BC Business Groups Call for Additional Interim Measures in Kinder Morgan Review

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VANCOUVER, B.C – Leading business groups Conversations for Responsible Economic Development (CRED), the Board of Change, and the Green Chamber of Commerce BC are calling on the federal government to add measures to the Kinder Morgan review that will reflect the concerns of coastal businesses. The business groups and their numerous member businesses and organizations outline concerns in an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau that asks for additional measures that will accurately estimate how bitumen behaves in coastal waters, take into consideration the economic risks of a significant spill, and allow for rigorous cross-examination of the evidence presented so far.

Prominent business leaders and entrepreneurs in the high tech, tourism, renewable energy, finance and creative sectors are concerned that the business case for the Kinder Morgan pipeline is weak. Michael Tippett, CEO of Wantoo saysWe need to be assured that our government is looking out for our best economic interests far into the future. I’m not confident that this pipeline review has done that to date”.

The signatories urge the Prime Minister to take action on his commitments to subject the project to a review that is open and inclusive, and to ensure that the business case and potential impacts to BC businesses – especially those dependent on a healthy marine environment – are fairly assessed.

CRED Program Director Andrew Grant comments, “As business people, we know that investors and project proponents need certainty. As it currently stands, even with recently announced interim measures of increased First Nations consultations and inclusion of upstream GHG emissions, many BC businesses have significant concerns about the review and approval process. It is in the best interests of all stakeholders – including the proponents – to have the review conducted under a mandate that Canadians consider valid, and that demonstrates the rigour we would expect in fully acknowledging and addressing project risks.”

In August of last year, 35 intervenors stepped away from the review process because it was seen as flawed, biased and unfair. Meeru Dhalwala, co-owner of celebrated local restaurants Vij’s and Rangoli, says I am not convinced that the project has undergone any form of fair examination.”

Board of Change Director and Hamazaki Wong Marketing Group Creative Director Sonny Wong echoes the need for a robust, fair review of the Trans Mountain expansion: “BC’s unique brand is integral to establishing ourselves as the hub of the new economy. If this one project has the potential to significantly impact the brand that businesses depend on to attract talent and investment, that project needs to be very carefully considered, in a process that has the support of British Columbians.

Interim measures announced last week by Ministers Carr and McKenna are unlikely to clarify the economic case for the project, and may not effectively capture the risks that other BC businesses face by an oil spill along the BC coast. The signatories feel it is important to do the hard work now of conducting a review process that is effective, transparent and has the support of Canadians before potentially subjecting a major infrastructure project to significant resistance from local residents, affected businesses, First Nations and governments at the provincial and municipal levels.

BC business groups encourage the federal government to protect the long-term prosperity of Canadians by carefully considering this proposed pipeline expansion that could impact our economy for 40 years or more.

Trans Mountain Review Gets a Facelift, Sort of…

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As we approach the final week of the National Energy Board (NEB) review of the Trans Mountain pipeline, the federal government just announced an added environmental assessment and community engagement process to all currently proposed bitumen pipeline and LNG projects. These added components will apply to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, and is considered an interim measure while the federal government takes at a longer period to rebuild the NEB.

The Who, What and When of the Interim Measures

Minister of Natural Resources James Carr and Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna announced the measures in an attempt to restore the faith of Canadians in the NEB process, and to set the tone for a later overhaul of the NEB. The federal government announced that they would manage the following activities after the NEB oral hearings have concluded:

  • ‘Deeper’ First Nations consultations, with attached funding to support participation
  • Assessment and public dissemination of upstream GHG emissions associated with the project

The time frame indicated for these activities will tack on an extra four months to the review process before Cabinet will make a final decision – effectively extending the final decision date to December 2016.

CRED welcomes the important addition of incorporating upstream GHG emissions into the environmental review and engaging in direct consultation with First Nations. We are concerned that it does little to resolve the ‘core’ concerns of a broken review process in the context of Trans Mountain. While these interim measures are a step forward, they don’t go far enough. Intervenors are still left with mountains of unanswered questions to Kinder Morgan, evidence of economic impact has still not been cross examined, and key scientific research related to bitumen in the marine environment remain outside of the purview of the board. CRED is concerned about the lack of substantive discussion around the business case for the TMEP, and the potential negative economic impacts of increased bitumen traffic on BC businesses.

