It turns out the famous Laurel and Hardy phrase “here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into” is a misquote. What Oliver Hardy really said to the hapless Stan Laurel was “here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten us into”.
At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter if it’s a “fine” mess or a “nice” mess. It’s still a mess.
And that’s what we had last week when protesters shut down the NEB hearings into the TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline—a mess.
Wildrose leader Brian Jean seized upon the incident as proof that Rachel Notley’s Climate Leadership Plan (CLP)—a cap on emissions, carbon tax and phase-out of coal fired power plants—was a tax grab that would never get “social licence” from “these people”.
Retired TransCanada executive Dennis McConaghy said Notley’s process was “naïve” and “ass backwards”. She should have used the CLP as leverage, making its implementation conditional on getting pipelines approved.
Both arguments are poppycock.
When Notley rolled out the CLP she said its purpose was to make Alberta “one of the world’s most progressive and forward-looking energy producers.” She did not say it was intended to gain “social licence” or promise that once it was introduced opposition to pipelines would melt away.
Notley was wise to avoid the term “social licence” because no one has the faintest idea what it means.
Ed Whittingham, executive director at Pembina Institute says the term emerged around 2011 and morphed into a “mythical beast” like the yeti or Bigfoot and is just as elusive.
Kai Nagata, energy and environment director at the Dogwood Initiative, doesn’t use the term at all. He says it’s vague and nebulous. He prefers to look at social licence in terms of the rule of law, noting that Canadian courts command more respect than its politicians.
Nevertheless it continues to be bandied about by politicians and oilsands CEOs who agree public perception and opinion has to be considered in order to get an energy project approved.
While community engagement is critical to the success of any project, getting “social licence” is not a prerequisite to project approval in any provincial or federal regulatory process.
If the Notley government, Pembina and the Dogwood Initiative have no use for the term one wonders why politicians like Brian Jean and Jason Kenney continue to give it street cred.
The conservatives’ attempt to discredit the NDP for failing to get “social licence” is simply political grandstanding.
However when business executives inflame the discussion by suggesting the ND government should issue an “ultimatum” to the rest of Canada something is seriously wrong.
Dennis McConaghy, a retired TransCanada executive, derides Notley for failing to make the implementation of the CLP conditional on getting pipelines approved.
This is a bizarre argument because:
- Conditional legislation, particularly in the energy industry, creates uncertainty and drives away investment
- Leverage only works when the party being pressured can deliver what you want. Who is Notley supposed to be holding for ransom? The protestors? The Mayor of Montreal? The provinces of BC, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick? All of them can intervene in the NEB process but none of them can approve a pipeline. The only one who counts is the federal government. Justin Trudeau and his cabinet will consider the NEB’s recommendations and make the ultimate go/no go decision.
- Leverage that smacks of blackmail—approve this pipeline or Alberta will continue to pollute—will not sit well with Justin Trudeau who could easily do an end run on Notley by imposing federal climate change legislation. Notley’s so-called leverage would evaporate in a puff of smoke, leaving her and all Albertans looking ridiculous.
- Conditional leverage can only be used once. What’s Notley supposed to do after the first pipeline is approved and the next pipeline or LNG project comes along? Roll out even more stringent conditional environmental regulations? While this would make Alberta the most climate change friendly jurisdiction on the planet it would drive uncertainty to hysterical levels and investment would vapourize.
- Suggesting that Alberta should pass provincial laws contingent on the feds approving a pipeline messes with the division of powers set out in the Constitution Act of 1867. Peter Lougheed would certainly come back from the grave to see if Rachel Notley had lost her mind.
The fatal flaw with the leverage argument is that Notley enacted the CLP to make Alberta a world leader in energy production. She did not intend to use it as a bargaining chip in a business negotiation and she’s not about to blackmail the feds into approving pipelines by holding Albertans and the energy sector hostage.
A fine mess
All this is not to say that the angst around the pipeline review process isn’t real.
The Montreal protesters had no business creating a ruckus inside the hearing room and the NEB panelists had no business meeting with former Quebec premier Jean Charest when he was advising TCPL on its application.
But none of this is Notley’s fault.
This fine mess is the direct result of Stephen Harper’s decision to “streamline” the process in order to guarantee the outcome.
Harper weakened the environmental review process which eroded the public’s trust in the NEB. Calling environmentalists foreign-funded political radicals and telling Obama that approving Keystone XL was a “no brainer” didn’t help.
Harper politicized the NEB by stripping it of the power to approve or reject a pipeline application. The NEB is limited to making recommendations to the Prime Minister and cabinet. This may have been happy news to the industry when Harper was in power but it scares them silly now that Trudeau is sitting in the PM’s office.
(Perhaps Harper should have made the PM’s right to approve pipelines conditional on the Conservatives being in power forever).
Stephen Harper got us into this “fine” mess and Rachel Notley is trying to get us out of it.
Anyone who doesn’t understand that should stop wasting our time and check out a few Laurel and Hardy movies.
nice one! clearly labeling the guilty party. who no longer seems to be accountable for anything other than spouting platitudinous generalities about so many “successes” during his tenure … and who was never really accountable while in power.
Well said David. Mr Harper has moved on to the next phase of his career, building on his “successes” by joining a global law firm, picking up corporate directorships and embarking on the lecture circuit. His official bio says: “Prime Minister Harper was known for a frank, assertive leadership style defined by principled diplomacy, disciplined economic policy, a strong stance on international peace and security, and passionate defence of freedom and human dignity.” We could spend the whole week debating his “passionate defence of freedom and human dignity” and how that aligned with the barbaric practices tip line and the niqab debate.
