Pacific Trail Pipeline Protest

I got a call from Ruth at about 7:45 pm. I was heading into a Mozart concert at the Chan Centre. Ruth said, “Come on down to the Chevron Refinery. Three people are chained to the gate, protesting Chevron’s part in dismantling the First Nations protest camps blocking the construction of the Pacific Trail gas pipeline.”

I sat through the Mozart Horn Concerto and the Ravel Mother Goose Suite. Then I had to leave.

I got to the Chevron Refinery on the Burnaby Waterfront (near the Kinder Morgan tanker loading dock) for the final act. Ruth told me that the police were going to cut through the chains and bicycle U-lock and arrest the three protesters.

There were about 30 protesters and around 20 RCMP. As I approached the gate a guard said “You’re trespassing on private property.” I could see that 30 protesters were already well onto private property, so I just kept walking, and joined them: in my suit and tie.

Long story short. The three got cut loose and arrested for breaking the injunction. As Betty Krawczyk points out, injunctions pit the prisoners against the court system, which was not the target of the protest. But that’s why Betty got a ten month sentence for sitting down in front of a bull dozer at Eagle Ridge Bluffs. Harriet Nahannee also went to jail, got pneumonia, and died soon after her release.

So what is this about?

The Pacific Trail is a pipeline route for fracked natural gas from B.C.’s northeast to Kitimat. Once this pipeline route, crossing the Rockies, is complete, it will be much easier for the Enbridge pipeline to follow the same, or nearby, pipeline right of way.

But isn’t natural gas the least carbon intensive fuel for the amount of energy created? And when it spills, it just evaporates into the air. All this is true, so natural gas has met with little opposition. But should it get a pass? I don’t think so because of the unresolved problem of “fugitive emissions” of methane in the process of recovering the natural gas.

What’s wrong with methane (CH4)? If you use the UN method of deriving CO2e, i.e. converting the Greenhouse Gas methane into CO2 equivalent terms, methane has about 23 times more powerful greenhouse effect than CO2 over 100 years. The problem is that during the first 20 years it has over 70 times more impact than CO2. I’m more worried about the next 20 years than the next 100, so I prefer the “70” over the “23” when comparing methane to CO2.

What is Methane?

Methane is the primary flammable portion of natural gas. Methane and natural gas are almost the same thing. Pure methane is odorless, and is abundant in coal. It’s the gas that causes the canary in the coal mine to croak. Fugitive emissions of methane in coal mining are also extremely high. There has been an academic tussle over fugitive emissions of methane in fracking since 2011. The latest report indicates that fugitive emissions of methane are still so high that the carbon footprint of fracked gas is about the same as coal. In other words, when you apply a full analysis of carbon intensity from production to consumption of fossil fuels, fracked gas and thermal coal are tied for worst.

Should the Pacific Trail gas pipeline get a free pass? No.

Thus the three people chaining themselves to the Chevron refinery gate. Chevron is a major partner of the Pacific Trail pipeline, and wants it built asap.

So the May 30 action deserves our support. The protesters were peaceful, and careful not to provoke the RCMP, when I was there. I believe there will be more blockades at the Chevron Refinery at the north foot of Rosser St., one block west of Willingdon.

I heard one of the three chained to the gate: “I am aboriginal, and this is aboriginal land. I am exercising my right as a First Nations person to sit on our land.” Nearby his wife nursed their baby.

All the best, Karl

Activists chained to Chevron’s Burnaby refinery in Pacific Trail Pipeline protest

Two activists have locked themselves to the gate of Chevron Canada Limited’s refinery in Burnaby.

Dan Wallace and Mia Nissen used chains and bike locks to secure themselves to metal posts, according to a news release issued this morning (May 30).

The activists “intend to stay until Chevron and their partners withdraw all permit applications and stop all construction on the Pacific Trail Pipeline project and are acting in solidarity with the Unist’ot’en Camp that is blockading the project’s path”.

The Pacific Trail Pipeline is part of a joint venture between Chevron Canada and Apache Canada Ltd. The 463-kilometre pipeline will deliver gas from Summit Lake to a liquefied-natural-gas plant in Kitimat.

“It’s time to stop the insane expansion of fossil fuel projects. If we look at the facts these projects don’t make any sense for the future; environmentally or economically. That’s why we’re locking down today; to show how these companies are holding us all hostage to a poisoned future. We might not get off our oil and gas addiction overnight, but it’s time to tell our government to fund alternative and renewable energy sources and take responsibility for our shared futures,” reads a statement from the activists.

Kinder Morgan Pipeline Expansion Designed to Carry Much More Oil

Robyn Allan
Trans Mountain would be built with room to largely increase export capacity.

Expect to see far more tankers in BC waters if Kinder Morgan decides to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline capacity to its ‘designed’ version. Photo by Rob Sinclair, Creative Commons licensed.

Kinder Morgan needs a social license to build its heavy oil pipeline. You would think the company would do everything possible to build the public’s trust. Instead, the Texas-based company’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is almost 50 per cent bigger than what we’ve been led to believe.

