Even as it erodes privacy, the bill fails to learn from the lessons of two federal commissions of inquiry that documented the effects of uncontrolled information-sharing on Arab-Canadians, including Ottawa’s Maher Arar, who were imprisoned and tortured in Syria, the national security experts say.

Government claims that existing watchdogs will provide a check against these powers are not convincing, Forcese and Roach conclude.

The bill says activity that undermines Canadian security does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.

Still, some environmentalists wonder if the new legislation will authorize CSIS to step up surveillance of activists.

Green party Leader Elizabeth May noted some demonstrations are not lawful but also do not involve violence–for instance a rally to block an oil pipeline.

“Will non-violent, peaceful activities be exempted from this act?” she asked Tuesday in the House.

Harper said the bill was “designed to deal with the promotion and actual execution of terrorist activities, and not other lawful activities.”

Keith Stewart, an energy campaigner for environmental group Greenpeace Canada, has difficulty accepting government assurances–particularly given the recent leak of an RCMP intelligence assessment entitled Criminal Threats to the Canadian Petroleum Industry.

The January 2014 assessment, initially obtained by Montreal’s La Presse newspaper, says those within the movement willing to “go beyond peaceful actions primarily employ direct action tactics, such as civil disobedience, unlawful protests, break-and-entry, vandalism and sabotage.”

The bill strengthens CSIS powers without an accompanying increase in oversight–a recipe for misuse, Stewart said. He also worries about where the fruits of investigations will end up.

“I don’t want tax dollars paying for Canadian spies to conduct what would otherwise be illegal surveillance on environmental groups and then passing this on to the oil industry.”

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‘Anti-petroleum’ movement a growing security threat to Canada, RCMP say

The RCMP has labelled the “”anti-petroleum”” movement as a growing and violent threat to Canada’’s security, raising fears among environmentalists that they face increased surveillance, and possibly worse, under the Harper government’s new terrorism legislation.

In highly charged language that reflects the government’’s hostility toward environmental activists, an RCMP intelligence assessment warns that foreign-funded groups are bent on blocking oil sands expansion and pipeline construction, and that the extremists in the movement are willing to resort to violence.

“There is a growing, highly organized and well-financed anti-Canada petroleum movement that consists of peaceful activists, militants and violent extremists who are opposed to society’’s reliance on fossil fuels,”” concludes the report which is stamped “”protected/Canadian eyes only”” and is dated Jan. 24, 2014. The report was obtained by Greenpeace.

““If violent environmental extremists engage in unlawful activity, it jeopardizes the health and safety of its participants, the general public and the natural environment.””

The government has tabled Bill C-51, which provides greater power to the security agencies to collect information on and disrupt the activities of suspected terrorist groups. While Prime Minister Stephen Harper has identified the threat as violent extremists motivated by radical Islamic views, the legislation would also expand the ability of government agencies to infiltrate environmental groups on the suspicion that they are promoting civil disobedience or other criminal acts to oppose resource projects.

The legislation identifies “activity that undermines the security of Canada” as anything that interferes with the economic or financial stability of Canada or with the country’-s critical infrastructure, though it excludes lawful protest or dissent. And it allows the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service to take measures to reduce what it perceives to be threats to the security of Canada.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has already launched challenges to the RCMP complaints commission and the Security Intelligence Review Committee–which oversees the Canadian Security Intelligence Service–over alleged surveillance of groups opposed to the construction of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in B.C.

“”These kind of cases involving environmental groups–or anti-petroleum groups as the RCMP likes to frame them–are really the sharp end of the stick in terms of Bill C-51,”” said Paul Champ, a civil liberties lawyer who is handling the BCCLA complaints. “”With respect to Bill C-51, I and other groups have real concerns it is going to target not just terrorists who are involved in criminal activity, but people who are protesting against different Canadian government policies.””

RCMP spokesman Sergeant Greg Cox insisted the Mounties do not conduct surveillance unless there is suspicion of criminal conduct.

“”As part of its law enforcement mandate, the RCMP does have the requirement to identify and investigate criminal threats, including those to critical infrastructure and at public events,”” Sgt. Cox said in an e-mailed statement. “”There is no focus on environmental groups, but rather on the broader criminal threats to Canada’s critical infrastructure. The RCMP does not monitor any environmental protest group. Its mandate is to investigate individuals involved in criminality.””

But Sgt. Cox would not comment on the tone of the January, 2014, assessment that suggests opposition to resource development runs counter to Canada’’s national interest and links groups such as Greenpeace, Tides Canada and the Sierra Club to growing militancy in the “”anti-petroleum movement.””

The report extolls the value of the oil and gas sector to the Canadian economy, and adds that many environmentalists “”claim”” that climate change is the most serious global environmental threat, and “”claim”” it is a direct consequence of human activity and is “”reportedly”” linked to the use of fossil fuels. It echoes concerns first raised by Finance Minister Joe Oliver that environmental groups are foreign-funded and are working against the interests of Canada by opposing development.

“”This document identifies anyone who is concerned about climate change as a potential, if not actual–the lines are very blurry ––‘anti-petroleum extremist’’ looking to advance their ‘‘anti-petroleum ideology,'”’” said Keith Stewart, a climate campaigner for Greenpeace.

““The parts that are genuinely alarming about this document are how it lays the groundwork for all kinds of state-sanctioned surveillance and dirty tricks should C-51 be passed,”” he said.

A spokeswoman for Public Safety Canada said Bill C-51 does not change the definition of what constitutes a threat to Canadian security, and added CSIS does not investigate lawful dissent.

“”CSIS has a good track record of distinguishing genuine threats to the security of Canada from other activities,”” Public Safety Canada’’s Josée Sirois said. “”The independent reports of the Security Intelligence Review Committee attest to CSIS’’s compliance with the law.””