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Thousands told to evacuate due to British Columbia, Canada wildfire

Reuters Smoke rises from mutual aid wildfire GCU007 in the Grande Prairie Forest Area near TeePee Creek, AlbertaReuters
Smoke rises from Alberta wildfire near TeePee Creek

Thousands of Canadians have been ordered to leave their homes in Fort Nelson, British Columbia due to the threat of a wildfire.

The blaze began on Friday night and was described by officials as “exhibiting extreme fire behaviour”.

Wildfires have also led to evacuation alerts and orders in the neighbouring province of Alberta.

The Canadian government has warned this year’s weather conditions would mean a greater wildfire risk in the country.

The Parker Lake fire, as it’s been called by the British Columbia Wildfire Service (BCWS), was 8sq km (3 sq miles) in size as of Saturday morning after growing rapidly overnight.

Some 3,000 people in Fort Nelson – located in northeast BC about 1,600km (1,000 miles) from Vancouver – were ordered to evacuate.

Rob Fraser, mayor of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, told CBC News the fire began after high winds knocked a tree over and it crashed onto a power line and caught fire.

“And then by the time our firefighters were able to get down there, the wind had whipped this up into a fire that they weren’t able to handle with the apparatus that we had,” Mr Fraser said.

Strong winds and dry conditions are making the fire more difficult to fight, according to the BCWS.

As of Saturday, the fire was being fought by nine helicopters, as well as ground crews and a structure protection specialist, whose job it is to protect structures affected by wildfires.

In Alberta, people in the Grande Prairie region are under evacuation alerts and some have been asked to leave due to a blaze burning 4km east of the hamlet of TeePee Creek in the province’s northwest.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Old-Growth Forest Logging Approvals Are Soaring in BC

Old-Growth Forest Logging Approvals Are Soaring in BC

Companies are rushing to get permits before protection comes for critical areas, advocates say.

New mapping released today by the Wilderness Committee indicates the province approved significantly more old-growth logging over the past 12 months than it did the previous year.

According to the report released today, the province approved logging in 84,669 hectares of old-growth forest over the past year compared with 59,228 hectares the year prior.

Advocates speculate that the 43-per-cent increase could signal the forest industry’s push to secure harvestable timber as the province promises tighter restrictions on old-growth logging.

“The reason we ran the comparison was because I was expecting a little bit of an increase, or at the very least a flatline,” said Torrance Coste, national campaign director with the Wilderness Committee.

Even then, Coste said he found the increase surprising.

He said the decision to map cut-block approvals in old-growth forests was based on hearing concerns about the rate of logging from around the province.

The organization said that based on mapping of publicly available government data in the year leading up to April 30, the old growth approved for logging over the past 12 months is equivalent to an area slightly larger than E.C. Manning Provincial Park.

Coste said several factors could contribute to an increase in old-growth logging permits. An eight-month strike by coastal forestry workers in 2020 and ongoing mill closures and curtailments may have led to a decrease in permits in the prior year.

In addition, he said the recent spike in lumber prices could contribute to an increase in logging.

But he also speculates that the forest industry is preparing for additional restrictions on old-growth logging.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘A Monstrous Monument to Greed and Stupidity’: Critics React to Site C Decision

‘A Monstrous Monument to Greed and Stupidity’: Critics React to Site C Decision

BC Liberals accuse NDP of mismanagement; Greens warn public to brace for higher costs.

Premier John Horgan’s announcement today that the government will continue with the Site C dam despite massive budget increases and delays brought criticism from opponents and supporters of the project.

“We’ve seen mismanagement of this file,” said Tom Shypitka, the BC Liberal critic for energy, mines and low carbon innovation. “It’s a sad day for the taxpayers, but it’s a good thing to see Site C proceed for the future of British Columbians.”

Horgan announced the government will continue with the project even though the budget has grown to $16 billion, an increase he blamed largely on unexpected geotechnical issues and delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now expected to be in service in 2025.

The Site C budget was $7.9 billion in 2010. When the NDP decided to continue construction in 2017 they increased the budget to $10.7 billion.

Shypitka said the cost of the dam has doubled since the NDP came to government and that the oversight committee it put in place in 2018 has clearly failed. “Under their watch, this project has gone off the rails. That’s on the NDP government.”

He rejected the idea the BC Liberals should have been more diligent before starting the project. It’s unclear how much of the delay and cost escalation can be blamed on the pandemic and how much was due to the NDP’s mismanagement, he said.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


Horgan Seems Fine with Muzzling the True Site C Watchdog

Horgan Seems Fine with Muzzling the True Site C Watchdog

The independent BC Utilities Commission demanded answers on risks and was brushed off.