The company tells us their project would lead to an additional 540,000 barrels a day of oil sands diluted bitumen and 29 more Aframax oil tankers a month through the Salish Sea and Burrard Inlet. This is the “applied for” capacity in the company’s 15,000-page expansion application filed with the National Energy Board, and the capacity undergoing environmental assessment and public interest review.

The truth? The new pipeline is designed to carry an average of 780,000, not 540,000 barrels a day, almost half again of what’s in the application. Once complete, Trans Mountain’s system will be capable of carrying more than 1.1 million barrels a day of crude oil — 350,000 barrels a day on the 60 year-old original line and 780,000 barrels a day on the new pipeline.

In May 2012, the Tyee reported Trans Mountain’s twin could mean more than 1.1 million barrels a day of crude oil pumped through British Columbia into the densely-populated Lower Mainland, with most of it destined for export on oil tankers. The concern was raised again in March 2014 when it was revealed there is a loophole in the National Energy Board Act that oil companies rely on to avoid environmental assessment and public interest scrutiny.

Many more tankers needed

Section 52 of the NEB Act requires a public review and environmental assessment of “designated projects” as defined by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Section 52 covers the current Trans Mountain expansion because Kinder Morgan requires more than 40 kilometres of new land along the pipeline route. Later on, when Kinder Morgan decides to expand to its designed capacity, it won’t do so under Section 52 but under Section 58 of the NEB Act. Section 58 is meant to streamline the approval process and doesn’t trigger an environmental assessment or public interest review.

Kinder Morgan finally admitted the truth about its designed capacity earlier this month. The National Energy Board asked it do so in an information request sent to the company as part of the Section 52 review currently in process (see pages 457 to 464). Kinder Morgan told the NEB that “Trans Mountain has considered a theoretical future expansion scenario of 780,000 barrels per day average annual (sustainable) capacity on Line 2… The purpose of considering a future expansion case is to ensure that the pump station piping sizes, pump configurations and other design elements, selected for the currently proposed expansion, are appropriate for the higher capacity, and that physical space is available…” Translated, this means that the future potential expansion is built into Trans Mountain’s plans and related capital costs are included in the $5.5-billion construction budget filed with the regulator.

The oil tankers needed to ship it? There will very likely need to be many more than the 29 Aframax oil tankers a month Kinder Morgan talks about. Trans Mountain’s three feeder lines to the new marine berths will be able to service three Aframax oil tankers simultaneously, filling them within a 24 hour day. So, once future capacity is expanded, its either more Aframax tankers, or bigger tankers, or both.

Kinder Morgan has told its shareholders that the million-barrel per load Suezmax oil tankers could start to call at Westridge Terminal as soon as they dredge Burrard Inlet to make it wider. Dredging Burrard Inlet might be a few years away because of certain technical constraints but Kinder Morgan has stated publicly that the Port of Metro Vancouver is onside, with the dredging plan (see Page 9).

A clever game

When the National Energy Board asked Kinder Morgan to discuss the likelihood of its future expansions, Kinder Morgan was dismissive. The company informed the board that, “Trans Mountain cannot speculate on the likelihood of future capacity expansions.” This is a company that purports to be able to predict oil price increases to the cent every year for 20 years because of its expansion, but it can’t provide the regulator with an indication of the likelihood of future capacity expansions. Things that make you go hmmm.

Kinder Morgan knows its evasiveness is without consequence. The regulator is unlikely to push for a more concise answer. Even if it did, it would do nothing to expand the scope of the current environmental assessment and public interest review to include the system’s designed capacity and impact of increased tanker traffic. The board elects to assess “applied for,” not designed, capacity.

A similar situation arose during the Enbridge Northern Gateway project review. Northern Gateway’s oil pipeline is designed to ship 60 per cent more oil and its condensate pipeline 40 per cent more condensate than the capacity applied for in the application. This triggers 50 per cent more oil tanker traffic than the marine spill risk assessment considered. The Gitga’at First Nation filed a notice of motion and formally requested the regulator’s Joint Review Panel expand the scope of the environmental assessment to include the biophysical and human effects of the designed capacity of the project and the related oil tanker traffic.

The Panel told the Gitga’at, “the relief requested in the notice of motion relates to possible future expansion of the project… The proponent has not applied for, nor filed evidence that it will proceed with, any of the potential expansion scenarios it identified. As noted by Northern Gateway… an expansion scenario involving a throughput of 850,000 barrels per day is not part of the applied for Project. Any future expansion scenarios and associated facilities beyond the applied for Project would be the subject of future regulatory applications…”

It’s a clever game the regulator and pipeline operators play. They know full well subsequent applications mean Section 58 applications, and that Section 58 applications mean far less scrutiny, no mandated public review, and an extensive increase in diluted bitumen spill risk that is allowed to slip in under the radar un-assessed. If the National Energy Board really meant to protect the public interest, it would ensure designed capacity formed the scope of its review.

Read more: Energy, Environment,

Robyn Allan is an economist and intervenor in the Trans Mountain Expansion Project Environmental Assessment and Public Interest Review process. Find her previous stories here.

This coverage of Canadian national issues is made possible because of generous financial support from our Tyee Builders.

Oil Spill Response

During Question Period yesterday, Opposition Critics Katrine Conroy and Spencer Chandra Herbert asked the Minister of Environment about the province’s failure to ensure industry deals adequately with spills – including the jet fuel spill in Lemon Creek and the recent coal spill in Burnaby’s Silver Creek.


