BRFN vs PETRONAS & BC

brfncrop

Northeastern British Columbia is rich in a diversity natural resources, which includes an abundance of Natural Gas, the extraction of which has become a 40 year project for PETRONAS Canada. Much of these resources lie on Indigenous lands but, it seems, as Amnesty International has claimed in a report titled Out of Sight, Out of Mind, that the Indigenous people are “excluded from a meaningful role in decision-making and bear a greater burden, including loss of culture and traditional livelihoods.” While they may acquiesce and sign benefit agreements,  it appears that in reality the indigenous people are dealing with the kind of ‘offers they cant refuse.’ As Blueberry River First Nation (BRFN) trapper, rancher, hunting guide and logger Brian Clarke notes pointedly, but without criticizing the oil and gas companies whom it seems first encroached on his trap lines and then provided him work ploughing snow or moving earth, “if you can’t beat them, you join them … And you can’t beat them.”

The amnesty report shows how the consequences go beyond environmental and land tenure considerations, deep into the very social fabric of these native communities. In summary, the report concludes, “The model of resource development, particularly the reliance on large numbers of transient workers, widens inequalities between Indigenous and nonIndigenous people and between women and men, negatively impacting Indigenous families’ access to food, housing and social services and increases risks of violence.” The report specifically criticizes government for failing to allocate sufficient resources to services necessary to meet these needs.

Natural Gas extraction (fracking) is only one of many resource activities, and PETRONAS only one of many corporate entities at work causing ‘disturbance’ in the Peace River area of Northeastern BC. These disturbances are evidenced in great detail in the David Suzuki Foundation 2016 report titled Atlas of Cumulative Landscape Disturbance in the Traditional Territory of Blueberry River First Nations. While there are many parties involved, it is PETRONAS that has recently and notably been the beneficiary of a British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) decision that exemplifies the powerful corporate/ administrative forces that the small native communities have to contend with. PETRONAS was given unprecedented retrospective approval for two massive dams that were built on Blueberry River First Nation (BRFN) land without obtaining legally required permissions and exemptions. BRFN’s legal counsel Maegan Giltrow has said that this decision has been made in the face of Blueberry’s repeatedly expressed concerns  about the diminishing water quality and quantity. 

According to BRFN lands manager Norma Pyle, the BRFN has been repeatedly sounding alarm bells to the Crown about the diminished water quantity in their territory, “We have been watching lake levels drop, muskeg disappear, mineral licks dry up and streams reduce to small versions of their former selves.” The Blueberry River First Nations submitted detailed commentary and evidence to the EAO against the granting of the post factum exemptions to PETRONAS, but to no avail. It is in this context that the BRFN recently withdrew of a wider treaty infringement claim against the Province of British Columbia alleging that the cumulative effects of industrial development on its territory had breached the government’s obligations under Treaty 8.

Sandy Carpenter, Sam Adkins and Josh Smith note that after consultation and negotiation between the BC Oil and Gas Commission (OGC), BRFN and the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, the parties signed a Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment Interim Measures Agreement, which prohibits or restricts new surface disturbance in defined critical areas of BRFN territory, while managing development activities in other specified areas. This interim agreement came into force on July 16, 2018. Without knowing the mitigation afforded the BRFN by the terms of the agreement, I venture to suggest that with  two previous court decisions against them, one can understand that they might have felt that you just cant beat them.

Image edited from: https://davidsuzuki.org/science-learning-centre-article/atlas-cumulative-landscape-disturbance-traditional-territory-blueberry-river-first-nations-2016/

https://www.alaskahighwaynews.ca/business/petronas-plans-40-years-of-steady-measured-development-in-b-c-montney-1.23527974

https://www.petronascanada.com/

https://www.amnesty.ca/sites/amnesty/files/Out%20of%20Sight%20Out%20of%20Mind%20ES%20FINAL%20EN%20CDA.pdf

https://thenarwhal.ca/blueberry-river-death-by-thousand-cuts/

https://www.policynote.ca/drain-it-petronas-subsidiary-ordered-to-take-action-at-two-controversial-fracking-dams/

https://projects.eao.gov.bc.ca/api/document/59c4361cf97b160018030811/fetch

http://www.mondaq.com/canada/x/724588/Oil+Gas+Electricity/BC+Restricts+Oil+And+Gas+Developments+In+Blueberry+River+First+Nation+Territory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unlicensed PETRONAS Dams OK

pn_oct2018_dangerous-precedentThe 20-million-gallon Lily Dam, one of the two unlicensed dams for which Progress Energy received retroactive exemption from environmental review. Photo by Ben Parfitt.

