Ten per cent of northeast B.C. oil and gas wells leak — more than double the reported rate in Alberta: new study

A survey of the province’s database shows wellbores releasing 14,000 cubic metres of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — every single day amid weak regulations and inconsistent monitoring

Gas well Farmington B.C.

A well on farmland near Farmington, in B.C.’s northeast where there has been a fracking boom in recent years. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

Northeastern British Columbia has been a major centre of conventional oil and gas production since the 1960s. More recently, the shale gas sector has also targeted the region.

One of the issues the oil and gas industry faces is the leakage of gases from wellbores — the holes drilled into the ground to look for or recover oil and natural gas. Methane leakage from wellbores has become an important issue because this greenhouse gas is far more potent than carbon dioxide.

My colleagues and I recently examined a database containing information about 21,525 active and abandoned wells located in the four main shale gas formations of northeastern British Columbia: the Montney, Horn River, Liard and Cordova basins. This represents almost all of the conventional and shale gas wells existing in the region.

Our study was the first to examine the data contained in the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission Wellbore (OCG) Leakage Database.

We found that almost 11 per cent of all oil and gas wells had a reported leak, together releasing 14,000 cubic metres of methane per day. This is more than double the leakage rate of 4.6 per cent in Alberta, which may have less stringent testing and reporting requirements.

Our research in northeastern B.C. also found weak regulations on mandatory reporting, continued monitoring and the use of protective measures — oversights that represent risks for the environment.

Shale Gas Plays Northeast B.C. Map The Narwhal

A map showing the location of B.C.’s main shale gas plays. Map: Carol Linnitt / The Narwhal

Deficiencies in wellbore design, construction a concern

Shale gas, principally methane, is exploited through the combined techniques of horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Shale gas fracking has increased as conventional gas reserves have declined after decades of exploitation.

Northeastern B.C.’s shale gas reserves are estimated to hold 10,000 billion cubic metres of methane, enough to supply worldwide consumption for almost three years.

All modern oil and gas wells are constructed in a wellbore, which typically traverses many geologic layers containing brines and hydrocarbons. Fracking involves the deep underground high-pressure injection of large volumes of water, sand and chemicals into the wellbore, to fracture the rock and release the natural gas, petroleum and brines. Pipes and sealants (usually cement) placed in the wellbore protect it against collapse and squeezing, and prevent fluids from moving between geologic layers.

But these structures are not always fail-safe. Deficiencies in the design or construction of the wellbore, or weakening of the pipe or sealant over time, can connect layers that would naturally remain geologically isolated. In a deficient well, the buoyancy of the underground gas causes the fluids to be pushed towards the surface through these connections.

Wellbore leakage can occur along actively producing wells or wells that have been permanently abandoned after their productive life is over.

The possibility of leakage from these wells has raised environmental concerns, especially since leaky wells are likely under-reported.

In addition to the release of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming and climate change, these leaking wells could contaminate groundwater and surface water with hydrocarbons, chemicals contained in fracking fluids and brines.

Public health and environmental consequences of leaky wells

There are three main consequences to public health and the environment from wellbore leakage:

  1. The contamination of aquifers and surface waters from gases, brines, liquid hydrocarbons and hydraulic fracturing fluids.
  2. The contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, especially from venting methane.
  3. The explosion of methane accumulated in poorly ventilated areas.

According to the B.C. OGC database, leakage had occurred in 2,329 of 21,525 tested wells.

Altogether, these leaking wellbores are releasing greenhouse gases equivalent to 75,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. This is roughly equivalent to the emissions from 17,000 passenger vehicles.

Unfortunately, there is no record of the frequency of testing for wellbore leakage in B.C., nor are there requirements to monitor deep aquifers near oil and gas wells for contamination.

Although current regulations stipulate that all incidences of leakage must be repaired prior to well abandonment, there is no monitoring program in place for leakage after wells have been permanently plugged, buried and abandoned.

There is also the possibility that the venting gases will contain hydrogen sulphide gas, which is poisonous and deadly at high concentrations.

Leaks under-reported

Only wells that show wellbore leakage must be reported to the B.C. OGC and included in the database. According to regulations, all wells drilled after 2010 should be tested after initial completion and all wells drilled after 1995 tested upon abandonment.

There is no monitoring program in place for the inspection of wells that have already been abandoned. These abandoned wells could leak for a long time before the leakage is detected and repaired. Recent studies have also documented methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania.

Shale gas exploitation can have environmental impacts long after a well has been abandoned. Provinces should implement regulations that require monitoring wells after abandonment, reporting the results and applying corrective measures to stop leaks from abandoned wells.

To this day, very few field investigations have been carried out in B.C. to directly monitor the leakage from abandoned wells. One showed that 35 per cent of investigated abandoned wells exhibit emissions of methane and hydrogen sulphide gas or a combination of both.

The discrepancy between the database reports and the field study — as well as recent observations that human-made methane emissions are underestimated by 25 per cent to 40 per cent — suggests that wellbore leakages in B.C. may go unreported.

