salmon

B.C. Minister Bennett’s Visit Fails to Ease Alaskans’ Mining Concerns

Bill Bennett

Promises of a closer relationship between B.C. and Alaska and more consultation on B.C. mine applications are a good start, but, so far, Southeast Alaska has no more guarantees that those mines will not pollute salmon-bearing rivers than before this week’s visit by B.C.’s Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett, say Alaskan fishing and conservation groups.

Bennett, accompanied by senior civil servants from the ministries of Energy and Mines and Environment, took a conciliatory tone as he met with state officials, policy-makers and critics of what is seen as an aggressive push by B.C. to develop mines in the transboundary area, close to vitally important salmon rivers such as the Unuk, Taku and Stikine.

I understand why people feel so strongly about protecting what they have,” Bennett said in a Juneau news conference with Alaska Lt. Governor Byron Mallott.

There’s a way of life here that has tremendous value and the people here don’t want to lose it. I get that,” he said.

But promises of a strengthened dialogue and more opportunities to comment on mine applications fall far short of a growing chorus of Alaskan demands that the issue be referred to the International Joint Commission, formed under the Boundary Waters Treaty, which forbids either country from polluting transboundary waters.

Living Downstream of B.C.’s Gold Rush: Alaska’s Fishermen Fear End of ‘Last Wild Frontier’

Taku Inlet

No fish in the car, warned the rental car attendant at Juneau airport, with the weary tone of someone who had cleaned too many fish guts out of returned vehicles. It was a warning underlined by signs in hotels pleading with guests not to clean fish in the hotel bathrooms.

Fishing is in the DNA of Southeast Alaskans, not only as a sport and common way of filling the freezer, but also as a driver of the state economy. So it is not surprising that the perceived threat presented by a rush of mine applications on the B.C. side of the border has brought together diverse groups who want B.C. to give Alaska an equal seat at the decision-making table and to have the issue referred for review to the International Joint Commission.

I can’t conceive of not being able to fish for salmon. The grief would be too much to fathom,” said Heather Hardcastle, co-owner of Taku River Reds who has been commercial fishing for most of her life.

We share these waters and we share these fish. There has to be an international solution,” she said.

Alaskans to Commemorate Anniversary of Mount Polley Mine Disaster as Similar Accidents Predicted to Increase

One year after 24 million cubic metres of mine sludge and water swept into rivers and lakes below Imperial Metal’s Mount Polley mine in B.C., Southeast Alaskans will gather to commemorate the tailings pond breach and bless the Stikine River.

Those at the Aug. 2 gathering in Wrangell, where the salmon-rich Stikine runs into the ocean, will also be looking for ways to ensure there is no Mount Polley-style disaster in the B.C. headwaters of the Iskut River, a major tributary of the Stikine, where Imperial Metals has opened the Red Chris mine.

The ceremony will be hosted by Wrangell Cooperative Association, and tribal administrator Aaron Angerman said he hopes other Southeast Alaskan communities will follow suit and hold their own ceremonies.

I am frightened to think that what happened at Mount Polley could happen here in our backyard now that the Red Chris mine is operational — that the fish we’ve relied on traditionally for thousands of years could be contaminated or disappear, that the local commercial fishing industry could be decimated and that we could see the local businesses that rely on the industry close doors,” he said.

Alaska Fishing Community Spurred to Action by Mount Polley Spill

Wrangell, Alaska, wharf

Wrangell, Alaska — A fishing boat chugs across the water in front of the patio at Wrangell’s Stikine Inn, temporarily disrupting dinner conversation as residents of the tiny Southeast Alaska town tuck into heaped plates of rockfish and chips.

At the next table, where a group of friends are celebrating an 80th birthday, the talk is all about the next day’s fishing plans. The new salmon smoker is working well, there were more than 40 crabs in the pots yesterday and everyone wants to be out on the water before 9 a.m. tomorrow because there are king salmon to be caught.

Commercial and sports fishing fill the freezers and wallets of Wrangell residents but, out of mind for many of them, behind the shield of the Coast Mountains, lurks a threat that could annihilate the area’s fishing and tourism-based economy.

Mount Polley: A Wake-Up Call For Canada’s Mining Industry

Mount Polley Mine Spill

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

When a tailings pond broke at the Mount Polley gold and copper mine in south-central B.C., spilling millions of cubic metres of waste into a salmon-bearing stream, B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett called it an “extremely rare” occurrence, the first in 40 years for mines operating here.

