British Columbia’s dirty natural gas secret


B.C. Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in 2018. File Photo by Andrew Meade

When I told people I was heading to northeastern British Columbia to check out fracking sites, the most common response was: “We do that here?”

Few southerners have any idea what goes on in the Peace region, and even fewer will ever see it for themselves. For all the hype about liquefied natural gas (LNG) the last few years, not many of us seem to know where it all comes from.

One thing I can tell you is if fracking was going on in Vancouver or Toronto, people would’ve put a stop to it ages ago. After visiting local communities near Dawson Creek, B.C., it’s hard to believe their story has not been told.

Flying over the countryside is the only way to fully grasp the scale. Fracking infrastructure blankets the region from the Alberta border to the Rocky Mountains. Gas plants, compressor stations, well pads, flare stacks, pipelines, wastewater ponds — it just goes on and on and on. I was horrified at just how much farmland and wilderness have been lost to fracking infrastructure.

Folks on the ground told me stories of their lives turned upside-down. I’ve had my share of bad neighbours before, but these fracking companies take the cake. Constant industrial noise from machinery, bright orange flames above flare stacks lighting up the horizon, the smell of poisonous gas prompting abrupt evacuations — and everywhere residents are afraid to speak out.

Long-term effects are even more worrisome. Little research has been done on the cumulative health impacts of fracking in the region, but doctors report bizarre incidences of rare cancers and scarring of the lungs with no clear cause. One community health researcher found evidence of benzene contamination in people. Benzene, a known carcinogen, was found to be 3.5 times higher in pregnant women who lived close to fracking sites and six times higher if those women were Indigenous.

OPINION: Three LNG projects in Squamish and Kitimat would require over 13000 new fracking wells over the next 30 years between them. But we know the only path to limiting global warming to safe levels is zero-carbon renewable energy, not fracked gas

Earlier this spring, drought conditions linked to warming temperatures forced the BC Oil and Gas Commission to suspend water withdrawals for fracking companies in the northeast. These operations use an astonishing 550,000 water trucks worth of the dwindling resource each year. Much of that water eventually ends up deep underground, leaving local wetlands and rivers running dry and the land parched.

While the industry is already suffering from climate change, it continues to make the problem worse. Methane leaks from fracking operations are the key contributor to an alarming spike in levels of the highly potent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. And all it takes is one look at the mammoth flare stacks dotting the horizon in the Peace region to see for yourself the damage fracking does to the climate. MORE

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BC Government Frets Over Climate Change While Heavily Subsidizing Fracking Companies

Worse, the giveaway probably isn’t needed, with the global industry desperate for new gas fields.

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Fracking does not need subsidies to be profitable. But we still hand ’em out. Photo via Shutterstock.

We’re in a climate crisis. So why did the B.C. government give oil and gas companies $663 million in subsidies last year so they would produce more fracked natural gas?

The NDP government hasn’t declared a climate emergency. But it commissioned a report that warns of more severe wildfire seasons, water shortages, heat waves, landslides and more.

Despite that, the government handed almost two-thirds of a billion dollars to fossil fuel companies — $130 per person in the province — so they’ll extract more methane, more quickly. (The numbers are all from the always-interesting Public Accounts released last month by the province’s auditor general.)

Which is perverse in a time when we’re warned of climate disaster.

British Columbians own the oil and gas under the ground. Companies pay royalties to the government for the right to extract and sell it.

Since 2003, the B.C. government has been putting natural gas on sale. It has cut royalties to subsidize the industry’s road construction and reward any operators who drilled in the summer.

And most significantly, it started offering the gas at a deep discount for companies that drilled “deep wells.” The industry argument was that they were riskier and more expensive; the government had to sell the gas more cheaply to encourage companies to drill. It increased the discounts in 2009 and 2014, giving even bigger breaks to the fossil fuel companies. (Who were also big BC Liberal donors.)

The discounts — subsidies from taxpayers who have to pay more to make up for the lost revenue — have enriched fossil fuel companies for more than a decade. MORE

The campaign to silence Tzeporah Berman


Environmental activist Tzeporah Berman speaks at an event in Ottawa on Nov. 6, 2017. File photo by Alex Tétreault

She looked out at the crowd “with a tremendous sense of hope” and told them to prepare for arrest if they crossed the police line at the site of the proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline from Alberta.

“It was a very powerful day for me,” she told National Observer. “It was the first protest on Burnaby Mountain.”

Five years later, a photo of Berman on that hopeful day on the outskirts of Vancouver is being used to foment hatred against her.

A poster showing the photo of Berman with a red circle around it, and a diagonal line through it, is labelled “TZEPORAH BERMAN ENEMY OF THE OILSANDS.”