To improve health and environmental safety, active surveillance and monitoring are necessary. SOURCE

 

 

Merran Smith and Dan Woynillowicz: Western Canada’s great energy story is being written in B.C.

Aerial photo of the Tsilhqot’in solar farm, a 1.25-megawatt independent power project owned by the First Nation, located 80 km west of Williams Lake. PNG

If you’ve heard the terms energy and Western Canada in the same breath of late, odds are the story was about fossil fuels. Maybe it was about job losses, the price of oil, or a pipeline.

It’s a phenomenon British Columbians know well: In our national conversations, B.C.’s economy is overshadowed by Alberta’s. And that’s especially true when it comes to energy.

But what is most remarkable is what’s lost in this — the fact that B.C. has an amazing story to tell. More specifically, an amazing clean energy story.

World markets are undergoing one of the greatest transformations of all time, shifting from fossil fuels to clean energy. As Mad Money’s Jim Cramer recently put it, fossil fuels are the new tobacco. A week earlier, Tesla had skyrocketed to become the second most valuable car company in the world. (Cramer has also changed his tune on Tesla — he’s now a fan.)

And where is B.C. positioned in this changing world?

In a winning position.

Just last month, the Global Cleantech 100 announced its annual list of the most promising cleantech companies in the world. Canada had an impressive showing: 12 companies on the list of 100, second only to the U.S. Half of those companies were from B.C. — a province with 13 per cent of Canada’s total population was home to 50 per cent of its winners on the list.

That’s no anomaly. Year after year, B.C. dominates the list.

After all, this is the province that is home to Burnaby-based General Fusion, a leader in the race to fusion energy (one backed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos). General Fusion just scored a whopping $65 million in new funding from a global investment company.

This is the province that is home to Richmond-based Corvus Energy, a leader in supplying electric ferries with batteries and charging technology. Not only is B.C. Ferries a client, Corvus’s tech has made its way into Ontario and Europe.

This is the province that is home to Ballard Power, a leader in zero-emission fuel cells. Many British Columbians know that Ballard has had a long and rocky road, but its stock price has roughly tripled over the last year, thanks in part to China’s appetite for electric vehicle tech.

This is the province that’s home to Penticton-based Structurlam, whose engineered mass timber will hold up Walmart’s new headquarters in Arkansas. Structurlam is North America’s leading mass timber maker, and B.C. is a leader in building taller, energy-saving wood towers. The province sees engineered wood as a way to boost B.C.’s forestry sector, increasing its value as a solution to limited supply. Last year, B.C. became the first province in Canada to allow mass timber towers up to 12 storeys.

And forestry isn’t the only natural resource benefiting from the energy transition. It takes metals and minerals to build wind turbines and electric cars. B.C. is not only a global mining hub, it’s home to 14 of the 19 metals and minerals needed to make a solar panel.

B.C. is also the only province in Canada where those electric cars have reached double-digit sales: 10 per cent of all car sales as of last fall — all powered by the province’s almost entirely renewable electric grid.

Indeed, B.C. has a long history of playing it clean, having introduced North America’s first price on pollution over a decade ago — a policy that quietly helped shift its economy to the cleaner one it has today, and the even cleaner one it will have tomorrow.

As of 2017, 32,000 British Columbians were employed in the clean energy sector, and that number doesn’t include the many industries benefiting from it. Better news still, the sector is rapidly growing and poised for continued success.

You want a great energy story about Western Canada?

Take a look at B.C.

SOURCE

Canada does not deserve seat at UN Security Council: Opinion

UN Security Council

A gate on the Morice River Forest Service Rd is dismantled during RCMP operations. Photo: Unist’ot’en Village/Twitter.

Pam Palmater
Special to APTN NewsReconciliation is dead. It died when the RCMP invaded Wet’suwet’en territory with heavy machinery, helicopters, weapons and police dogs to forcibly remove Wet’suwet’en peoples and supporters from their homes on their own lands.In quite literal terms, the RCMP destroyed the “reconciliation” sign posted on the access point to the territory, to make way for pipeline workers to force a pipeline on Wet’suwet’en Yintah (lands) without consent from hereditary chiefs.While they were at it, Coastal Gaslink pipeline workers removed the red dresses memorializing the thousands of Indigenous women and girls who have been abused, exploited, disappeared and murdered – some at the hands of those who work in man camps.

In reaction to this violation of Indigenous land rights and the aggressive invasion of Wet’suwet’en lands by the RCMP, grassroots Indigenous peoples and Canadian allies have engaged in protests, rallies, marches and blockades all over Turtle Island.

UN Security Council

300 people blocked the intersection at Cambie and Hastings in Vancouver in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. Photo: Simon Charland/APTN

Meanwhile, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not even in Canada. He is travelling the world campaigning for a seat on the United Nations (UN) Security Council.

Canada is a state perpetrator of genocide against Indigenous women and girls. The national inquiry found that all levels of government – federal, provincial, territorial and municipal – have engaged in historic and ongoing genocide; a form of gendered colonization which targets Indigenous women and girls for violence and denies them basic human rights protections. This genocide includes the theft of Indigenous lands and resources and the criminalization of Indigenous peoples who peacefully defend their lands and peoples from the violence, especially from the extractive industry.

