Why it Takes a Whale to be Heard: Public Blocked From Enbridge Hearings

by JODI STARK, one of the independent artists who created Hope the Whale, and an environmental public engagement specialist.

The most striking part of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway community hearings in Vancouver is that they’re not open to the community at all.  Only a limited number of people get to present their position to the federally appointed Joint Review Panel, and the rest of the public aren’t welcome to watch them, despite thousands of Vancouverites who are passionate about this proposed pipeline and what it means for our future.

In response, a group of Vancouver multimedia artists have built Hope the Whale, an interactive art installation designed to allow anyone the opportunity to have a voice. The 25-foot whale, surrounded by a dozen large water drops, is set up in downtown Vancouver outside the Wall Centre where the proceedings are taking place. This collaborative art project, supported by First Nations and conservation organizations, is engaging the public in a welcoming and inclusive way – much the way we would expect a public process to be run.

Defend Our Coast Rallies Demonstrate Diversity of Public Opposition to Tar Sands Export and FIPA

Standing within the throng of demonstrators at last month's Defend Our Coast rally it became clear to me that a palpable shift in the collective expectations of Canadians had taken place. 

It is evident we expect positive action on climate change; we expect steps to be taken towards clean energy alternatives; we expect those alternatives to be made available to us, not by corporations, but by the individuals we've selected as our leaders; we expect those leaders to respect the rights of First Nations; we expect limits to be placed on the corporate exercise of power; and we expect abuses of that power to be met with swift and strict accountability.
Such expectations, however, appear increasingly out of step with our current political and economic regime, showing just how backwards Canada's bitumen bottom line obsession has become.
Under the current Harper government, scientists have been intimidated and silenced, production of oil and gas has accelerated at an unprecedented and unhealthy rate, massive budget cuts have gutted environmental legislation which would slow the pace and scale of bitumen production and its export, and those voices calling for balance, for sobriety, in the way we manage our resources have been blacklisted as foreign-funded radicals trying to “hijack” Canada.
Adding to the fury, the Harper government is now trying to undemocratically strong-arm a powerful international trade deal called FIPA through the House of Commons even though it's been called unconstitutional and a threat to Canadian sovereignty.
But if anything, the growing and diverse chorus of public opposition - as seen at the Defend Our Coast rallies - demonstrates just how bold the Canadian populace is prepared to be in the midst of an increasingly hostile battle to preserve our rights and democracy. 

BC Coastal First Nations Appeal For Help In Enbridge Pipeline Battle

If there was one message that stirred me during Monday's Defend Our Coast action, it was this: First Nations need you to join the fight to protect British Columbia's forests and coast from tar sands pipeline and tanker threats. 

The message came loud and clear from Coastal First Nations executive director Art Sterritt in his speech delivered to thousands spread out on the lawn of BC's legislature building in Victoria. Addressing the crowd he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, today is all about you. Coastal First Nations and all of the tribes of the interior, we've been stating our opposition for a long time now. But we're so happy that 3000 of you have come out to join with us today, 3000 people. And it's your voices that are important today, not ours. It's your voices that we need to join with us.”

Sterritt asked the crowd, “Who is going to lay down in front of the bulldozers?” To which the crowd resoundingly replied, “We will!”

Monday's Defend Our Coast rally demonstrated the extent to which First Nations and other British Columbians are prepared to stand together to protect the province's right to refuse the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. The overwhelming emphasis during Monday's event was “the people, united, will never be defeated,” a line sung in unison across the crowded square.

Public Pressure Helps Disney End Destructive Environmental Practices

After several years of talks, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) scored a major victory this month, when they were finally able to convince the Disney Corporation to give up their destructive environmental printing practices.

Disney is one of America’s top ten publishers of children’s books, and an analysis by RAN showed that the bulk of the company’s paper for their printing was coming from the endangered Indonesian rainforests.  This was first discovered in 2010, and RAN was able to convince eight of the top U.S. publishers to change their practices and swear off the use of rainforest pulp for their paper.  Nine of the top ten publishers were found to be using paper pulp that came directly from the Indonesian rainforests.