TUESDAY, MAY 27, 2014
Morning Sitting
Oral Questions


K. Conroy: Here’s some optimism that’s not working out. It has been ten months since a fuel truck spilled 33,000 litres of jet fuel into Lemon Creek in the Slocan Valley. Not only can fuel still be found; locals recently uncovered eight soiled booms stinking of fuel left in the creek. This is the entire problem with the B.C. Liberals’ approach to environmental cleanup. “Polluter pays” is meaningless if there is no ongoing supervision of the cleanup.

My question is to the Minister of Environment. What penalties will the company pay? What will they face for failing to properly clean up Lemon Creek?

Hon. M. Polak: While the ministry remains involved in monitoring and remediation that is being undertaken, nevertheless, the member knows that the matter is currently before the courts, and I have to be very cautious with respect to any commentary specific to the case.

Madame Speaker: Kootenay West on a supplemental.

K. Conroy: Residents are left with this mess. They’re bearing the ongoing costs of this spill. Not a dime of compensation has been paid to the organic farmers who lost their entire crops. There’s not a nickel for residents who still can’t drink their water, and there’s no environmental analysis. There are no people going out and watching. It’s before the courts, but there should be people out there working. There should be ministerial people working.
So much for polluter pays. The Slocan River Streamkeepers, which has a long history of monitoring the water quality of Slocan Creek and Lemon Creek, just did further testing, which showed that the water is still polluted from spill. Are we going to wait for the courts to be done before we’re going to clean up the pollution in that creek?

Again, to the Minister of Environment: if polluters pay, why do the people of Lemon Creek and the Slocan Valley continue to pay for this spill?

Hon. M. Polak: I know that this has been just an awful experience for the community in and around Lemon Creek. I can’t say enough about the community members and especially organizations like the Slocan River Streamkeepers and how they have participated and worked with us as a ministry. There is ongoing monitoring taking place and ongoing remediation.

Unfortunately, I can’t comment with any detail about this case, but I will say this. The principle of polluter pay is one that we are absolutely supportive of on this side of the House. To that end, we have just released the second land spills policy intentions paper for comment. I am pleased to say that the most recent federal announcement also included significant aspects of our own policy intentions around the principle of polluter pay, and we continue to advance that aggressively.


S. Chandra Herbert: Yet again, when it comes to the environment, we get all talk and no action from the B.C. Liberals. Eight booms, laden with jet fuel, found in Lemon Creek, left there for ten months. Who found them? Not the Ministry of Environment. No. Not the company that dumped the fuel in the creek. No. It was the citizens, left holding the bag because this government doesn’t pay attention to protecting the environment, and yet the spill still hasn’t been fully cleaned up.

My question to the Minister of Environment: if we can’t trust the B.C. Liberals to ensure that a spill from a single fuel truck is cleaned up properly, how can British Columbians have any faith that this government would act properly should we have an oil spill 10,000 times the size on our coast?

Hon. M. Polak: With respect to the Lemon Creek spill, there is ongoing monitoring that we are undertaking as the Ministry of Environment, ongoing remediation, together with organizations in the community.

Hon. M. Polak: With respect to the Lemon Creek spill, there is ongoing monitoring that we are undertaking as the Ministry of Environment, ongoing remediation together with organizations in the community. The member well knows that,

We have been the government in Canada leading with respect to not only land-based spills response but also research on marine spills response. That is why when the federal government released its most recent strategy with respect to spills in the marine environment — you know what they did? — they adopted the very same research materials that we had produced by asking Nuka Research to conduct the most thorough research with respect to marine spills ever undertaken on the coast of British Columbia.

That’s what this B.C. Liberal government has done, because we are standing strong on our five conditions.

Madame Speaker: Vancouver–West End on a supplemental.

S. Chandra Herbert: Yet again, talk, talk, talk while the gas is in the water. How is that action? That’s talk; that is not action. That is not leadership, unless you count leading in letting oil and gas stay in the water.

The recent coal spill. Let’s talk about another project that this government has bungled.

The recent coal spill in Burnaby’s Silver Creek — yet another example of the Liberals’ attempt to talk big and do nothing when it comes to protecting our air, land and waters.

The Liberals let the railway company that spilled the coal hire their own consultant to try to clean it up. Then when the government came back and took a look, they realized that no, the biologist said, the company’s action was inadequate, and wait a second. Oh, we’d waited so long that nothing could be done to actually collect the evidence to properly repair that stream, properly bring back the turtles, because the evidence had washed further down the creek and into the lake.

If the Liberals can’t even properly manage a coal spill or a gas spill, how are we ever going to trust them to manage an oil spill?

Hon. M. Polak: One of the unfortunate realities for the opposition is that they are unable to take a clear position with respect to how they are going to address resource development in this province.

On this side of the House we have taken action with respect to our five conditions, with respect to land-based spills response. Not just including hazardous materials like oil, but also in the matter of materials like coal, it is our government that has led on polluter-pay. It is this Ministry of Environment that has worked with rail companies, with the federal government, to ensure that the land-based spills response policy intentions paper reflects the best available science and response that we can produce in North America.