The UN Security Council should not welcome a state perpetrator of genocide that has failed to accept responsibility for the genocide and failed to act urgently to end it. Similarly, member states of the UN should recall that Canada was one of only four states that fought against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which protects the rights of Indigenous peoples to self-determination, control over their traditional lands and resources and protections from forced removal from their lands by the state. While Canada has reversed its position on UNDRIP and claims to now support it unconditionally, it has failed to implement it into domestic law (with the exception of the Province of British Columbia).

The UN Security Council’s mandate is to maintain international peace and security. They are responsible to identify threats to peace or acts of aggression and have the authority to impose sanctions or authorize intervention. The Council has 15 members, five are permanent (China, Russia, France, United Kingdom and the United States) and ten are non-permanent and replaced on a rotating basis. Canada is vying for one of five seats that will be elected in June alongside other countries like Norway and Ireland. Canada lost its seat under the former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. To this end, Trudeau is campaigning on the African continent and will soon be headed to the Caribbean and eventually Germany to make his case.

UN Security Council

A truck sits by the tracks near the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. Photo courtesy: Annette Francis

Yet, it is hard to contemplate how the member states of the UN could vote for Canada given its record of human rights abuses and genocide of Indigenous peoples. Keep in mind that both the UN and the Organization of American States (OAS) have shared their grave concerns about the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls finding of ongoing genocide in Canada. The UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) has also asked Canada to urgently withdraw the RCMP and weapons from Wet’suwet’en territory and to halt any major development projects on Indigenous territories unless they have consent.

The UN member states should also consider that Canada has continuously failed to act on the numerous recommendations from various UN human rights treaty bodies pleading with Canada to end its grave human rights violations against Indigenous peoples, especially Indigenous women. Whether it is the UNCERD, UN Human Rights Council, UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Canada consistently fails to remedy these serious human rights breaches.

While there will be many other political considerations that go into each UN member state’s decision as to whether to support Canada’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, Canada’s record of ongoing genocide and human rights abuses against Indigenous peoples, and its recent armed invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory should give them pause. Canada has long pointed fingers around the world, criticizing human rights breaches, yet it has failed to address its own – and it’s killing our people.

UN Security Council

Red dresses hang at the 27 km marker along the Morice Forest Service Rd. Photo: Lee Wilson/APTN

Canada does not deserve a seat at the UN Security Council unless and until they address peace and security in their own country. Indigenous women and girls continue to disappear and be murdered, Indigenous peoples are grossly overincarcerated, and our children are stolen into the foster care system at rates higher than during residential schools.

Our lands and waters are being destroyed by massive development and extractive projects without regard for the cost to the planet or human lives. Canada’s continued acts of genocide and ecocide will eventually impact other states as climate change cannot be contained within artificial political borders. The planet is in crisis and the UN Security Council will have to face ever growing threats to peace and security worldwide. The last thing they need is to be guided by states that don’t address their own human rights, peace and security issues.

Pamela Palmater is a Mi’kmaw citizen and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick. She has been a practicing lawyer for 20 years and currently holds the position of Professor and Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University. SOURCE

Top Tory contenders will fight carbon tax if they win leadership race

Peter MacKay, who is running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, said he would ‘roll back the Trudeau carbon tax.’

The key contenders in the Conservative leadership race say they plan to keep fighting the federal carbon tax, if they win the party’s top job.

While Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole and Marilyn Gladu have tried to distance themselves from other elements of outgoing leader Andrew Scheer’s election campaign, all confirmed to The Globe and Mail that on the carbon tax they agree with Mr. Scheer. The positions reflect the stark divide between the Conservative base’s opposition to the carbon tax compared with the strong backing it gets from Liberal and NDP supporters.

In a statement, Mr. MacKay said he would “roll back the Trudeau carbon tax.” In a separate statement, Mr. O’Toole said he would “scrap the federal carbon tax and focus on how Canada can become a global leader in zero-carbon technology like nuclear.”

Neither candidate was available for an interview.

Who’s running for the Conservative Party leadership? The list so far

Carbon pricing in Canada: A guide to who’s affected, who pays what and who opposes it

When Ms. Gladu first floated a leadership bid in December, she said she didn’t think it would be “profitable to try to take away” the carbon tax, noting “Canadians have said that they will accept it.”

Now that she is an official candidate, Ms. Gladu has changed her mind. She told The Globe she believes a carbon tax is “really not an effective way to get a reduction” in emissions.

“I will revoke the federal carbon tax,” she said.

According to the Ecofiscal Commission, an independent group that championed carbon taxes before it closed in 2019, the measure has limited or reduced emissions in jurisdictions such as British Columbia and Sweden.

Ruling out a carbon tax removes a key tool for tackling climate change and comes as Canadians put an increased focus on it. According to a December poll from Nanos Research, more than one-third of Canadians believe the environment should be the top priority in 2020.

