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Cascadia Was Poised to Lead on Climate. Can It Still?

Cascadia Was Poised to Lead on Climate. Can It Still?

BC, Washington and Oregon all aimed to slash emissions. After epic battles, they failed. First in a series on creating a zero-carbon bioregion.

With dozens of people killed by wildfires in the western U.S., millions of acres scorched and choking smoke spreading far into British Columbia, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee lit up the news wires in September. “These are not just wildfires,” Inslee asserted at a press conference from Olympia, “these are climate fires.”

Two days later on George Stephanopoulos’ Sunday-morning ABC News talk show, the recent presidential candidate recounted a poignant visit to a town nearly wiped out by the fires. “The only moisture in Eastern Washington was the tears of people who have lost their homes,” said Inslee. “And now we have a blowtorch over our states in the West, which is climate change.”

Just days after his return to the national stage, however, the question in a Seattle courtroom was whether the state he’d run since 2013 should be sanctioned for helping to fuel and light that torch. On Thursday, Sept. 17, an attorney representing Inslee and the entire apparatus of Washington state government stood to tell three masked judges behind a plexiglass shield that courts could not hold the state legally responsible for its part in the climate crisis: The part where it expanded highways. The part where it licensed power plants and factories to emit many tons of greenhouse gases. Where it set building standards that would keep residents’ stoves and furnaces and water heaters polluting the atmosphere for decades to come.

 

Last Days for BC’s Apple Industry?

Last Days for BC’s Apple Industry?

COVID-19 and bad weather have hammered Okanagan orchardists. But low prices are the biggest threat to their survival. First of two.

Between COVID-19, labour shortages and bad weather, Sukhdeep Brar has had a rough year growing apples. But as giant grocery chains drive wholesale prices down to pennies a pound, he says the struggle to keep apple production in B.C. started long before this COVID-19 pandemic.

 

India’s Farmer Movement, Indigenous Land Defenders and Hidden Histories

India’s Farmer Movement, Indigenous Land Defenders and Hidden Histories

The protests may be half-a-world apart. But they’re both based on a spiritual connection to the land.

When 250 million workers joined the largest strike in human history last month to support the Indian Kisan Andolan, or Farmer Movement, the connection to Indigenous land protests in British Columbia might not have been instantly evident.

But the two struggles have much in common in their resistance against neoliberal nation states and the corporations that influence them. They also share a hidden history that aligns the struggles in a unique field of solidarity.

Indian farmers are fighting the central government over three bills that effectively hand the agricultural market to large corporations, letting them set prices, and turn formerly independent farmers into contractors under corporate control.

Punjabi farmers have taken their protests to the border of Delhi and created blockades on highways, while farmers from other parts of India are doing the same.

The majority of Punjabis in India follow the Sikh faith. Agriculture is central not just to Punjab’s economy, but also to its culture. During the march to Delhi, police brutalized the farmers with water cannons and batons. Despite this, the farmers practiced a central tenet of the Sikh faith, langar (free kitchen) and made food available to both protestors, bystanders and police.

In B.C., a different but connected battle is being waged. Hereditary Chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en Nation have opposed TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline across northern B.C. since it was proposed. This resistance has led to demonstrations and railway blockades across Canada.

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

 

Hope for the Best from Canada’s UNDRIP Law. But Expect More of the Same

Hope for the Best from Canada’s UNDRIP Law. But Expect More of the Same

Like BC, the federal government is better at talking about Indigenous rights than it is at actually respecting them.

Is this really a game changer for Indigenous Peoples in Canada? I have my doubts, as do others.

There are two reasons for skepticism.

First, Bill C-15 focuses on high-level, aspirational commitments rather than on delivering concrete, immediate change to Indigenous Peoples.

If passed into law, Bill C-15 will require the federal government to take measures to ensure the laws of Canada are consistent with the declaration, and to prepare and implement an action plan to achieve its objectives. While enacting sweeping changes to federal legislation will undoubtedly take time, the federal government’s focus on these future promises conveniently allows it to sidestep the realities that Indigenous people face on a daily basis.

Governments pour promises on Indigenous people like a winter rain. Rather than witnessing real change, we are too often left with cold disappointment.

Maybe it’ll be different this time. But, if the experience of British Columbia’s UNDRIP legislation is an accurate predictor, we should all dress for more cold rains.

Passed a little over a year ago to great fanfare, the B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act has failed to live up to its promise. Instead, the provincial government has continued with its dreary, self-serving narrative based on the denial of Indigenous rights.

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

Why Site C Construction Should Stop Today

Why Site C Construction Should Stop Today

The BC government has failed in its oversight role, say a former BC Hydro CEO and a veteran dam engineer.

Site C is the most expensive publicly funded infrastructure project in British Columbia’s history and the dam’s construction is being spearheaded by BC Hydro, a publicly owned hydroelectric utility whose sole shareholder is the provincial government.

That ought to mean that our elected leaders and civil servants place the highest priority on keeping on top of everything that goes on at Site C, because ultimately all British Columbians must pay for the project.