Thank-you for this in-depth analysis, Susan. It is apparent some Albertans and particularly, a couple of political parties who need-not-be-mentioned have to be dragged kicking and screaming towards a viable new economic future for Alberta, and for Canada. Notley’s credibility in dealing with the dual challenges of economics and environment are being recognized as she helps open the New York Climate Change Symposium happening this week. Dovetailing with this is Alberta’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade Deron Bilous’ appointment of an expert panel “ …to prepare recommendations for the Alberta government on how to best invest part of the province’s new carbon levy on clean technology and innovation.”
We have fallen behind many countries in development of green energy, including the U.S.
Bilous yesterday was quoted in the Edmonton Journal saying, “… there is a global race for green technology and innovation. To truly compete, we need to think carefully about how to structure our government’s coming historic investment in research and innovation related to climate change.” Time to get with the program.
I agree Elaine, it’s definitely “time to get with the program.” I was just reading about the government’s Climate Technology Task Force. It’s chaired by Gordon Lambert, a recently retired Suncor executive, and includes Dr Vic Adamowicz, a specialist in agriculture, life and environmental sciences from the U of A, Shelly Vermillion, who’s experienced working with non-profits and Indigenous entrepreneurs, Suzanne West, CEO of Imaginea Energy and Dr. Sara Hastings-Simon from Pembina Institute’s Clean Economy group. Sounds like a pretty high powered group, which is exactly what we need if we’re going to move away from fossil fuels as the driver for our economy.
Every one of the NDP’s panels looks the same, heavy on the industry enablers with energy CEO’s, a representative for the FN community, a U of C or U of A member or two, and a smattering of controlled opposition, likely from Pembina, STAND, ex Greenpeace or Environmental Defence. None of these factions are interested in us moving away from fossil fuels or mega corporate control, as most of them are industry supported and controlled themselves.
Pembina’s largest project in Alberta over the past few years has been a rewrite of the Landowners Guide to Oil and Gas Operations. You really should watch Duncan Kenyon here, stating the future of energy is….fracking….not clean energy.
Has the government done a cost benefit analysis of the green alternatives and presented this information to citizens?
If the government has done this cost benefit analysis what does this analysis indicate for the future?What are the risks of phasing out coal generated electricity plants for citizens? If there are significant risks, what is the government of Alberta’s back up plan?
If they have not done the cost benefit analysis why haven’t they done this work?
I have looked briefly at just one green alternative that is being proposed-wind generation and although it is doable it will cost us more and what will be the alternatives when we have problems in generating electricity by this method? I believe that Alberta is courting BC which is happy to provide for the future electricity needs of our province.
If BC electricity is our back up plan when wind generation isn’t sufficient then this again raises the question of costs. So we have costs of a back up energy source from BC and we have costs of start up of these green projects which believe me we will be paying for because inevitably we pay for everything that is done in government generated energy programs. We will have the money generated from the carbon tax dedicated to the green projects so this means subsidies to the eager investors in this sector. These start up costs are significant and we will have payments upfront and on an ongoing basis.
I doubt that private companies will invest in wind generation without public subsidy. It’s a poor use of our cash to do the P3 route in such projects where we don’t own the assets but support the private sector in their profit making ventures.
P3 projects of this nature have a record of no transparency and no accountability. I mean I asked the government of Alberta the cost benefit analysis of the continuing care industry and how much profit the industry was making and I was told this information is “proprietary”. This is so rich. We pay and we pay and as the public banking officers we can’t even find out how much of our cash is going towards resident care and how much to the real estate companies. These private real estate investors are getting rich on these P3 arrangements that government continues to provide significant public monies for but we are supposed to just accept the government spin that this is the best way to take care of our most vulnerable family members. Just how much money is going to these private businesses? Here is one business in the continuing care industry that made out like a bandit:
Accountability and transparency needed for long-term care operators
2016-09-05 · by Admin2015 ·
Friends of Medicare
“While we do know that Park Place has received $6.3 million in funding to open the facility, Park Place will also be receiving operational funds to provide care at Villa Marguerite and their other Alberta care facilities. The details of those funding dollars need to be publicly disclosed so Albertans can see where the money is going,” said Executive Director Sandra Azocar.
If the wind generation projects that we will end up paying for are as expensive as the P3 projects in the continuing care sector I guess that this will ensure that the oil and gas industry has no productive competitors.
Where is the free market and competition in all of these matters? What we have in all these sectors is a fake free market and a rigged set up where government provides public monies to the private sector, ensures that there is continual public subsidy and guts the public interest. The NDP are continuing the fine old PC tradition of spending public cash to ensure private profits with no concern for the public interest. Same old, same old as before except the NDP are more canny than the PCs in this matter of gutting the public interest while still playing the siren song of defending the public interest. All very neat.
Great analysis, but I think you’re falling into the same finger pointing trap that the other parties are currently stuck in. We have the environmentalists that blame big oil and business for the state of our environment. But they continue to reap the benefits of these “dirty” businesses. We have politicians that align themselves with businesses and are labelled as global warming deniers. Then we have the media that continue to fuel the fire. Everyone else is to blame and no one is accountable. Stephen Harper did too much for his cause and the Rachael Notely isn’t doing enough. How is anyone helping our province/country? What we need are people to have an open, honest discussion with a goal of moving Canada forward. To say no to development is ridiculous. However, to say yes to development without being environmentally responsible is just as ridiculous. Until we as a province stop this blame game, we’re screwed.
Thank you Brendon for saying what we need to do, work together.
We need to work together but without accurate information we are working in the dark. We also need to ask good questions of government and get facts in reply. Without the back and forth between government and citizens we don’t have a functional relationship and in Alberta it feels as if information is privileged and not available to ordinary citizens. Only the back room players have the information and their connections.