After Doug Ford rode to power in Ontario slamming the carbon price, the Conservatives were hoping the same position would help them federally. Instead, more Canadians voted for parties that championed a carbon tax.

But as Ontario MP Michael Chong learned in his failed 2017 Conservative leadership bid, strong support for carbon pricing stops at the party’s doors. At the time, Mr. Chong was the only candidate to advocate for a carbon tax; in December, Mr. Chong said he didn’t know if he would still back it because the party should respect its members views.

On Wednesday, he ruled out a leadership bid, telling The Globe he concluded, “There’s no path to victory.” He said the next leader needs an “ambitious agenda to deal with our subpar environmental and economic performance.”

But he said that doesn’t have to include a carbon tax, which he called “the most economically efficient way to reduce emissions” but not the only way.

On Wednesday, Manitoba MP Candice Bergen also confirmed she would not make a leadership bid.

Conservative MPs John Williamson and Michelle Rempel Garner are still considering leadership bids.

The carbon tax is the most prominent and contentious part of the Liberal government’s climate plan, but it is just one part of more than 50 measures Ottawa has introduced to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Other policies include regulating methane emissions, incentives for zero-emissions vehicles and investments in green infrastructure and clean technology.

The policies still leave Canada well short of meeting its 2030 emissions targets; the Liberals have said they will introduce more measures to reach the goal.

The Conservatives will elect their next leader in Toronto on June 27.

In 2018, the federal government announced that all provinces would need to implement a carbon-pricing system by April 1, 2019 and those that didn’t would fall under a federal carbon tax. But what is carbon pricing anyway?   SOURCE
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These building rules could be our climate salvation


Photo courtesy Cascadia Windows

You’ve probably never even heard of two of Canada’s more effective provincial and city-scale climate policies—and that’s probably not a bad thing.

The BC Energy Step Code and the City of Vancouver’s Zero Emissions Building Plan are both building regulations introduced within the past two years or so by the Province of British Columbia and the City of Vancouver, respectively.

Not that anybody even raised an eyebrow. As conservative trolls drown the internet with disinformation on carbon pricing and cynical politicians force stupid and inaccurate stickers onto Ontario gas pumps, these regulations have been quietly working away in the background out west, driving down emissions in the communities that have been putting them to work.

Moreover, according to one recent report, they’re seeding the ground for a low-carbon economic bonanza.

If it’s not obvious by now, I’m a fan of these regulations. I’ve been writing about and advocating for climate and clean energy policies for close to a decade. I’ve produced dozens of reports on clean power and energy efficiency for Clean Energy Canada and other think tanks, renewable-energy industry associations, and others. And I believe these two policies will ultimately have as much of a positive impact on Vancouver’s—and British Columbia’s—climate leadership legacy and reputation as the much-celebrated carbon tax has had.

How the Regulations Work

But before we get too excited, what is the BC Energy Step Code, anyway? And what is the Zero Emissions Building Plan? And why am I such a fanboy?

Let’s start with the first one. British Columbia’s former Christy Clark government enacted the BC Energy Step Code mere days before calling the election that would eventually spell the undoing of her Liberal Party of British Columbia government. It did so after a team of industry, government, and utility experts hashed out the regulation’s core characteristics over the course of a year and a half.

In simplest terms, the provincial BC Energy Step Code regulation allows cities to require their builders to deliver a higher level of energy efficiency performance in new projects than is expected of them under the base building code. So far more than 50 cities are using it, and together they represent more than 70 percent of new residential construction in the province.

This graphic depicts the rate at which communities have adopted the BC Energy Step Code. Credit: Courtesy Energy Step Code Council.

To understand the BC Energy Step Code, it helps to picture it as a metaphorical staircase. Each step up the stairs represents a higher level of measurable energy efficiency. Cities that use the regulation—it’s optional for them, but not for their builders — move up this “staircase” at their own pace, one “step” at a time. Each time they move up a step, new buildings going up become more energy efficient.

The BC Energy Step Code is basically irrelevant to existing homeowners who live in a community that is using the regulation, unless they intend to tear down their place and rebuild it, or launch into major renovations. In either instance, their builder will be constructing a more efficient home than they would normally would be required to do so, because the construction has to comply with the level of the BC Energy Step Code that their community has adopted.

Those who may be in the market for a new house or low-rise townhome might ask city hall when their community will be adopting Step 3 of the BC Energy Step Code. West Vancouver and both the city and district of North Vancouver are already there. Houses built to meet the requirements of Step 3 will be more durable and more comfortable, with better indoor air quality. And the owner or renter’s heating bill will be lower than it otherwise would have been.

The Zero Emissions Building Plan is similar, but explicitly targets greenhouse gas emissions instead of energy use more broadly, and it only applies in the City of Vancouver. But in both cases, new home buyers no longer have to think of energy efficiency as an optional “upgrade package”—competing for their attention with sexier items such as an all-granite kitchen or, God help me, a salamander broiler.

It’s built into the very DNA of the building.

But, but… What About the Cost?