Horgan, Don’t Touch that Hard Hat!

For owners of Magnolia trees, spring is a heady season. On the west coast, the blooming of Magnolia flowers is a sure sign that we are shaking off the long, wet monotony of winter. They burst forth early with splashes of colour and a powerful scent, and then almost overnight you find yourself sweeping up petals that have browned and fallen to the ground, their decay redolent of a cheap toilet cleaner.

So it is with the provincial NDP.

There is never a good time to turn over the soft, dank mound of compost that, when disturbed, purports to offer not just loyal Opposition to the governing Socreds in Liberal clothing, but a viable alternative at the ballot box.

Having sleepwalked through an entire year after being humiliated by Christy Clark, the NDP has finally shown sufficient signs of life to have ditched dithering Dix and hitched hortatory Horgan to its broken wagon. It matters little whether John Horgan has signed on as a teamster whose job it is to drive the wagon, or as a mule to drag it. What the NDP needs is a wainwright, someone who knows to fix the infernal thing.

“We haven’t collectively sat down as a group and figured out where we go now,” Horgan told The Globe and Mail’s Justine Hunter after describing the time since last year’s election loss as a year-long “void.”

Well, if Horgan plans to fill that void with anything other than a vacuum, he would do well to start in a policy area that he should know something about: energy.

Tips for ‘real action’

He got off to a rippingly unoriginal start a few weekends back, when he put out a statement to coincide with a national day of action against Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project: “B.C.’s New Democrats are standing with communities and First Nations all across B.C. who are opposed to the Enbridge heavy oil pipeline. We know it would put our land, air and water, and northwest B.C.’s world-class outdoor recreation resources at risk… British Columbians are looking for a government with the vision to pursue new forms of energy to power our future. Premier Clark’s BC Liberals are not that government… They have abandoned any real action to fight climate change.”

True enough. But who hasn’t? What energy-producing jurisdiction in the world has actually had the jam to really step up and acknowledge and act upon the undeniable evidence that we are barreling towards utter climate catastrophe?

(News break as I write this: “The collapse of the Western Antarctica ice sheet is already under way and is unstoppable, two separate teams of scientists said on Monday” [New York Times]; meanwhile, “U.S. climate study raises concerns for B.C. [Globe and Mail]; to say nothing of recent and direr predictions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.)

Where might “real action” to fight climate change find a home with the NDP? Opposing Enbridge is easy, because the public’s antagonism towards it is so obvious that even the apparatchiks on Kingsway figure there is nothing to lose there.

But if the NDP claims to have a “vision to pursue new forms of energy to power our future,” then riddle me this:

• Why not also take a stand against Kinder Morgan’s plans to twin its pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby? Where was that in John Horgan’s “defend our climate” statement? Certainly the crowd at Sunset Beach saw Enbridge and Kinder Morgan as kindred evils, but Horgan, taking the same stance that Adrian Dix did, and then didn’t take last year, wants to wait for the outcome of an environmental impact review.

• Meanwhile, Horgan supports the LNG sector, but hedges by saying he wants to see a scientific review of groundwater impacts.

• Oh, and he’s not per se opposed to the building of Site C, the massive dam on the Peace River that would flood prime farmland and “cause significant adverse effects on fishing opportunities and practices for First Nations,” according to an environmental review panel that reported last week. Aboriginal fishing rights, as with hunting and trapping, are constitutionally protected and Site C’s effects on all of them, according to the review panel, “cannot be mitigated.”

• Meantime, I’d be curious to know what Horgan’s stance is on coal exports, and how coal fits into a provincial portfolio of “new forms of energy.” Because it just doesn’t.

And there’s the rub, eh?

Right now, B.C.’s economy is at least partially built on doing and making worse what Horgan claims he won’t, which is putting our land, air and water at risk. Added to which we are wholly complicit in aiding and abetting the export of our own and Alberta’s dirty fuels that exacerbate the climate risks globally.

Make BC a climate world leader

Horgan says the NDP hasn’t figured out “where we go now.”

I suppose he can try and out-hard-hat Christy Clark, and have the NDP go root around for some of its long-lost working-class street cred. But the Liberals have outfoxed the NDP and, however galling and illogical it may seem, have figured out how to speak for hard-working B.C. families and the good-paying industrial jobs that will keep them from all moving to Alberta, and how to lie to the rest of us.

Going down the same rat-hole as the Liberals — championing industrial development, but claiming to “balance” that against protecting the environment and respecting the rights of First Nations — is a sure way for the NDP to stay in the electoral wilderness.

The only distinctive, and frankly the only honest thing Horgan can do, is to start right now on planning how British Columbia becomes a world leader in the fight against climate change. That means saying no to Enbridge, no to Kinder Morgan, no to fracking, no to LNG exports, no to Site C, and no to expanding our coal exports. In fact, no to coal mining once and for all.

It might take longer that the current legislative term for the NDP to produce a viable plan for B.C.’s clean energy independence, and the regaining of our economic and social sovereignty that would come with that. But since there’s little likelihood the NDP will win an election in three years time with the tired tropes that have got it nowhere for half a generation now, why not spend the time in Opposition vigorously opposing our descent into climate chaos, and harnessing the NDP wagon to a world-leading strategy for a clean energy future? An actual one, not just another serving of petro pablum.