At that time, however, Disney (along with Harper Collins) refused to sign onto the idea.

China-Canada Investment "Straitjacket:" Interview with Gus Van Harten Part 2

This post is second in a series on the Canada-China Investment “Straitjacket:” Exclusive Interview with Gus Van Harten. You can read Part 1 here and Part 3 here.

Right now Canadians stare down the barrel of a 31-year long legal trade agreement with the Chinese government that did not become public knowledge until September 26, 2012.

The trade treaty, known as the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement or FIPA, has garnered notable opposition in the past three weeks, with NDP trade critic Don Davies calling for public hearings, Green Party MP Elizabeth May calling for an emergency Parliamentary debate, and campaign organizations and gathering over 39,300 opposition signatures (and counting) to deliver in person to Ottawa.

Yesterday, the Canadian Press reported the Harper government's refusal to host public hearings. Elizabeth May's October 1 request was also denied on the grounds that FIPA does not meet the test of emergency.

The trade agreement, or treaty, as it is called, is slated for ratification at the end of this month. The Commons trade committee will be briefed on the document in a one hour hearing.

With a trade deal that threatens Canadian sovereignty looming on the horizon and a government committed to expediting its approval, DeSmog caught up with trade investment lawyer and Osgoode professor Gus Van Harten to talk through some of the details.

B.C. Leaders Plan Mass Rally Against Enbridge Gateway Pipeline October 22

Next month, Canadians will launch one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in the country’s history. Over 80 influential leaders from across the country, representing a wide cross-section of “business, First Nations, environmental, labour, academic, medical and artistic communities…announced an upcoming mass sit-in in front of the provincial legislature in Victoria, British Columbia on October 22,” according to the announcement.

The demonstration will showcase British Columbians' growing opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline that would pump roughly 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen each day from Alberta to the B.C. coast for export, and the threat pipelines and tanker traffic pose to the province’s pristine coastline. 
Some of the notable leaders lending their support to the sit-in are Stephen Lewis, David Suzuki, Maude Barlow, Naomi Klein, Tom Goldtooth, David Coles, Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, John O’Connor, and Tony Clarke

Thousands Gather In DC To Stop Mountaintop Removal Mining

Thousands of protestors descended on Washington, D.C. today to send a simple message to the Obama Administration – stop mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR). The protestors included citizens from throughout Appalachia and representatives from more than a dozen environmental groups who were protesting in honor of longtime MTR opponent and environmental advocate Larry Gibson, who passed away a little over a week ago.

The protestors delivered a “Mountain Heroes Photo Petition” to the Obama Administration, a series of photographs of citizens declaring their opposition to MTR. At the time of delivery, more than 13,500 photo petitions were presented to the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The event was organized by EarthJustice, which has advocated on behalf of Appalachian citizens for years. Here are a few of the photos that they submitted to the Obama Administration:

Massey WV Coal Battle Take Two: Erie, CO Citizens Fight Fracking

Erie, CO meet Naoma, WV. Though seemingly different battles over different ecologically hazardous extractive processes – hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for unconventional gas versus mountaintop removal for coal – the two battles are one in the same and direct parallels of one another. 

On June 2, a coalition of activist organizations led by Erie Rising and joined by the likes of the Sierra Club, the Mark Ruffalo-lead Water Defense, the Angela Monti Fox-lead Mothers Project (mother of “Gasland” Producer and Director, Josh Fox), Food and Water Watch (FWW), among others, will take to Erie, CO to say “leave and leave now” to EnCana Corporation.

EnCana has big plans to drill baby drill in Erie.

It “plans to frack for natural gas near three local schools and a childcare center,” according to a press release disseminated by FWW. “On June 2, the event in Erie will give voice to those immediately affected by fracking there, and to all Americans marred by the process, becoming ground zero for the national movement to expose the dangers associated with fracking.”