This is not acceptable. Ordinary citizens can’t do their jobs as good citizens if we don’t know, are not given the facts when we ask, but are wrapped in the bubble wrap of positive spin for every issue. I have asked many questions of government and have received superficial responses forcing me to ask for the documents such as fatality reports. Government should not be this way and should not be a place where unfairness exists. We are given the chatter of a just society until our teeth ache from the sweetness of this idea but for many of us at the margins, there is no just society. There is only a very unjust society that is kept in place by the poor practices of government.
Information release is critical. In the case of the CLP where is this information in terms of the drawbacks? I had no idea of the problems of the CLP until Diana informed us of the problems in her comments.
Why do we have to go to other citizens to find out this information?
Based on what I understood from her comments, I did a bit of research on the wind generation of electricity and found this information to indicate that Diana is quite correct in the high costs of wind generated electricity for consumers:
NEW ELECTRICITY PLAN A WASTE OF ALBERTANS’ MONEY
WIND ENERGY HAS ISSUES
From this information I see that we will have wind generated electricity in Alberta—but it will cost us big bucks and it isn’t reliable. What happens when coal generated electricity is phased out and we have a shortage? Will we buy our electricity from BC at higher costs to Albertans? Is this the back up plan?
Where is the debate in the legislature about all these problems that will be ours and our kids? The NDP say there will be a rebate for the carbon tax but what about the high costs of electricity? Will we have rebates for lower income families in place for electricity AND the carbon tax? Will the $15 per hour minimum wage benefits be erased by the increase in the cost of living due to these higher electricity costs?
Why can’t we get the goods on this sort of legislation? I would say this information is not being analysed by the opposition parties. It is not being understood by citizens. We are impermeable to the consequences of the CLP because it takes years to get the information, process the information and then have it all click into place.
Where are all the critical thinkers in the energy sector who can do the review of the programs and clearly state the problems to citizens? I guess they’re not in the government where information sequestration is an ongoing policy (remember the “no paper trail please, we’re government position of Carl Amrhein of AHS, now the deputy health minister).
We’re not going to get any information other than positive spin that is generated using our tax dollars.
I can’t understand why NDP supporters blindly follow the party without questioning. Is no one able to see that the NDP folks have transformed themselves into the new PCs? It’s a good move strategically and giving all the goodies to the oil and gas industry ensures collaborative efforts between them to the betterment of the NDP folks. Only problem with this positive partnership is that the public interest is being ignored.
The so called green NDP party is a party that has given the energy sector the free license to do what they want at the cost of the public interest.
Who is concerned about the public interest? Obviously not the NDP folks in government. First of all -why are we the ones to subsidize the dumb idea of wind generated energy? Second of all–why are we creating a green energy sector that is more expensive than the use of the non-green energy products? Didn’t the Liberals do this junk in Ontario? How is that plan working out for the citizens there?
All good points Brendon. When I wrote the post I wanted the reader to consider two things (1) notwithstanding what the provincial conservatives say, the power to approve pipelines rests solely in the hands of the federal government (and Harper put it there) and (2) the “advice” of business leaders like former TransCanada executive Dennis McConaghy, must be taken with a huge grain of salt.
I absolutely agree with your point that we need to move past the blame game and engage in an honest conversation about developing our energy resources responsibly while building a plan to transition to renewable resources down the road. Some politicians (Alison Redford and Danielle Smith) talked about the need for an energy corridor across Canada. If Canadians could agree on such a thing we might be able to move ahead more quickly with both non-renewable and renewable energy.
In my view, opinions on pipelines can be grouped into three broad categories. First, there are the strong proponents, for whom every regulatory and policy hurdle a project needs to clear is just a barrier to progress. “Social license” is irrelevant to this group. Secondly, there are those that are vehemently opposed to pipelines under any circumstances, whether it be because they facilitate the perpetuation of a carbon-based economy or because of the risk to the environment through which a pipeline would pass (these are often overlapping reasons). There is no convincing this group that any fossil fuel pipeline should ever be built.
Then there is the third group, the mushy middle between those two extremes, who could be convinced to support, or at least mute their opposition to, the construction of pipelines, given sufficient reassurance of safety and responsible environmental stewardship (I tend to place myself in this category). This is the group to whom this term “social license” applies. Without it, even federal government approval would not guarantee a project would ever get built and put into operation. There would be a voter backlash and endless legal wrangling.
Jerry, I’d put myself in that “mushy middle” category as well. I suspect the reason why the Trudeau government set up panels to conduct additional climate impact reviews and consultation with First Nations (thereby extending the review period for Trans Mountain and Energy East) is to reassure people like us that everything that should be considered has been considered. I hope these temporary panels are simply stop gap measures to tide us over until the NEB Act and environmental legislation can be revamped because I think reviews of such importance should be part of a legislated regulatory process rather than a one-off ad hoc process.
Thank you Susan for another fine blog. I love it when someone writes about issues in an informed manner. It helps that I loved Laurel and Hardy from my childhood going to the matinees.
Thanks Brent. I still remember watching The Three Stooges on TV. My mom used to hate that show (too much poking people in the eye), but as a child I thought it was pretty funny.
I not fully up to snuff on the political moves being bantied about here but would like someone to explain to me why coal has such a bad name in the generation of energy. I am not fully aware of the problems it causes to health, to the enviroment, to the world in general.
Tom, as I understand it coal mining and coal combustion results in increased green house gas production and detrimental health impacts which range from minor respiratory complaints to increased rates of cancer, heart, lung and kidney disease. However I’m certainly not an expert and I’d welcome the comments of others who are more knowledgeable.