Significant questions remain about the details and tactics of this added review component. Do these new measures rectify the concerns heard in Burnaby in last week’s oral hearings? We’ve summarized the main points we found interesting:

Highlights of the Burnaby Oral Hearings

The vast majority of intervenors at the Burnaby hearings were against the pipeline expansion project on grounds of poor consultation as well as environmental and social impact. Some intervenors, however, did focus in on the economic realities and risks of the project:

City of Burnaby – Burnaby legal counsel Gregory McDade gave the NEB panel a scathingly articulate rebuke of the review process, and left no doubt as to the disposition of the City where the pipeline would meet tidewater. McDade reminded the panel that while proponents and some stakeholders want the project to be perceived as being in the national interest, the negative economic, environmental and social impacts disproportionately accrue to British Columbians. He reiterated a major concern for CRED members: the unsatisfactory state of evidence on bitumen spill risk being considered by the panel. He challenged as to whether there has been testing of competing scientific evidence than that put forward by the project proponents. We are all gaining awareness of the potential impact to BC coastal businesses across a spectrum of industries in the case of a bitumen spill in our waters.

Perhaps the most incisive comment of all, however, was when he stated, “Burnaby should not be the last victim of a flawed process.”  Indeed.

Living Oceans Society – Most of the Living Oceans Society presentation concentrated on the significant deficiencies in Kinder Morgan’s environmental impact assessments in the marine environment – including the impossibility of cleaning up diluted bitumen in open water.  They also presented timely research findings on the actual economic impacts of the potential pipeline expansion.

In December of 2015, the Living Oceans Society and SFU published findings that the economic benefits of the pipeline expansion have been grossly overstated, while the negative impacts – environmental and economic – are not quantified at all by the KM impact measurement methodology.  We encourage people to read this research to get a more fulsome understanding of how a comprehensive, triple-bottom-line review of industrial projects will more accurately assess the benefits and potential risks of a project.

Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of BC – Association President Phil Hockstein spoke briefly but eloquently about the interests and concerns of the many BC contractors who stand to benefit significantly during the construction stage of the project. While Mr. Hockstein represented his membership well, and rightly articulated the potential benefits of pipeline construction to them, we were disappointed at his assertion that a ‘small minority’ in BC oppose the pipeline expansion.  The Provincial government, all lower mainland municipal governments, several First Nations, multiple businesses and, in fact 68% of British Columbians are asking for the NEB to be revamped before a decision is rendered on the pipeline.

While we await more information, CRED and our partners the Board of Change and the Green Chamber of Commerce BC will be launching our Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau next week, encouraging him to go ahead and revamp the National Energy Board in advance of making a decision on Trans Mountain.  We invite you to sign on to the letter and encourage other interested businesses to do the same.

BC Announces Tech Strategy

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The BC Tech Summit wrapped up recently in Vancouver, and the biggest news to come out of the two-day event was Premiere Clark’s unveiling of BC’s tech strategy. It is no secret that the tech industry in BC is flourishing. The sector is one of the highest GDP generators of all industries in BC, contributing $15.5 billion to our provincial economy in 2014. Tech employs 84,000 people in our province, providing high-paying jobs, and accounting for double the total jobs in forestry, oil, gas and mining.

It seems that the BC government has now recognized the potential of this industry and has announced significant support to help it grow. It’s not clear if this interest in tech is a way to divert attention from the long-promised and as-yet unrealized LNG boom.  CRED_tech2rev2Nonetheless, the tech sector needs supportive policies in order to catch up with other provinces and countries, like our neighbours to the south.  CRED’s tech report recognized that BC falls behind other jurisdictions in terms of output , but the potential is great. If BC’s tech sector were to catch up to the average US state, we would see 65,000-74,000 more jobs and an additional $9.1 billion in GDP.

In her announcement, Clark said that the BC government heard our concerns and has recognized three main issues: developing the talent pool, access to capital, and access to new markets. This makes us smile, as our report recognized a need for strategic government support, increased access to venture capital, investment in talent development and reduced barriers to recruitment. Right on! The only missing piece we identified is the support for regional tech hubs, but hopefully that can come soon too.

Amongst the new initiatives introduced are:

 1. $100 million BC Tech Fund to address an early stage (A-Round) funding gap.

The fund is targeted at new and emerging tech companies that need resources to get off the ground. The province is seeking a private sector fund manager to administer it.

2. Introduction of IT skills & concepts, and adding coding to the K-12 public school curriculum beginning this September.

Further details on implementation or teacher education have not been announced, and no new funding has been allocated.

