Category Archives: Environmental

Climate Change, Logging and Mining, Oil and Gas

Minnesota grants key permits for Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline project

FILE – In this June 29, 2018 file photo, pipeline used to carry crude oil is shown at the Superior terminal of Enbridge Energy in Superior, Wis. AP Photo/Jim Mone

Minnesota regulators granted a stack of important permits and approvals Thursday for Enbridge’s planned Line 3 pipeline replacement across northern Minnesota, setting the long-delayed US$2.6-billion project on the road toward beginning construction soon.

The approvals from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources clear the way for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue the remaining federal permits, which is expected to happen fairly quickly. The MPCA could then approve a final construction storm water permit that’s meant to protect surface waters from pollutant runoff.

“The MPCA has used sound science and thorough analysis to ensure that necessary safeguards are in place to protect Minnesota’s waters,” Commissioner Laura Bishop said in a statement, adding that the certification “requires Enbridge to meet Minnesota’s extensive water quality standards instead of lower federal standards.”

Environmental and Indigenous groups have been fighting the project for years. They contend it threatens pristine waters where Indigenous people harvest wild rice and that the oil it would carry from the Canadian oilsands would aggravate climate change.

“The science is clear that Line 3 would threaten Minnesota’s clean water and set back our state’s progress on climate at a time when we can least afford it,” Margaret Levin, director of the Sierra Club’s Minnesota chapter, said in a statement that raised the possibility of further legal challenges.

But Calgary-based Enbridge welcomed the approvals, saying in a statement that it recognizes that the permit conditions required by the two state agencies “are essential for protecting Minnesota’s sensitive streams and wild rice waters.”

Line 3 — which runs from Alberta across North Dakota and Minnesota to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wis., — was built in the 1960s, but it’s deteriorating and can run at only about half its original capacity.

Enbridge says replacing it will allow it to move oil more safely while creating 4,200 construction jobs and generating millions of dollars in local spending and tax revenues. The updated sections in Canada, North Dakota and Wisconsin are already operating. But the Minnesota segment has been working its way through regulatory agencies and the courts for six years.

Still pending is a court appeal from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which contends that Enbridge failed to conduct a legally adequate long-range demand forecast. The independent Public Utilities Commission, which is overseeing the project, has rejected that argument several times.

The administration of Gov. Tim Walz has come under fire from Line 3 supporters for pursuing the challenge; now it faces criticism from opponents for Thursday’s approvals.

“It’s clear now that Gov. Walz’s wish for Line 3 to have ‘a social permit’ was all talk and no action. This is a deeply unpopular pipeline that is a disaster for our climate, and it will be fought every step of the way,” said Andy Pearson, Midwest Tar Sands Co-ordinator for the climate change group MN350.

The regional council of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, one of the unions whose members would build the project, said in a statement that it expects construction to begin next month.

Enbridge spokesperson Juli Kellner wouldn’t confirm that date but said the company plans to begin construction as soon as it has the final authorization and permits in hand. Construction would then take six to nine months.

By Steve Karnowski The Associated Press, Posted November 12, 2020

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Imperial Oil reports deaths of birds that landed on Alberta tailings ponds

In 2019 and in 2010, Syncrude was fined millions of dollars for the death of birds landing on its tailings pond.

Fort McMurray, Alta. — Imperial Oil Ltd. is reporting the deaths of 50 birds that landed on tailings areas near its Kearl oilsands project in northern Alberta.

Imperial says more than 100 birds per day, mainly grebes and shorebirds, have landed on the ponds over several days, mostly on open water.

Jon Harding, an Imperial spokesman, says some of the oily birds have been taken to a rehabilitation centre in Edmonton where they will be cleaned and assessed.

Imperial says the birds landed despite active deterrent systems including radar detection, noise cannons, eye-safe lasers, scarecrows, and long-range noise making devices.

It says the system is maintained and operated by a well-trained, experienced and dedicated team that works throughout the annual bird migration and breeding season.

Imperial says it believes exhausted birds landed at the Kearl site in spite of the deterrents because most of the natural water bodies in the area are still frozen.

“We very much regret this situation and are making every effort to protect the birds and learn from these increased landings,” Harding said in an email Tuesday.

“Our personnel, with expert third-party support, continue to actively monitor the situation and are taking all prudent steps to safely encourage the birds to avoid and move off landing areas.”

Harding said Imperial has notified industry regulators about what happened.

In January 2019, Syncrude was fined more than $2.7 million after pleading guilty to environmental charges in the deaths of 31 great blue herons at one of its oilsands mines north of Fort McMurray in 2015.

An agreed statement of facts said that Syncrude admitted that an abandoned sump pond in which the birds were found didn’t have deterrents to keep waterfowl from landing on it, even though the pond met criteria for being high risk.

