B.C. under ‘enormous pressure’ to cancel Site C dam: First Nations chief

Province and First Nations seeking ‘alternatives to litigation’ in confidential discussions

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West Moberly First Nations are not backing down from their long battle to stop the Site C dam following Tuesday’s announcement that they will engage in confidential discussions with BC Hydro and the provincial government, says Chief Roland Willson.

“Our position is that the dam should not go ahead,” Willson told The Narwhal. “We think there’s still an opportunity to kill the thing before they flood the [Peace River] valley.”

The B.C. government said in a press release that the discussions will “seek alternatives to litigation related to the Site C dam project.”

“We’re listening to what they have to say,” Willson said. “There may be an alternative [to Site C]. In the discussion we’re going to be talking about how they don’t have to destroy the valley. Our primary focus is going to be about trying to protect the valley.”

The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations filed civil claims in January 2018 alleging the Site C dam and two previous dams on the Peace River unjustifiably infringe on their treaty rights. MORE

We need a ‘grown up discussion’ about getting off fossil fuels, U.K. climate watchdog tells Canada

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Activists hold a ‘keep it in the ground’ banner on the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Photo by Eamon Ryan / 350.org.

Chris Stark, the chief executive of the U.K. Committee on Climate Change, speaks at the British High Commission on Feb. 25, 2019. Photo by Andrew Meade

Fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground and be priced differently in the markets, if the world is to meet the challenge of the Paris climate agreement, says the head of Britain’s climate watchdog.

Chris Stark, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government of the United Kingdom on reducing emissions and adapting to global warming, told National Observer that while fossil fuels will still have to be used for decades, “that has to be accompanied by a strategy to take us off them in the future.”

“Politicians have to be grown-up about it too,” @ChiefExecCCC told @OttawaCarl . “Being grown up is about taking big decisions at the right moment, being supported of course by the economics and the evidence.”

“Put bluntly, if we are to meet the emissions targets that are implied by the Paris agreement, then we know already that we have too many fossil fuel reserves out there,” Stark said Monday in an interview at the British High Commission in Ottawa.

If we don’t meet those targets, he said it indicates a problem since there hasn’t been sufficient investments that would allow us to adapt to a changing climate. He also said that the current market needs to assess all the risks and impacts of fossil fuels and incorporate these factors into the price that we pay for these energy sources.

“The idea of disclosing those risks more explicitly to the market is going to be a really important driver of getting the investment patterns right in the future,” he said. MORE

SNC-Lavalin case shows why we should review Canada’s foreign corruption laws

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The controversy in Canada involving Quebec-based corporate giant SNC-Lavalin highlights the need for a parliamentary review of the legal scheme for fighting foreign corruption.

Underpinning the scandal is a corporate criminal prosecution for the alleged bribery of Libyan officials by SNC-Lavalin officials and the question of a plea deal. Since corporations cannot do jail time, a fine is the obvious punishment. But how large should the fine be, and with what consequences? Should SNC-Lavalin be barred from consideration for future government contracts?

Pushed as a fast-tracked initiative, with all-party support, passage of the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act was a foregone conclusion. Introduced in the Senate in December 1998, the law received only two days of parliamentary consideration, before it was brought into force in February 1999.

Speedy passage, however, meant that Parliament had not set aside any time to consider the more delicate details, such as the role of plea deals to save court time. And parliamentarians had failed to consider the question of who are the victims of foreign corruption, because plea deals are likely to involve the payment of a victim surcharge to fund victims assistance programs….

It was this keenness to join that led Canadian parliamentarians to accept the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, the legislation that put into motion the OECD convention’s terms. Those terms include a provision that the investigation and prosecution of foreign bribery “shall not be influenced by considerations of national economic interest, the potential effect upon relations with another State or the identity of the natural or legal persons involved.” MORE

Jody Wilson-Raybould’s father blasts Trudeau’s response to ex-attorney general’s testimony

WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday he completely disagreed with Jody Wilson-Raybould’s characterization of the events and the final decision was “the attorney general’s alone.”

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Bill Wilson had harsh words for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when his daughter, Jody Wilson-Raybould, resigned from cabinet following reports suggesting that she was inappropriately pressured to help SNC-Lavalin duck a criminal prosecution.

On Wednesday, the same day that Wilson-Raybould testified before the parliamentary Justice Committee about the events that preceded her move from attorney general to the veterans affairs portfolio, Wilson again had strong words for Trudeau, accusing him of “retreating into a corner” after the prime minister said he was “definitely not in agreement” with the former minister’s account of events.

“The reality is that I believe that he will abandon her,” Wilson said.

