Category Archives: Environmental

Climate Change, Logging and Mining, Oil and Gas

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

Wet’suwet’en chiefs, ministers reach proposed agreement in pipeline dispute

Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader Chief Woos, centre, also known as Frank Alec, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, left, and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser address the media in Smithers, B.C. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader says they remain opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline

A Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief and senior government ministers say they have reached a proposed arrangement in discussing a pipeline dispute that has prompted solidarity protests across Canada in recent weeks.

Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and British Columbia Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser would not give details on the proposed arrangement, saying it first has to be reviewed by the Wet’suwet’en people.

Chief Woos, one of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders, said the proposal represents an important milestone.

“We’re going to be continuing to look at some more conversations with B.C. and of course with the proponent and to further our conversations with the RCMP,” Woos said.

“It’s not over yet.”

Still opposed to pipeline

Woos said the hereditary leaders remain opposed to the pipeline. The proposed arrangement with the government is regarding questions around rights and title to their traditional territory.

“This is what we’re all about, is the occupation of the land out there,” he said.

The Wet’suwet’en are governed by both a traditional hereditary chief system and elected band councils. A majority of its councils have approved the Coastal GasLink pipeline, but some of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs oppose it running through their traditional territory.

The issue has spurred solidarity protests and rail blockades across the country since RCMP moved in on Feb. 6 to enforce an injunction to stop a road blockade erected by those opposed to the pipeline that prevented the company’s workers from entering the site.

Bennett said the proposed arrangement will honour the protocols of the Wet’suwet’en people and clans.

Rights holders always ‘at the table’

The arrangement builds on a Supreme Court decision regarding rights and title, she said, presumably referring to a 1997 decision acknowledging Aboriginal land title that set a precedent for how it is understood in Canadian courts.

Bennett said the past few days of negotiations had been about learning, and humility.

“The rights holders will always be at the table. And that is the way through for Canada,” Bennett said.

Woos warned developers that the hereditary leaders will continue to protect their waters, wildlife habitats and traditional sites with “everything we have.”

“As Wet’suwet’en, we are the land and the land is ours,” he said. “We’re not going to look at any alternative ways.”

The announcement comes as talks between the hereditary chiefs and the ministers entered a fourth day.

The Canadian Press · Posted: Mar 01, 2020

[SOURCE]

Indigenous community votes down proposed nuclear waste bunker near Lake Huron

An aerial view of the Bruce Power nuclear generating station in Kincardine on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2003. (The Canadian Press/J.P. Moczulski)

TORONTO — An Indigenous community has overwhelmingly rejected a proposed underground storage facility for nuclear waste near Lake Huron, likely spelling the end for a multibillion-dollar, politically fraught project years in the making.

After a year of consultations and days of voting, the 4,500-member Saugeen Ojibway Nation announced late Friday that 85 per cent of those casting ballots had said no to accepting a deep geologic repository at the Bruce nuclear power plant near Kincardine, Ont.

“We were not consulted when the nuclear industry was established in our territory,” SON said in a statement. “Over the past 40 years, nuclear power generation in Anishnaabekiing has had many impacts on our communities, and our land and waters.”

The province’s giant utility, Ontario Power Generation, had wanted to build the repository 680 metres underground about 1.2 kilometres from Lake Huron as permanent storage for low and intermediate-level radioactive waste. The project was tentatively approved in May 2015.

While Kincardine was a “willing host,” the relative proximity of the proposed bunker to the lake sparked a backlash elsewhere in Canada and the United States. Politicians, environmentalists and scores of communities expressed opposition.

Successive federal governments have withheld final approval. In August 2017, then-environment minister Catherine McKenna paused the process — the last in a string of delays for the project — to ensure buy-in from Indigenous people in the area.

The generating company, which insisted the stable bedrock would safely contain the waste, items such as contaminated reactor components and mops, said it respected SON’s decision.

“OPG will explore other options and will engage with key stakeholders to develop an alternate site-selection process,” Ken Hartwick, head of OPG, said in a statement shortly after the vote was announced. “Any new process would include engagement with Indigenous peoples as well as interested municipalities.”

The apparent end of the road for the project comes shortly after the federally-mandated Nuclear Waste Management Organization said it was making progress toward choosing a site for storing millions of far more toxic spent nuclear fuel bundles.

The organization, comprising several nuclear plant operators, said it had struck deals with landowners in South Bruce — about 30 minutes east of Kincardine — that will allow it to begin site tests. The only other site under consideration for high-level waste storage is in Ignace in northern Ontario.

Despite the rejection of OPG’s proposal, the utility said it planned to continue a relationship “based on mutual respect, collaboration and trust” with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, which comprises the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation and the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation.

Chippewas of Saugeen Chief Lester Anoquot called the vote — 170 for and 1,058 against — a “historic milestone and momentous victory” for the community.

“We worked for many years for our right to exercise jurisdiction in our territory and the free, prior and informed consent of our people to be recognized,” Anoquot said. “We didn’t ask for this waste to be created and stored in our territory.”

At the same time, Anoquot said, the vote showed the need for a new solution for the hazardous waste, a process he said could take many years.

Ontario depends heavily on nuclear power for its electricity but a permanent storage solution for the increasing amounts of waste now stored above ground has proven elusive. The radioactive material, particular from used fuel, remains highly toxic for centuries.

The utility insists exhaustive science shows a repository in stable and impermeable rock offers the best solution.

“Permanent and safe disposal is the right thing to do for future generations,” Hartwick said.

This report was first published by The Canadian Press on Feb. 1, 2020.

[SOURCE]

Supreme Court says companies must pay for mercury-contaminated mill site at Grassy Narrows

Ontario government ordered 2 companies to do remedial work 8 years ago

Two companies are on the hook for looking after a mercury-contaminated site near Ontario’s Grassy Narrows First Nation, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.

The 4-3 decision Friday brought some clarity to a long-running dispute over one element of the legacy of environmental poisoning that has caused significant health problems for many residents.

Eight years ago, the Ontario government ordered Weyerhaeuser Co. and a firm that later became Resolute Forest Products to care for a mercury waste-disposal site in Dryden, Ont., where toxic material from a pulp-and-paper mill’s operations entered the English-Wabigoon River system in the 1960s.

The order obligated the two companies to repair site erosion, do water testing, file annual reports, prevent any leaks and give the Ontario Environment Ministry $273,063 as financial assurance with respect to the site.

The companies claimed that an indemnity granted in 1985 to the owners of the paper facility at the time — part of a settlement with the Grassy Narrows and Islington First Nations — applied to them as well, but the province disagreed.

An Ontario judge ruled in favour of the companies in 2016, saying the language of the indemnity should cover the two subsequent owners as well.

However, the Ontario Court of Appeal found Resolute was not entitled to indemnification and said the lower court should decide whether it applied to Weyerhaeuser.

In its decision, the Supreme Court said the 1985 indemnity does not apply to the province’s 2011 environmental order, meaning the companies are liable for the costs of carrying it out.

A majority of the high court substantially agreed with the Ontario appeal-court’s reasoning, concluding the judge who initially heard the case made “palpable and overriding errors of fact.”

The Canadian Press · Posted: Dec 06, 2019

[SOURCE]