Anonymous: this sentence says it all: “…a clear relationship emerges between oil combustion effluents and an excessive deaths certified as caused by pneumonia due to a directly toxic acute lung injury, a finding concordant with deaths during the London smog of 1952.” Thanks.
Tom, some good information from NASA. Fossil fuels are discussed here, including coal-burning. http://climate.nasa.gov/causes/
Thanks Elaine. That was a nice summary of how we got here in language that even I can understand 🙂 .
Thank you Elaine, very informative article and I guess how I related to coal was how it affected my own health only and I had not investigated the other aspects of it. I will still have to investigate it more as at my age it takes a while for some of this to sink in. Again thanks much-greatly appreciated..
Great Tom, you’re welcome. Dr. Joe Vipond is an Emergency Room doctor in Calgary who is an active member of an Alberta group advocating for clean air. http://albertacoalphaseout.ca, and who with Dr. Rachel Faroe wrote an excellent opinion piece published in the Edmonton Journal in April. Here is a link to that: http://edmontonjournal.com/opinion/columnists/joe-vipond-and-raquel-feroe-time-to-accelerate-albertas-coal-phase-out. Aren’t you sorry you asked? Now I can’t stop! I’m guessing, with Dr. Vipond’s enthusiasm and outreach, he would be happy to answer questions of yours, too.
“Dr. Joe Vipond
Emergency Physician, Calgary, AB
Clinical Lecturer, University of Calgary
ph (403) 510-9236″
Greetings Ms. Fleming,
Mr. Vipond has been a vocal champion for the coal phase out-based on the health implications, but he refuses to engage queries or medically address the health impacts to residents and communities when 70% or more, of coal fired electricity will be replaced by fracced gas exploration, production and processing.
The NDP has a team of partisan podium characters, they all play a scripted role. It is incomprehensible that a medical doctor, with todays technology and knowledge base, can intentionally refrain from and outright refuse to warn populations about the impacts that unconventional resource extraction has on public and environmental health. To easily admit harm with coal, then give a hall pass to fracking, is madness.
Please, as a favour, query Dr. Vipond, a government medical professional on his stance on the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing, even compared to coal. If you do get a reply, would you please post it here?
My comment to the issues you present, is failing to post. My reply is rather long, but a needed read, for all Albertans. Should I retry, or send the comment to via email?
Diana, long replies are problematic on WordPress, especially if they contain links to other articles. Do you have your own blog that readers can visit in order to read it?
Hi Susan, I’ve managed to post most of it below. I do not have a blog, but will post the full comment on my facebook (thumbs down for fb) page. The remainder of the post is in regards to Energy East and is a must read.
I sense a great deal of partisan support for the NDP and their CLP from you. Having followed every policy decision, legislation passed, campaign promises and public announcements of the party since the election, I must question your reasoning.
I personally believe, based on clear evidence, that Rachel Notley has made an even finer mess. Harper would likely be proud of her pro-industry decisions, obscured in blue-skied advertising and cunning green-wash. It would not be far-fetched to even imagine Mr. Harper may have consulted or directed the party on many of their recent legislative workings.
I would like to take this opportunity to dissect the actions of NDP from their election to date, to get a better feel for where we can reasonably lay fault and find answers.
The NDP campaign was certainly brilliant, they had the opportunity to capitalize on serious voter angst and the antics of a very disturbing and arrogant Jim Prentice. Voters were promised “fair share” by way of a review of royalties, commitments were made for increased environmental monitoring and regulations for climate change, there was also the pledge to review hydraulic fracturing (if you recall Notley had many serious concerns about the process when she was environment critic), urban drilling (Shannon Phillips was a large part of No Drilling Lethbridge) and the mandate of the AER. There was no mention on the campaign trail of a carbon levy. Nonetheless, this was a feel good, progressive platform to capture almost all of Edmonton and a couple ridings in Calgary, enough to take power.
Full disclosure, I fell for the NDP wooing, and voted for them. I regret this now, although, my options were few and in the end, it mattered little, our riding went to WR locally, PC federally.
Since swearing in the NDP caucus, all those commitments have been obliterated, deceivingly so.
The NDP handed over the royalty review to Dave Mowat with ATB and Peter Tertzakian of ARC Resources and far from fair share, the Modernized Royalty Review has implemented the lowest royalty rates in the history of Alberta, shorting the public owners of the resource billions of dollars.
To further, the MRR incentives high-cost, high risk and low productivity unconventional well exploration and production, again, redirecting billions of public dollars to cushion the oil and gas capital gains. $500 million to petro-chem start-ups, billions on drilling incentives and royalty reductions and AIMCO gave $200 million to keep Calfrac afloat, just to name a few industry perks. Additionally, the MRR adds a loophole for industry to deduct all carbon costs, under the “revenue minus costs” formula-more on this later when we discuss Bill 20. As a side note, one only has to review the ATB v. Redwater ruling to be very concerned about the influence and direction of our provincial treasury, suing to set precedent that the bank gets priority on profitable oil and gas assets under their lending, while being able to dump the crappy wells onto the public as liabilities. I encourage Albertans divest from ATB for this reason.
All increased environmental monitoring that was campaigned upon has been deferred in Budget 2016. Additionally, the NDP have disbanded CEMA and pulled AEMERA in house, but have done nothing with the environmental file since then.
