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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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Trans Mountain Pipeline Spills up to 50,000 Gallons of Oil on Indigenous Land in BC

Trans Mountain Pipeline Spills up to 50,000 Gallons of Oil on Indigenous Land in BC

Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline spilled as many as 190,000 liters (approximately 50,193 gallons) of crude oil in Abbotsford, British Columbia (BC) Saturday, reinforcing concerns about the safety of the pipeline’s planned expansion.

Chief Dalton Silver of the Sumas First Nation told CTV News that the spill occurred on his reserve on fields over an aquifer that supplies his nation with drinking water. It marks the fourth time in 15 years that the pipeline has spilled on his community’s land.

“We cannot continue to have our land desecrated by oil spills,” he said in a statement issued by the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) Sunday.

The spill occurred early Saturday morning at the pipeline’s Sumas Pump Station, Trans Mountain told CBC News. The company said no construction work related to the pipeline’s expansion was being done at the time of the spill.

Instead, the spill appeared to have been connected to a fitting on a smaller piece of pipe attached to the main line, the company said in a statement.

“The cause of the incident is under investigation and that will continue,” company spokesperson Ali Hounsell told CTV News. “At this time, it’s believed to be a failure of a small-diametre, one-inch piece of pipe.”

The company estimated that between 940 to 1,195 barrels (or 150,000 to 190,000 liters) of oil was released and fully contained.

“Clean-up is well underway with trucks and crews working around the clock,” the company said in a Sunday afternoon statement. “The free-standing oil has been recovered and is being transported to an approved facility for disposal. The site has permanent groundwater monitoring in place and air monitoring continues. Monitoring has not identified any risk to the public or community.”

The pipeline was initially shut off in response to the spill, but restarted around 2 p.m. local time Sunday.

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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.

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‘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.

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Sprawling Our Way to Climate Catastrophe

Sprawling Our Way to Climate Catastrophe

The best way developers can help cut emissions is by redesigning suburbia. Make them to do it.

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Subdivisions in Coquitlam, BC. Ending sprawl is a tough conversation, which is why we seem to be putting it off. Photo via Alamy.

There’s a hole in B.C.’s climate plan big enough to drive a subdivision through.

While civil servants in Victoria diligently seek emissions reductions throughout the province to hit our climate targets, the people working in B.C.’s municipal governments routinely approve more suburban sprawl, meaning more drivers in private vehicles pushing emissions up.

More frustrating is that local governments are ultimately creatures of the provincial government. This means the B.C. government is essentially working against itself.

The CleanBC plan includes all kinds of policies, from efficient buildings to promoting electric vehicles to workforce training. But it’s strangely silent on the number one municipal climate issue: suburban sprawl.

Transportation accounts for the most emissions at the city level, and those emissions are driven by development patterns. If municipalities approve dense development close to services, people can walk, bike or be well served by transit. If they approve spread-out subdivisions far from services, people have no choice but to get in their vehicles every time they leave the house.

And no, electric vehicles will not save us from bad development decisions. While a growing minority of people are indeed going electric, they still account for less than four per cent of new car sales in Canada. Meanwhile, many buyers are increasingly shifting to gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs, making Canada’s fleet the least efficient in the world.

This is a policy failure in itself, but also a reminder that there is no one fix to climate change. We need to do it all, and local governments must play their part.

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Trudeau and His North Van Climate Minister Are ‘Wrestling’ with a Massive Oilsands Decision

Trudeau and His North Van Climate Minister Are ‘Wrestling’ with a Massive Oilsands Decision

Teck’s Frontier mine would kill emissions targets, say analysts.

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Where will Minister for Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson, MP for North Vancouver, land on Frontier, possibly the biggest oilsands project ever? Photo by Mike Sudoma, the Canadian Press.

The Trudeau government is under intense scrutiny for a looming decision — one that will powerfully signal whether it favours oil patch growth over fighting the climate emergency. 

Will the Liberals approve a new bitumen mine twice the size of Vancouver that alone is expected to add 20 per cent of additional oilsands emissions over the next three decades? 

Or will Justin Trudeau’s government make good on its promise to set Canada on the path to having “net-zero” emissions by 2050 by rejecting the Frontier mine being proposed by Vancouver-based Teck Resources?

Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, who represents the riding of North Vancouver, is reportedly “wrestling” with the decision, which is expected sometime next month. The Prime Minister’s Office didn’t respond to The Tyee’s interview request.

Wilkinson has said that achieving Canada’s aggressive net-zero target, which would result in the country effectively ceasing to contribute to global temperature rise within three decades, is not open to negotiation: “That is a target that is not informed by politics. It’s informed by science.” 

If that’s the case, then the Liberals need to forcefully reject what is one of the biggest oilsands mining projects ever proposed, says Eriel Deranger, executive director of the Edmonton-based group Indigenous Climate Action. “We cannot afford more destabilization of critical ecosystems and the creation of massive amounts of carbon emissions,” she told The Tyee.