A man representing a group called Oil Sands Strong held the poster and Berman’s CV up for the cameras and denounced her as he introduced Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at a June 7 news conference to announce a $30-million government “war room” against oil and gas industry critics.

Tzeporah Berman has received threats of violence and sexual assault over her opposition to the oilsands and pipelines. She worries the organized demonization of her and other activists is putting a chill on open dialogue in Alberta on climate change.

The next day, hate messages arrived on Berman’s Twitter account, phone and email. She received death threats, anti-Semitic messages and threats of sexual violence.

‘Un-Albertan activities committee’

Berman, international program director at Stand.earth, later watched that and another news conference “in horror.” At the other one, Kenney announced an inquiry into foreign funding of groups which criticize Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

Berman is among those who call it Kenney’s “Un-Albertan activities committee,” a play on the House Un-American Activities Committee and the anti-Communist witch hunts of U.S. senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1940s and ’50s.

Based in Vancouver with her husband and children, Berman is one of Canada’s most accomplished environmentalists. She was pivotal in landmark agreements to protect B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest, Canada’s boreal forest and in the previous Alberta government’s climate change and energy policy development.

Today, Berman is concerned that the organized personal demonization of her and other activists is putting a chill on open dialogue in Alberta about climate change and fossil fuels.

Environmentalists are clearly targeted. Energy companies are silent, unwilling to “break ranks” and encourage dialogue about policies, such as a cap on oilsands greenhouse gas emissions, that they helped create under the NDP government of Rachel Notley. MORE

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A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises

BANGALORE, India — Countries that are home to one-fourth of Earth’s population face an increasingly urgent risk: The prospect of running out of water.

From India to Iran to Botswana, 17 countries around the world are currently under extremely high water stress, meaning they are using almost all the water they have, according to new World Resources Institute data published Tuesday.

Many are arid countries to begin with; some are squandering what water they have. Several are relying too heavily on groundwater, which instead they should be replenishing and saving for times of drought.

In those countries are several big, thirsty cities that have faced acute shortages recently, including São Paulo, Brazil; Chennai, India; and Cape Town, which in 2018 narrowly beat what it called Day Zero — the day when all its dams would be dry.

More than a third of major urban areas with more than 3 million people are under high or extremely high water stress.

Groundwater is going fast

Mexico’s capital, Mexico City, is drawing groundwater so fast that the city is literally sinking. Dhaka, Bangladesh, relies so heavily on its groundwater for both its residents and its water-guzzling garment factories that it now draws water from aquifers hundreds of feet deep. Chennai’s thirsty residents, accustomed to relying on groundwater for years, are now finding there’s none left. Across India and Pakistan, farmers are draining aquifers to grow water-intensive crops like cotton and rice. MORE

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India’s water crisis is already here. Climate change will compound it.

Canada’s Divisions Are Hardening

Two polls show we’re succumbing to populist emotions that drove Trump’s rise.

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According to a recent poll, only eight per cent of Conservative supporters think climate change is an important issue, in stark contrast with other parties. When we can’t even decide on what’s important, our version of democracy doesn’t work.Photo via Andrew Scheer Flickr.

The American political sickness has infected us. And it’s hard to see how our democracy can cope.

Start with an Angus Reid poll released last month. It asked people to set out the three most important issues facing the country.

Climate change and environment, said Canadians. For 40 per cent of us, the issue was among the three most important.

The poll found 65 per cent of Liberal supporters considered it among the three most critical issues; 58 per cent of NDP supporters; and 71 per cent of Green voters.

But only eight per cent of Conservative supporters cited climate change and the environment as an important issue. MORE

Video: Doug Ford says his support of Donald Trump is unwavering

 

 

Fact Check: How the New Democrats could create 300,000 new green jobs


NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks to delegates and supporters at the Ontario NDP Convention in Hamilton, Ont., in June. His party is vowing to create 300,000 new green jobs as part of a $15-billion fight against climate change. (Tara Walton/Canadian Press)

The Claim: “Our plan to fight climate change will create at least 300,000 new jobs.”

— A central pledge from the NDP’s Power to Change: A New Deal for Climate Action and Good Jobs

The Facts:

The federal New Democrats are promising to create at least 300,000 “good jobs” over the next four years if elected. And the party’s climate change strategy makes it clear that those employment gains would come in the sectors of infrastructure, transit, housing and renewable energy.

Mélanie Richer, the party’s communications director, says the figure is a “conservative estimate” of the jobs that will be created by the $15 billion in green investments that an NDP government would make over its first mandate, including $6.5 billion for mass transit, $3.5 billion to spur the transition to renewable energy and $2.5 billion targeted at making communities and homes more energy efficient.

The NDP based its math on studies like the 2017 Jobs for Tomorrow report commissioned by Canada’s building trades unions, which estimated that 3.3 million construction positions — and up to 14 million more “indirect” jobs — would be created by 2050 if the country made the society-changing shift to net zero carbon emissions.


