PETRONAS in the Wild West


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.


Wild West of Political Cash


Former BC Premier Christie Clark ran a political fundraising regime that was described as “the wild west of Canadian political cash” in a New York Times headline. While there may not have been any illegality about financial contributions under this regime its appropriateness and suitability in a genuine and people oriented democracy is clearly in doubt. Also, its implications for corporate influence over the economic affairs of the province are worth reviewing as the Liberals, now in opposition, have joined the new NDP/Green government in the push for change. There are no limits on political donations in B.C. and it is reported in the Globe and Mail that their review of public records found dozens of paid lobbyists actually make large contributions in their own names and not, more transparently, in the names of those of the interests they represent.

One such donor is Byng Giraud, the top in-house lobbyist for and Vice President of Woodfibre LNG. He has apparently given the B.C. Liberals $47,149 in 20 payments, under his own name. Another Woodfibre LNG manager, Marian Ngo, seems to have given the party $28,000, in 14 donations. The Globe and Mail cites Mr Giraud as saying that donating under one’s own name “is common practice,” as the fund-raiser ticket-purchase forms on the Liberal party’s website often had no field to put the company name. The point here is that whatever the ethical complexion of the corporate investor, it the up to our provincial government to set the tone for doing business here, and in no way should provincial economic decision making be as tinged by the colour of money as it appears to have been of late. The new NDP/Green government of British Columbia must deliver on their campaign promises about changing the law in this regard.



sukanto_tanoto_crop2.jpgAccording to Gordon Hoekstra of the Vancouver Sun, following the PETRONAS decision not to build their LNG terminal on LELU Island there are now only three such projects that might still complete –

LNG Canada in Kitimat, an up-to-$40 billion project led by Shell is undergoing a review and cost cutting exercise and the final investment decision on constructing a facility is yet to be made.

• Kitimat LNG, a $3.5-billion joint venture between Chevron and Australian company Woodside, is re-evaluating its project to drive down costs and is also yet to make its final investment decision..

• Woodfibre LNG is a $1.6-billion project near Squamish, owned by Singapore-based Royal Golden Eagle Pte. Ltd.  which is in turn owned by Indonesian billionaire Sukanto Tanoto, has already received a 40 year permit and has made the decision to build their plant but cost cutting exercises are ongoing and construction start dat has not been announced.

These are the remaining possibilities of the 19 LNG export terminals that Christie Clark’s Liberal government were hoping to realize as part of their push for an LNG industry in BC. As British Columbia moves forward under the new NDP/Green coalition government, the relatively small, Woodfibre LNG project is exemplifies the deep concerns about possible environmental scenarios that might emerge as the Provincial and Federal Governments build relationships and make commitments to foreign corporate players.  In a National Observer article published before the project received its approval, Mychaylo Prystupa questioned Sukanto Tanoto’s environmental and business record. In connection with this allegedly poor record, Mychaylo cited the Mayor of Squamish, Patricia Heintzman as saying, “It’s difficult for the community to have trust that this person will not cut corners or be disrespectful to our environment.”

Before scrutinizing our foreign investors credentials, British Columbians would do well to review BC Liberals lobbying and fundraising regime which raised almost $8 million coming from corporations in 2016 alone and has earned our province the reputation of being the Wild West of political finance. The question, in what might be called the post-Liberal/LNG era, is not so much WHO gave HOW MUCH to secure WHAT project, but how quickly the new NDP/Green government will act on the promise to reorder this money/politics infrastructure and move on to a more electorate oriented political economy.