EarthMatters_600.jpg New “concerned citizens group” has deep pockets and close ties to oil industry

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Last week, a new ad promoting oil pipelines appeared ahead of my favourite new song on YouTube. It featured a pair of actors having a simulated ‘real-life’ conversation about the paradox between protecting the environment and future economic growth. After the female actor asks, “But can’t we have both?” the man responds, “but if we let pipelines and tankers into our environment, what safeguards to we have?”

A third, smiling actor steps onto the scene, and says in a reassuring voice: “Let’s look at the facts.” She proceeds to set the environment-versus-economy debate to rest with a series of stats about double-hulled tankers and the “99.9 per cent safety record” of pipelines.

The ad is part of a campaign by British Columbians for International Prosperity, a new concerned citizen’s group that calls itself “an independent group of concerned citizens looking to promote practical resource development, international trade expansion, manufacturing development, and other initiatives bringing prosperity to British Columbia, Canada, and our Global partners”.

But a closer look reveals the group’s deep connections to the oil sands industry, according to research that ran in today’s Globe and Mail.

A domain search for the website registered on December 20, 2012, shows that the website is registered to Bruce Lounds of “West Coasters for International Prosperity Association”.

Lounds is a management consultant based in Vancouver. He works at Connex Solutions, Inc.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Lounds’ specialties include Project Evaluations, Regulatory Affairs, Heavy Oil and Tar Sands Sector, Project Management, Economics, Business Unit Management.

His role at Connex solutions, where he has been since 1998, is “Management Consulting in Heavy Oil / Tar Sands Sector”.

Prior to Connex, Lounds worked at ConoccoPhillips from 1996-1998 as the Surmount Project Manager. Surmount was ConoccoPhillips’ first pilot project for in situ, a term to describe bitumen extraction from oil sands. The project was a 50-50 joint venture with Total E&P Canada.From 1970-1996, he worked with BP in various roles: Human Resources Benefits and Compensation Analyst (1970-81), Petroleum Engineer (1981-84), Engineering Supervisor (1984-88), Chief Engineer (1988), Engineering Manager (1988-1992), General Manager (1992-1996) .In 1992, Lounds was the President of the Canadian Heavy Oil Association (CHOA).

In addition to this work, Lounds has appeared before the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board as a representative for Japan Canada oil sands Limited. Later, he appeared again before the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board on behalf of Gulf Canada. And from at least 1994-1995, Lounds was the manager for heavy oil at Amoco.

Even though Lounds claims that he’s “not a front for the oil industry” and that BC4IP hasn’t received any backing from Enbridge or Kinder Morgan, the fact that he won’t identify any of the group’s other leaders, members or its media campaign spending, raises some big questions.

Cleaning up the oil industry’s image

The last two weeks have been bad ones for the oil industry’s public image. A 2,200-barrel Alberta spill last Monday was followed just two days later by a spill in Minnesota. A broken pipe at Suncor Energy Inc. contaminated the Athabasca River in Alberta the very next day. Then on Friday, a residential Arkansas community was dumped with 10,000 barrels of crude, forcing 22 homes to be evacuated. Then, a Canadian Pacific freight train derailed in northwestern Ontario and one of the 22 cars affected is leaking crude oil. And CP was off by an order of magnitude about the impacts from that spill. A Shell pipeline later burst in Texas, dumping over 30,000 gallons into nearby waterways.

So in a crisis week, groups like British Columbians For International Prosperity fight back with PR. The group alleges that, “[t]here are many organizations who oppose development under any circumstances. Their voices have overshadowed important considerations in improving the standard of living in British Columbia and across the globe”.

Presumably, they are referring to the environmental groups, academics and politicians across the globe this week who are looking at oil sands pipelines under the microscope and wondering if it’s such a good idea after all.

BC4IP’s failure to disclose its close connections to the oil industry is as insincere as its promise to “address the downsides of development in an honest and forthright manner”.

So the next time those ads appear on YouTube, take a moment to recognize the hypocrisy of this so-called concerned citizens’ group.