Steve Saideman, a political science professor at Carleton University who keeps a keen eye on Canadian politics, turned to Twitter to neatly sum up the afternoon’s revelations: “Liberals ditched an Indigenous woman who was first to have such a visible and important post to pander to a corrupt company to avoid losing votes in Quebec, right?”

That’s pretty much it, professor. A prime minister who built a nice little international brand as a feminist, who preached reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples as his top priority fired a female, Indigenous justice minister because she wouldn’t help the team win some votes in Quebec. MORE



SNC-Lavalin dispute deepens as Wilson-Raybould testimony at odds with PM’s take

Former AG supported by opposition MPs, challenged by her own colleagues

PMO staffers Mathieu Bouchard and Elder Marques were “kicking the tires, I said no, my mind had been made up and they needed to stop, this was enough,” Wilson-Raybould said. 0:41

Jody Wilson-Raybould said she wanted to tell her truth on the SNC-Lavalin story. The story she told Wednesday at the Commons justice committee is so vastly different from everything the prime minister has said until now that the two versions simply can’t be reconciled.

The former attorney general spoke of veiled threats if she didn’t intervene in the criminal prosecution of the giant Montreal construction firm. She spoke of constant and sustained efforts over a four-month period last fall by some of the most powerful people in government to ensure SNC-Lavalin avoided a trial.

The pressure began right at the top, she said, starting with Justin Trudeau, his top adviser and the country’s most senior bureaucrat.

All of them have denied doing, saying or counselling her to do anything improper. MORE



Wilson-Raybould says she put justice ahead of politics in SNC-Lavalin affair
John Ivison: Wilson-Raybould’s convincing testimony may cost Trudeau his job
Susan Delacourt: The days of ‘sunny ways’ are over for Justin Trudeau



The Coming EV Revolution


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“Disruption” is a term that tends to be used casually when attempting to describe an industry or technological change on the horizon. Although the term may be overused in many contexts, it is hard to formulate a better word to describe the looming disruption that is certain to emanate from the increased adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).

Because EVs have far fewer moving parts than an ICE engine (roughly 20 moving parts in an EV as opposed to over 2,000 in an ICE), the lifetime maintenance costs are cheaper for an EV as compared to an ICE vehicle.  Because of this phenomenon alone, fleet-based companies are beginning to transition their fleet vehicles from ICE to EV-based technologies. For example, last year, IKEA announced that they will transition 100% of their home delivery fleet to EVs by 2030.

As transformative as this coming transition will be on the automotive industry, its impact across the energy industry will be hard to overstate. Most directly, the decrease in demand for refined gasoline will have ripple effects across the traditional oil and gas business. Also, even though the “energy trade” of a gallon of gasoline for a kilowatt hour of electricity is not 1 to 1, there will certainly be a much higher demand for electricity (as a fuel source) and for power infrastructure (as a distribution network). Add on the expectation for fully autonomous driving (which is already being beta tested in many jurisdictions), and the disruptive impacts become even larger.

Ironically, many doomsayers predicted the looming death of the traditional electric utility due to the rapid increase of renewable energy, reasoning that the uptick in grid integration of wind and solar generation resources would damage utilities. Now, the automotive industry could end up being the knight in shining armor to save the electric utility business, which will have to build (and charge customers for) increased infrastructure and power generation capacity to meet increased EV demand. Since EVs will be dispersed throughout the grid ecosystem, it is expected that more demand for generation (namely, solar generation by day, and wind generation by night) will be needed as the most cost-effective marginal unit of electric generation. So although rooftop solar and wind generation was once viewed as a potential death knell to the traditional utility, the coming EV revolution could end up making utilities the largest renewable energy developers and proponents due to the same factor that will drive the trend towards EV adoption: money. MORE

100% Clean Energy & Cars In 20 Years Is Viable (But Unlikely)

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Wind farm in Xinjiang, China

The two biggest hitters causing global warming are electrical
generation using fossil fuels and transportation using fossil fuels. If we made all electricity carbon neutral, most of which would come from wind and solar generation, that would be about a third of the problem. If we made all vehicles run off of carbon-neutral electricity (or biofuels where electricity just won’t cut it, an increasingly small niche), that would deal with another third of the problem or so.

This action would have a huge impact on global warming targets. Could we do it in 20 years globally in a crash plan? Let’s start with what it looks like today, or at least in 2016 per the IEA. Globally, we generated about 25,000 TWH of electricity (reminder on units: KWH, MWH, GWH then TWH, each 1000 of the previous unit).

Could we replace 16,250 TWH of electrical generation with wind and solar in 20 years? Well, it’s not actually that hard to generate a TWH of electricity.