There will be plenty to say yes to along the way, all manner of incentives and opportunities to position B.C. as the best place to invest as more and more institutions follow the lead of Stanford University, which last week said it would divest any of its holdings in as many as 100 publicly traded companies for which coal extraction is the primary business.

British Columbians know the jig is up on our carbon-saturated economy. There is a real appetite, dare I say a craving for articulate, trustworthy, serious and disruptive leadership around this issue, which is the issue of our time and our place. Horgan’s first official event? To go to Western Stevedoring’s terminal in North Vancouver and don not just a hard hat, but steel-toed boots. Good thing about those boots, because without the courage to lead, John Horgan’s NDP seems locked and loaded for a long season aiming at its own foot.

Read more: Energy, BC Politics, Environment,

Unprecedented B.C. glacier melt seeps into U.S. climate change concerns

The mountains of British Columbia cradle glaciers that have scored the landscape over millennia, shaping the rugged West Coast since long before it was the West Coast.

But they’re in rapid retreat, and an American state-of-the-union report on climate change has singled out the rapid melt in British Columbia and Alaska as a major climate change issue.

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Huge Antarctic ice sheet collapsing

“Most glaciers in Alaska and British Columbia are shrinking substantially,” said the U.S. National Climate Assessment, released last week to much fanfare south of the border.

There are approximately 17,000 glaciers in British Columbia, including the Farnham Glacier, seen here in 2006, in the Purcell range near Radium, B.C. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

“This trend is expected to continue and has implications for hydropower production, ocean circulation patterns, fisheries, and global sea level rise.”

According to the report, glaciers in the region are losing 20 to 30 per cent of what is melting annually from the Greenland Ice Sheet, which has received far more worldwide attention.

That amounts to about 40 to 70 gigatons per year, or about 10 per cent of the annual discharge of the Mississippi River.

“The global decline in glacial and ice-sheet volume is predicted to be one of the largest contributors to global sea-level rise during this century,” the report said.

It is some of the fastest glacial loss on Earth. The cause: rising temperatures due to climate change.

“We’ve seen an acceleration of the melt from the glaciers,” said Brian Menounos, a geography professor at the University of Northern British Columbia and one of the scientists involved in cross-border, multi-agency research into glacial loss.

There are 200,000 glaciers on Earth, 17,000 of them in British Columbia. Another 800 are in Alberta.

In B.C., researchers are keeping a close eye on the Lloyd George Icefield west of Fort Nelson, the Castle Creek Glacier near McBride, the Klinaklini and Tiedemann glaciers in the Coast Mountains, and glaciers in the Columbia River Basin.

Early results suggest these glaciers are shedding 22 cubic kilometres of ice annually, or about 22 billion cubic metres of water. For comparison, an Olympic swimming pool contains about 2,500 cubic metres of water.

“When we start to look at some of these individual mountain ranges, we’re seeing some rates that are truly exceptional,” Menounos said.

‘We know what we need to do’

Similar loss is happening worldwide, and it is accelerating.

“Collectively start putting all of those numbers together, then there is the potential to raise sea level by something on the order of 30 to 40 centimetres from that ice,” he said.

‘Even 40 centimetres of sea level rise will cause annual flooding for 100 million people on the planet.’
– Brian Menounos, geography professor at the University of Northern British Columbia
The U.S. Geological Service estimates that the glacier namesakes of Glacier National Park in their portion of the Rocky Mountains will disappear by 2030.

Menounos predicts that the smaller glaciers in B.C. — in the Rocky Mountains and the Interior — will be mostly gone by the end of this century.

The effects will be far-reaching, research suggests.

Glacial water is a thermal regulator in mountain headwater streams, Menounos said. Their loss will affect water temperatures, fish and the annual snow pack. That will affect the water supply and agriculture.

There could be greater potential for flooding in wet seasons and drought in dry, a particular problem in B.C., which relies on hydroelectricity to meet its energy needs.

The glacial decline in western Canada and Alaska significantly contributes to sea level rise, said the U.S. report. That’s happening around the world and will only get worse, Menounos said.

“Even 40 centimetres of sea level rise will cause annual flooding for 100 million people on the planet,” he said.

Glacial loss can be slowed, Menounos said. The biggest issue is human consumption of fossil fuels.

“We know what we need to do,” he said. “It’s not an easy decision, but we have to start, I would argue, thinking about changing our reliance on fossil fuels.”

© The Canadian Press, 2014

Climate change is here, action needed now, says new White House report

Washington (CNN) — Climate change is here and will only worsen. Get used to more flooding, wildfires and drought, depending on where you live. Cities and states across America already are spending lots of money to respond.

Those are the take-home messages of a new White House report released Tuesday that is part of President Barack Obama’s second-term effort to prepare the nation for the impacts of a changing climate such as rising sea levels and increasingly erratic weather.

The National Climate Assessment update said evidence of human-made climate change “continues to strengthen” and that “Americans are noticing changes all around them.”

“This is not some distant problem of the future,” Obama told NBC, while John Holdren, who directs the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said climate change “already is affecting every region of the country and key sectors of the economy.”

