Community Ownership of Power Administration: Putting utilities under public control

Minnesota community solar garden
This paper, co-written by Jackson Koeppel, executive director of Soulardarity in Highland Park, Michigan, and Liz Veazey, network director of We Own It, proposes a component of the Green New Deal that is explicitly designed to free communities from the unjust power of investor-owned utilities for the sake of not only de-carbonization but in order to transform our economy so it serves everyone.

It’s called the Community Ownership of Power Administration, or COPA. Modeled after the original New Deal’s Rural Electrification Administration, COPA could give communities the much-needed finance and capacity to kick out their investor-owned utilities in favor of community-run, renewable-powered utilities.

COPA would provide a catalytic tool for a new energy system based on local, community benefit. Municipalities, counties, states and sovereign tribal nations could gain the necessary legal authority along with access to a suite of patient financing and funding mechanisms—including low-to-no-interest loans, grants and other incentives—needed to terminate their contracts with investor-owned utilities, buy back the energy grid to form a public or cooperative utility, and invest in a resilient, renewable system.

Investor-owned utilities have a long history of prioritizing moneymaking over the needs of communities.

The funds could be used by the community utilities to invest in a vibrant local economy. Working with community members, the utilities could build or spur projects in energy efficiency, grid resiliency, shared solar and electrification, providing affordable energy rates, good jobs and access to community-based enterprise along the way. MORE

BC Hydro awarded $90 million in Site C dam contracts without asking for bids, documents reveal

Documents obtained by The Narwhal reveal numbered companies and BC Liberal donors are among 38 companies awarded lucrative contracts without a competitive tender process — a practice that could be in violation of a western Canada trade agreement

Image result for BC Hydro awarded $90 million in Site C dam contracts without asking for bids, documents reveal

BC Hydro granted by far the largest Site C dam direct award contract to a construction company belonging to McLeod Lake Indian Band, the Treaty 8 member that has spoken out widely in support of the project, according to documents The Narwhal obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Duz Cho Construction, a Chetwynd-based company with roots in the oil patch and mining industry, received a $29.5 million direct contract for “site preparation” work in 2016 on the Peace River’s south bank, according to the documents.

The contract was among 38 Site C project direct award contracts worth close to $90 million that BC Hydro granted from March 2016 to October 2018, including contracts to numbered companies, the documents show.

“I don’t know what they’re trying to gain by this except continue to make themselves look like this secret club.”

Numbered companies receiving public money should have their ownership clearly identified, Travis said, noting that transparency is especially important in light of the unfolding expenditure scandal at the B.C. Legislature.

“You have no idea who it is, who owns the company. The idea of hiding behind a numbered company automatically causes the public to believe there’s something fishy. A government, particularly in today’s day and age, needs to go out of its way to avoid the public thinking that something is fishy.” MORE


Oil and Gas: Top Trends and Transactions of 2018

This is an excellent summary of the major events in the oil and gas industry in Canada.

2018 was a rollercoaster year for the Canadian oil and gas industry. Below is a summary of our top trends and transactions for 2018:

Trans Mountain Acquisition by the Federal Government

With the cancellation of Northern Gateway and Energy East, and continued uncertainty around Keystone XL, the industry turned to the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline as its best hope to establish access to tidewater for the growing Canadian oil production.

Trans Mountain was a lightning rod in the Lower Mainland, inspiring pro- and anti-pipeline protests and strong statements from First Nations both supporting and opposing the expansion. In the face of heavy BC Government opposition, the project proponent, Kinder Morgan, announced that it would cease work on the project; prompting the Government of Canada to step in and acquire the entire Trans Mountain project for $4.5 billion.

In an unexpected twist, a day before the closing of the acquisition the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the National Energy Board (“NEB”) approval of the project, and required that additional work be undertaken with respect to First Nations consultation and marine effects of the proposed expansion. The NEB is required to complete its reconsideration process and issue its new resulting report no later than February 22, 2019. MORE

The Winnipeg Women Ridesharing to Keep Each Other Safe

Non-profit, donation-run Ikwe Safe Rides is an alternative to taxis powered by Indigenous women.

Christine Brouzes, a co-director of Ikwe Safe Rides in Winnipeg. Photo by John Woods/The Canadian Press

Williamson, who is Indigenous, says Winnipeg, Manitoba has a reputation. While no one would argue women aren’t made to feel unsafe in any geographical location you can name, cab drivers in Winnipeg have built a culture of acceptable harassment toward women, but particularly, Indigenous women.

“My experiences, they’re very Winnipeg,” she told VICE. “And people know! People know … you could talk to an Indigenous woman in another city, and they would probably know. Don’t take a cab in Winnipeg.”