But there is an even more compelling reason why our government must be fully and effectively engaged on this project. All dams built in British Columbia must, by provincial statute, be designed, built and maintained to the highest safety standards.

Dams do not fail often. But when they do, the losses can be devastating. Which is why B.C.’s dam safety regulation is in place, and why it falls to engineers and dam safety officials employed by the provincial government to ensure that all dams built in the province have structural integrity.

Unfortunately, this important responsibility has rarely been mentioned as Site C has careened from one set of problems to another.

First there was the troubling tension crack that opened a gaping maw on the north riverbank following initial excavation work in 2017, leading to the removal of millions of cubic metres of additional earth to stabilize a clearly unstable bank.

Then there was problem after problem drilling the project’s diversion and drainage tunnels, as portions of the concrete liners anchored to the tunnel walls gave way and crashed to the tunnel floors — incidents later attributed to the soft shale that dominates the site.

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

Spiked. BC Profs Protest after Publisher Drops Book on Canadian Mining

Spiked. BC Profs Protest after Publisher Drops Book on Canadian Mining

UNBC researchers’ book alleging wrongdoing in Guatemala was accepted, reviewed, then cancelled.

Two British Columbia university professors are accusing a major academic publisher of blocking scrutiny of Canadian mining companies by cancelling publication of their book.

“We have a responsibility to publicize what happened,” wrote University of Northern British Columbia geography professor and department chair Catherine Nolin and UNBC adjunct professor Grahame Russell in an open letter to Springer Nature. Russell lives in Toronto and runs UNBC field courses in Guatemala with Nolin.

Nolin and Russell co-edited Canadian Mining in the Aftermath of Genocides in Guatemala: The Violence, Corruption, and Impunity of Contemporary Predatory Mineral Exploitation. Russell is also a founder and director of the advocacy group Rights Action.

The book had passed peer review and was ready last February for publication, but after several months delay Springer Nature notified them that after a legal review it had decided to cancel their contract and return the rights to the manuscript to them. It cited libel concerns.

“They didn’t engage in any sort of tweaks,” Russell said in a Zoom call. “We didn’t think it would be five months of silence and then shut the door.”

Headquartered in Europe, Springer Nature publishes thousands of titles a year according to its website, as well as journals including Nature.

“A major theme addressed in the articles, testimonies and analysis that comprise our book is the endemic corruption and impunity with which the mining companies addressed in the book have, variously, been able to operate in Guatemala, with their Guatemalan economic and political partners,” Nolin and Russell wrote in their letter.

…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…

In the War on Climate Change, the BC Election Was a Bust

In the War on Climate Change, the BC Election Was a Bust

But the Sustainabiliteens and other youth committed to radical change will never give up.

For high school students and climate activists like us, British Columbia’s recent election wasn’t just about politics. It was about our futures: the 10 or so years we have left to prevent the worst of the global climate crisis. That doesn’t sound so long when you think of it as two or three election cycles.

We are both organizers with Sustainabiliteens, Metro Vancouver’s youth climate strike movement. We worked on campaigns this election because we believe in the power of political organizing to create change. We spent countless hours canvassing, flyering and phone banking — and now we have a chance to reflect on what the results mean for our generation and the future of the province.

First of all, this power-grab election should never have been called in the first place. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, not to mention a looming climate crisis — speaking of which, are we crazy or does the NDP really want to go ahead with Site C?

Suffice to say, an NDP majority wasn’t the result we wanted. Premier John Horgan found popularity not in spite of the BC Greens holding him accountable, but because of them. Honestly, we’re scared for what Horgan will do with absolute power. As we should be, considering his track record on climate action, as well as Indigenous sovereignty.

…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…

A Danish Journalist Arrived to Cover the TMX Pipeline. The Guard at YVR Decided to Deport Him

A Danish Journalist Arrived to Cover the TMX Pipeline. The Guard at YVR Decided to Deport Him

Kristian Lindhardt says Canada’s laws stifle press freedom afforded ‘during every crisis.’

When Danish journalist Kristian Lindhardt arrived at the Vancouver airport on Friday, he knew he would face additional levels of border scrutiny because of the coronavirus. Lindhardt wasn’t too concerned, though, because he has international press credentials from Denmark’s version of CBC and a statement from Chief Reuben George of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation explaining that Lindhardt is here to report on the Trans Mountain pipeline. Lindhardt had also made all the necessary arrangements for a 14-day quarantine in Vancouver.

But just as Lindhardt was about to get through customs a border guard pulled him aside. The guard questioned him for hours and made him sign a document promising to fly back to Denmark today. “I asked what happens if I don’t sign them,” Lindhardt told The Tyee over the phone Saturday morning, just hours before his flight back to Europe was set to depart. “And he said he would detain me in a jail cell.”

The B.C. government currently deems “newspapers, television, radio, call centres, online news outlets and other media services” as essential work. But there is no direction from the federal government saying journalists must be let into the country, according to Green Party MP and former leader of the party Elizabeth May, who has looked into the issue. At the end of the day, it’s up to individual border guards to decide who can enter and who can’t.