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Horgan’s Pipeline Push Betrays His Reconciliation Promise

Horgan’s Pipeline Push Betrays His Reconciliation Promise

First Nations expected a new era; instead the government has embraced colonialism and ignored UNDRIP law.

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‘Is this a scorecard of how many First Nations say yes compared to those who say no? Is that how we measure rights and title?’ Photo by Michael Toledano.

It’s the same old story Indigenous Peoples have heard for generations.

B.C. Premier John Horgan tells the public “the rule of law” demands the Coastal GasLink pipeline go ahead. Permits are in place, and the courts have approved construction.

The opposition of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs is not important to Horgan, as he points to 20 First Nations that have signed agreements to allow the pipeline and negotiated benefits. The five clans who have not agreed don’t seem to count.

Is this a scorecard of how many First Nations say yes compared to those who say no? Is that how we measure rights and title?

Are we not in a new era of reconciliation? A new decade? The decade of the enactment of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Act in this province?

What would I expect from the premier in this new era, in this particular situation when he needs credibility with First Nations if his commitment to UNDRIP is to be taken seriously?

I would expect the premier to look back on past decisions and ensure they were made in the spirit of UNDRIP — including approval of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. His party was making political promises to uphold UNDRIP long before the NDP were in government.

In the 2014 Supreme Court of Canada Tsilhqot’in decision, the justices stated clearly that provincial and federal governments need to be prepared to cancel already approved projects if First Nations establish title to the land and oppose them.

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RCMP Planned to Use Snipers in Assault on Wet’suwet’en Protest, Guardian Reports

RCMP Planned to Use Snipers in Assault on Wet’suwet’en Protest, Guardian Reports

Newspaper cites planning documents that called for ‘lethal overwatch’ to ensure pipeline built.

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Heavily armed RCMP officers sent to Indigenous checkpoint with instructions for ‘sterlizing the site,’ documents reveal. Photo by Michael Toledano.

The RCMP were prepared to use snipers with shoot-to-kill orders when they launched a raid to remove Indigenous protesters slowing pipeline construction in Wet’suwet’en territory, the Guardian reported today.

The exclusive report by Jaskiran Dhillon and Will Parrish reveals RCMP planning notes included arguments that “lethal overwatch is req’d,” a term for deploying snipers.

The Guardian reports RCMP commanders instructed officers to “use as much violence toward the gate as you want” as they planned the Jan. 7 action to remove a gated checkpoint and camp about 120 kilometres southwest of Smithers.

The RCMP sent heavily armed officers in military-style fatigues to break down a gate, arrest 14 people and enforce a “temporary exclusion zone” that barred anyone aside from police from the area. The police were enforcing an injunction obtained by Coastal GasLink, the company building a pipeline to take natural gas to a planned LNG project in Kitimat.

The Guardian reports RCMP documents note arrests would be necessary for “sterilizing the site.” Plans included arresting everyone in the injunction area, including children and elders.

They also show the RCMP conducted surveillance in advance of the raid including heavily armed police patrols, drones, heat-sensing cameras and monitoring of protesters social media postings.

And the report reveals the RCMP and pipeline company officials worked closely together on strategy.

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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.

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‘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…

Frack Quakes: Knowledge Is Weak as BC Drilling Grows

Frack Quakes: Knowledge Is Weak as BC Drilling Grows

As an LNG boom looms, so does the mystery of related tremors, finds report.

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Oil and gas industry drilling pads dot the landscape around Farmington, BC, one of the areas jolted by 2018 quakes. Photo via Google Earth.

Regulators know fracking has caused earthquakes in northeastern B.C. big enough to rattle homes and halt construction at the Site C dam worksite in 2018.

Those same regulators certainly are mindful of the fact that if one or more planned LNG plants are built on B.C.’s coast, fracking in the province would surge.

But a newly released report for the BC Oil and Gas Commission says researchers can’t yet answer basic questions about where fracking will trigger earthquakes or why some frack jobs set off only small earthquakes while others trigger larger ones.

The independent geological report by the Calgary firm Enlighten Geoscience found incomplete seismic data and complex geology are major obstacles to understanding the potential hazard posed by fracking-triggered earthquakes.

“The lack of consistency in type, quantity and quality of data being collected, and especially in data that has been collected in the past, makes it difficult to develop a good understanding of the induced seismicity in the region,” said the report.

The report looked at the Kiskatinaw Seismic Monitoring and Mitigation Area created by the BC Oil and Gas Commission in May 2018 after public complaints about the number of earthquakes now unsettling the formerly quiet seismic region. The study area includes Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, the two regional centres.

The earthquake risk is high, the researchers found. The underground formations are “in a near critical state, meaning only small fluid pressure increases are sufficient to cause specific sets of fractures and faults to become critically stressed.”

Hydraulic fracturing sends highly pressured blasts of large quantities of water, chemicals, and sand down wells to shatter rock formations and allow gas to flow.

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

BC Government Frets Over Climate Change While Heavily Subsidizing Fracking Companies

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.

 …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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