The review of hydraulic fracturing has not occurred. When the rural caucus put forth a resolution on fracking at the NDP AGM, members pushed the item to the last on the agenda, ensuring the matter was not addressed. The NDP CLP also endorses fracking, as the party expects to replace most of the coal fired power generation with fracced gas, the process is deemed “clean” with “limited adverse impacts” in the document. All queries I have made to the ministries, health, energy, environment, education and the Premier’s office, to validate this claim and provide them with the hundreds of peer review studies and industry records that demonstrate clearly otherwise, have been rebuked, comments have even been deleted from Minister Phillips facebook page. I have even invited our elected officials to our home to tour the leaking and non-producing energy wells around us. We have received no reply, not even a gracious decline.
The NDP are outright lying on the impacts of fraccing, while subsidizing the industrial process for billions of dollars, with money that is not theirs. Naturally, there has not been another word mentioned on the review of urban drilling either, and that may have much to do with NALA, see below. The NDP has every intent of fraccing every corner and community in this province.
The NDP not only went on to quietly endorse the legally immune regulator, that operates with no public interest or public health mandate, which is also not beholden to the Public Service Act, even though they are a government corporation, but they gave the AER $245 million for operations in Budget 2016. Within this endorsement was the acceptance of play-based regulations, referred to as NALA in the AER Annual Report. This province wide regulatory deregulation, allows companies to submit one application, which is less prescriptive than what is currently submitted for a single well site-to exploit entire resource plays over massive municipal districts, encompassing the entire lifetime of operations, which includes all infrastructure, water use, emissions, cumulative impacts, stakeholder and community relations and remediation and reclamation. The pilot evaluation was quietly released by the AER a couple of weeks ago, it is clear, the process is a failure, but of course, the AER is confident it will work for Alberta. Confident that the process will work for industry, not the public, because they do not regulate in our best interest, this is for producers, lets be clear…and the NDP think, this is just fine.
That all leads us to the Climate Leadership Plan, to which you seem to ardently support, this plan the true poppycock.
The CLP has 5 main components and all of them are illusionary or ineffective:
First is the infamous and well advertised 100 mega tonne “cap” on oil sands carbon emissions. As a lawyer Susan, you must appreciate that until enshrined in legislation or a regulatory directive, the cap does not technically exist. To date, the cap is merely a discussion bubble in the CLP. Talk all you want, until there is a legislated Bill and procedural documents to outline how the cap will be enforced and administered, there is no cap. Even if legislated, the 30 mega-tonne buffer for emissions permits 15 years or more growth, with no reductions on current emissions generation. This cap, for the past year is merely a talking point, nothing more. As well, how can we only focus on carbon? What about the hundreds of other priority pollutants and specific climate and health altering gases and compounds that are being discarded into the atmosphere at alarming volumes each year?
The supposed coal phase out; aside from fact that 12 of the 16 coal plants were already on the books for being phased out by 2030, there has been no economic assessment to quantify what the cost to Albertans will be to prematurely close the other 6 plants. Despite the constant vilification of coal impacts to health, coal extraction and processing will still continue in the province. There are numerous applications before the AER for coal projects, including new and extended operations, which will see coal mining in the province well past 2050. It has only been in the past few weeks the NDP has changed their narrative from phasing out coal entirely, (as they know this to be disingenuous) to just phasing out coal fired electrical plants. The constant scape-goating of coal, based on health implications, is untruthful, considering coal operations will continue in many communities, for decades to come. As well, I have called on numerous ministries and outspoken coal critic podium pals of Notley, ie Joe Vipond, to address the health impacts of replacing over 70% of coal power electricity, with fracced gas, which is known to have a far greater emissions and environmental impacts (water use and contamination, well integrity, waste generation, seismicity, etc) than coal. Such challenges have been met with silence from all parties.
The CLP committed to increased First Nations consultations, but such relations were already preserved in AER Directives and set in precedent via supreme court law. This was a token addition.
Methane emissions are a massive issue in oil and gas operation, specifically because of leakage with unconventional extraction and that methane is immediately warming to the atmosphere, at 20 to 80 times the global warming potential of carbon. There are trillions of m3 of formation gases escaping to atmosphere from oil and gas operations, fugitive emissions, venting, well testing, surface casing vent flows, gas migrations and transmission losses, to name just a few. The CLP commits to methane emissions reduction, by some 45%, however, the process will be voluntary and non-regulatory. This means, it simply will not occur. Why would industry commit to increased costs for a voluntary project, when they currently get to dump their waste gases to the air shed for free. There are no penalties involved for non-compliance and recent changes to directives, even after the CLP was released, ( Directive 17) still do not require operators to measure or test for any number of sources of methane emissions. Companies just estimate emissions on a spreadsheet and submit them to Petrinex-to which the public has no access. How can you claim to achieve reductions on methane emissions that are not even accurately measured or reported in the first place? Since the AER does not even enforce mandated regulations, much less voluntary ones, this methane emissions reduction will result in no appreciable reduction of methane pollution.
The CLP then goes on to rely heavily on promoting wind power as a green alternative. This will prove to be very costly for Albertans, as wind is the least cost effective, most unreliable form of renewable energy to pursue. Why would the NDP push for wind power, in light of the poor economics and massive costs of infrastructure changes to implement it? I will direct you to the podium supporters of Rachel Notley, the super majors with wind portfolios. The entire premise of the NDP wind plan is to auction off large blocks of wind energy to the highest bidder, while getting taxpayers in the province to “green the grid” at their expense. Industry and eNGO’s such as Pembina, with their Wind Referral Program, stands to benefit immensely with this wind fall. If allowed to come to fruition, power prices in the province will be exorbitant, much like Ontario. This is not a prudent way to diversify energy in our province, but the oil and gas industry do not want inexpensive, reliable clean energy, do they? Industry wants to maintain control over price and delivery of all power sources in the province and part of the CLP relies heavily on using wind turbines, backed up with fracced gas. The NDP are practically gifting the oil and gas industry control over the generation and delivery of power in the province, including renewables.