He failed to mention the 46 “dangerous or unusual occurrences” that B.C’s chief inspector of mines reported at tailings ponds in the province between 2000 and 2012, as well as breaches at non-operating mine sites.

This spill was predictable. Concerns were raised about Mount Polley before the breach. CBC reported that B.C.’s Environment Ministry issued several warnings about the amount of water in the pond to mine owner Imperial Metals.

With 50 mines operating in B.C. — and many others across Canada — we can expect more incidents, unless we reconsider how we’re extracting resources.

The Fish Are Fine, Kinder Morgan Says

Chinook salmon

Ecojustice lawyers were among the many to file motions to the National Energy Board late last week regarding Kinder Morgan’s poor and non-existent responses to questions posed to it by intervenors. And while we were generally disappointed by Kinder Morgan’s evasive approach, we were shocked at one reply in particular.

When asked whether there is any evidence from cold water oil spills to suggest marine fish are impacted, Kinder Morgan’s response was that: “Harm to marine fish populations seems to be the exception, rather than the rule, following marine oil spills.”

That’s right   Kinder Morgan’s view is that when oil is spilled in water, there is little harm to fish, and it is more likely the fish will be just fine.

The motion Ecojustice lawyers filed on behalf of our clients, Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation, asks the Board to order Kinder Morgan to fully respond to our clients’ first round of information requests about the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

Kinder Morgan received more than 10,000 questions from intervenors. As we wrote last month, the company asked for an extension of the time limit to respond, but got only 14 of the 23 days they asked for. Our clients supported the request, in the interest of allowing Kinder Morgan time to provide as much information as possible.

Kinder Morgan's slippery responses

But now that the responses are in, we wonder whether the extra nine days would have made a difference. Responses from the company have ranged from vague to incomplete to non-existent. In short The information provided by Kinder Morgan is not nearly good enough. Of the 253 responses our clients received from the company, at least 77 – approximately 30 per cent – were inadequate. 

In 20 responses, Kinder Morgan refused to answer the question in whole or in part, by:

  • Claiming it was “not relevant” to the review (including the record of leaks and ruptures on Kinder Morgan’s other pipeline systems, and the make and model of clean-up equipment); or
  • Stating that it did not have the information (including air monitoring information), because the data do not exist, because the answer was not in the documents they relied on in the application, or because they had not done the necessary work to answer.

In five responses, Kinder Morgan gave a response which only partially answered the question or provided an answer but not the supporting data requested.

In the remainder of the responses, Kinder Morgan simply didn’t answer the questions it was asked. Here’s a snapshot of the ways the company answered questions with non-answers:

  • Cited a large document or report rather than provide an clear answer;
  • Referred to a document that did not contain any answer to the question; 
  • Said it would file an answer later; or
  • Cited a legal standard rather than address facts. 

As we mentioned above, when our clients asked if there was evidence from cold water oil spills, beyond evidence from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, of marine fish communities or habitat being impacted for more than two years after a spill, this was Kinder Morgan’s response: “Harm to marine fish populations seems to be the exception, rather than the rule, following marine oil spills.” 

In support of that mystifying non-answer, Kinder Morgan cited a 264-page report from Enbridge’s reply evidence in the Northern Gateway pipeline hearings. 

We’ve written about how, in the wake of the 2012 omnibus budget bill, reviews of major pipeline projects have been scaled back dramatically, sacrificing good science and process for “efficiency.” The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project hearing, with its 15-month time limit and lack of oral cross-examination, is a prime example of how this shift is deeply problematic. 

We are now halfway through the two rounds of intervenor information requests, which are intervenors’ only chance to ask Kinder Morgan questions about its 15,000-page application. Our clients are increasingly worried that they will be unable to meaningfully challenge Kinder Morgan’s evidence, particularly given its evasive approach to our information requests. 

But as for the fish, according to Kinder Morgan, they will be just fine.

- See more at: http://www.ecojustice.ca/blog/the-fish-are-fine-kinder-morgan-says#sthas...

Ecojustice lawyers were among the many to file motions to the National Energy Board late last week regarding Kinder Morgan’s poor and non-existent responses to questions posed to it by intervenors. And while we were generally disappointed by Kinder Morgan’s evasive approach, we were shocked at one reply in particular.