In an earlier post I had noted that Progress Energy, now known as PETRONAS Canada had been accused of building two massive unlicensed dams  in violation of provincial environmental regulations. It has since been reported that that British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) allowed these massive unauthorized dams to be exempt from environmental assessments. According to Ben Parfaitt in Policy Note these dams had previously been described in internal documents of the very same EAO as being ‘illegal works’. This is a disturbing precedent because there are other unlicensed dams in the gas fields of Northern BC that stand to be given the same kind of retrospective exemption. This move by the EAO is indicative of the dominance of corporate interests generally, and PETRONAS’ imperatives in particular, within the provincial administrative process.

According to the Globe and Mail, the B.C. Sierra Club, which is a conservation group, is suing the British Columbia government to get these retrospective exemptions revoked. Olivia French, the lawyer representing the B.C. Sierra Club has stated that “Progress Energy acted with a bit of disregard for B.C.’s laws — one of those typical, ‘Ask for forgiveness, not for permission’ sort of positions.” As Green Party MLA Sonia Furstenau has said that the EAO’s decision to grant Progress’s extraordinary request for retrospective exemption fuels public distrust of the relationship between government and the powerful industries it regulates.

Image https://thetyee.ca/News/2017/05/03/Petronas-Unauthorized-Dams-Fracking/

http://www.policynote.ca/drain-it-petronas-subsidiary-ordered-to-take-action-at-two-controversial-fracking-dams/

https://www.policyalternatives.ca/newsroom/news-releases/public-inquiry-needed-properly-investigate-deep-social-and-environmental

Nations Ban Fracking

irelandWhile the province of British Columbia endorses extensive fracking activities in the course of its LNG industry, environmental and health & safety concerns are being acknowledged by a growing number of national governments around the world. In June 2017 the Irish parliament passed legislation that outlaws this resource extraction technique. According to  EcoWatch. Ireland follows France, Germany and Bulgaria in legislating against fracking.  Tony McLoughlin, who introduced the legislation as a private member’s bill is reported to have said, “If fracking was allowed to take place in Ireland and Northern Ireland it would pose significant threats to the air, water and the health and safety of individuals and communities here. Fracking must be seen as a serious public health and environmental concern for Ireland”. Either he is wrong or the province of British Columbia is is well down the wrong track!

Image: https://www.irishnews.com/news/2017/06/30/news/outright-ban-on-fracking-in-ireland-should-be-implemented-in-the-north-1071027/
https://www.ecowatch.com/ireland-ban-fracking-2450255362.html

Fracking in BC

viewRoads and fracking drill pads slice up the scenery in northeastern BC (2013)

In June 2018, Centre forCPA-BC Resource Policy Analyst Ben Parfitt made a presentation to British Columbia’s Scientific Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel in the context of rising provincial LNG industry and attendant concerns about general health and safety, and specifically the well being of Indigenous Peoples and communities.

Parfitt’s presentation included the following findings:

  • at least 92 dams were built in northeast BC without the companies that built them first obtaining the required licences and authorizations.
  • a large number of drilled and fracked gas wells in one remote operating area in northeast BC leaked methane gas, potentially contaminating groundwater.
  • increased water use at more fracking sites means more earthquakes.
  • contrary to the Province’s adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the fracking operations in BC have taken place without the “free, prior and informed consent” of First Nations.

Imafe: https://thetyee.ca/News/2013/06/07/Northern-BC-Transition-Fuel/

https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/ccpa-bc-presentation-scientific-hydraulic-fracturing-review-panel

BC Energy Oroboros 2

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According to the The Financial Post,  B.C. Hydro, the Crown agency responsible for electricity in the province has been privately expressing concerns that earthquakes triggered by fracking are a potential risk to its dams.