BC Hydro has, in a Trumpian gesture, brushed off the last independent oversight of the out-of-control Site C project, with the apparent support of the newly elected NDP government.

The BC Utilities Commission is supposed to make sure BC Hydro is acting responsibly in the interests of its customers. It’s the only check on the monopoly $6-billion Crown corporation.

But BC Hydro just gave the finger to the regulator, and to British Columbians. And Premier John Horgan seems to be fine with that.

The utilities commission is mandated to ensure BC Hydro makes good decisions in the public interest. It scrutinizes the corporation’s budgets, plans and projections. It approves — or rejects — rate increases, and reports on whether projects like Site C are needed and based on a sound business case.

In doing that, it relies on BC Hydro to accept the oversight and provide needed information.

And BC Hydro has simply dismissed its obligation to accept independent oversight.

On July 31, BC Hydro filed updates on Site C with the utilities commission.

They were alarming. BC Hydro revealed there was “uncertainty with the dam’s schedule and in-service date” and “significant financial pressures.” So significant the corporation said it was coming up with a new budget and schedule for the megaproject.

And BC Hydro said that in late December a “project risk” had “materialized.”

The dam’s main structures — spillways and the giant power generating hall — are being built on unstable ground. The corporation is trying to figure out a solution and it has no idea how much this will cost.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

LNG in BC Is a ‘Losing’ Bet, Report Finds

LNG in BC Is a ‘Losing’ Bet, Report Finds

New analysis calls out rosy job projections for industry ‘misleading’ and unrealistic.

A respected U.S. energy group has criticized a rosy Conference Board of Canada report championing more liquefied natural gas development in British Columbia as “a lobbying effort for government subsidies, support and flexibility.”

The scathing critique by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis characterized the Conference Board report as “misleading,” short on facts and unrealistic.

“The Conference Board, a non-profit economic research organization based in Ottawa, believes Asian, or more specifically, Chinese demand growth can sustain a further leap in British Columbian LNG capacity growth, despite corporate investors already folding their hands,” said the institute in its highly-critical paper.

The Ohio-based institute is funded by a variety of philanthropic organizations and examines issues related to energy markets, trends and policies. Its mission is “to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy.”

The Conference Board’s July report, titled “Rising Tide,” estimated that if the government boosted LNG development to export 56 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas a year the industry would create 100,000 jobs based on an imaginary growth scenario.

“B.C. is becoming the focal point for a new Canadian industry — liquefied natural gas,” claimed the report, which failed to mention that 13 LNG projects have already been cancelled or suspended in B.C. and other parts of Canada due to bad economics, global oversupply and high extraction costs based on hydraulic fracturing.

At the moment, Shell’s LNG Canada is the only active project in B.C.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

B.C. gives Pacific BioEnergy green light to log rare inland rainforest for wood pellets

Michelle Connolly

B.C. gives Pacific BioEnergy green light to log rare inland rainforest for wood pellets

Prince George plant will grind ancient cedar and hemlock into pellets to be burned for fuel overseas, destroying forest that’s home to endangered caribou and vast stores of carbon.

Sean O’Rourke was hiking in B.C.’s globally rare inland rainforest this spring when pink flagging tape indicating a planned cutblock caught his eye. Finding flagging tape is nothing new, but when he looked closer, he realized the tape had the name of a nearby pellet company on it — Pacific BioEnergy.

The company operates a plant in Prince George where it turns waste wood products — sawdust from mills, tree bark, wood shavings and clippings — into pellets to be burned to produce heat or electricity, replacing coal and fossil fuels. More than 90 per cent of Canadian wood pellets are shipped overseas to Europe and Asia, according to the Wood Pellet Association of Canada.

But the ancient cedars and hemlocks in the rainforest in Lheidli T’enneh First Nation territory, about 60 kilometres east of Prince George, are most certainly not waste wood.

O’Rourke, a field scout with Conservation North, a grassroots organization advocating for the protection of old-growth forests in northern B.C., took photos of the flagging tape to show his colleagues. He later combed through the publicly available harvest data to confirm the province had indeed issued permits to Pacific BioEnergy to log the old-growth forest.