Yes, thank you, I have heard about the housing affordability crisis.

In 2018, BC Housing, the provincial housing authority, updated an extensive study of the cost implications of the BC Energy Step Code. The building science experts who produced it ran the numbers on thousands of different types of buildings built to various steps of the BC Energy Step Code, then vetted the results with the industry.

It’s a very technical report, but the important bit is on page 37. That’s where we learn that in the areas of the province where most British Columbians live, “all buildings modeled were able to achieve Step 4 for less than a 3% incremental capital cost, and achieve Step 3 for less than 2.4%.”

Allow me to unpack that. First, a home built to meet the requirements of Step 3 or Step 4 will be substantially more durable, comfortable, and cheaper to heat than one built to minimum legal requirements. And, the researchers concluded, such a home can be built for 2.4 to 3% above what it would cost to construct it to the base building code. A series of real-world case studies subsequently confirmed the projections.

Three percent isn’t nothing, but it’s in line with what builders already pay to get up to speed each time there is a new building code update. And there’s another way of looking at it, too.

Earlier this year, with funding support from Natural Resources Canada and BC Hydro, I co-authored a report Lessons From the BC Energy Step Code. One of the sources I interviewed put the “costs” of energy efficient buildings into perspective nicely: “Just as with seismic standards, fire prevention and egress measures, and public health requirements, energy performance is not cost-neutral,” one interviewee said. “Rather, it is an investment for societal good.”

Some in Canada’s home building industry argue that energy efficiency measures must remain voluntary, and out of the realm of regulation. Unfortunately, that approach has not yielded a wave of high-performance, energy efficient, climate-fighting buildings. Instead, until these regulations came along, high-performance homes in B.C., and in most other places, were relegated to a niche product—pursued only by the most affluent home buyers.

Voluntary energy efficiency standards have effectively kept the many benefits of high-performance homes away from the broader market, from people like you and me. And they have only increased the retrofit burden we will need to deal with down the road as we eventually inevitably work to shift all building emissions to zero.

The BC Energy What Code?

The Province of British Columbia first made the BC Energy Step Code available to local governments in 2017, and it came into legal force at the end of that year. If you missed the hue and cry, that’s because there wasn’t one; all of the province’s largest building construction, and architecture groups helped put it together. No conflict meant no coverage.

The City of Vancouver’s regulation, developed through a similar process, enjoyed a similarly uneventful rollout. The media collectively yawned, and moved on to yet another story about pipelines.

Of the two regulations, only the Zero Emissions Building Plan explicitly targets carbon pollution. But Burnaby, Richmond, and Surrey have figured out how to use the BC Energy Step Code to advance their community climate goals. They’re making life a little easier for developers of tall buildings to install low-emissions super-efficient electric heating systems in their buildings rather than the default setup—boilers that burn natural gas, a fossil fuel. MORE

How corporations still get away with secret lobbying in B.C.

A full year after the province claimed it would make B.C. the ‘most transparent lobbying regime in Canada,’ major loopholes remain — leaving secret, unregistered lobbying completely legal

David Eby BC Lobbying

“The most transparent lobbying regime in Canada.”

That’s what Attorney General David Eby told British Columbians they were getting when the provincial government announced amendments to lobbying rules last year.

“Big money and political insiders have had too much influence for too long,” Eby said. “These changes are long overdue and build on our continuing work to strengthen B.C.’s democracy for all British Columbians.”

Eby’s comments are part of a long line of promises from the B.C. NDP to clean up politics, eliminate big money donations and ferret out corporate influence — which includes Bill 54, the province’s lobbying amendment act introduced last October.

But in spite of much talk and limited action, the secret lobbying of elected officials remains a common practice in B.C. today, according to Duff Conacher, coordinator of Democracy Watch, an Ottawa not-for-profit focused on making Canadian governments and corporations more accountable.

“Secret, unethical lobbying is very easy to do in B.C. still,” Conacher says. “[The NDP] started with very strong rhetoric, but they didn’t follow through.”

Conacher says all of the recently announced changes — including a strengthened two-year ban on lobbying for politicians or high-level bureaucrats after leaving office — only apply to those who officially register with B.C.’s Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists.

But if you are not being expressly paid to lobby, or do less than 50 hours of in-house lobbying a year, registration isn’t required.

And if you’re unregistered, your interactions are not reported, documented or scrutinized by government or any public watchdog. In other words, at any moment in B.C., an unknown number of unregistered lobbyists are working to influence elected officials on the sly, and it’s completely legal.

‘It’s a sad joke’: gaping holes in lobbying law

This is not just a B.C. problem.

Conacher is calling for broad changes to how Canadian governments regulate lobbying and political donations, noting that lobbying loopholes are found at the federal, provincial and territorial level across the country.

Over his 26-year career in democracy advocacy, he has observed that governments only take action on closing loopholes in the wake of scandal, and in the case of the NDP, to create the impression that the wild west days of the BC Liberals, who ruled the province from 2001-2015, are over.