The transition to net zero carbon emissions in Canada would create more than 17 million jobs by 2050, according to one labour-sponsored study. (Reuters)

The linchpin of the New Democrat’s green jobs plan is a related promise to require “large-scale building retrofits across all sectors” to reduce energy demand, including setting a target to retrofit “all housing stock in Canada by 2050,” with half of the improvements to be completed within the next 11 years.

To put that in perspective, the 2016 Census counted 14.1 million private dwellings across the country. So meeting that 50 per cent target in little more than a decade would require the renovation of more than 630,000 homes each year — a truly massive task.

The NDP is also vowing to build a half-million new affordable housing units over the next decade.

Would all that generate work for at least 300,000 people? Surely, yes.  MORE

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Greens Are the New Hope for Europe’s Center. For the Far Right, They’re Enemy No. 1.

“Governing is radical,” said Annalena Baerbock, a co-leader of Germany’s Green party. “We are ready.”
CreditCreditDaniel Kopatsch/EPA, via Shutterstock

BERLIN — When protesters in reflective yellow vests took to the barricades in France, rebelling against a gas tax that would hit hardest those who could least afford it, Annalena Baerbock was watching closely from across the border.

A co-leader of Germany’s Greens, Ms. Baerbock has seen her party steadily strengthen over the last year. But she knows if the Greens are to become a bigger force, they will have to convince voters that climate policy is not an elitist but a common cause, while also addressing their economic concerns.

“The lesson from France is that we cannot save the climate at the expense of social justice,” said Ms. Baerbock, who at 38 is roughly the same age as her party. “The two things need to go hand in hand.”

This is the Greens’ moment in Europe, or at least it could be.

The Greens now routinely beat Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in the polls and are widely expected to be part of the next German government. In recent European elections, Green parties gained significantly in other corners of the Continent, too, winning 63 out of 751 seats in the European Parliament, an increase of about 47 percent.

AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde: First Nations Won’t Be ‘Pushed To The Side’ In Federal Election

He’s calling on members to influence “all party platforms” before the October vote.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde speaks during the AFN annual general assembly...
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde speaks during the AFN annual general assembly in Vancouver on July 26, 2018. DARRYL DYCK/CP

FREDERICTON — The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations is calling on members to lobby all parties in an effort to influence political platforms ahead of the federal election in October.

“With the federal election coming, I want to say now the importance of voting and the importance of influencing all party platforms,” Perry Bellegarde said Tuesday as he addressed the AFN’s annual general assembly in Fredericton.

He said the national group was able to influence parties’ policy in 2015 with its Closing the Gap document spelling out priorities.

If you want to become prime minister or member of Parliament, you better listen to our people and our concerns.AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde

“We set up meetings with the people designing the party platforms. That’s the same process we’re going to do again for October,” Bellegarde said.

He said 61.5 per cent of eligible First Nations voters cast their ballots in 2015, and he wants that number to increase during the upcoming election.

“If you want to become prime minister or member of Parliament, you better listen to our people and our concerns, because we vote now and have impact,” he said. “That’s what’s going to happen in October. We’re not going to be pushed to the side anymore.”

Bellegarde said the group’s top priority is climate change.  MORE

 

The Green New Deal In Canada: Challenges For Indigenous Participation

This postingis heavily edited for brevity. You are encouraged to read the full posting HERE

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AS WE MOVE THROUGH another colonial election year at the federal level, there is one arena that challenges most politicians: climate change and what we do about it.

Those paying attention to political debates know that taking action on climate appears to be at odds with the economic paradigm created and practiced over the last century and a half.

Rooted in a philosophy of extractivism, Canada’s economy relies on the theft and plundering of Indigenous lands and territories and peoples.

Most of the goods and services created from these extractive industries are the very drivers of climate change itself. Think tar sands, fracked gas, coal, forestry (and as such deforestation), water diversion to support it all, etc.

Considering this extractive economy, it will require a major overhaul for Canada itself to take meaningful action on climate and address the legacy of ongoing colonization, through a transformative economic, social and political shift. It is becoming increasingly impossible to ignore this truth. Droughts, floods, forest fires, super storms, erratic weather patterns, melting sea ice, decline in plant and animal species, and on and on, are increasingly top stories in the daily news (though the media often fails to connect these events to climate change).

While Indigenous peoples have been raising alarms about the state and health of Mother Earth for decades, if not centuries, decrying the abuses heaped upon her, Western science is now catching up, too.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserts that we have less than 11 years to cut global GHG emissions in half – while protecting our remaining cultural and biological diversity – or face catastrophic climate crisis.