Read the National Climate Assessment

The Obama administration wants the report to ignite awareness of the need for government and communities to respond now to climate change in the face of fierce political opposition, mostly from conservatives.

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A relentless campaign backed by the fossil fuel industry and its allies challenges whether climate change is real, and if so, whether human activity such as increased carbon emissions from power plants, factories and cars contributes to it.

In a statement coinciding with the report’s publication, the White House said the findings “underscore the need for urgent action to combat the threats from climate change, protect American citizens and communities today, and build a sustainable future for our kids and grandkids.”

Breaking down the report by region

John Podesta, a Democratic operative who now counsels the President, told reporters that Obama will kick off a broad campaign this week to publicize the report, while Cabinet members and other administration officials would be “fanning out” across the country to spread the word about how climate change impacts specific regions.

Republican critics immediately pounced on new report as a political tool for Obama to try to impose a regulatory agenda that would hurt the economy.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky mocked what he described as the hypocritical stance of “liberal elites” who demand strong action on climate change while failing to reduce their own carbon footprint.

“Even if we were to enact the kind of national energy regulations the President seems to want so badly, it would be unlikely to meaningfully impact global emissions anyway unless other major industrial nations do the same thing,” McConnell said in arguing against proposals to reduce industrial pollution.

He called the debate “cynical” because Obama knew that “much of the pain of imposing such regulations would be borne by our own middle class.”

Changing attitudes?

To Podesta and Holdren, the reality of climate change will win out over opponents of new energy policies to combat it.

“Public awareness has been going up and will continue to go up,” Holdren told reporters, predicting increased public support for government action to reduce U.S. carbon emissions and for America to take a leadership role on climate change in the international arena.

Five things you can do

Recent polling indicates most Americans believe human activities cause climate change, but also shows the issue is less important to the public than the economy and other topics.

A Gallup poll in March found that 34% of respondents think climate change, called global warming in the poll, posed a “serious threat” to their way of life, compared to 64% who responded “no.” At the same time, more than 60% of respondents believed global warming was happening or would happen in their lifetime.

More than 300 experts helped produce the report over several years, updating a previous assessment published in 2009. Podesta called it “actionable science” for policymakers and the public to use in forging a way forward.

Scientists categorize the response to climate change into two strategies — minimizing the effects by reducing the cause, which is known as mitigation, and preparing for impacts already occurring or certain to occur, which is called adaptation.

The report breaks the country down by region and identifies specific threats should climate change continue. Major concerns cited by scientists involved in creating the report include rising sea levels along America’s coasts, drought in the Southwest and prolonged fire seasons.

Sea levels rising

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It predicts sea levels will rise at least a foot by the end of the century and perhaps as much as four feet, depending on how much of the Greenland and Antarctic ice shelf melts.

Such an outcome could be catastrophic for millions of people living along the ocean, submerging tropical islands and encroaching on coastal areas.

Low-lying U.S. cities already experience high flooding, with Miami planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to address the problem, noted Jerry Melillo of Marine Biological Laboratory, who chaired the advisory committee that produced the new assessment.

The Great Plains could experience heavier droughts and heat waves with increasing frequency, while more wildfires in the West could threaten agriculture and residential communities, the report notes.

Obama’s week-long focus on climate change continues Wednesday, when the White House convenes a summit focused on green building tactics. Later in the week, Obama will announce new solar power initiatives, according to Podesta.

In his first term, the President faced opposition by Republicans and some Democrats from states with major fossil fuel industries such as coal production to significant climate change legislation.

He pledged to renew his efforts on the issue in his final four years, including using executive actions that bypass Congress. Obama has introduced new regulations on vehicle emissions and created “climate hubs” that help businesses prepare for the effects of climate change.

A major upcoming issue is a proposal under consideration by the Obama administration to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Environmental groups say the project would contribute to climate change because tar sands oil is dirtier than conventionally drilled crude, and importing it would maintain the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. Republicans and some Democrats from oil industry states want the pipeline approved to create jobs and bolster exports from a strategic ally and U.S. neighbor.

The new assessment calls for continued mitigation steps including regulations and programs to reduce carbon emissions, as well as necessary planning and investment to deal with the known impacts.

Melillo cited some adaptation measures already underway, noting a “terrific plan for extreme heat events” by the city of Philadelphia.

“Things are starting to happen,” Melillo said, adding that the continued efforts over time will “ultimately present a very positive picture” about Americans taking action on climate change.

Enbridge pipeline road blocked by protesters in Burlington

A group of protesters has blockaded the road to an exposed section of Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline early this morning in Burlington, Ont.

The protesters say they plan to continue the blockade for at least 12 hours.

A news release says the 12-hour stay represents 12,000 “anomalies Enbridge has reported to exist on the line.”

“Enbridge calls these developments integrity digs,” said Danielle Boissineau, one of the protesters, “but to anyone watching the Line 9 issue, it’s clear Enbridge has no integrity. This work on the line is just a Band-Aid, a flimsy patch over the most outrageous flaws in the Line 9 plan.

“Line 9 has a lot of similarities to Line 6B that erupted in the Kalamazoo River. The risk is just not worth it,” she said.

