From Showcase to Basket Case: Before Gordon Campbell became Premier in 2001, British Columbians were concerned that he would privatize BC Hydro. The Liberals’ New Era platform was small consolation with its promise to “protect BC Hydro and all of its core assets ... under public ownership.” Voters could “be confident that [a Liberal] government will protect [their] interests,” and would not “play politics with BC Hydro.” Sure thing.
The First Energy Plan
Campbell wasted no time carving up BC Hydro, without quite breaking the New Era commitment. His first energy plan, Energy for Our Future, issued in 2002, was laid out as 26 “Actions,” many of which changed BC’s wild rivers, BC’s energy landscape, and BC Hydro forever. If he didn’t completely privatize BC Hydro, the effect of his policies were to destroy it as a viable economic entity.
Ten years ago, methane digesters were hotter than Hansel. Then, they seemed to fall out of fashion. The point of a digester is to capture the noxious gases that rise from manure lagoons and decomposing waste, so that, instead of smelling them, we can burn them for energy. Digesters capture greenhouse emissions and replace them with renewable energy.
There are not many entrepreneurs who can command a room like Elon Musk. When he stepped onto a stage in May to unveil the Powerwall, the audience oohed and ahhed and dutifully pre-ordered more than 38,000 of Tesla’s new home battery systems.
American tanker barges without Canadian pilots make dozens of trips through the Salish Sea, Johnston Strait and BC’s northern Inside Passage every year, under a waiver granted to the companies by the Pacific Pilotage Authority. The 10,000-ton barges are making fuel deliveries from the Anacortes Refinery near Bellingham, Washington.
Trade officials and representatives in Europe and around the world are learning more about the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism that is now part of many trade deals, and they are balking at its inclusion in deals like the Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement (CETA), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (
On March 3rd, after the Watershed Sentinel went to press, I went over to the Courtenay, BC head office of Compliance Coal, owners of the Raven coal mine. Compliance Coal had announced they had withdrawn their Raven Underground Coal Project re-application from the provincial Environmental Assessment screening process.
BC may have a “Trillion Dollar Opportunity,” and it is NOT LNG.* There are more than 150 known hot springs in Western Canada and most of the high generation temperature areas are in BC. According to Alison Thompson, Chair of the Canadian Geothermal Association, there is more than enough geothermal energy to power the province’s grid, yet none of these sites have been developed.
Last year on July 4, North Dakota oil and gas billionaire, Harold Hamm just couldn’t contain his patriotic enthusiasm. In an op-ed commentary published by Forbes, Hamm wrote, “America has a long history of achieving the impossible. We defeated the British. We landed on the moon. We invented the Internet. And now we can add horizontal drilling to the list of American innovations that have changed the world forever.”
“Don’t lose that Toyota!”
We’d first noticed the silver Toyota on the main drag in downtown Quesnel. We’d spotted it again in Prince George, just ahead of us at a red light. A red canoe sat on the rack, and the rear bumper was a collage of environmental stickers. “Bet you they’re going to the Paddle,” I said. “Let’s keep them in sight and ask them when they stop for gas.”
One hundred thousand is the magic number of jobs that the BC government predicts the Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) industry will create. The employment projections are based on five LNG plants operating by 2020. So far, none of the multinational companies considering building LNG plants in BC has made a final investment decision, but Premier Christy Clark has been busy putting strategies in place to prove BC will have the manpower when needed. But the numbers are not adding up.
Community opposition to fracking was spurred by an application submitted by the Chinese company, Northern Cross, in 2010. There is currently no fracking underway in the Yukon, but Northern Cross has been conducting 3D seismic testing. The Council of Yukon First Nations passed a resolution in July 2013 declaring traditional territories “frack-free.” A Standing Committee of the Yukon Legislative Assembly is accepting public comments about fracking, and will report on its findings and recommendations on a policy approach to hydraulic fracturing in the Yukon during the 2014 spring sitting.
Hydraulic fracturing – commonly called fracking – may well become the political issue that polarizes Nova Scotians this year.
The practice has already generated huge controversy elsewhere in Canada, the US and Europe, and now it is raising political concerns both on mainland Nova Scotia and on Cape Breton Island, where industrial contamination and costly remediation are fresh in everyone’s memory.
The National Energy Board (NEB) has approved seven LNG export applications for BC, totalling 14.6 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d).
Meeting these approved exports would require increasing BC’s gas production to nearly 50 per cent more than all of Canada currently produces - within less than a decade.
These exports would require more and more gas wells and more and more fracking, up to 50,000 wells over the next 27 years, using up to 10 million gallons of water per well for the fracking.
The NEB's job is to protect Canada's energy security, but in its reference case, the NEB projects that Canada will have no more than 4.5 bcf/d of export capacity by 2035 – yet it has approved LNG exports of 14.6 bcf/d starting in 2020.
As you will all remember, TEPCO’s plans for decontaminating the ever increasing amounts of radioactive water accumulating at Fukushima depend upon their ALPS decontamination system. Recently the first hot runs of this system commenced and now a report has been issued in Japanese only on Nov 29.
Ed Struzik, originally published by Yale Environment 360
As debate over the Keystone XL and other pipeline projects continues, crude oil from the Alberta tar sands and western U.S. oil fields is increasingly being hauled by railroad. Critics warn that this development poses a threat not only to the environment but to public safety.
On New Year's Eve 2009, a train with 104 tank cars of light crude oil traveled 1,123 miles from North Dakota's Bakken oil fields to a terminal in Stroud, Oklahoma, and opened a new front in the war over development of Canada's tar sands.
