Hamilton pushes back against controversial proposed Enbridge pipeline

Local officials and climate activists nationwide are raising concerns about the natural gas pipeline proposed through rural Flamborough and the protected Beverly swamp.

EnbridgepipeEMMA

The 10-kilometre route for Enbridge Gas Inc.’s proposed natural gas pipeline runs through the Beverly swamp and crosses Spencer Creek twice. The neighbourhood, centre right, is Beverly Hills Estates and Ponderosa Nature Resort off Concession 8 West, Flamborough. – Enbridge map

A controversial pipeline planned through rural Hamilton is spurring pushback from local government — and also climate activists across Canada worried about the impact of ‘fracked gas’ on climate change.

City council voted Friday to ask the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to specifically consider climate change impacts — and Hamilton’s own carbon-cutting goals — when ruling on an Enbridge Gas application to build a 10-kilometre natural gas pipeline through Flamborough.

It also requested the OEB hold a public hearing in Hamilton. Councillors will debate Feb. 19 whether to seek intervener status to participate in such a hearing — a move which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We’ve declared a climate emergency. It’s important to stress to the board that the climate impact from this project be considered,” said Coun. Brad Clark.

That council vote followed a Hamilton Conservation Authority decision a day earlier to oppose an Enbridge easement request to run the pipeline through conservation lands — at least until after a “peer-reviewed” ecological study is done.

Enbridge told councillors Friday the $206-million project would follow an existing pipeline corridor, create jobs and new tax revenue for Hamilton. Spokesperson Keith Boulton argued natural gas is cleaner-burning than other fossil fuels and provides “a great balance between energy reliability, affordability and the environment.”

Local environmental groups like Hamilton 350 have long opposed any gas or oil pipeline expansions as dangerous to local waterways.

They’re getting a visible boost now from national and provincial groups like Environmental Defence Canada and the Green party of Ontario. Both are running social media campaign ads targeting the Hamilton pipeline — while Enbridge is simultaneously advertising in support.

“Tell your MPP to say no to the new giant Hamilton pipeline and keep American fracked gas out of our natural areas!” says an Environmental Defence Facebook ad that specifically points to the protected Beverly swamp.

A Green party ad warns Hamilton “should not become a corridor for fracked gas,” referring to the contentious method of extracting natural gas via hydraulic fracturing, the high-pressure injection of liquid into the ground to shatter rock. SOURCE

Most of us are blissfully unaware of how much fracking takes place in B.C.

Methane is 70 to 80% more powerful than CO2. Methane traps 84 times as much heat as carbon dioxide while in the atmosphere

Process releases methane and polluting and carcinogenic chemicals into the atmosphere.

Many of us living in urban centres in southern B.C. are blissfully unaware of how much fracking is taking place in the northeastern part of the province. DAVID MCNEW / GETTY IMAGES FILES

It’s a long weekend and we’re returning from the Gulf Islands on the new B.C. ferry, the Salish Eagle. Along the inside corridor on the main floor, we come face to face with a large mural created by FortisBC extolling the virtues of the natural gas that powers the boat we are on.

One panel assures the reader that CO2 emissions will be reduced by 15 per cent to 25 per cent annually by this new “clean” fuel, and another panel promises a “cleaner, brighter future” through the use of natural gas.

What the ad doesn’t say is that the Salish Eagle’s fuel is fracked gas and that over 85 per cent of our province’s natural gas now comes from fracking, mainly in northeastern B.C.

Fracking is an industrial process used to extract underground natural gas deposits from shale rock. The technique involves drilling a shaft vertically for up to four kilometres into the rock, and then horizontally for up to three more kilometres.

Massive amounts of water, combined with sand and chemicals are injected under high pressure into the well, inducing micro-cracking and fissuring of the rock to release the natural gas known as methane.

The ad fails to inform the reader that the fracking process results in a considerable amount of methane escaping into the atmosphere.

Once released, methane traps 84 times as much heat as carbon dioxide while in the atmosphere. And so far, the technology has not been able to prevent these leaks. Because of this, scientists are concluding that fracking natural gas is actually worse for global warming than oil or coal.

The province recently introduced its new targets for greenhouse gas emissions: a reduction of 40 per cent below 2007 levels by 2030, 60 per cent by 2040, and 80 per cent by 2050. Yet unless an immediate moratorium is declared on new fracking developments, B.C. will fail to meet its own targets.

Then there is the effects of fracking on water use. Each fracking procedure uses more than 10 million litres (36 Olympic-sized swimming pools) of clean water. In parts of the U.S., drinking water wells have dried up due to withdrawals for fracking.

The ad also fails to mention that the chemicals added to frack fluid to help maximize methane extraction have the potential to cause cancer and disrupt hormonal activity in both humans and animals, through the release of polluting and carcinogenic chemicals into the atmosphere and water.

Fracking also produces large amounts of contaminated wastewater containing both the carcinogenic and hormone-disrupting chemicals initially added to the frack fluid, but also radioactive chemicals and heavy metals released from deep underground. One study showed radium levels (a chemical known to cause cancer) in fracked water 200 times greater than background levels. Some of this contaminated water will eventually leak into the water table.

Higher rates of leukemia have been found among people aged five to 24 living near fracking operations. More babies born with congenital heart defects and higher rates of pre-term birth have been found in people who live close to fracking sites. Research has shown an increase in hospital visits among asthmatics living close to fracking sites.

For all these reasons, a recently published article in the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine called for policy makers to reject the false promise of natural gas.