Fracking brings dams

Fracking brings earthquakes

Earthquakes break dams

Fracking breaks dams

Apparently, concerns about this possibility were first expressed in internal documents in 2009 and it is suggested that as early as 2014, B.C. Hydro drew up an agreement with the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC), to create five-kilometer buffer zones around dams within which new fracking and drilling rights would not be issued.

While this alleged agreement indicates the serious concerns within BC Hydro,  their public position seems a little more cavalier. In a response to Financial Times queries on this matter, BC Hydro seems to have responded with the following  – “… our dams can withstand events many times larger than those associated with fracking.”  The crown corporation holds that while,  ” fracking does have the potential to increase natural seepage  … ( this) … is an issue of increased cost, not dam safety … ”

Image: https://www.scoop.it/t/transcalar-imaginary

http://business.financialpost.com/commodities/energy/b-c-hydro-concerned-earthquakes-from-fracking-could-damage-peace-river-dams

 

BC’s Energy Oroboros 1

oroboros.png

The Oroboros, the serpent or dragon swallowing its own tail, is a visual paradox that symbolizes self-reflexivity and infinity. In Medeival Alchemy it represented the idea of primordial unity and imperishablity. I draw upon this eternal symbol to visualize the irony of the British Columbian Energy paradigm.

Fracking gives energy 

Fracking takes energy

Dams give Energy

Fracking needs dams

The LNG industry in Northeastern B.C. is supported by the Peace Canyon Dam  and the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, which is one of the largest dams in the world. There is also under construction, the controversial and contested  $9-billion mega-project , the Site-C dam.

image: http://www.oroborosyoga.com/history

http://business.financialpost.com/commodities/energy/b-c-hydro-concerned-earthquakes-from-fracking-could-damage-peace-river-dams

 

 

 

 

 

 

PETRONAS Dams in BC

fracking hell BC

As reported in an article arising from research undertaken as part of the Corporate Mapping Project (CMP), and in the context of what has been called a free-for-all in the energy industry, 17 organizations including the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) have called for a full public inquiry into natural gas industry fracking operations in BC. At the centre of this controversy is PETRONAS subsidiary, Progress Energy which built two massive unlicensed dams  in violation of provincial environmental regulations.

These 2 dams are the largest amongst about 50 unlicensed dams that the  CCPA brought to the British Colombian Government’s attention in May this year. In fact, the largest of these, the Lily Dam, is described as being 23 meters tall, the height of a 7 story building, while the threshold for the licensing requirement is 15 meters.  Following on from the CCPA exposure of the situation in May, investigative journalist Andrew Nikiforuk has reported that BC’s Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) inspections revealed serious problems with 7 dams of which Progress Energy is responsible for 5. As a an initial consequence, the provincial government ordered  Progress Energy to drain its two largest dams and has since government has since denied the company’s application for retrospective licensing.

Complicating the politics and the ethics of this corporate/ governmental relationship is the fact that the 2 massive Progress Energy dams, along with the 50 or so other such structures have built by energy companies on lands that are subject to the 1899 Treaty 8 made with the region’s First Nations. The Blueberry River First Nation (BRFN) lands manager Norma Pyle, affirms that the Nation has alerted the Crown about diminished water quantity, “We have been watching lake levels drop, muskeg disappear, mineral licks dry up and streams reduce to small versions of their former selves’. Further, BRFN’s legal counsel Maegan blames regulatory oversight  as “hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of freshwater in their territory is being illegally impounded for oil and gas operations. ”

It is claimed that in the CMP article that documents obtained by the CCPA indicate that all of the unauthorized dams were built to trap freshwater used in the fracking process operation where huge quantities of water are pumped under intense pressure to fracture or crack open deep rock formations so that trapped methane gas is released. And it is further asserted that one such Progress Energy fracking operation. using 160,000 cubic metres of water, triggered a 4.6 magnitude earthquake near Fort St. John in 2015.

Image https://thetyee.ca/News/2017/05/03/Petronas-Unauthorized-Dams-Fracking/

http://www.policynote.ca/drain-it-petronas-subsidiary-ordered-to-take-action-at-two-controversial-fracking-dams/

https://www.policyalternatives.ca/newsroom/news-releases/public-inquiry-needed-properly-investigate-deep-social-and-environmental