Fencing and bird deterrents were then installed and the ponds were brought under Syncrude’s plan to keep wildlife away from toxic materials at its mine.

In 2010, Syncrude was fined $3 million after more than 1,600 ducks died when they landed on a tailings pond in 2008.

Syncrude was found guilty of federal and provincial environmental charges over the duck deaths.

By; The Canadian Press, May 6, 2020

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Indigenous leaders call for pipeline shutdown over COVID-19 fears

As construction continues on the controversial, billion-dollar Coastal Gaslink pipeline in northern British Columbia, Indigenous communities living near the route fear that out-of-town workers could spread COVID-19 to the resource-strapped region.

First Nations leaders, many of whom supported the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ opposition to the project, are now calling on the federal and provincial governments to shut down the construction. In an open letter, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs said the ongoing construction heightens the risk of transmission and puts both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities at risk.

“The risks posed by continued work on the Coastal GasLink project are ones that were not consented to, and ones that leaders and officials raised warnings about in advance of the project’s approval,” the group said in its letter.

Like most provinces, B.C has deemed construction projects an essential service. Provincial Medical Health Officer Bonnie Henry has said it isn’t safe or practical to shut down ongoing construction projects.

Coastal Gaslink has camps dotted across northern British Columbia to accommodate its workforce, which is projected to reach 2,500 workers once the project reaches its peak construction period.

These days, roughly 100 workers remain on the job, Coastal Gaslink said, down from about 1,000 before the coronavirus pandemic. To help prevent the spread of the virus, common areas are now restricted and the company said it is disinfecting equipment.

The company says local residents and contractors are being hired and that new employees won’t be moving in to the company’s accommodations. On-site medics are monitoring workers’ health using both temperature checks and health questionnaires. Workers must keep a distance of at least two metres from each other in the dining room and common areas, and each worker has their own bedroom and bathroom.

But Indigenous leaders say those measures don’t go far enough. Many of the workers come from out of town and live in close quarters at construction camps, and there are fears that they could spark an outbreak.

Speaking on behalf of the union, Chief Judy Wilson said the construction camps should not be allowed to stay open in the middle of a pandemic.

“If Trudeau is saying lock down self-isolate, all those things are important, why are the industrial resource camps not heeding those precautions?” Wilson told CTV News.

“This is serious. It needs to be shut down.”

In a separate open letter, the union has also called on the government to reduce fossil fuel production and exports, invest in renewable energy and not use emergency relief money to bail out the struggling oil and gas sector.

The issue comes down to limited healthcare resources, says Jennifer Wickham, a representative of the Gidimt’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

“In the north, we have really limited medical services as it is. So if anything were to happen, it would just overwhelm the limited services that we already have,” she said.

Across Canada, concerns have been raised about overloading rural and northern hospitals with unnecessary visitors. In British Columbia, authorities have asked residents to only travel when necessary.

While many businesses have been forced to close during the pandemic, construction and energy-related projects continue across Canada, including in OntarioAlberta and Quebec, where they are deemed essential services.

Earlier this year, the Coastal Gaslink pipeline was at the centre of a national controversy after rail blockades were established across the country in solitary with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who opposed the pipeline being built on their land. The blockades triggered mass layoffs and prompted high-level meetings between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s senior ministers and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

Warren Buffett’s exit from $9-billion Quebec LNG project after rail blockades ‘a signal’ to investors

‘We’re not going to find $4 billion tomorrow morning, and we sure aren’t going to find it in the region,’ says Saguenay deputy mayor

Warren Buffett, one of the world’s most influential investors, has pulled out of a proposed $9 billion liquefied natural gas project in Quebec over concerns about railway blockades and infrastructure challenges.

The domestic oil and gas sector was already reeling after Teck Resources cancelled its $20.6 billion Frontier oilsands project in Alberta last month, partly over fears about rail blockades, and as other strategic investors have avoided the industry.

“Over the last month, a clear signal has been sent to businesses across Canada that the rule of law will not be upheld and that major projects cannot get built,” Conservative MP for Chicoutimi-Le Fjord Richard Martel said in an email, adding that Quebecers “risk losing out” on a multi-billion project.

GNL Quebec confirmed Thursday it had lost a major potential investor as it seeks to build the $9 billion Énergie Saguenay project to export Western Canadian natural gas from a proposed facility in Quebec.

“This was a major private investor who left at the last minute,” GNL Quebec spokesperson Stephanie Fortin said in an interview.

“The reason is the recent challenge in the Canadian political context.”

She declined to provide the name of the investor or confirm the identity, but Montreal-based La Presse cited unnamed sources when it reported Thursday the investor was Omaha, Neb.-based conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which is controlled by Buffett.

The identity was confirmed by Saguenay deputy mayor Michel Potvin to the Montreal Gazette.