3. Streamlining public sector access to software innovation through developer exchange 

The detailed breakdown of BC’s tech strategy can be found online http://bctechstrategy.gov.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2016/01/BCTech_Strategy.pdf

It’s fitting that this announcement comes just days after BC announced its opposition to the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline project. While more details are still to be revealed, we feel it is a good start and a much-needed bolster to the tech industry. It’s also a good indication of where BC’s economy should be headed – away from higher-risk, shrinking asset industries and towards the future in knowledge-based, value-added economic activity.

First Nations Victory Could Impact Future Pipelines

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Big news – A BC Supreme Court ruling yesterday has set the Enbridge Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline project back a few steps. The court ruled that the BC government failed in their duty to consult First Nations when they signed an equivalency agreement regarding the assessment of environmental and social impacts of Northern Gateway.

The agreement that BC signed effectively waived the province’s responsibility to do an environmental assessment of Northern Gateway, putting the final say in the hands of the National Energy Board (NEB). Gitga’at First Nation and the Great Bear Initiative Society – representing coastal First Nations – challenged the province in court when they were not consulted prior to this agreement.

Where does that leave Northern Gateway?

The Supreme Court has deemed the equivalency agreement invalid for Northern Gateway. That means that although the NEB has approved the project, BC is now obligated to carry out a full environmental assessment and must consult with and accommodate the needs and concerns of First Nations. This essentially brings the project back to the beginning, though the province does not agree with that sentiment: Justice Minister Suzanne Anton has stated there is no need to duplicate the review process.  We will see how this rolls out in the coming months.

This will be an interesting challenge for Enbridge, the project proponent, as the clock is ticking on them meeting the 209 conditions laid out by the NEB, while at the same time attempting to secure contracts for the bitumen. This all speaks to the uncertainty of the pipeline project, and the overall challenges facing companies who want to extract and transport bitumen across our province.

While the company is stating that it is simply a ‘jurisdictional issue’ between the federal and provincial governments, they are well aware that statement belies the actual challenges that lie ahead – both in terms of process, as well as meeting the needs and expectations of policymakers and stakeholders.

How does this affect the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP)

Not only is this ruling a significant setback for Northern Gateway, it could mean changes for future pipeline projects, including the Trans Mountain expansion. The ruling affirms our provincial government’s duty to consult with First Nations, and it will also apply to the province’s obligation to conduct assessments in relation to five other projects, including the Trans Mountain Expansion. It is unclear yet if the equivalency agreement will also be voided for the TMEP, but it is perhaps the clearest indication yet of the importance of First Nations engagement in these reviews, and in the development of all industrial projects in the province which have a potential impact on First Nations.

Hopefully a diligent environmental assessment, as well as a revised National Energy Board and review process will be the norm for all energy projects as we continue to move towards a responsible, forward-looking and prosperous economy in BC.

 

BC Government Rejects Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion

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We walked to work on Monday morning with an extra spring in our step after we heard the announcement that the Government of British Columbia is formally opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. This was welcome news to CRED, our members, supporters and partner organizations! 

While the eleventh hour decision may be politically motivated rather than driven by concerns over inadequate bitumen spill response as indicated, the end result is what we all want: attention to the need for a review board that thoughtfully and transparently weighs the risks of economic activities against potential benefits.

Provincial opposition is just one step. We need the federal government to make a move and recognize that transformation of the National Energy Board isn’t enough. The transformation needs to happen before the Trans Mountain Expansion review is concluded under the current framework.

CRED is working to make this concern heard through an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau. As many of you know, on top of generating fact-based research and stimulating dialogue around our economy, the CRED team advocates for responsible economic development at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.  We are partnering with like-minded business organizations in our efforts to engage policymakers in supporting industries that generate employment and benefits for society without degrading our land and water.

As part of this process, in the coming days, CRED will be active in the following:

  • We will publish an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau from BC businesses to put a halt to the NEB process, and overhaul the NEB before pronouncing on the Trans Mountain expansion in May 2016. The timing will coincide with the upcoming NEB final hearings in Burnaby.
  • We are generating infographics to illustrate the worsening economics of the pipeline expansion project, as outlined in recently published research by SFU and the Living Oceans Society.

Please go to http://credbc.ca/neb-open-letter-trudeau/ to sign on to the Open Letter, and stay engaged with us as we continue to work towards a vibrant economy.

 

Divestment Blues or an Ocean of Opportunity?

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In recent months, somewhat lost in the breathless excitement around our federal election and climate change negotiations in Paris, there was a brief moment where the concept of fossil fuels divestment was covered in the media. US $2.6 Trillion, it was reported, has recently been divested, publicly advocated for by no less than Leonardo DiCaprio and other celebrities who are obviously well known for their investment acumen.