BC Premier Christy Clark and that Energizer Bunny® resource salesman we call Prime Minister have been making a lot of noise lately about Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) sales to Asian markets. Clark once claimed BC LNG would be the cleanest in the world, although lately she has been defining her terms and now says only the actual LNG facility, not the gas or the pipelines, will be super natural green. (Click on map to enlarge)
BC Hydro has an urge to burn, but green power beckons. The right stuff is just around the corner. Can opposition turn into change?
by Delores Broten
After three weeks of research on the questions of hydro power, natural gas, BC Hydro and pipelines to Vancouver Island, I was trying to tell a friend about the story. "Something's wonky," I kept repeating, listing all the questions I could not answer. "Does Not Add Up," I typed crankily as I tried to get answers from BC Hydro and from Vancouver Island energy activists.
These large gas-fired power plants have raised serious concerns among investors and among grass-roots groups for their negative ecological impacts.
by Seth Dunn, Worldwatch Paper 151, July 2000
Anyone who operates digital equipment will wryly agree with the Worldwatch Institute's new report, which argues that today's giant power plants, especially coal and nuclear, are failing to provide the high-quality, reliable electricity needed to power the new digital economy.
The future and forms of energy continue to change.
by Don Malcolm
Scattered throughout the watersheds in the eastern part of Canada and the United States are countless ancient mill sites. Their locations are marked by the presence of old dams on many of the creeks and rivers. Water backed up from the dam became a millpond from which it was channelled through a millrace to turn a large wooden mill wheel.
Most of the coal mines on Vancouver Island closed long ago. A few working remnants of that robust past linger on, such as Quinsam Coal in Strathcona Park, but Vancouver Island's coal industry had said farewell to its glory days. Now the ghost of that dangerous and grimy past, when the Royal Navy fuelled up in Nanaimo, and Ginger Goodwin lost his life in a union organizing drive, is surfacing. The implications of coal bed methane gas extraction for an island just beginning a new life in the post-resource extraction era are startling.
The federal government kicked off 2011 with announcements of $278 million in pulp mill subsidies from the Green Transformation Fund. The grants for mills in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, and New Brunswick push the disbursement of the allocated one billion dollars in pulp mill black liquor subsidies to $591 million.
The Fund was created in June of 2009 in response to US subsidies of pulp mills based on their usage of the pulp mill by-product, black liquor, as fuel – a standard practice in kraft pulp mills. [See “Greed and Black Liquor Fuel Pulp Trade Wars,” November 2009, and www.millwatch.cafor
The National Energy Board (NEB) recently produced a draft energy outlook through 2025 for Canada. In the report, the NEB projects natural gas supplies would come from existing sources (Western Canada Sedimentary Basin, East Coast Sable Field) and from new conventional projects developed in offshore Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, the West Coast, MacKenzie Delta, and the Beaufort Sea. The NEB also anticipates Liquefied Natural Gas imports into Canada, along with massive development of coalbed methane. However, even given these rather optimistic assumptions, Canada’s natural gas supply will still peak in 2010 in one case, and in 2020 in the other.
Northwest Cascade Power Inc wants to divert all 8 of the Upper Pitt’s main tributary streams into large pipes, totaling over 30 kilometres in length, which would require the park’s boundary to be “adjusted.” Public opposition to the plan is fierce.
by Joe Foy
The thing about power is that you often find it in the
I am thinking that the so-called run of river private hydro power gold rush is just about over in British Columbia. That’s because the gold rush has turned out to be a fool’s gold rush.
In a recent report, University of BC professor George Hoberg found that BC is not short of hydro electricity (as BC’s government has been telling us) because, should we need more, we are entitled to a lot of Columbia River hydro electricity.
I figure all that’s left to do now is to turn off the remaining proposed private hydro power projects still working their way through BC’s approval processes – like the Kokish River on northern Vancouver Island,
After you pay for the logging and chipping to strip out the biomass, there is very little revenue left to cover capital and operating costs, while the environmental deficit mounts.
Analysis by Michael Major
The May 14th Globe & Mail article “Western Companies Devise Ambitious Energy Plan” celebrates the announcement of a forest biomass-to-electrical-energy conversion initiative. But there is nothing green, climate neutral, or appropriate for BC in this development. The announcement assumes future pine forests have nothing better to do with their banked 10,000 year accumulation of biomass than provide it to subsidize electricity for the illumination of Las Vegas.
They called it ‘Black Tuesday’ for Vancouver Island mill workers when Catalyst Paper announced the layoff of 227 employees between its Crofton and Elk Falls mills, but the event was soon overshadowed by worse news for about 800 workers at the Pope & Talbot Harmac and Mackenzie mills, when the company’s bankruptcy and the mill’s closures were announced. (Graph: BC Pulp & Paper Layoffs.
When US lawmakers unveiled the new Highway Act of 2005, they likely weren’t aiming to ignite a global trade dispute in the forest products sector. The Act was allegedly designed to increase the alternative and renewable fuel mixtures powering the transportation of America. The legislation, however, was fatally flawed in its vague eligibility criteria. The rollout of the tax credits translated to a massive subsidy for the American pulp industry.
Pulp mills claim the tax credit for burning black liquor, a
Plutonic Power Corporation is one in a battery of companies flooding BC Hydro with small hydroelectric generation projects. Arthur Caldicott takes a wide-ranging look at small hydro and the issues that arise from it.
Since 2000, BC Hydro has received dozens of small hydroelectric generation proposals. Fourteen are now producing electricity. BC Hydro has signed Electricity Purchase Agreements (EPAs) with about sixty of them, totaling nearly 1500 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity, about an eighth of all provincial generation. And there are many more proposals to come.
When the BC Liberals took over government in 2001, water pricing for the Power-General license – that’s the water license a company needs to generate electricity for sale – had two parts: a capacity charge calculated on the generating capacity of a facility, and an energy charge, based on how much electricity was generated each year.