When asked whether there is any evidence from cold water oil spills to suggest marine fish are impacted, Kinder Morgan’s response was that: “Harm to marine fish populations seems to be the exception, rather than the rule, following marine oil spills.”

That’s right   Kinder Morgan’s view is that when oil is spilled in water, there is little harm to fish, and it is more likely the fish will be just fine.

The motion Ecojustice lawyers filed on behalf of our clients, Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation, asks the Board to order Kinder Morgan to fully respond to our clients’ first round of information requests about the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

Kinder Morgan received more than 10,000 questions from intervenors. As we wrote last month, the company asked for an extension of the time limit to respond, but got only 14 of the 23 days they asked for. Our clients supported the request, in the interest of allowing Kinder Morgan time to provide as much information as possible.

Kinder Morgan's slippery responses

But now that the responses are in, we wonder whether the extra nine days would have made a difference. Responses from the company have ranged from vague to incomplete to non-existent. In short The information provided by Kinder Morgan is not nearly good enough. Of the 253 responses our clients received from the company, at least 77 – approximately 30 per cent – were inadequate. 

In 20 responses, Kinder Morgan refused to answer the question in whole or in part, by:

  • Claiming it was “not relevant” to the review (including the record of leaks and ruptures on Kinder Morgan’s other pipeline systems, and the make and model of clean-up equipment); or
  • Stating that it did not have the information (including air monitoring information), because the data do not exist, because the answer was not in the documents they relied on in the application, or because they had not done the necessary work to answer.

In five responses, Kinder Morgan gave a response which only partially answered the question or provided an answer but not the supporting data requested.

In the remainder of the responses, Kinder Morgan simply didn’t answer the questions it was asked. Here’s a snapshot of the ways the company answered questions with non-answers:

  • Cited a large document or report rather than provide an clear answer;
  • Referred to a document that did not contain any answer to the question; 
  • Said it would file an answer later; or
  • Cited a legal standard rather than address facts. 

As we mentioned above, when our clients asked if there was evidence from cold water oil spills, beyond evidence from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, of marine fish communities or habitat being impacted for more than two years after a spill, this was Kinder Morgan’s response: “Harm to marine fish populations seems to be the exception, rather than the rule, following marine oil spills.” 

In support of that mystifying non-answer, Kinder Morgan cited a 264-page report from Enbridge’s reply evidence in the Northern Gateway pipeline hearings. 

We’ve written about how, in the wake of the 2012 omnibus budget bill, reviews of major pipeline projects have been scaled back dramatically, sacrificing good science and process for “efficiency.” The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project hearing, with its 15-month time limit and lack of oral cross-examination, is a prime example of how this shift is deeply problematic. 

We are now halfway through the two rounds of intervenor information requests, which are intervenors’ only chance to ask Kinder Morgan questions about its 15,000-page application. Our clients are increasingly worried that they will be unable to meaningfully challenge Kinder Morgan’s evidence, particularly given its evasive approach to our information requests. 

But as for the fish, according to Kinder Morgan, they will be just fine.

- See more at: http://www.ecojustice.ca/blog/the-fish-are-fine-kinder-morgan-says#sthas...
Dyna Tuytel, staff lawyer

This is a guest post by Ecojustice staff lawyer Dyna Tuytel.

Ecojustice lawyers were among the many to file motions to the National Energy Board late last week regarding Kinder Morgan’s poor and non-existent responses to questions posed to it by intervenors. And while we were generally disappointed by Kinder Morgan’s evasive approach, we were shocked at one reply in particular.

When asked whether there is any evidence from cold water oil spills to suggest marine fish are impacted, Kinder Morgan’s response was that: “Harm to marine fish populations seems to be the exception, rather than the rule, following marine oil spills.”

That’s right — Kinder Morgan’s view is that when oil is spilled in water, there is little harm to fish, and it is more likely the fish will be just fine.

Are You an Eco-Jihadist?

This is a guest post by Kai Nagata, creator of DeepRogueRam and author of KaiNagata.com.

I’m not. In fact, I don’t think it’s accurate to call me an “environmentalist.” But I am a citizen opposed to exporting bitumen by supertanker from the B.C. coast. And that makes a lot of people, including National Post columnist Kelly McParland, very upset.