Was this a fluff piece, only worthy of the 15 minutes of news cycle coverage it received, then to be immediately forgotten?  Or are there real implications for the future health of the BC economy?  Is it possible for BC to turn this phenomenon into an opportunity?

What is divestment, anyway? 

At CRED, we understand divestment to mean the opposite of investment – institutions or individuals choosing to sell off their positions related to economic activities they believe to be unethical, morally ambiguous or harmful. This has traditionally related to shares in industries involved in the production of arms, tobacco or alcohol, or investment in parts of the world with dubious human rights records. Traditionally, those leading the divestment charge tend to be pension funds, universities, governments, celebrities and religious groups.

Recently, the focus has shifted to fossil fuels. A growing movement to divest from organizations that support the extraction and transport of non-renewable sources of energy is gathering steam, so to speak. Those who advocate this divestment link their message to the impacts of fossil fuels on climate change, and are clear that their aim is to weaken the political power of the entire fossil fuel industry.

Not surprisingly, there are skeptics.

Bill Gates has suggested that fossil fuel divestment is a false solution, and has pointed out that climate campaigners rarely compare the costs of renewable energy such as solar power, on an apples-to-apples basis with fossil fuels. At the same time, Gates is putting over $2 billion of his own capital into renewable technology projects over the next five years – easily eclipsing his foundation’s $1.4 billion total investment in fossil fuels.

If you’re not yet confused, perhaps you should be! Major industrial transitions, such as the one underway towards a world supplied by renewable energy, are complex.

What does this mean for British Columbia? 

Should we be clutching our pearls as we contemplate the risks to our traditional fossil fuel-dependent industries such as natural gas extraction with its promised LNG ‘boom’? Or should we consider a major re-positioning of our province to one that actively welcomes inward investment in clean energy as we transition out of the fossil fuel sector? Is there a balance to be struck?

Recently, the Board of Change hosted US investment guru John Fullerton, who spoke in Vancouver about the concept of Regenerative Capitalism. Fullerton’s theory is that our production and consumption patterns ultimately lead to a degradation of the planet, and that financial markets must come around to investing in technologies, products and activities that go beyond ‘green’ or even ‘sustainable’ to recuperative… and ultimately regenerative.  The jury is still out as to whether captains of industry are prepared to make this leap, but we are seeing it happening in small and large ways in BC right now.

The question for us as consumers and industry: is fossil fuels divestment a risk to BC jobs or an opportunity to put our province forward as the Canadian hub for clean energy? 

CRED is actively working with partners on a research study on the opportunities and challenges to alternative and renewable energy development in BC. As part of our ongoing efforts to encourage fact-based dialogue about responsible economic development, we encourage policymakers to reflect upon the increasing risks of large capital investments in fossil fuel extraction, transport and export through our province.

CRED and our members support forward-looking policies that will stimulate investment in activities which not only generate employment and tax revenue, but which also attract the best and the brightest to our province and will establish BC as a hub for alternative energy. Our province has increasingly become known for high tech innovation, finance, tourism and advanced education. With decisive action now, BC can foster advanced industries in the fields of environmental technology and alternative energy.

CRED believes in a bright, sustainable future for BC. Check out our research on our website: www.credbc.ca

cc image by By Rafael Matsunaga (Flickr)

Revamping the NEB Process – If Not Right Now… When?

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When Kinder Morgan first introduced a proposal to threefold expand the Trans Mountain pipeline in 2013, few would have predicted that the review process itself would be as controversial as the actual proposal.

Jump ahead to today. Two years into the review, and the cost has increased, oil markets are in a prolonged slump, opposition to the project grows, and new governments in Ottawa and Edmonton have taken the reins of energy policy. All this, framed by uncertainty around how Canada’s oil sands and LNG development plans will square with our newly minted commitments signed in Paris at the COP21.

The new Liberal government has promised to revamp the National Energy Board (NEB) process, and in this promise CRED sees opportunity for real change. In fact, meaningful change seems so close, and the impacts so significant, that we see it as imperative that the process not just be tweaked at some undefined moment in the future. CRED and our members want the current process halted, and a new process built starting now. If we as a nation are going to contemplate an overall energy strategy in accordance with our international commitments, let’s do that NOW, while there are projects under review that could significantly hamstring or even compromise our ability to meet those commitments. Let’s do it so we can have a fair and transparent review of the Trans Mountain expansion, a project that could impact our province for years to come.