READ MORE: Enbridge launches hundreds of digs for cracks in Line 9
READ MORE: Hamilton second in Ontario in pipeline safety incidents
READ MORE: NEB took ‘responsible route’ in Line 9 ruling: city official
Enbridge spokesman Graham White says the company plans “to continue the integrity digs elsewhere where there are no protesters.”

White says the protesters are “interfering with important safety maintenance for the line. If they’re interested in this being a safe line, and for us to maintain that safety for the future, this is exactly counter to those efforts.”

From July to December of last year, there were 308 maintenance digs along Line 9 — and the vast majority were for cracks in the line. In July alone, Enbridge filed 105 maintenance notices for digs on the line, according to documents filed with the National Energy Board.

Pipeline has 13,000 ‘structural weaknesses:’ protester

The group says its members include residents of Burlington who don’t want the pipeline running through their city.

“Line 9 has nearly 13,000 structural weaknesses along its length” said Brian Sutherland, a Burlington resident. “And yet Enbridge is only doing a few hundred integrity digs.”

There were about 20 protesters at the site early Tuesday. As of 8:35 a.m., no police had arrived.

Last June, a group of protesters shut down construction at an Enbridge pump station in rural Hamilton.

READ MORE: Enbridge protesters hope to be in ‘for the long haul’ at Hamilton site

About 80 people interrupted construction at the North Westover site.

In March, the NEB approved a request from Enbridge to reverse the flow and increase the capacity of the controversial Line 9 pipeline that has been running between southern Ontario and Montreal for years.

Line 9 originally shuttled oil from Sarnia, Ont., to Montreal, but was reversed in the late 1990s in response to market conditions to pump imported crude westward. Enbridge now wants to flow oil back eastwards to service refineries in Ontario and Quebec.

It plans to move 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day through the line, a rise from the current 240,000 barrels, with no increase in pressure.

Opponents argue the Line 9 plan puts communities at risk, threatens water supplies and could endanger vulnerable species in ecologically sensitive areas.

Enbridge Burlington protest

Kinder Morgan’s historic oil spills are double the Kalamazoo disaster: NDP MP

Ducks dying, a Kalamazoo River blackened with oil, and haz-mat workers vacuuming sticky sediments in the worst land pipeline spill in U.S. history — not the visuals Kinder Morgan wants to be associated with, especially when it had nothing to do with the disaster.

“It’s a stupid comparison,” bristled Kinder Morgan vice president Hugh Harden from Calgary on Wednesday.

The oil executive in charge of Trans Mountain pipeline’s operations was reacting to a new pipeline spill analysis from Burnaby Member of Parliament, Kennedy Stuart.

The outspoken MP, well known for his opposition to Kinder Morgan’s $5-billion proposal to now expand the Edmonton-to-Burnaby pipeline, released new federal data on the existing pipeline’s spills. The NEB records date back more than half a century, and show the total volume released by Trans Mountain was 40,000 barrels.

The Kalamazoo disaster by Enbridge released 20,000 barrels.

“Over the lifetime of this [Trans Mountain] pipeline, it’s leaked double the amount of the Kalamazoo spill,” said Stewart on Wednesday.

“I think when you make that comparison, I think you start to say, ‘what a serious amount of oil and oil products this actually is.”

Stuart’s office also issued a map graphic showing Trans Mountain’s top 10 spills, with the largest three near Edmonton in 1985, 1977 and 1966.

Map graphic provided by Kennedy Stewart’s office

But Harden said the comparison to the disastrous Michigan oil spill disaster was “astounding.”

A “ludicrous” comparison

“Tell me how it is in any way fair, logical, or in any way reasonable to compare the operating record of a company over 60 years of 80 incidents, most of which are inside the terminal or company’s property, and had no impact on the public or the environment, to one incident where 20,000 barrels of oil went into a river?,” asked Harden.

“The comparison is ludicrous.”

“[The people in Kennedy Stewart’s office] are totally one-sided, and unreasonable, and they are not looking at logic. They are looking at stirring up people’s emotions and trying to get them to overlook the facts,” added Harden.

The oilman further likened Stewart’s analogy to a “jumbo jet crash with 340 people on board to a small company that flies planes with 8 people on it, and they had over a 60-operating-year history, they had 10 crashes.”

“I just had to laugh out loud when I read [the media request inquiring about it].”

Photo of MP Kennedy Stewart by Mychaylo Prystupa

In response, Kennedy Stewart’s office fired back in an e-mail:

“It is unconscionable that the Vice President of Kinder Morgan would laugh out loud at people being killed in a plane crash. Disgusting. It again underlines the total disregard this company has for our community.”

Harden later wrote: “I would like to apologize for comparisons I used which may have been interpreted as being inappropriate and once again I regret any offence that might have been taken.”

Scientists weigh in

So is the planet worse off by a single mega oil spill versus dozens of smaller ones?

Canada Research Chair and UBC ecologist, Dr. Kai Chan said:

“What really matters is the amount of area the oil seeps into, and the amount of time that it’s doing that, in those ecosystems. And that absolutely could be greater – in the event of a bunch of small spills, in part because the response can be slower in total, because it’s not employing a large scale response team,” said Chan.

“There’s basically economies of scale for oil spills,” he added.