Potvin, who heads the local investment agency known as Promotion Saguenay, said Berkshire would have invested about $4 billion.

“We did not need this, especially at this stage of the project,” Potvin said. “We’re not going to find $4 billion tomorrow morning, and we sure aren’t going to find it in the region. So we have to roll up our sleeves.”

In recent weeks, rail blockades and protests have also snarled major infrastructure in Canada, disrupting port shipments and stalling the delivery of grains and other commodities across the country.

“Add it to the list,” Raymond James analyst Jeremy McCrea said of Berkshire Hathaway’s decision to pull out of the LNG project in Quebec.

Major resource companies such as ConocoPhillips Co., Total SA and Devon Energy Corp. have sold billions of dollars in assets in Canada in recent years as an exodus of investors have caused activity in the energy sector to plummet.

“Reported news of a large investor pulling out of a major LNG project echoes what we have been independently hearing from other investors,” Alberta Associate Minister of Natural Gas Dale Nally said in an email to the Financial Post. “It’s undeniable that weeks of railways and ports being blockaded would deter international investors from doing business in Canada.”

Quebec Premier François Legault has frequently called for action to end the rail blockades in recent weeks as they hurt his province and much of Eastern Canada. His office declined a request for comment Thursday about how the blockades affected investment in the LNG project proposed for Saguenay.

Berkshire Hathaway did not respond to a request for comment.

Financial analysts, investors and energy executives say losing funding from Buffett is a major blow to the industry, which has already seen other investors quit, because other fund managers take cues from the so-called Oracle of Omaha’s investment strategy.

Buffett is the fourth-richest man in the world with an estimated net worth of US$81.2 billion and he built Berkshire Hathaway into a $508-billion conglomerate over the past few decades.

Berkshire Hathaway continues to own shares in Calgary-based oilsands producer Suncor Energy as well as U.S. energy companies Occidental Petroleum and Phillips66.

But the company’s decision not to invest in Énergie Saguenay “sends a signal that all governments and particularly the federal government should pay attention to,” said Tristan Goodman, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, which represents mid-sized oil and gas companies.

“We have to have foreign investment,” Goodman said. “We do need to ensure that major infrastructure projects can be built across the country.”

In addition, Berkshire Hathaway’s reported decision not to invest in a Canadian infrastructure project – even when other firms like Teck have pulled out of major projects – is particularly troubling because the company has a history of spending money when other investors are fearful.

“He’s a contrarian, which makes it even more of a message,” said Martin Pelletier, chief investment officer with TriVest Wealth Counsel Ltd. in Calgary.

GNL Quebec’s Fortin said the company is looking for additional investors for the project, which is expected to create 6,000 direct and indirect jobs across in Quebec during construction.

“I cannot say where our new investor will come from,” Fortin said, noting that publicly losing a strategic institutional investor “will make it harder” to find more investors.

She said the company still has 15 other unnamed investors in the project but will continue looking for more investors.

Still, she said, the company’s timeline for Énergie Saguenay has not been compromised. GNL Quebec is planning to make a final investment decision on the project at the end of 2021.

By Geoffrey Morgan, the Financial Post, March 5, 2020.

[SOURCE]

Photo credit: Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Coastal GasLink to resume construction in Morice River area on Monday

Right-of-way clearing for the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Photograph by: COASTAL GASLINK

Coastal GasLink releases statement after discussions between Hereditary Chiefs and Government representatives

Following the conclusion of discussions between the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and representatives of the federal and provincial governments, Coastal GasLink President David Pfeiffer has issued the following statement:

“Coastal GasLink appreciates the dialogue that has occurred over the past several days and the fact that significant progress has been made to address the concerns of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs.

Coastal GasLink would like to express our thanks to the Hereditary Chiefs, Minister Carolyn Bennett, Minister Scott Fraser and liaison Nathan Cullen for their time and effort in advancing these discussions.

Coastal GasLink appreciates that a path has been identified to address significant issues of Aboriginal Title and Rights of the Wet’suwet’en people while recognizing that Coastal GasLink is fully permitted and remains on track for a 2023 in-service date.

While much has been accomplished, much work remains and we wish all parties success as their work continues and the Wet’suwet’en people consider the proposed arrangement.

Coastal GasLink will resume construction activities in the Morice River area on Monday, March 2 following the four-day pause to allow for constructive dialogue between the parties.

Coastal GasLink remains committed to dialogue and engagement with all Indigenous groups along our route, including the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and Dark House. We are encouraged by Chief Woos statement that he is open to dialogue and look forward to an opportunity to meet with the Hereditary Chiefs.

Coastal GasLink will continue to abide by key terms of the previous access protocol that enhance safety near the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre and will be reaching out in the coming days to offer a meeting in the hopes of resolving outstanding issues with representatives of Dark House and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en.”

Posted on March 01, 2020 by: Coastal GasLink