Let’s not forget that the current process is the same one that prompted two environmental organizations and over 35 individuals to publicly withdraw from the hearings. Economist Robyn Allan called the process “rigged” when she pulled out in May. There is also legal action against the NEB: the Tsleil-Waututh Nation has asked the Federal Court of Appeal to stop the review due to flaws in the process itself, and legal errors made by the NEB. Landowners, business people, academics and environmental advocates launched a constitutional challenge against the NEB on the basis that it unfairly restricts public participation and refuses to hear concerns related to climate change or oil sands development.

CRED was one of 100 signatories to a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, asking for a halt to the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline review prior to the historic Paris meetings. The government has stated that the two pipelines currently under review – the TMP and Energy East – will continue in a transitional review process, but it remains unclear what changes will be made, and when.

CRED wants to ensure that the federal government implements changes immediately to ensure that these pipelines are subject to a proper climate review, including both upstream and downstream impacts, and particularly taking into consideration the potential economic impacts to BC businesses.

We are crafting an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and his Cabinet to revise the NEB process now, so that the Trans Mountain expansion project will be reviewed under the new process. Look for our letter to be circulated; we value your thoughts and support.

Image via Flickr creative commons user rickz

Canada’s Best Year for Clean Energy

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Clean Energy Canada has recently released their comprehensive paper evaluating how the clean energy sectors are performing in Canada, and they’re calling it a revolution, ‘Tracking the Energy Revolution – Global 2015’ to be precise. There’s no question that change is in full swing worldwide: investments, innovation and growth are all pointing towards the clean energy sector and away from fossil fuel sources.

Canada’s clean energy sector is on the rise in a big way, as investment in new clean-power generation rose 88% from 2013 (totalling appx. $10.7 billion). The report shows that the greatest investments were in wind, totalling $16.89 billion in 2014. Solar follows with investments of $6.14 billion. But don’t be mistaken, our country has a long way to go in terms of policy and support for this growing sector. While policies around clean energy have been strengthened and adapted at provincial and municipal levels, federally, there has been minimal action and support.

According to the report ranking by province, British Columbia lands at number 3 for clean energy leadership because of its commitment to clean energy and investment. BC scores lower on the policy front because of “an exemption in its clean electricity requirement that allows liquefied natural gas plants to produce electricity from fossil fuels”. The one noted policy out of BC was the legislation “intended to limit the amount of carbon pollution that the gas industry’s proposed LNG terminals may release”.provinceCleanPowerInvestment

Overall, the missing piece to keeping Canada’s growth in clean energy strong and globally competitive is federal support. Incentives and framework will pave the way for increased clean energy initiatives, and are a huge component of getting innovation to market.

You can download Clean Energy Canada’s full report from their website

English Bay Oil Spill – We Dodged Big Trouble… This Time!

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It has been 4 months since the Marathassa bunker oil spill in English Bay, and for some, the incident may feel like it’s in the rear view mirror. While we are very fortunate that the spill was small in comparison to others – particularly the recent 5 million litre Nexen bitumen emulsion leak in Alberta - for some BC businesses, the spill did have a small yet direct impact, and will not be easily forgotten.

CRED conducted research to find if there were measurable economic impacts to ocean-dependent industries from the Marathassa spill. Fortunately, our research team’s findings show that economic impacts were minimal. The reasons we avoided a more significant economic impact were the small amount of the leak itself, and because it happened just before many seasonal activities were to commence – such as commercial spot prawn fishing and summer recreational activities.

We are lucky that the time of year played a significant factor in minimizing the impact of the spill to ocean-dependent industries. Recreational fishing was affected the most, with industry representatives reporting an estimated $37,400 in lost profit, and approximately 240 hours of lost employment. While losses were minor, they impacted mainly small businesses that would have no path to compensate for their losses.

Our research shows that even such a relatively small spill as compared with others in recent history, has an effect on businesses, employment and profits, and it is these same businesses that would be hit hardest were a larger spill to occur.

And if the Oil Spill were Larger?

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A recent UBC study, conducted for the City of Vancouver, found that in the event of a 16 million litre oil spill (the equivalent of approximately one-fifth the quantity of an average oil tanker) in Burrard Inlet, economic losses could be over a billion dollars. The study determined that market recovery could have long-lasting impacts across many industries.The market recovery for local recreation could take up to 8 months, and ocean-dependent tourism could be impacted for up to 8 years. Are we prepared to assume the risks involved in exchange for the benefits of expanded bitumen traffic through our waters?