Dr. Jeffrey Short, a science director at Oceana who spent 31 years as a research chemist focused on oil pollution with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said it is difficult to make the comparison.

“The question is, why did [Kinder Morgan] have [even] 10 spills? And if they’re planning to triple the pipeline capacity, they’re going to have larger spills,” said Short, from Alaska.

Kinder Morgan VP not persuaded by climate change science
Controversially, the Kinder Morgan vice president admitted, he’s also not persuaded by global warming. Recent studies have shown that 97 per cent of world scientists who have published papers on climate change have concluded that humans are causing it.

“We just had the worst winter in 10 years in Calgary,” he said, with a laugh. “I’m an engineer, I have somewhat a scientific background.”

“I am not convinced either way about the science. I think there’s strong arguments for and against.”

But one impact that all sides agree on, is the human toll the spills can have.

The social impact of spills

Oil spill victim, Burnaby resident Mary Hatch – photo provided by Hatch
Burnaby resident Mary Hatch recalls vividly the company’s 2007 spill that sprayed bitumen on her property and lawn. She still keeps press clippings from the years of coverage of the event. Her home was just 100 metres from the rupture.

“I was just sitting at my kitchen table, and a fire fighter came to my door,
recalled Hatch. “I opened it, and he said, ‘you must evacuate immediately. There’s been an oil spill.’

The frantic clean up went on for two years, resulting in the removal of her lawn, and inability to access her home.

“It’s a traumatic experience. It impacts your whole family. You worry about their health. You are not compensated unless you are to hire your own lawyer, and take Kinder Morgan to court, and they have a lot of money and big lawyers. So I didn’t do that,” she said.

“Yes, you get your soil back…but you go through through a lot of turmoil, and upset – you can’t use your property for a couple of years.”

‘We want to avoid oil spills’

Kinder Morgan said the Burnaby incident, to which the company pled guilty in court, was caused by an “incompetent contractor hitting” its pipeline and was not directly the company’s fault, said Harden.

“That [Burnaby 2007 spill] caused us $22 million to clean up. Now you compare that to Kalamazoo, they are at…$1.2 billion, and the EPA is taking over that clean-up, so who knows where those costs are going to be,” said Harden.

“We want to avoid all oil spills, none of them are acceptable. But the ones that keep me awake are on the right of away, outside our terminal.”

“I’ve got 250 people working for me. You know what they all work for? You know what their goal is? Keep the oil inside the pipeline. Keep the black sticky stuff inside the round thing,” Harden added.

New pipeline safety measures announced
Stewart’s release of the oil spill data comes on the same week the Harper government released new pipeline and tanker safety measures, to hold companies liable for spills.

Companies will be expected to pay up to $1 billion if spills occur, irrespective of who is at fault, and will be held liable for the full cost if the spill is due to negligence.

Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford also hinted Aboriginals will be part of a training initiative, to get First Nations to be part of oil spill preparedness and response.

An intervenor for the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion hearings, Pipe Up Network spokesperson Michael Hale, said he’d prefer not to see more oil spill risk going through his property.

“Pipelines spill regularly,” he said. “Do we want to blacken our part of the beautiful world with a 20th century fuel that is now becoming increasingly scarcer, dirtier, and more dangerous?”

Harden stressed that the entire pipeline industry, including Kinder Morgan, Enbridge, TransCanada and others — works very hard to prevent spills.

“We all understand that when any [one pipeline company] has incidents, it looks bad on all of us. It’s kind of like we own everybody else’s spills.”

Hughes added, that most don’t appreciate how utterly dependent society is on oil at the present, supplying what he said was 99% of all energy needs.

“Fossil fuels are going to be around for a long time, and will be a bridge to the future where maybe you don’t need it anymore. That’s going to be decades.”

Stuart obtained a spreadsheet of the pipeline’s 78 spills from the National Energy Board. It matches a similar document on Trans Mountain’s website of spills.

Canada’s aboriginal well-being efforts ‘insufficient,’ UN envoy says

Pipeline concerns

The report also recommends the government get consent from aboriginal groups before moving forward with resource extraction projects on land subject to aboriginal claims. That would include pipeline projects currently in the works, such as Enbridge’s controversial Northern Gateway pipeline.

“While indigenous peoples potentially have much to gain from resource development within their territories, they also face the highest risks to their health, economy, and cultural identity from any associated environmental degradation,” reads the unedited version of the preliminary report.

“Perhaps more importantly, indigenous nations’ efforts to protect their long-term interests in lands and resources often fit uneasily into the efforts by private non-indigenous companies, with the backing of the federal and provincial governments, to move forward with natural resource projects.”

According to the aboriginal affairs minister, “the responsible development of our natural resources is good for all Canadians and provides an unprecedented opportunity for First Nations.”

“In fact, over 32,000 First Nations people are employed in the natural resources sector, making it the largest private employer of First Nations people in Canada. Over $650 billion worth of major projects are projected in the next 10 years and First Nations communities are well positioned to benefit from these opportunities,” Valcourt said in a written statement on Monday.

Anaya said that the concerns of aboriginal people merit “higher priority” at all levels of government noting that the relationship between aboriginal people and the government is perhaps even more “strained” since the last UN special rapporteur visited in 2003.