Pacific BioEnergy cutblock

Flagging tape marked “PBEC” — Pacific BioEnergy Corporation — tipped off Conservation North field scout Sean O’Rourke that the area was going to be logged for pellets. Photo: Conservation North

Conservation North field scout Sean O’Rourke

Sean O’Rourke takes a photo of a Douglas fir tree destined to be turned into wood pellets. Photo: Conservation North

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Indigenous Land Rights Action Blocks Northern BC Highway

Indigenous Land Rights Action Blocks Northern BC Highway

Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en members join day of action to support Ontario nation locked in conflict over development on its traditional territory.

Northern B.C.’s main highway was closed for more than an hour Friday evening as members of the Gitxsan Nation shut down traffic in a show of support for Indigenous rights actions across the country.

The blockade of Highway 16 in New Hazelton, between Smithers and Terrace, was part of a national day of action called for by Haudenosaunee Six Nations members fighting a residential complex on their traditional territory in southern Ontario. While about a dozen events took place in Ontario and Quebec, New Hazelton’s was the only one in Western Canada.

“Everything that’s been taken from us is connected to the land,” organizer Lorinda Campbell told close to 50 people who gathered in the rain at the New Hazelton visitor centre. “We are connected to the land.”

Drumming, singing and carrying signs and banners, the group moved from the visitor centre onto the highway shortly after 5 p.m., where they occupied a bridge in what organizer Hilary Lightening called “a strong message to the government.”

“The Haudenosaunee of Six Nations have issued a call for solidarity across Turtle Island. It’s akin to the same callout that we received from the Wet’suwet’en to shut down Canada,” Lightening said before the event. “What is happening in Canada is this criminalization of land defenders.”

The Haudenosaunee have been occupying a parcel of land on their traditional territory next to the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve in Caledonia, Ont., since July. The occupation is known as 1492 Land Back Lane, a reference to the year Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Argument over Where to Put ‘Agri-Tech’ Zones

The Argument over Where to Put ‘Agri-Tech’ Zones

In the name of food security, BC proposes whittling away Agricultural Land Reserve farmland. Opposition is sprouting.

‘What are the bottlenecks for agri-tech or ag-industrial? What is agri-tech and ag-industrial? I think we need to define it,’ says Agricultural Land Commission chair Jennifer Dyson. She and husband Russell pose with water buffaloes at their farm in Port Alberni. Photo: supplied.

The province is working to carve out new industrial zones for agricultural technology, saying the goal is better food security. But farmers, land-use experts and former NDP ministers are all raising concerns over the proposed location — on the arable soil of the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Last month, deputy minister of agriculture Wes Shoemaker was appointed head of a new effort to establish agri-industrial zones, “as recommended by” the BC NDP government’s Food Security Task Force, said an internal email obtained by The Tyee.

The recommendation, one of four in a new report titled “The Future of B.C.’s Food System,” is to convert up to 0.25 per cent of the Agricultural Land Reserve into agri-industrial zones.

Population growth and climate change may make agri-tech — which supports the production, processing and distribution of food — increasingly necessary. But proponents of the ALR warn about eliminating soil-based food production on 11,500 hectares of land. That’s the size of Vancouver.

The ALR was established in 1973 to protect B.C. farmland from overdevelopment. At a time when the province was losing as much as 6,000 hectares of land every year to urban sprawl, the NDP government under Dave Barrett placed the five per cent — or 4.7 million hectares — of the province that’s farmable into a reserve based on a soil-climate classification.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

BC’s Drilling and Fracking Credits a $1.2 Billion Subsidy in Recent Years, Researcher Finds

BC’s Drilling and Fracking Credits a $1.2 Billion Subsidy in Recent Years, Researcher Finds

Credits reduce future royalties that frackers owe the public for access to the resource.

‘At almost every step of the way the government has refused to provide information on these subsidies,’ said Ben Parfitt, resource policy analyst with the BC office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, of his investigation of the province’s deep well credit program.

“It’s been quite a battle to get to this stage,” said Ben Parfitt, a resource policy analyst with the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “At almost every step of the way the government has refused to provide information on these subsidies.”

In a report released Nov. 13, Parfitt found that over the last two fiscal years the government has provided $1.2 billion in credits to companies drilling deep wells and fracking horizontal wells, a process that involves injecting liquids and chemicals under high pressure to break up rock and extract gas.

Companies including Petronas Energy Canada Ltd., Painted Pony Petroleum, Shell Canada Energy and Cutbank Dawson Gas Resources Ltd. have received hundreds of millions in credits that reduce the future royalty payments they owe to the provincial government for access to the publicly-owned resource.