Finally, that last element of the CLP was the Carbon Levy, now cemented in Bill 20. There are so many things wrong with this bill, I can not believe that the opposition was unsuccessful in getting a referendum, or our environmental justice firms have not come to the defense of Albertans by filing an injunctive action preventing Bill 20.
The carbon levy was not brought to the public before hand and consultations were weak, at best. The Bill has sweeping warrantless search and seizure rights imbedded into it, but no measure to qualify or quantify the heavily advertised purpose of the levy, to reduce emissions and protect public and environmental health and mitigate climate change. Bill 20, does however, entirely exempt industry from the carbon levies. There are 3 exemptions built into the legislation;
-Marked fuel: Industy in Alberta uses purple fuel
-Fuel used but not combusted- all the fuel used in solvent extraction, SAG-d, hydrocarbon fracs, gas fracs, invert drills, well servicing, and the trillions of m3 of hydrocarbons used in exploration and production of oil and gas each year are exempt
-Fuel used in industrial heating-Homeowners will pay to heat their modest abodes, but industry are exempt from the millions of decs of natural gas and other fuels they burn to heat their facilities.
However, the carbon levy does give industry increased profit margins on all the commodities they produce and market in Alberta. The 4 out of 10 Albertans, and the businesses and municipalities that are shouldering the burden of this levy are being unjustly taxed, for no appreciable or measurable impact on emissions reductions. It is no wonder, there has not been one critique by industry with respect to the carbon levy, they likely lobbied the NDP hard to implement the exemptions and all parties involved have worked hard to keep the details of the exemptions from public disclosure.
To further, for what carbon costs the industry does manage to pay, as mentioned before, prior to paying out a higher royalty rate, industry was given the “revenue minus costs” formula in the NDP MRR and carbon fees are included in costs. Therefore, industry is entirely exempt from all carbon levies being implemented in the province. Which are not to be confused, as many do, with the Specific Gas Emitters Regulation, which only applies to facilities producing over 100,000 tonnes of carbon per year. The NDP increased the costs of carbon per tonne in this regulation last year, but the augmented cost is negligible, estimated to be $600 million industry wide over the next two years.
When a critical lens is applied to the actual workings of the CLP, the notion that this largely unlegislated document will make us a leader in energy production and progressive climate leadership is ludicrous. And the notion that the plan was not implemented to steer the storyline towards Alberta being environmentally responsible, therefore approval of pipelines should be automatic, is also fairly far fetched. Of course the NDP worked with industry on this, to create several green talking points, geared towards permitting social license, public acceptance or
whatever you like to refer to it as, for industrial development and expansion.
Thank you Diana for showing us the true worth of the CLP. This climate change leadership plan in my opinion, appears to be worthless and not in the public interest.
It appears that we have a worse situation with the NDP folks in charge of the energy sector than we did with the Tories.
Without comments from knowledgeable citizens like yourself we are very much in the dark with reference to dense issues like the CLP. Positive spin generated by the NDP folks in government exceeds the spin of the PCs and seems to be seen as the truth by all and sundry. Such positive spin is detrimental to a democracy and citizens can’t do their job of holding government accountable for it’s work–if government doesn’t tell us the truth and also hides the facts. Without legal and industry backgrounds we simply can’t figure it out and we need experienced navigators for this rocky road we are on. Without your expertise in this area and the meaty information you have provided, we wouldn’t be able to understand just how badly we are being screwed until we’re in the same costly mess as Ontario.
I fail to understand why the Wildrose Party and the Liberal Party of Alberta aren’t able to dissect these issues in the way that ordinary citizen are able to. Where are the opposition parties and their research folks? Do they need Diana Daunheimer to explain the ramifications of the CLP to them?
These ramifications now seem problematic to me. For example, I believed that the oil and gas industry would be paying the carbon tax. How is it that they got out of jail free and all of us are paying this tax:
“Bill 20, does however, entirely exempt industry from the carbon levies”?
It is outrageous that we have to pay for heating our homes and yet industry doesn’t pay. Why is this?
“-Fuel used in industrial heating-Homeowners will pay to heat their modest abodes, but industry are exempt from the millions of decs of natural gas and other fuels they burn to heat their facilities.”
Is this exemption to ensure that the oil and gas industry anneals to the NDP folks as they annealed to the PC folks in the past to the detriment of the public interest? Why is the oil and gas industry continuing to get the preferential treatment that the NDP folks decried before they arrived in government?
Not only do they get preferential treatment in terms of the CLP but we have the same sort of preferential treatment of the oil and gas industry with reference to fresh water use. The oil and gas industry gets water for free. How much water is being used by the fracking business that we will never have returned to the water cycle? No one in the government of Alberta or at the AER will tell me how much water is used. Water is the next big issue and we will have problems with water scarcity soon enough. But of course, no one cares so long as money is made in Alberta.
If you are able to find out the numbers for water consumption by the fracking industry Susan that would be useful. Only some of us seem to get the information; the rest of us are silenced, ignored and our comments are deleted from the NDP Facebook sites. It’s reprehensible and anti-democratic.
I believe that such acts such as the refusal of Rachel Notley’s team to allow my comments on her Facebook page represent a clear decision to prevent diversity in a democracy. We count too. But not, apparently for the NDP where the questions on the oil industry and the continuing care industry appear to be forbidden topics. Why is this? Is the NDP government so insecure that it cannot have comments indicating to the public that the returns from the oil and gas industry aren’t as rich as stated by other citizens whose comments are allowed on these public pages?