Another Winnipegger, Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development project coordinator Valdine Doering, says even when she has taken every safety precaution possible, taking a taxi in Winnipeg is a dangerous situation. MORE


First Nations call for no new marine traffic in Salish Sea

In this July 31, 2015, file photo, an orca whale breaches in view of Mount Baker, some 60 miles distant, in the Salish Sea in the San Juan Islands, Wash. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / AP / Elaine Thompson)

VANCOUVER – Indigenous groups in Canada and the United States are calling for a study of how human activity has degraded the waters off British Columbia’s coast before any new vessel traffic is allowed in the area, where port and pipeline activities are on the rise.

Members of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in B.C. and the Tulalip Tribes and Lummi Nation in Washington state say they want a halt to any more marine traffic in the Salish Sea until the impact study is complete.

“We’re Coast Salish nations that have come together from both sides of the border with the United States and Canada to address this urgent issue that’s happening to our Salish Sea,” Raynell Morris of the Lummi Nation said Wednesday. MORE


New US oil and gas drilling to unleash 1,000 coal plants’ worth of pollution by 2050

Image result for New US oil and gas drilling to unleash 1,000 coal plants’ worth of pollution by 2050
New US oil and gas drilling to unleash 1,000 coal plants’ worth of pollution by 2050. Creative Commons photo of coal mine in Wyoming

Amid mounting calls to phase out fossil fuels in the face of rapidly worsening climate change, the United States is ramping up oil and gas drilling faster than any other country, threatening to add 1,000 coal plants’ worth of planet-warming gases by the middle of the century, according to a report released Wednesday.

By 2030, the U.S. is on track to produce 60 percent of the world’s new oil and gas supply, an expansion at least four times larger than in any other country. By 2050, the country’s newly tapped reserves are projected to spew 120 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

That would make it nearly impossible to keep global warming within the 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial averages, beyond which United Nations scientists forecast climate change to be catastrophic, with upward of $54 trillion in damages.

The findings ― from a report authored by the nonprofit Oil Change International and endorsed by researchers at more than a dozen environmental groups ― are based on industry projections collected by the data service Rystad Energy and compared with climate models used by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading climate research body. MORE

Port Cancels Coal Transfer Facility at Fraser Surrey Docks

Project would have made BC a major gateway for US thermal coal.

Jeff Scott, president and CEO of Fraser Surrey Docks, whose proposed coal transfer project will not go ahead. Photo by David P. Ball for The Tyee.

A contentious coal facility planned at Fraser Surrey Docks has been scuttled by the Port of Vancouver.

A posting on the port’s website states it has “cancelled project permit No. 2012-072-01, previously issued to Fraser Surrey Docks LP (FSD) to develop a direct transfer coal facility at FSD.”

In 2014, the port approved a plan for coal to be loaded onto barges for transport to Texada Island on to ships bound for Asia. The project was amended in 2015 to allow for direct loading onto ocean-going ships in the Fraser River.

“This was an extremely controversial project, facing opposition at every step of the way,” Ecojustice lawyer Fraser Thomson said. “This is really good news, definitely a win for the climate and for local communities who spent years tirelessly fighting against this project.” MORE

3 Things You Need To Know About Doug Ford’s Sneaky Plan to Introduce Privatized Healthcare in Ontario

Mass privatization, two-tiered service and legal penalties might be the future for Ontario’s healthcare system


Leaked documents revealed this week that the Ford government is creating a new health “super agency” that will have the power to demand hospitals contract out services to private companies.

Advocates are warning the ‘super agency’ has, under the draft’s terms, the power to demand effectively any part of Ontario’s health service contract out to any one it mandates, with few limits.

“This draft is a bombshell,” Ontario Health Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra told PressProgress. “I’ve seen seven health ministers and all their legislation for two decades,” Mehra said. “This one is an omnibus bill that would result in controversial amendments to dozens of other pieces of legislation. This one reaches further than any piece of legislation has before.” MORE


Time to stop blaming “foreign funded” environmentalists for the oil industry’s woes

Big Oil’s problem isn’t international philanthropy – it’s a changing market in the face of climate change

Fear mongering about cross-border funding for environmental groups has ramped up in recent weeks and months, increasingly making its way into news stories, social media feeds and political rhetoric. Led by proponents of the oil and gas industry, these divisive statements and exaggerated claims are nothing but an attempt to distract Canadians from the real issues – such as the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to shift our economy away from fossil fuels.

Critics point to the success of Canadian environmental organizations at garnering support from international donors as evidence that outsiders are having an undue influence on Canadian policies concerning energy and the environment. Some go so far as to suggest that “foreign-funded” environmental campaigns are part of a conspiracy that unfairly targets Canadian oil companies, to the benefit of oil producers south of the border.

This type of misinformation and the unwarranted attacks on environmental groups are undermining democracy, and Canadians deserve better.

For the sake of setting the record straight, let’s address a few of the most glaring holes in the arguments against environmental groups and international funding. MORE