But not much has really changed, says Conacher, as he reads aloud over the phone from Section 2 of B.C.’s Lobbyist Registration Act. The province’s lobbying rules do not apply to oral or written submissions made to a public office holder concerning the “enforcement, interpretation or application of any Act or regulation.” Nor do they apply to the “implementation or administration of any program, policy, directive, or guideline” by a public office holder.

“It’s a sad joke,” he says. “That almost [exempts] everything. What else is there? The biggest loopholes that allow for secret lobbying in B.C. are still in the law.” MORE

B.C. makes history with legislation to implement UN declaration on Indigenous rights

“Most simply put, it’s about coming together as governments, as people seeking to find common ground,” said Terry Teegee, Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations in B.C.


Chief Terry Teegee leaves the legislative assembly joined by, from left, Premier John Horgan, B.C. Green party Leader Andrew Weaver and B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson after an announcement about Indigenous human rights being recognized in B.C. with new legislation, in Victoria on Oct. 24. CHAD HIPOLITO / THE CANADIAN PRESS

B.C. made history Thursday as the first province in Canada to introduce legislation aimed at adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which left local First Nations and industry hopeful for an improvement to the status quo.

The legislation, introduced by Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser, mandates that government bring its laws and policies into harmony with the aims of the declaration, often referred to by its acronym, UNDRIP.

On the order paper as Bill 41, the legislation doesn’t set out a timeline for completion, but Fraser said it “is about ending discrimination and conflict in our province, and instead ensuring more economic justice and fairness.”

“Let’s make history,” he told the legislature Thursday, in front of an audience that included leaders from the First Nations Leadership Council.

There will be those who find any change difficult “because they’ve grown accustomed to the status quo,” said Indigenous leader Bob Chamberlin, but they shouldn’t fear UNDRIP’s principle of Aboriginal consent and shared decision-making for resource development.

“Right now, we essentially have one-size-fits-all consultation, which doesn’t work,” said Chamberlin, a former first vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and recent unsuccessful NDP candidate on Vancouver Island in the federal election. “If it worked, we wouldn’t be in the courts (with) everything being dragged out.”

UNDRIP requires governments to obtain “free and informed consent” from Indigenous groups before approving any project affecting their lands or resources, but Fraser said that doesn’t equate to a veto over development.
CP-Web. First Nations Speaker Cheryl Casimer speaks to the press after Premier John Horgan announced Indigenous human rights will be recognized in B.C. with new legislation during a press conference at the provincial Legislature in Victoria, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. CHAD HIPOLITO / THE CANADIAN PRESS

B.C. Premier John Horgan echoed Fraser, stating that neither the legislation nor the UN declaration itself includes language that would grant a veto over resource projects. For industry, the proof of success on that point will have to come from implementation, said Greg D’Avignon, CEO of the Business Council of B.C.

“Whenever you bring something new in, there is always a difference in perception and interpretation of what it is and what it isn’t, D’Avignon said. “Government has been clear today that this is not a veto and that they retain their right for decision-making and we will hold them to that obligation.”

Indigenous leaders addressed the concern in speeches to the legislature.

“Some people will oppose this law because of their fears about what an era of mutual consent means,” said Terry Teegee, regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in B.C., adding that making history “is not for the faint of heart.”

“I want to say strongly and clearly here: This declaration law is not about providing any government with veto rights,” Teegee said.

Consent is about a process to achieve agreement, he said, which “is the future.”

“Most simply put, it’s about coming together as governments, as people seeking to find common ground,” Teegee said.

And if that is implemented well, B.C.’s mining industry is cautiously hopeful that such decision-making will “enable greater certainty and predictability on the land base,” according to Michael Goehring, CEO of the Mining Association of B.C.

Goehring said his association’s members have long been “advancing economic reconciliation” through agreements and partnerships with First Nations that reflect UNDRIP’s principles. So the industry welcomes a chance to provide input to government and Indigenous leaders on the plan and implementation of the legislation.

“The truth is, the status quo has not engendered confidence in British Columbia’s economic future, nor has it served British Columbians or B.C.’s Indigenous communities,” Goehring said. “So we approach this bill with cautious optimism.”

Fraser said the legislation was drafted after consultation with a wide range of groups and organizations, including Indigenous, business and government leaders. The declaration contains 46 articles, including that Indigenous Peoples have the right to self-determination, which means they can determine their political status and pursue economic, social and cultural development.


CP-Web. First Nations Speaker Cheryl Casimer speaks to the press after Premier John Horgan announced Indigenous human rights will be recognized in B.C. with new legislation during a press conference at the provincial Legislature in Victoria, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. CHAD HIPOLITO / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Another article calls for an independent process to be established to recognize and adjudicate Indigenous Peoples’ rights pertaining to their lands and resources granting them the right to redress or compensation for traditional lands that have been taken, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent. It’s unclear what this will practically look like in B.C., which has almost no treaty settlements with its over 200 First Nations. Horgan said the past is littered with broken promises to Indigenous Peoples, but the law can bring a new future.