A single 2.5 MWH wind turbine running for a year with a mediocre capacity factor of 35% will generate 7,665 MWH. To get a TWH, you’d need 130 of them, a reasonably sized wind farm of 325 MW capacity. For context, the Gansu Wind Farm in China is already at 8,000 MW capacity and is expected to reach 20,000 MW capacity by 2020, 60 times larger.

A solar farm is a bit different and has a typically lower capacity factor. Let’s go with a middling 20%. To get a TWH you’d need a solar farm with a capacity of around 570 MW. For context, a couple of solar farms in India are 1,000 MW and 2,000 MW capacity 2-4 times the capacity. MORE


By rolling upgrade costs into monthly bills, utilities are helping customers save energy and money at the same time

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Photo © iStockphoto.com/sturti

Drafty windows, leaky ducts and poor insulation are common, and that means that much of the heating and cooling it takes to keep them comfortable slips outside, leading customers to use much more energy than they should have to — an estimated 10 to 20 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The simple solution to this problem is an energy efficiency upgrade — patching leaks in ductwork, sealing the frames of windows, laying insulation in attics, replacing old heat pumps. The costs can range from a few hundred dollars to about US$8,000, but these interventions can result in energy savings over time that more than offset the expense. It’s a pragmatic investment that lowers costs in the long run.

But with an innovative financing mechanism, electric utilities like the Roanoke Electric Cooperative are using their borrowing power to finance energy efficiency upgrades in homes at no upfront cost to their customers.

This is possible through what’s called tariffed on-bill financing. Using energy efficiency loans available from the federal government, utilities pay the upfront costs of upgrading a home’s energy efficiency and then amend that home’s newly lowered bill with a tariff charge that pays back the cost of the upgrade month by month.

Key to making it work is that the tariff is calculated so the customer’s bill is always lower than it was before the upgrade. About 80 percent of the monthly savings go toward paying off the cost of the upgrade, and the rest goes to cutting the customer’s costs. In other words, they reimburse the utility for the cost of the upgrades and still pay less for energy each month than they did before the improvements were made. MORE

Lake Erie just won the same legal rights as people

Ohio voters passed groundbreaking legislation that allows citizens to sue on behalf of the lake when it’s being polluted.

An Ohio resident collects water from Lake Erie in 2014 after a ban due to algae-related toxins.Getty Images

It started in a pub. A handful of people, hunched over beers in Toledo, Ohio, were talking about a water crisis that had plagued the city in 2014. The pollution of Lake Erie had gotten so bad that it had taken a serious toll on their lives. The government, they felt, wasn’t doing enough to protect the lake. And so they wondered: What if the lake could protect itself?

The idea they hatched that night ultimately resulted in a special election, which had the citizens of Toledo voting Tuesday on a very unusual question: Should Lake Erie be granted the legal rights normally reserved for a person?

Rivers and forests have already won legal rights in countries like Ecuador, Colombia, India, and New Zealand.

The measure passed easily, which means citizens will be able to sue on behalf of the lake whenever its right to flourish is being contravened — that is, whenever it’s in danger of major environmental harm. MORE



The Green New Deal has reignited the climate debate – and voters support it

Yale researchers say 81% of voters they polled support a Green New Deal to create jobs and work toward renewable energy

Climate protesters gather outside the White House.

Climate protesters gather outside the White House. Photograph: Susan Walsh/Associated Press

For years, American democracy has been gripped by a conspiracy to undermine and deny the scientific truth of climate change. Fossil fuel corporations like ExxonMobil and Koch Industries have waged a decades-long campaign to mislead the public about the environmental costs of their business activities and co-opt the rightwing governing party.

Denial is ascendant and bipartisanship is dead, but the conservative party has painted itself into a corner that, in the long term, will be economically, ecologically and politically untenable. Democrats have an unprecedented opportunity to own the issue and lead.

Enter the Green New Deal, the first Democratic policy built for the post-Recession age of climate crisis, polarization and wonky leftism.

This month, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts introduced a resolution outlining the vision, goals and projects of a Green New Deal. The resolution was sponsored by 68 representatives and 11 senators, including all seven Democratic presidential contenders in Congress: Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Many, including the editorial boards of the New York Times and Washington Post, criticized the resolution for including flashy non-emissions policies like Medicare for All and a federal jobs guarantee. Writing in the Atlantic, Robinson Meyer caricatured the 14-page document as “a binder of climate policies duct-taped to an Easter basket of socialist goodies”. But the reasoning behind including a broad slate of programs in the proposal is sound: leverage the federal government to spur public and private investments and meet climate targets, create millions of green jobs while modernizing infrastructure and leveling the playing field so that everyone – particularly communities of color, women and working families – can participate in a new economy. MORE


Is The ‘Green New Deal’ Smart Politics For Democrats?
The Climate Movement’s Decades-Long Path to the Green New Deal