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

Coastal GasLink Gets Green Light to Start Pipeline Work Near Unist’ot’en Healing Centre

Coastal GasLink Gets Green Light to Start Pipeline Work Near Unist’ot’en Healing Centre

BC approves impact studies and calls for consultation with Wet’suwet’en as work proceeds in contested area.

Wetsuweten-Cover.jpg
Freda Huson (Howilhkat), director of the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, continued singing as the RCMP arrested her at the site on Feb. 10. Photo by Amanda Follett Hosgood.

The province’s Environmental Assessment Office has granted Coastal GasLink permission to begin pipeline construction near the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, the scene of a standoff and arrests in February.

On Thursday, the office issued seven letters confirming its approval of an impact assessment report submitted July 17 by the pipeline company. Coastal GasLink can now begin work on its natural gas pipeline in the Morice River Technical Boundary Area south of Smithers, B.C.

Completion and approval of the 324-page report was a condition of the company’s environmental assessment certificate, initially granted in 2014.

Until 2019 the company was unable to access terrain near the healing centre to do impact assessments, because the Wet’suwet’en house group had gated the Morice River bridge at its territorial boundary. Coastal GasLink submitted an initial report in November, and the Environmental Assessment Office requested additional information in February.

The letters issued Thursday were addressed to Coastal GasLink, four Wet’suwet’en band councils and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, which represents the nation’s hereditary chiefs.

By far the longest, at 11 pages, was the letter to Unist’ot’en Hereditary Chief Knedebeas, whose English name is Warner William.

In it, Nathan Braun, acting assistant deputy minister for the Environmental Assessment Office, acknowledges the house group’s lack of consent to the project and recent willingness to engage in dialogue to mitigate impacts to the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, located a kilometre from the pipeline route.

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

Wet’suwet’en Fear Contaminated Soil Cleanup Is Creating New Risks

Wet’suwet’en Fear Contaminated Soil Cleanup Is Creating New Risks

Waste from diesel spills by Coastal GasLink and RCMP is being dumped in local landfill.

RCMPTarpCover.jpg
Tarp covering spill site at RCMP’s Community-Industry Safety Office, which was set up last year to patrol protests where Coastal GasLink is building a pipeline to transport natural gas. Photo: submitted.

Efforts to clean up diesel spills by the RCMP and Coastal GasLink in Wet’suwet’en territory risk spreading the contamination, the First Nation has warned.

Mike Ridsdale, environmental assessment co-ordinator for the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, the central office for the nation, said the waste is being moved to a nearby landfill where it will still pose a threat.

“We’ve had two spills where the contaminants were knowingly moved into another watershed and are now threatening our water,” Ridsdale said. “This is unacceptable to the Wet’suwet’en, and our yintah (territory) should not suffer from this poorly designed remediation.”

Government officials are defending the transfer of 2,351 tonnes of contaminated soil and gravel to a nearby landfill instead of a site farther away that’s designed to take hazardous waste.

The materials came from two separate spills, one at a Coastal GasLink work camp and the other at the RCMP Community-Industry Safety Office, both south of Houston on the Morice West Forest Service Road.

Police established the remote detachment to monitor potential conflicts over the building of Coastal GasLink’s natural gas pipeline, which is opposed by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

Each spill is estimated at about 500 litres. The spill at the RCMP detachment occurred about 100 metres from the Morice River.

The contaminated soil is being taken to the Knockholt Landfill east of Houston, which is within a kilometre of the Bulkley River. According to the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako’s website, the landfill is suitable for residential, commercial and institutional waste, including food, wood, animal carcasses and scrap metal. Industrial waste is not accepted.

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

By Many Calculations, LNG Is a Fail for BC: Report

By Many Calculations, LNG Is a Fail for BC: Report

The math for liquefied natural gas is bad on emissions, revenues, jobs, even offsetting coal in China, finds a new study.

JohnHorganInvestingCanada.jpg
Go figure. BC NDP Premier John Horgan announcing in 2018 a $40-billion investment by the consortium LNG Canada in its Kitimat terminal for processing and export. Photo: BC Government.

David Hughes, one of the nation’s foremost energy analysts, has a simple message for the governments of British Columbia and Canada when it comes to advocating for LNG projects.

“Do the math.”

Hughes has parsed the numbers and they don’t add up on methane emissions, climate change targets, resource royalties, job benefits or even basic economics.

“The math is clear,” says Hughes, whose latest 57-page report on LNG exports highlights a long pipeline of damning figures.

Emissions targets: Won’t LNG help hit them? The numbers say noThe Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

The province’s CleanBC plan, for example, demands an 80-per-cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from 2007 levels.

But Hughes, who was a scientific researcher for 32 years at the Geological Survey of Canada, checked the math on emissions based on energy production forecasts made by the Canada Energy Regulator.

His math is conservative. It excluded any LNG exports. It assumes current major reductions in methane leaks from gas extraction might be plugged. And it further assumes the electrification of some upstream projects. Still, Hughes found that “emissions from oil and gas production would exceed B.C.’s 2050 target by 54 per cent.”

(A group of scientists writing in Nature found the same thing on a global scale last year: just using existing fossil fuel infrastructure takes the world into climate change hell.)

…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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