“This bill is important because Indigenous rights are human rights,” he said. “We all want to live in a province where the standard of living for Indigenous Peoples is the same as every other community in the province.”

Chamberlin said the province, First Nations and B.C.’s salmon-farming industry used a shared-decision-making process for a deal over salmon farming in the Broughton Archipelago that could be a model for Bill 41’s implementation.

“People are going to say this is time-consuming and expensive,” Chamberlin said. “Well, I think going to court is time-consuming and expensive, and leads to no certainty whatsoever. It doesn’t advance reconciliation, it just hardens the lines, and I think after 150-odd years in Canada we’ve had enough hard lines.” SOURCE

 

‘Indicative of a truly corrupt system’: government investigation reveals BC Timber Sales violating old-growth logging rules

Two investigations, released under Freedom of Information laws, show a government agency ignored best practices and available data when auctioning cutblocks in the Nahmint Valley — home to some of Vancouver Island’s last remaining stands of unlogged ancient forest — where clearcutting continues to this day

Nahmint-Valley-Douglas-Fir-Clearcut
Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner TJ Watt surveys a sprawling clearcut filled with rare, old-growth douglas fir trees. Watt told The Narwhal that despite multiple and ongoing investigations into BC Timber Sales’ auctioning of ancient forest in the Nahmint Valley, he worries the agency will “just continue on with business as usual.” Photo: TJ Watt

Vast stands of old-growth douglas firs and cedars, toppled. A grim-looking individual, perched atop a stump, staggering in size, its history harkening back to pre-colonial times, sap oozing beneath their feet.

British Columbians are near-immune to such images these days, with old-growth clearcutting a common sight and common practice. But something about the images coming out of Vancouver Island’s Nahmint Valley struck a chord.

photo gallery posted by the Ancient Forest Alliance to Facebook in May of 2018 became a near-immediate viral sensation, being shared more than 4,800 times.

The organization, during an ancient forest expedition with the Port Alberni Watershed-Forest Alliance, found exceptionally large douglas fir, including the fifth and ninth widest ever recorded in B.C., scattered among the remains of an extensive clearcutting operation.

The groups documented old-growth cedar stumps measuring a staggering 12 feet (3.7 metres) in diameter.

29543060_1764129970348249_5355189877212184576_n.jpg (533×800)Photo: Ancient Forest Alliance

Something felt wrong about the scope and scale of the logging operations in the Nahmint Valley to the expeditioners.

‘Indicative of a truly corrupt system’: government investigation reveals BC Timber Sales violating old-growth logging rules

Two investigations, released under Freedom of Information laws, show a government agency ignored best practices and available data when auctioning cutblocks in the Nahmint Valley — home to some of Vancouver Island’s last remaining stands of unlogged ancient forest — where clearcutting continues to this day

Some of you may have already seen the pictures.

Vast stands of old-growth douglas firs and cedars, toppled. A grim-looking individual, perched atop a stump, staggering in size, its history harkening back to pre-colonial times, sap oozing beneath their feet.

British Columbians are near-immune to such images these days, with old-growth clearcutting a common sight and common practice. But something about the images coming out of Vancouver Island’s Nahmint Valley struck a chord.

photo gallery posted by the Ancient Forest Alliance to Facebook in May of 2018 became a near-immediate viral sensation, being shared more than 4,800 times.

The organization, during an ancient forest expedition with the Port Alberni Watershed-Forest Alliance, found exceptionally large douglas fir, including the fifth and ninth widest ever recorded in B.C., scattered among the remains of an extensive clearcutting operation.

The groups documented old-growth cedar stumps measuring a staggering 12 feet (3.7 metres) in diameter.

Something felt wrong about the scope and scale of the logging operations in the Nahmint Valley to the expeditioners.

And they were right.

Nahmint Valley red cedar

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness walks beside an enormous, freshly fallen western red cedar in a BC Timber Sales-issued cutblock in the Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni. Photo: TJ Watt

Before-After-9th-Widest-Douglas-Fir-Nahmint-1024x765.jpg (1024×765)
Before and after images of a massive douglas fir tree in the Nahmint Valley. According to the B.C. Big Tree Registry, this douglas fir was the ninth-largest of its kind in Canada. Photo: TJ Watt

Investigations point to government agency at heart of B.C.’s old-growth logging

Following their expedition, the Ancient Forest Alliance submitted a complaint to the compliance and enforcement branch at B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

The findings of two subsequent investigations would confirm a deep-rooted suspicion that BC Timber Sales (BCTS), the government agency responsible for auctioning provincial logging permits, was thwarting protection rules and violating the principles of old-growth management plans. MORE

Fires and flooding: how B.C.’s forest policies collide with climate change

The province has prioritized timber sales over all else, but right now there is a chance to change that

Grand Forks flooding 2018
An aerial view of Grand Forks flooding, courtesy of Sergeant Mike Wicentowich, one of many RCMP officers dispatched in response to the flood. Interfor’s property can be seen centre left. Photo: Sergeant Mike Wicentowich

ritish Columbians have a complicated relationship with forests. Growing up, my favourite stand of old-growth trees was only accessible by a logging road. At the time, that barely seemed noteworthy: I knew forests held ecological value, and were also valued by local mills. But when the logging road became active again, and I started following empty trucks up and full trucks down, I began wondering whether those values were well balanced.