“We’re out of pocket to the extent that if those credits did not exist, if the program did not exist, then the royalty revenues would be higher,” Parfitt said. Budget documents show that in total the government expects to collect about $250 million a year in natural gas royalties.The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

The deep well credit program dates back to 2003 when it was intended to help with the development of a type of drilling that has since become normal in the industry, Parfitt said.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

BC earthquakes and fracking

BC earthquakes and fracking

As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information

There is no fracking going on right now in northeastern British Columbia, the epicenter of the province’s oil and gas production. Hydraulic fracturing operations have been shut down there for a month due to earthquakes that happened on Nov. 29 about 20 kilometers southeast of Fort St. John.

The BC Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC), which both regulates and promotes the industry (more on that below), is investigating the 4.5 magnitude quake, followed by two smaller aftershocks. One of the largest oil and gas producers in Canada, Canadian Natural Resources, was fracking in the area.

The commission has linked previous earthquake incidents to increased seismicity, though it states on its website that none of the events in BC have resulted in environmental or property damage. Yet.

For those who have been following our investigations into the BC government’s plans to develop a liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry in BC – something we vehemently disagree with considering its costs will vastly outweigh its benefits – there is an irony in the operations suspension.

A couple of months ago the BC Premier and the Prime Minister gathered with industry representatives to announce the final investment decision by Shell and its Asian partners to go ahead with LNG Canada. The first-in-BC $40 billion LNG compression plant, to be built in Kitimat, will receive natural gas via a new pipeline – filled with the same fracked gas that is causing earthquakes and shutting down the industry while the BCOGC investigates. It would be downright shocking if they found anything that would slow fracking in northeastern BC, which supplies natural gas to BC and Alberta, as well as valuable liquefied gas products like diluted bitumen (dilbit) to the oilsands, not to mention hundreds of millions in royalty payments to the BC and Alberta governments.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

BC Premier Says Kinder Morgan Pipeline Plan Meets Her Conditions, Opposition Objects

BC Premier Says Kinder Morgan Pipeline Plan Meets Her Conditions, Opposition Objects

Project’s foes call Clark’s decision a ‘surprise to absolutely no one’ and ‘simply deceitful.’

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark says Kinder Morgan’s proposal to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline has met her government’s requirements for approval.

“The project has met the five conditions,” said Clark. “We always said the five conditions were a path to ‘yes’ and that if the project met the five conditions we would say ‘yes’, and that’s where we are today.”

NDP leader John Horgan said he’s opposed to the project because it poses too great an environmental risk to B.C.’s coast.

The project would triple the capacity of Kinder Morgan’s existing pipeline between Edmonton, Alberta and Burnaby, B.C. and add about six oil tankers a week leaving Vancouver. It received conditional approval from the federal government in November.

The B.C. government announced Wednesday that it had given provincial environmental approval, with 37 conditions, to the project. Clark also said Kinder Morgan has now met her requirement to make sure B.C. received a “fair share” of fiscal and economic benefits.

Kinder Morgan has committed to paying B.C. up to $1 billion as a share of revenue from the project, which the province will use to fund grants to community groups doing environmental protection work, Clark said.

A government backgrounder says the company will pay the province between $25 million and $50 million for 20 years, depending on whether or not the pipeline is operating at full capacity on its spot market contracts, for a total payment between $500 million and $1 billion.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘No Need for Site C’: Review Panel Chair Speaks Out Against Dam in New Video

‘No Need for Site C’: Review Panel Chair Speaks Out Against Dam in New Video

I think we’re making a big mistake, a very expensive one,” Swain says in the video. “Of the $9 billion it will cost, at least $7 billion will never be returned. You and I as rate payers will end up paying $7 billion bucks for something we get nothing for.”

Since 2005, domestic demand for electricity in B.C. has been essentially flat, making it difficult to justify the dam which will flood 107 kilometres of the Peace River and destroy thousands of hectares of prime agricultural land.

There is no need for Site C,” Swain says. “If there was a need, we could meet it with a variety of other renewable and smaller scale sources.”

With a price tag of $8.8 billion, Site C dam is the most expensive public infrastructure project in B.C.’s history. The joint review panel that Swain chaired found demand for the power had not been proven and called for the project to be reviewed by the B.C. Utilities Commission — a recommendation the B.C. government ignored.

Swain first spoke out about the Site C dam last year, but this is the first video interview on the subject with the former deputy minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.

The provinces have the responsibility for the management of natural resources. I don’t think British Columbia has done its job,” Swain says, referring to B.C.’s failure to investigate alternatives to the Site C dam.

Swain outlined the economic case against the dam in an opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun on Friday.


…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Four More Whoppers about LNG in British Columbia

Four More Whoppers about LNG in British Columbia

The real facts behind Christy Clark’s rosy claims.