It is also becoming increasingly understood that current plans and strategies, including the Paris Agreement, are failing to include or address the legacy of social injustices created by colonization, capitalism, and militarism; forces that destroy the cultural diversity which is key to mitigating climate change. Correspondingly, high level international and state policies and proposals also fail to include the full participation of Indigenous peoples despite the recognition of the important roles we play in addressing the climate crisis.

This includes the much heralded Green New Deal.

So what is this Green New Deal thing I keep hearing about?

As I write, environmental groups and centre-left political parties in both Canada and the U.S. are advocating for something called the Green New Deal (GND). Both versions of the GND are predicated on stabilizing current economic systems while simultaneously taking action on climate change, along with challenging current systems of injustice. The narrative of GND is an intentional throwback to the New Deal, an economic stimulus package created after the great depression in the U.S. by President Roosevelt.

As Julian Brave Noisecat writes in his Guardian piece No, climate action can’t be separated from social justice, The “Green” New Deal discussions happening in contemporary America “envisions a society where people have universal access to energy, jobs, healthcare and housing [and] is a call for renewed commitment to the equal distribution of opportunity and justice.”

To achieve these ends, the GND calls for major economic shifts toward a green energy economy.

Meanwhile in Canada, the discussions are more preliminary and revolve around conceptualizing a Northern version of a GND. It includes 150 organizations and prominent Canadians, including CUPE Ontario, the Canadian Health Coalition, the Canadian Unitarian Council, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Indigenous Climate Action (that’s us!), Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) and the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

The campaign’s current tagline is ripped straight from the IPCC report mentioned above and calls for “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

…The fact is that the GND is still being created in silos of elitism and is aimed primarily at influencing, and putting pressure on, colonial and corporate power to lead change.While it’s true that governments should be stepping up, history has indicated a stubborn attachment to the status quo, absent the will and commitment of the people. Indigenous Climate Action and other Indigenous organizations and communities are striving to ensure there are measures of accountability and true transformation embedded in moving things forward on the GND to avoid repeating history..

But they are advocating for systems change, aren’t they?

Yes, but they are also advocating for the same forces that drove us into a climate crisis to please pave the way out for us. Asking oppressors for liberation has not proven an effective strategy.

Currently, the GND proposals are focused on changing the energy infrastructure while redistributing wealth but ultimately failing to center the destructive intertwined roles of capitalism, consumerism, militarism and colonialism as foundations to the current crisis.

In other words, the GND in its current iteration is not a structural solution.

Without an acknowledgment of the severed spiritual and mental connection to the natural world we will continue to make the same mistakes.

It is Indigenous communities, locally, nationally and internationally, that continue to push for an actualization of instilling deeper spiritual connections the Mother Earth to help us relearn what systems of colonization, capitalism, and extractivism have severed.
Without these as tenets to a call for systems change it is merely a regurgitation of the same broken structures that perpetuate disconnection and individualism.

The current proposals for the GND, if ever taken up by those politicians, could have lasting impacts for generations to come, paving the way for new social, political and economic systems providing a new baseline.

We cannot afford for history to repeat itself.

Youth Taking Action: Rallies across Canada Seek CBC Leaders’ Debate on Climate

Voters need to hear specifics on climate strategies and Green New Deal, say campaigners.

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Rally at CBC Vancouver Wednesday told the broadcaster has a duty to ensure leaders debate critical issues for our future like climate change. Photo by Braela Kwan.

Hundreds of young people rallied across Canada Wednesday as part of a campaign to make climate change and a Green New Deal key issues in this fall’s federal election.

The rallies in more than 20 cities were aimed at pushing the CBC to broadcast a leaders’ debate focused on the two issues. They were organized by Our Time, a national campaign of young people and many — including the Vancouver rally — were held outside CBC offices.

Rajdeep Dhaliwal, a 24-year-old Vancouver-based organizer with Our Time, said voters need to understand each party’s positions on climate change.

“With an election this fall, I think people need to know who has the plan to deal with climate change at the scale that science and justice demand,” she said. “I’m talking about a Green New Deal for Canada.”

The idea of a Green New Deal first emerged in the United States and is gaining traction in Canada. It’s a proposal to address climate change by reducing emissions while addressing inequality and ensuring sustainable jobs to replace any that are lost during the transition.

Dhaliwal says a televised climate change debate is needed to push political leaders to engage in conversations around detailed climate policy plans.

“Millions of people watch our election debates, I believe this is the best way to make that happen,” she said. “Showing up to CBC will send a clear message to the producers of what is important to us.”

CBC did not say whether it would hold a debate focused on the issues.

In a statement, it said it recognized climate change was an important issue to Canadians and emphasized its continuing extensive coverage.

But it noted decisions on debates are made by the Leaders’ Debate Commission set up by the federal government. MORE

Ecojustice: You can help. Pledge today to vote for safe climate future on October 21.