Fracking also causes earthquakes. 62 per cent of significant earthquakes in western Canada between 2010 and 2015 were induced by fracking and 31 per cent by the disposal of fracking wastewater into the ground under high pressure.

In fact, many countries, including England, France, and Germany, have banned fracking, and at least three Canadian provinces have declared various levels of moratoria on fracking because of its known harms.

Many of us living in urban centres in southern B.C. are blissfully unaware of how much fracking is taking place in the northeastern part of the province, where some rural and Aboriginal community members have described themselves as living in a “sacrifice zone.”

Natural gas is not a clean fuel and the misleading advertising on B.C. Ferries should be removed immediately. SOURCE

 

David Suzuki: Fracked gas heats the planet, but supporters say it’s a solution


GETTY

The best way to address climate disruption is… burn more fossil fuels? It doesn’t make sense, but that’s what industry, media, and governments want us to believe.

To profit as much as possible from fossil fuels before markets fall under the weight of climate chaos and better alternatives, industry and its allies tell us fracked gas is a climate solution.

It’s not.

A new study shows it’s as bad or worse for the climate than other fossil fuels. Cornell University researchers found alarming increases in atmospheric methane since 2008 can likely be pinned on the U.S. shale oil and gas boom.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas responsible for one-quarter of current global heating. It only stays in the atmosphere for about 12 years before it breaks down and gets reabsorbed into natural systems, but it causes a lot of damage while it’s there. It traps heat at a rate close to 85 times higher than carbon dioxide over 20 years. CO2 not absorbed by vegetation and oceans—where it causes acidification and other problems—can remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

Methane is produced by biogenic (plant- and animal-based) sources, including tropical wetlands, rotting organic waste, cow burps, and pig manure. It’s also produced by leaks and “flaring” during fossil-fuel development, especially fracking.

Although some question the Cornell findings, arguing that the methane spike is mainly from biogenic sources, Cornell professor Robert Howarth maintains methane emissions from the (mostly fracked) natural-gas industry are much higher than industry and government report. Research by the David Suzuki Foundation and St. Francis Xavier University found that’s the case in B.C. Other researchers conclude methane emissions are underreported in Alberta.

Howarth argues that because methane from fracked gas, like plant and animal methane, is lighter than gas from other fossil-fuel development, some emissions attributed to biogenic sources likely come from fracking. He concludes that “shale-gas production in North America over the past decade may have contributed more than half of all of the increased [methane] emissions from fossil fuels globally and approximately one-third of the total increased emissions from all sources globally over the past decade.”

According to a Vox article, the U.S. is responsible for 89 percent of shale-gas production, with Canada making up the rest—and the industry is expanding rapidly, thanks in part to political support. MORE

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

RELATED:

Report looks at captured nature of BC’s Oil and Gas Commission
Report calls for new agency to oversee B.C.’s oil and gas industry

US Fracked Gas Imports to EU Could ‘Take World Far Beyond Safe Climate Limits’, Campaigners Warn

 

To reduce emissions we have to electrify everything. National policies will help, of course, but you can act on an individual level, as this piece in the New York Times explains –options you can take to protect your family’s health.

Port of Rotterdam

Environmental activists representing more than 200 organisations have called on the EU and the US to put an end to a booming transatlantic trade in fracked gas or face “taking the world far beyond safe climate limits”.

In an open letter to the EU Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete and US Energy Secretary Rick Perry, campaigners warn that the continued use and import of fracked gas “torpedoes critical climate targets and violates basic human rights”.

The statement comes after the US Department of Energy announced that Perry would be attending the first EU-US Energy Council High-Level Forum in Brussels on Thursday.

Critics are concerned the high-level energy meeting, titled “Towards large-scale US Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) exports to the EU’s gas market”, will pave the way for fracked gas to become a key part of a new transatlantic trade agreement between the EU and the US.

European Commission data shows that EU imports of LNG from the US increased 181 percent between July 2018, when President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed to strengthen cooperation in the energy sector, and March this year.

The rapidly growing US natural gas export market has benefitted from a push in large-scale fracking projects which led to an increase in LNG production. US gas now represents around 12 percent of the EU’s total LNG imports. MORE

Canada’s LNG sector vulnerable on GHG perception without better methane tracking


Shell’s operations in the Groundbirch region of the Montney play. Image: Shell

One of the biggest bites ever taken out of GHG emissions in any developed country is something that environmentalists and renewable energy advocates never seem to mention.  Since 2005, energy-related GHG emissions in the U.S. have fallen by 14%.

While some of those lower emissions can be attributed to renewable energy investments, the emissions decrease was “mainly” due to natural gas displacing coal power, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). When burned for power, natural gas produces 50% to 60% fewer carbon dioxide emissions than coal does.

Proponents of B.C.’s nascent LNG sector, including the BC NDP government, have therefore promoted the environmental advantage of LNG, since the biggest market is Asia, where LNG would presumably replace coal power and backstop intermittent renewable energy.

But environmentalists opposed to fossil fuels claim that “fracked gas” is as bad as coal or even worse, in terms of its global warming potential, due to fugitive methane emissions.

David Suzuki recently made the claim, accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of hypocrisy in committing to climate change targets while supporting the $40 billion LNG Canada project.

“He proudly announced approval of a $40 billion facility to liquefy fracked gas, calling it a transition fuel to help China reduce coal dependence, even though fracked gas has a carbon footprint at least as bad as coal (because of fugitive methane release),” Suzuki recently wrote.

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