Coastal GasLink fined again for sediment, erosion in pipeline work
Victoria – The company that is building a natural gas pipeline across northern British Columbia has been fined for a third time as a result of failure to comply with the requirements of its environmental assessment certificate.
The B.C. government issued a bulletin saying Coastal GasLink has been fined $213,600 for “continued deficiencies with erosion and sediment control measures.”
The bulletin issued Wednesday says recurring issues with erosion and sediment control have resulted in ongoing compliance and enforcement action, though more recent inspections have shown improvement.
The Environmental Assessment Office says more than 50 inspections have been done along the pipeline construction route since the project started in 2019, resulting in 37 warnings and two other financial penalties imposed last year: $72,500 in February and $170,100 in May.
The office says it entered into a compliance agreement with Coastal GasLink last July that takes a more proactive approach to erosion for about 100 kilometres of the 670-kilometre pipeline route where ground had yet to be broken.
The pipeline, which is in its final scheduled year of construction, is to connect natural gas facilities in northeastern B.C. to the LNG Canada terminal in Kitimat, on the northern coast.
Coastal GasLink says the penalty reflects concerns about erosion and sediment control from inspections by the Environmental Assessment Office in February 2022, and the determination is “a reminder of how far we’ve come in a year.”
“We continue to work closely with our regulators to look for ways where we can do better across our project, especially with erosion and sediment control,” the company said in a statement.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2023.
Premier Smith urges PM Trudeau to talk Ethical Energy Security in meeting with US President Biden
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:
The arrival of President Joe Biden presents our nation with an opportunity of great significance. It is my request that the federal government uses its platform to focus on collaboration between the U.S. and Canada, highlighting the critical need for North American energy security.
We have a deep, long-standing relationship with the U.S. at both the federal and state levels, which is only growing in importance. In 2022, Alberta surpassed Ontario and Quebec as the largest provincial exporter of goods to the U.S. at $182.5 billion, with energy making up 85 per cent of exports to the United States. Alberta, by far, remains the single largest source of U.S. energy imports.
This economic reality, along with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has highlighted that North American energy security must be a top priority for the Government of Canada. I urge you to raise the need for better collaboration between Canada and the U.S. to ensure the continued and enhanced supply of sustainable, affordable, and reliable energy to the U.S.
I recommend that the two governments work to fast-track energy projects in the name of economic security for our democratic partners, as committed to by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. A similar effort is needed in critical minerals as the world shifts to lower emitting sources of energy.
Alberta, through both government policy and industry action, is leading the way on reducing emissions and driving the transition to new sources of energy. New investments in the province are global flagships in clean energy and emissions reductions technology. For example, Pennsylvania’s Air Products will create a world-scale net-zero hydrogen energy complex in Alberta, and Dow is advancing the world’s first net-zero carbon emission integrated polyethylene complex at its existing site near Edmonton. It is also worth noting that Canada’s oil sands operators have announced plans to spend $24 billion on emission-reduction projects by 2030 as part of their commitment to reach net zero by 2050. All of this amounts to a herculean effort undertaken by industry partners, and Alberta’s government, to position ourselves as the foremost leader in emissions reduction and responsible energy production.
As you know, management of oil and gas methane emissions is one of this country’s greatest climate success stories. Collaboration with the U.S. on methane emissions would both advance climate action, and address regulatory inconsistencies between the two countries. As of 2020, methane emissions from the upstream oil and gas sector in Western Canada have decreased by around 44 per cent from the 2014 baseline – ahead of our schedule of 45 percent by 2025. More evidence of Canada, and Alberta, leading the way.
Alberta is home to vast geological potential, an experienced, skilled, workforce, and has the necessary processing and transportation infrastructure in place to support a growing critical minerals sector. For example, technological advances to extract minerals from underground brine solutions are found throughout Alberta. These extraction technologies could result in a low emission, sustainable source of lithium to meet the demand of our emerging battery value-chain. We would encourage your government to work with the provinces, especially Alberta, on critical minerals and seize the opportunity to collaborate with the U.S. on enhancing North American supply chains.
As the owners and stewards of our world-class natural resources, any discussions involving energy security, natural resources, and trade must fully involve the provinces. I would be pleased to help assist you, and the federal government in advancing the work on North American energy security as well as developing the business cases to increase exports of clean Alberta energy, critical minerals and technologies to the U.S. As is only appropriate when discussing natural resources, and areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction, I would also request that Premiers be invited to participate in a meeting with the President and his delegation.
I look forward to your response and welcome an opportunity to collaborate. We both agree that the world needs more Canada. It’s imperative that in a time of such uncertainty, and unaffordability, that Alberta, and Canada profile ourselves as the preferred supplier of responsibly produced, ethical energy to the U.S., North America, and the world.
Alberta information commissioner to investigate Kearl tailings leak notifications
By Bob Weber in Edmonton
Alberta’s information commissioner has started an investigation into how the province’s energy regulator notified the public about tailings pond releases at Imperial Oil’s Kearl mine.
“Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod has launched an investigation into the Alberta Energy Regulator concerning AER’s consideration of the public interest override,” said a news release Wednesday from the commissioner.
In the release, McLeod said the probe is to examine whether the regulator had a duty to release information about risks to the environment, public health or a group of people.
“Did AER have a duty … to disclose information that is clearly in the public interest?” the release asks.
The investigation could also be expanded to include “any other implicated public body,” it says.
The probe stems from two releases of toxic oilsands tailings water from the Kearl mine north of Fort McMurray, Alta.
The first release was spotted and reported in May as discoloured water near a tailings pond. It was found to be tailings seepage, but no further updates were provided to area First Nations until February, when it was disclosed to the public and federal and provincial environment ministers, along with a second release of 5.3 million litres of tailings.
Area First Nations were furious about the fact their members harvested in the area for nine months without being told of possible contamination. The government of the Northwest Territories said the silence violated a bilateral agreement it has with Alberta.
On Monday, Indigenous leaders from communities downstream of the mine up to the Beaufort Sea condemned what they called “failures on the management of tailings ponds, including the recent tailings leak from the Imperial Oil Kearl project.”
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also criticized the delayed response.
“We need to understand why the company and the regulator were so slow to notify,” he said in response to a question from N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod in the House of Commons.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has said the onus was on Imperial Oil to disclose the releases. She called for “radical transparency” from oilsands operators.
Federal Environment Steven Guilbeault has said reform is necessary to ensure it never happens again. The federal and provincial governments have said they are assembling a working group to improve environmental communications in the oilsands.
The investigation was requested by Drew Yewchuk, a law student at the University of British Columbia and staff lawyer at the University of Calgary’s Public Interest Law Clinic.
“I’m happy to see this going ahead,” he said.
In a post on a blog that concerns Alberta legal issues, Yewchuk wrote the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act contains a section that obliges public bodies to disclose information about risks of significant harms to the environment or human health and safety.
“All of those requirements appear to have been met in this case,” Yewchuk wrote. “So why did the AER not warn the affected communities and the public until the problem literally overflowed, and even then chose to provide very little information?”
Yewchuk also noted the legislation contains protection for whistleblowers.
He said this is the first time the commissioner has investigated whether a public body should have released public-interest information on its own, without having been asked for it.
Information commissioner investigations can take months, if not years.
“I’m hoping this will get some prioritization,” Yewchuk said.
McLeod said no further details will be available on the investigation, including a timeline for its completion.
“A public investigation report may be issued upon conclusion of the investigation,” the release from her office said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2023.
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