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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

PETRONAS in the Wild West

dams

There are reported to be at least 51 unregulated and unapproved dams in Northern BC built by oil and gas companies for their fracking operations. The two largest  facilities, Lily Dam and the Energy Town Dam, both over 15 meters tall, are operated by PETRONAS subsidiary, Progress Energy Canada Ltd.  The scale of these dams means that they should be classified as ‘major projects‘ under BC’s Environmental Assessment Act. requiring that they be assessed by the Assessment Office (EAO) prior to construction.  On Oct. 31 2017  the provincial Environmental  EAO rejected an application by the company seeking to exemption for these structures from an environmental assessment.The dams have reportedly been operational for many years under the watch of the previous Liberal government and the new NDP Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall is reported to have stated that their government is “reviewing the details in order to strengthen oversight going forward,”

On Oct 10th this year, while the Progress Energy application for exemption was still in progress, Okanagan Indigenous leader, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Ben Parfitt of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives  wrote that “If the EAO grants Progress’s request, it sends a terrible signal that BC really is the Wild West. Rules and regulations are simply there to be ignored.” While the EAO has finally applied its own rules, saving us from the Wild West designation, this decision leaves us wondering, how well the authors’ terms, applied to our province in the preceding years of Liberal rule. More pertinently, it leaves us wondering if, under the new NDP/Green regime, we will finally get the proper oversight of such dams and if in future there will be prior consultation with the First Nations on whose traditional lands they are being built.

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

http://www.policynote.ca/an-environmental-mess-bc-government-needs-to-bring-gas-industry-and-regulator-under-tighter-control/