The action is a simple one: a “rally and vigil to protest gas industry giant Encana’s plans to frack for natural gas near Red Hawk Elementary, Erie Elementary, Erie Middle School and Exploring Minds Childcare Center and transport toxic fracking by-products on roads that come within feet of these and other community schools,” reads the FWW press release.

The Year In Dirty Energy: Keystone XL

This year, a deal between TransCanada and the U.S. government almost allowed one of the most disastrous plans in energy history to win aproval. The deal would have allowed TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline across the U.S. border to carry an exceptionally dirty form of oil from Alberta's tar sands through several U.S. states to refineries along the Texas gulf coast.

But thanks to some bizarre GOP politicking in the year-end fight over payroll tax cut legislation, the table is set for President Obama to reject this fossil folly. The likely demise of one giant ill-advised pipeline is no small feat, but it doesn't mean the world can forget about the tar sands, by a long shot. The world is still addicted to oil, and Canada's fossil-friendly leaders will continue their quest to sell the tar sands bitumen on the global market.

Ever since our founding in 2006, DeSmogBlog has helped spread the word about the dangerous health and climate impacts that the tar sands pose to the environment and the global climate. Over the past year, we focused our research particularly on the dirty tricks employed by the oil industry in an effort to get the Keystone XL pipeline approved.

After Friends of the Earth exposed the fact that TransCanada's Keystone XL lobbyist Paul Elliott had worked on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and enjoyed special access with former colleagues, DeSmogBlog revealed further ties between TransCanada lobbyists and the U.S. government. For example:

On the web of lobbyists with connections to Hillary Clinton:

However, the tar sands industry’s use of former Clinton associates to lobby on the controversial project extends beyond Mr. Elliott. DeSmogBlog has uncovered seven other influencers or lobbyists with ties to Clinton and Obama who have lobbied on behalf of tar sands interests for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

McKenna Long & Aldridge is one of the key outside firms registered to lobby for TransCanada Pipelines, which paid the McKenna firm at least $190,000 over the last 5 years to lobby on their pipeline issues, including $40,000 in the first half of 2011. McKenna employees donated $41,650 in campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

For the full report, see Hillary Clinton's Keystone XL Crony Lobbyists Problem.

Bogus Job Numbers Used To Sell Keystone XL Pipeline

As thousands of protestors gather at The White House today to voice opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline plan, one of the major selling points from the pipeline proponents is revealed as flawed and perhaps completely bogus. According to The Washington Post, the prospect of job creation – the reason so many people in America support the pipeline – isn’t as rosy as TransCanada would have us believe. In fact, their numbers don’t add up at all.

TransCanada threw out a figure of 20,000 jobs (13,000 construction, 7,000 for suppliers) that would be created directly and indirectly through the pipeline construction process. This is the figure that politicians have used to sell the pipeline to their constituents. But as The Washington Post points out, TransCanada chief executive Russ Girling admits the 20,000 figure is far from honest:

Girling said Friday that the 13,000 figure was “one person, one year,” meaning that if the construction jobs lasted two years, the number of people employed in each of the two years would be 6,500. That brings the company’s number closer to the State Department’s; State says the project would create 5,000 to 6,000 construction jobs, a figure that was calculated by its contractor Cardno Entrix.

As for the 7,000 indirect supply chain jobs, the $1.9 billion already spent by TransCanada would reduce the number of jobs that would be created in the future.

A TransCanada statement Sept. 30 said the project would be “stimulating over 14,400 person years of employment” in Oklahoma alone. It cited a study by Ray Perryman, a Texas-based consultant to TransCanada, saying the pipeline would create “250,000 permanent jobs for U.S. workers.”

But Perryman was including a vast number of jobs far removed from the industry. Using that technique in a report on the impact of wind farms, Perryman counted jobs for dancers, choreographers and speech therapists.


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