It seems like in Alberta, the mechanisms to control public discourse are solidly entrenched and won’t be removed without courageous women like Diana Daunheimer and Jessica Ernst bringing up these issues so that we can face facts. And after facing these facts, we should do our jobs as good citizens and hold government accountable for decisions that are not in the public interest.
You are most welcome Julie,
It is becoming ever more increasingly disturbing to see intelligent and influential people pander to the NDP’s climate and energy policies, particularly, when just a a few moments research and reading demonstrates how shoddy and unscrupulous this plan, as well as the MRR and Bill 20 are. What is in it for them? Will they be exempt from the high costs of power, the environmental destruction to follow, are they immune from health altering emissions not being reduced, can they consume contaminated water without harm, or survive a another “beast” of a fire or severe flooding untouched?
What is worse about the NDP, is that the PC never pretended to care about the environment, or any impacts imparted by oil and gas. The NDP capitalized on the need and desire of our population to be progressive on protecting our public and environmental health, then they betrayed us, in the most deplorable of ways, often using Alberta’s children as talking points-while doing nothing to protect children from the harms of the oil and gas industry.
Bill 20 is awful, and both opposition parties are keenly aware of the exemptions to industry. I met with our WR MLA last week, he said the exemptions are a sure way to try to get re-elected by the oil and gas sector.
Water is a critical issue with respect to unconventional extraction. The AER has taken over the Water Act in 2013, with respect to all oil, gas and coal operations. There have now been over 13,000 water licences approved by the AER for fresh water use and 339 awaiting approval. The volumes are staggering, but generally not accessible to the public. The AER preached transparency, but actually run a user-pay system. The average fracced well bore uses 5000 to 10,000 m3 (m3=1000litres) of water to drill and complete (frac). Times that by the tens of thousands of well-bores. No well bore returns 100% of the frac fluids to surface, in some cases, none of the fluids are returned, but the average is a 40% return rate. So what water mixed with the toxic chemicals for fraccing and laced with heavy metals, salts, HC’s and NORMs from the formation, that is not left downhole, is then transported to generally be injected into disposal wells. I would average the loss of water from the hydrologic cycle for each fracced well is 5 million litres of water.
There are many serious issues in our province and the NDP CLP, endorsement of the AER, Bill 20 and the new royalty structure will not change them for the better, but make these public health, environmental and economic pressures exponentially worse.
I suppose when operators start handing out NALA applications to frack around the and within the city limits of Edmonton, more NDP supporters will get a feel for how much worse.
Here is the final portion of my comment, links removed:
We are not yet finished with our assessment of NDP policy and platforms, since you have mentioned Energy East, there are a number of considerations we should address so the public is duly informed.
Both the AUMA, and AAMDC have championed or passed resolutions endorsing Energy East. Notley has been photographed holding “Go East” signage produced by AUMA. There has been broad based support and advertising, across the province, for quite some time for this pipeline and it is confounding, to say the least. There is a stunning lack of disclosure about the project and the resolutions were passed when none of the parties involved, seem to know the full details of the cost and liability to Albertans in the event the pipeline is approved. When you review the GoA-Annual Report and CFS, page 27 has this to say:
“The Commission has signed a Transportation Service Agreement with Energy East Pipeline Limited Partnership (“the Carrier”) to purchase 100,000 barrels per day of firm capacity for a term of 20 years to transport volumes of crude oil. The construction of the pipeline is dependent upon obtaining regulatory approval. The Carrier filed an updated project cost estimate with the National Energy Board in December 2015. Under the take-or-pay obligation, once required regulatory and commercial approvals are obtained the Commission has an estimated
updated minimum obligation to pay $4.6 billion (2015: $3.4 billion) over the 20 year term. Additional tolls will be incurred depending on the volumes transported through the pipeline. The pipeline is expected to be in service
as early as 2020.”
To further, the take-or-pay contract with TC is clear, even if no bitumen is shipped, the Alberta is still obligated to the tolls. In the event, there is a major rupture or upset with this almost 50 year old gas line that is being re-engineered to carry diluted bitumen, Alberta will still pay for product that is not shipped.
As well, in these resolutions and calls for support, CAPP, AUMA, AAMDC, and all our political parties, state that EE will reduce foreign imports, this is contradicted directly from Irving management. Saudi and other cheaper imports will continue, unabated, based simply on cost.
Search: Financial post-Energy News-Irving oil president says it would keep Saudi imports even if Energy East goes ahead
I have made several calls to AUMA and AAMDC regarding these issues. I wanted to confirm if these organizations were aware of the tolls to Albertans, the liability imparted by the TC contract, to address the false statement that EE will reduce imports and to confirm if any of the endorsements were founded on specific economic analysis regarding the financial benefit to Alberta, especially in light of the immense toll commitments. In speaking with Al Kemmere-President, and Carolyn Kolebaba-VP of AAMDC, both were entirely unaware of the tolls, the contractual details and neither have seen an Alberta based economic breakdown. Mrs. Kolebaba did state that TC gave a presentation to AAMDC, not the entire board, just a few members, herself, Kemmere and perhaps someone else. It was over a year ago, Kolebaba explained, she was unsure of who else was being privately schmoozed by TC in the meeting. Curiously, later in the discussion, Mrs. Kolebaba suggested the AAMDC resolution did not even exist, but here is the link:
Search the Resolution databases at AAMDC.com for Energy East
For AUMA’s letter search their document library, March 2016, Energy East Pipeline
In several calls and emails to AUMA, specifically Lisa Holmes, to query the same details of EE, I have been rebuked. I imagine either the AUMA is also unaware of these details or intend on keeping them hidden from the public. To endorse such a project on a municipal or federal level, without accurate accounting, contract review or assessments of liabilities is very poor, unethical governance, that reeks of corporate lobbying. I will be preparing a notice to both organizations to rescind their resolutions, until such time as all the details of EE are made public and a full economic analysis for Alberta are released. Would anyone else that represents the public interest of Albertan’s like to add his or her name to the request?