Here’s what he wrote yesterday, following the National Energy Board’s conditional approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline (emphasis mine):

Enbridge Inc. has already set out plans for unprecedented levels of precautionary measures to guard against accidents. Nonetheless, activist spokespeople were already denouncing the report as it was released, pledging an all-out jihad against the project, including legal challenges, political action and street-level protests.”

It is easy to dismiss such zealotry, but the environmental lobby has more than adequately displayed its expertise in martialling popular support for its campaigns, no matter how ill-informed. It bases its clout on its ability to generate noisy backing and large amounts of cash from a community of well-meaning people who sympathize with its desire to protect the natural world and are easily gulled by its skilled propaganda and the emotion-charged misinformation campaigns at which it excels. People who get their opinions from the entertainment news and mistake celebrity for credibility or expertise are not likely to be swayed by the judgment of a three-member NEB panel, no matter how conclusive.”

Shell Abandons Fracking Plans For BC's Sacred Headwaters

Shell Canada announced that the company will immediately abandon plans to frack for natural gas in an area of British Columbia known as the Sacred Headwaters on Tahltan Nation traditional territory. The province of BC says it will issue a permanent moratorium on oil and gas tenures in the area.

A four-year moratorium, scheduled to expire today, began after Shell drilled three test wells in the area, igniting protest and blockades throughout the region and at Royal Dutch Shell headquarters in The Hague. In 2004, Shell was awarded a 400,000 hectare tenure in the Sacred Headwaters, the point of origin of the Skeena, the Nass and the Stikine rivers which are among the province's most important salmon-bearing waterways.

According to the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, Shell's plans involved the construction of nearly 300 kilometers of road and over 4000 wells, as well as pipeline infrastructure and compressor stations. 
 
In a separate agreement, BC will award Shell $20-million in royalty credits, as compensation for the lost tenure. The funds will be redirected toward a water recycling project at Shell's gas drilling operations elsewhere in the province.
 
“Shell has backed away from a project only a handful of times. The powerful, relentless movement led by the courageous Tahltan and supported by nearly 100,000 people from around the world has not only stopped Shell, but persuaded the BC government to permanently protect the region from any further gas development,” said Karen Tam WuForestEthics Advocacy senior conservation campaigner. 
 
“It’s an inspiring day when communities in northern B.C. can stand up to one of the largest oil companies in the world and win. Congratulations to the Tahltan, and to the citizens and government of British Columbia.”

Northern Gateway Pipeline Hearing Exposes Gaps in Enbridge Evidence

It looks like islands aren't the only thing Enbridge overlooks these days.

A report released today by ForestEthics Advocacy summarizes all of the information missing from Enbridge evidence brought before the Joint Review Panel in the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearing. The ongoing hearings, which began in September, address the proposed project's economics, construction plans, operations, environmental impacts, risks to marine life and First Nations' rights.
 
However ForestEthics suggests the evidence submitted by Enbridge is far from comprehensive. In fact, the company has “a frightening number of gaps in its information that won't be prepared until after approval is granted” to the project, says the report.
 
Below is an abridged version of ForestEthics' Pipelines and Promises, which outlines the evidence Enbridge has so far failed to submit to the Northern Gateway hearings:

No Price Tags on West Coast Paradise

Sockeye by Steven Russell Smith Photos

This is a guest post by Nikki Skuce, and originally appeared in the Edmonton Journal.

In Edmonton this week, experts and lawyers have gathered again at the Joint Review Panel hearings on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline and tanker project. They’ll challenge and defend percentages, growth, probabilities. They’ll speak about projections and expectations. They’ll talk about cost versus benefit.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, a fragile ecosystem is very much alive. Its emerald green islands slope into the Pacific Ocean. Eagles soar over Douglas Channel, feeding off migrating salmon. The rare spirit bear forages on a beach for clams and cockles, unaware that its future is being debated in an Alberta hearing room.

Anyone paying attention to the panel’s hearings that resumed two weeks ago in Edmonton has probably noticed a lot of numbers being thrown around. The current hearings focus on the pipeline’s economics, which don’t always add up — price differentials, job numbers, refinery capacity, liabilities. But while Enbridge and other economic experts haggle over numbers, it seems obvious that some things can’t be assigned a dollar value. Some things are priceless.

The Great Bear Rainforest is an international treasure, home to magnificent cedar trees and the spirit (kermode) bear. Its waters are teeming with life — humpback, orca and fin whales all feed there.

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