That tension still runs close to the heart of British Columbians. We promote our provincial identity as nature-lovers through old-growth forests on tourism ads. But in many ways, we never left the gold rush era of destructive, unsustainable industries that wreak havoc on the land. Meanwhile, the forest-based communities we cherish are increasingly at risk.

Forestry practices in B.C. have been criticized for a long time. Mill closures, forest fires and species extinction are all symptoms of disastrous forest policies and provincial government mismanagement. In today’s era of climate change, which is already having a measurable impact on forests, every bad policy is made worse.

Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, putting us on the frontlines of global climate change. But the time to “stop” climate change has passed. Now, we’re left bracing for the worst impacts of the climate emergency by adopting strategies to make our communities more resilient to increasing wildfires and devastating floods.

One of the most obvious strategies? Protecting the old-growth forests and intact forests — meaning landscapes not fragmented and degraded by industrial activity — still standing in BC.

Older, intact forests hold tremendous value to nearby communities by offering protection from the worst impacts of climate change. But not if we continue to clearcut one of our best defences. B.C.’s outdated forestry policies have undermined these values by prioritizing timber harvest over all else. It’s time to change that.

Old-growth forestry in the Nahmint Valley. Photo: TJ Watt / Ancient Forest Alliance

Resilient forests, resilient communities

Poor logging practices and industrial infrastructure threaten rural and urban communities alike. With provincial forest policy amendments underway, now is the time to make sure our communities get the conversation — and results — we need.

Until July 15, B.C. is seeking public input on key legislation, the Forest and Range Practices Act. A joint submission by 28 organizations puts climate change and landscape resiliency front and centre, defining resiliency as the “ability of an ecosystem to cope with disturbance or stress and rebuild itself without losing its defining characteristics.” MORE

 

Clean power, right in the heart of fracking country

“Along with other early adopters of clean energy across the country, Don Pettit has helped lay the groundwork for an industry that now attracts tens of billions of investment dollars each year.” 


The Bear Mountain wind project in BC. Photo by Don Pettit

Pettit has noted intrusive, disturbing changes to those rural lands in the decades since he first arrived in Dawson Creek.

“Since then it’s been a steady stream of industrialization… but the biggest shift imaginable has been the arrival of the fracked gas industry. There’s flares blasting away, and they stink, and surveillance cameras with lots of ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Some of my favourite spots are essentially destroyed.”

“Everything was rolling along nicely. We could have had factories producing wind blades, and we were on the verge of launching a major wind industry with thousands of jobs in B.C.. But just as it started to get going they dropped it.”

“Wind prospectors were coming into the region from all over the world. We wanted to tap into that and try to make at least one of these wind facilities at least partially locally owned — which we did. And I think we set a very high standard for community-supported wind development.”

Their ground-breaking work led to PEC’s inaugural green energy project, the Bear Mountain Wind Park, being fully commissioned in 2009, even as fracking activity was peaking in the Peace. B.C.’s first large-scale wind park at 102 megawatts, it stands a few kilometres south of Dawson Creek and continues to power the South Peace region.

And then, in 2010, things inexplicably went south.

Along with other early adopters of clean energy across the country, Pettit has helped lay the groundwork for an industry that now attracts tens of billions of investment dollars each year. A report issued last week by Clean Energy Canada, entitled Missing the Bigger Picture, calculates that the renewable energy sector employed about 300,000 workers in Canada in 2017 and has significantly outcompeted the rest of the economy in growth.

Yet Pettit has noted intrusive, disturbing changes to those rural lands in the decades since he first arrived in Dawson Creek.

“Since then it’s been a steady stream of industrialization… but the biggest shift imaginable has been the arrival of the fracked gas industry. There’s flares blasting away, and they stink, and surveillance cameras with lots of ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Some of my favourite spots are essentially destroyed.”

The potential health benefits of a transition to renewable appear similarly impressive. A 2016 Pembina Institute analysis estimated that by phasing out coal-fired power entirely by 2030, 1,008 premature deaths, 871 ER visits and $5 billion worth of negative health outcomes would be avoided between 2015 and 2035. And unlike the air and water contaminants emitted by coal and natural-gas plants that sicken local populations and warm the planet, Pettit enthuses that solar energy has “no moving parts and no pollution.” in energy price so communities can build business plans. No such program exists in B.C..

“Alberta has a program called community capacity building. It’s about communities wanting to replace some of the power that they’re using with solar, but they can also make them bigger than they need and put extra power into the grid and get paid for it.”

One significant benefit is a locked-in energy price so communities can build business plans. No such program exists in B.C..

When asked what the provincial government could do to promote its spread, he answers without hesitation. Instead of spending billions on Site C to power the fracking industry, which he says would mostly benefit big corporations in the short term, it could offer small, targeted incentives.  MORE