BC Premier Christy Clark: a million-dollar website to drum up LNG jobs, but not a single job yet.

The B.C. budget claims the province is making money from shale gas. But last month The Tyee showed the province is pouring more cash into the industry than it is getting back.

In fact the only time the B.C. government made any money from shale gas was during a land lease boom nearly a dozen years ago. Ever since then, revenues have dwindled to next to nothing due to low royalties and taxpayer-funded subsidies to the ailing shale gas industry.

Dig deeper, and four more claims made by the B.C. government turn out to be liquefied natural gas whoppers as well.

New information on employment numbers, shale gas reserves, transmission lines and the LNG promise of economic prosperity show that stretching the truth remains a persistent trend in the Christy Clark administration.

Whopper #1: Vastly less gas to sell than claimed

Let’s begin with the government claim that British Columbia “has more than an estimated 2,900 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of marketable shale gas reserves,” or more methane in the ground than the entire United States.

Hughes pointed out in a report for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that the BC Oil and Gas Commission estimated that B.C. only had 376 tcf of marketable shale resources. (Hughes added 40 tcf to this number for good measure, for a total of 416 tcf, to account for possible resources in developing plays.)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

As Hydro Rates Climb, an Idea to Reduce Bills for Low-income Folks

As Hydro Rates Climb, an Idea to Reduce Bills for Low-income Folks 

Advocates pitch affordability program, but minister insists rates are modest.


‘Most other jurisdictions in North America have bill affordability programs. We don’t.’ Bill photo via Shutterstock.

With electricity rates continuing to spiral upwards, an advocacy organization is pushing to have BC Hydro adopt measures to make bills more affordable for people surviving on low incomes.

“Most other jurisdictions in North America have bill affordability programs,” said Sarah Khan, a lawyer with the British Columbia Public Interest Advocacy Centre. “We don’t.”

Confirmation of the latest BC Hydro rate hike came Friday when president and CEO Jessica McDonald said the Crown utility is seeking to raise rates by four per cent on April 1, consistent with a 10-year plan set out in 2013.

BC Hydro rates have gone up by 50 per cent over the past 10 years and they are scheduled to go up another 11 per cent over the next three years, Khan said.

They’ll rise even further when the $10-billion Site C dam is completed on the Peace River and customers start paying for it, she said.

Meanwhile, the provincial minimum wage and welfare rates haven’t kept up while the cost of living has become more expensive, leaving many struggling to pay their bills, Khan said.

The advocacy centre has a proposal to make bills more affordable for some 170,000 families in B.C. who live below the low-income cut-offs set by Statistics Canada, around $32,000 a year for a family of four depending on what size community they live in.

On behalf of seven anti-poverty and seniors’ groups, the centre plans to submit the proposal in April as part of BC Hydro’s ongoing rate design review in front of the B.C. Utilities Commission. Launched by the provincial government, the review’s mandate includes evaluating the current rate structures to ensure they are fair.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Site C Is a Climate-Change Disaster, Says Suzuki

Site C Is a Climate-Change Disaster, Says Suzuki

‘We have to rethink everything’ says noted environmentalist. A Tyee Q&A.

David Suzuki at Site C announcement

David Suzuki and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip at a media scrum outside the B.C. Superior Court Monday morning. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

Flooding valuable farmland to build the Site C dam undermines Canada’s commitment to meet international climate-change targets, environmentalist David Suzuki said outside a B.C. courtroom this week.

The farmland is needed to reduce B.C.’s dependence on imported foods, Suzuki said, and eliminate the huge amounts of carbon fuels needed to bring those foods here.

“It seems to me crazy to put farmland in the north underwater,” he said. “We live in a food chain now in which food grows on average 3,000 kilometres from where it’s consumed. The transport of all that food is dependent on fossil fuels.

“Food has got to be grown much closer to where it’s going to be consumed,” he said.

Instead of building dams and pipelines, Canada should “massively encourage” wind, solar and geothermal energy projects and put a stiff price on carbon emissions, he said.

Suzuki joined Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, head of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, at a news conference on the steps of B.C. Supreme Court just before the latest battle over the Site C hydroelectric project began inside.

BC Hydro is seeking an injunction to prevent protesters at the Rocky Mountain Fort camp from “physically interfering” with the construction of Site C. The B.C. government approved the $8.3-billion dam in late 2014.

If completed, Site C would flood about 83 kilometres of the Peace River valley near Hudson’s Hope, much of it fertile land, and generate enough electricity to power 450,000 homes.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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