The entire process regarding the application, consultations and endorsements for Energy East, from the NEB to our local municipal councils has been tainted, and the project should be put back to square one.
I suppose for the time being this is a sufficient field full of fodder to chew through, even though we have failed to touch on oil and gas operators defaulting on millions in municipal taxes across the province (AAMDC is currently compiling data), at the same time begging for tax relief and mill rate reductions, failing to pay lease rents and having critical shortfalls on reclaiming and remediating inactive or abandoned well sites and facilities. As well, when the NDP announced curriculum changes, I engaged Minister Schmidt on if they were going to continue to allow oil and gas companies as stakeholders in drafting the provincial curriculum, as the NDP previous stated the practice was appalling. Apparently, it is now acceptable, or at least, unmentionable. You can view the discussion on Mr. Schmidt’s facebook profile.
For numerous links, search NDP opposes oil and gas industry as curriculum partners.
There is also massive deregulation occurring by the AER. Even right after the Husky spill, the AER announced in the Regulatory Change Report, they are considering offering relief for yearly external corrosions inspections and maintenance as per the Pipeline Rules. The NPD have done nothing to manage any of these issues and willfully ignore all correspondence in relation to them. In fact, the NDP have gone out of their way to green wash many of these matters, using known controlled opposition factions of industry funded eNGO’s such as Pembina, Forest Ethics (now STAND) and Environmental Defence, to sit on panels and be stakeholders in policy creation.
The new Oilsands Advisory group is one such recent appointment. Using taxpayers money, they hire and generously compensate, Dave Collyer, formerly of CAPP and Tzeporah Berman, (Forest Ethics, Greenpeace) and other members to give us another useless review in two years time. Ms. Berman will not even answer questions about how the OAG will interact with COSIA and AEMERA, but she did coe to Alberta on our dime, got a chocolate cowboy hat on her pillow, prior to attending Pembina’s Climate Summit in Calgary, which was sponsored by Captial Power, Suncor, Shell and numerous other oil and gas companies. Meanwhile, the community of Fort McKay is being irrevocably poisoned and a review in two years will do nothing to help them.
The AER just released one of their stupendously horrific “Recurring Health Complaints Technical Synthesis” on the region this past week. The AER wrote a similar report about our family too, last year, without our knowledge, consent or involvement. This report was meant to specifically discredit and disregard our concerns regarding the health impacts to our family from non-compliant sour gas emissions by our home, even though the AER has no public health mandate and the report was written by Monique Dube a water toxicologist formerly from Shell and Total, whom has no professional credentials to pen health reports. We respectfully called on the NDP, AER and AHS to have the report removed from publication and distribution, as the AER sent the report to Al Kemmere, Bruce Beattie (local councilors in MVC) SPOG, CMAG (Synergy Alberta members) PAMZ, legal counsel for Bellatrix, AH and AHS, yet again, there was no reply from our elected officials. We continue to seek remediation for this violation of our privacy and publication of such a shameful and misleading report on the events, operations and regulatory response by the AER relating to numerous non-compliant well sites very near our home.
I have been very proactive in calling to question the legitimacy of all these matters before us, specifically the impact to public health and environmental impacts with respect to hydraulic fracturing. I am very knowledgeable in these areas and have been dealing closely with all key players on these issues for many years, the AER, AH, AHS, APEGA, Synergy Alberta (vile as they are), numerous eNGO’s and countless industry professionals. The NDP have been no assistance whatsoever, from our experience, they care nothing about the serious public health or environmental issues brought forth to them by constituents. The NDP are treading deeply into the same bad faith governance as the party they continually repudiate and their policy and legislative enactments are incredibly, astoundingly pro-industry.
In light of all this information, surely, it was not a waste of your time, perhaps you may need to fix up a big bowl of buttery popcorn and sit back to enjoy a few episodes of Laurel and Hardy, slapping each other silly, over this ruse the NDP have pulled on trusting and unknowing Albertans. When the good people of Alberta have the truth, we can all sing Ku-Ku together, in harmony, then we can get on with fixing this new and very fine muck of Rachel Notley’s making.
It has been stated in this train that I am a shill for the gas industry (with no evidence to back that up). Here is an op/ed written in July 2015 that states my opinion on the subject. Judge away.
Joe, thank you for providing the link to your op/ed which clearly states the government must set targets for renewable energy and make up any shortfall with with natural gas. I regret any inconvenience the comment may have caused you.
Just recently, climate scientists have confirmed that the concentration of atmospheric CO2 is above 400 ppm, permanently!
Nobody alive today will see a world under 400 ppm. No one’s descendants will either for at least the proverbial 7 generations, likely much longer. That’s fact.
400 ppm of atmospheric CO2 = 1.5 – 4.5 degrees C warmer atmosphere. Also fact.
There is no society or economy on the Globe that is producing less CO2 today than it was last year. Another fact.
The conclusions are dire. Especially for a petro-addicted economy such as Alberta.
Notley’s Climate Leadership Plan makes me think about Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and her Five Stages of Grief. I think we are in Stage 3; Bargaining.
What has died is the easy and wasteful use of petroleum. The concept of profligate use of petroleum, especially for profit is dead! Over and gone. Making a deal to transition to a kinder, gentler place is just so much bargaining over a corpse.