COLUMN: So much energy spent on energy

Daniel Palmer looks at the Northern Gateway pipeline panel, among other energy issues

Wherever pipelines are concerned, expect an eclectic party.

With the federal government’s Enbridge Northern Gateway joint review panel wrapping up its week-long hearings at the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort, the usually picturesque waterfront erupted into a hotbed of environmental protest.

The closed-door panel, which concludes today, spent more than a week working its way through a registered list of about 280 public speakers.

Interested observers were given the option of listening to an audio-only webcast of the event – which had the distinct quality of a wartime emergency broadcast – or of watching a video feed at the Ramada Victoria Hotel, three kilometres away on Gorge Road.

Several hundred frustrated protesters rejected these two arms-length participatory options and gathered along the walkway in front of the Inner Harbour hotel.

Even Victoria MP Murray Rankin, an expert on and opponent of the pipeline project, was turned away at the door last Friday. Rankin called the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency process “fundamentally flawed,” and expressed little hope the end result would leave the public feeling heard. He also justifiably lambasted security for denying entry to the very person elected to represent the public at the federal level.

Adding fuel to the protest flames is the nihilism behind the joint review panel’s mandate. The Conservative government’s omnibus bill, C-38, makes clear that any recommendation by the panel is exactly that: for consideration only.

Stephen Harper’s cabinet can compel the federal environmental agency to approve the Enbridge project, regardless of public will or opinion.

There must be a sense of disillusionment amongst the panel’s members, collecting and collating the opinions of around 4,000 Canadians, knowing all the while their words bear the weight of a novelty inflatable hammer.

To be fair, the approval or rejection of this pipeline isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. The world wants oil from a politically stable and efficient partner. Canada bears both these qualities, relatively speaking, and has enough bitumen to fill 100 billion barrels – likely double that.

In an age where social security costs show no sign of retreat and taxpayers are gripping tightly to every penny (soon-to-be nickel), oil revenue presents a feasible way for the country to pull itself out of a fiscal recession and fill its storehouses for generations.

And then there’s the latest international energy darling and saviour to our financial woes – liquified natural gas.

B.C. is teeming with the stuff, as evidenced by a recent Chevron investment in the Kitimat LNG facility, where the province says exports could reach 75 million tonnes per year, pending agreements with Asian buyers.

The National Energy Board has already greenlit LNG exports to the tune of 10 million tonnes annually, although billions of dollars still need to be invested if B.C. wants to play with the big boys. But the elephant in the room, which trumpeted loudly from the Songhees walkway this week, is the environmental cost of these lucrative ventures.

Comments from senior cabinet ministers indicate environmental protesters are no more than a nuisance, people who fail to recognize the opportunities at hand. The us vs. them mentality doesn’t play well on either side, but it seems fundamentally un-Canadian for the feds to swat away public input like a pesky housefly.

Perhaps the government could try framing the energy debate in a more tempered manner.

The so-called “modernization” of environmental regulations should be rolled out with scientists and other green stakeholders at the table, giving legitimacy to a process that’s been sold as all but a middle finger to granola-eating community farmers and their kin.

Canadians know we need diverse exports, a strong economy and long-term financial stability. We also know we need to balance that with stewarding our resources and minimizing environmental risk.

Take a moment this week to wish the joint review panel luck as they move on to Vancouver for another week of invite-only hearings – they’re going to need it.

Daniel Palmer is a reporter with the Victoria News.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Const. Mat Jones of the CRD Integrated Road Safety Unit joined a team of Saanich police officers and ICBC representatives cracking down on distracted driving at the McKenzie/Quadra intersection in Saanich on March 3. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
‘Leave the phone alone’: 40 distracted driving tickets issued in two hours at Saanich intersection

Saanich police, CRD Integrated Road Safety Unit crackdown on drivers’ cell-phone use

Police seek information after a pedestrian was hit in a crosswalk at the intersection of Goldstream Avenue and Veterans Memorial Parkway on March 3.(Google Maps)
Witnesses sought in Langford pedestrian hit and run

Suspect is older man driving four-door, gold sedan

The University of Victoria has said some of its students were impacted by an off-campus exposure to COVID-19 last weekend. (Black Press Media file photo)
University of Victoria students impacted by off-campus COVID-19 exposure

UVic has not specified where the exposure occurred

Cleanup happens after an overnight flood Monday damaged areas of the Oaklands Community Centre. (Facebook/Oaklands Community Association)
Greater Victorians offer flood of support to Oaklands Community Centre

Blown hot water tank Monday night leaves staff cleaning up soggy mess

This male Dungeness can safely be harvested after passing muster. An official with Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it is not clear how well locals on the Saanich Peninsula are complying with crabbing regulations, but her comments suggest that any problems might be of a minor nature. (Department of Fisheries and Oceans/Submitted)
Sidney and Sooke record 57 crabbing violations in 2020

While recreational crab fishery has ‘compliance issues,’ no evidence of ‘large scale poaching’

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Graffiti trouble? Duncan will give you the brush and the paint to remove it

Initiative based on a successful project to protect Port Alberni from unwanted spray paint

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

Most Read