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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Book Review: “Understanding Planned Obsolescence”

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There is something very post modern about this review. I was offered a copy of this new book (out 3 January 2017) to review, but what I got was an ebook hobbled by Digital Rights Management. It expires in a month and I am not allowed to cut and paste any quotations from it. Now I may not know much about copyright but I do understand the concept of “fair use”: which includes quotation!

I am going to cut and paste what I can from  the blurb on netgalley and the publisher’s press release. (see below the line)

The reason that I wanted to read the book was my irritation at getting this tweet

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The iPad mini in question is less than two years old. I have determined by reference to the book that I am not alone in this experience, and indeed it appears to be a long established policy of Apple. Indeed within the product cycle, the life of the hardware is prescribed – and there will inevitably come a day, long before the device in question is beyond repair, when its operating system will not get updated any more. There is a case in the book of the iPod whose battery life was designed to be 18 months, and the battery could not be replaced by the user. There is also a documented legal case of an iPod mini designed and sold as an adjunct to exercise which failed when it came into contact with human sweat. Apple’s advertising showed the device attached to human bodies under exertion!

There is nothing new about planned obsolescence.  I read Vance Packard’s The Wastemakers at East Ham Grammar School when I studied A Level Economics (1964-66). Everybody knows about GM’s policy of annual model changes based simply on design as opposed to technical innovation. And the cartel of lightbulb makers who made their products fail earlier so that they could sell more of them. My Dad told me about British carmaker Armstrong Siddeley that went bust because their cars were built to last – and no-one ever bought another one having no need since the first one they got was so well made and reliable. I fully expect my 2007 Toyota Yaris to see me out – unless there is a sea change at the strata council and I could install a charger for an electric car. Or Modo relents and puts a shared car in our neighbourhood.

If you are a student then you will be comfortable reading this book. It is remarkably short – I read it cover to cover in two hours or so – and is well annotated and referenced. It does acknowledge Brexit – which will probably remove British consumers from all the EU protection offered to consumers, which is remarkably advanced compared to North America. But was obviously written pre Trump. With leaders like Trudeau and Clark we cannot expect anything other than continuing adherence to the best interests of their funders. And just as the fossil fuel industries will ignore the carbon bubble for as long as possible, we can confidently expect the 0.01% and the corporations they control to continue to ignore both the pile up of garbage and pollution and the growing shortage of critical raw materials (like rare earths) as long as their profits increase and remain largely untaxed. So acquiring this book if you are an activist and wishing to bring about some change is likely to disappointing.

But if you are really in need of an education in the theory of planned obsolescence this might be worth forty quid to you (CAN$66.45 at the time of writing). But as far as prescriptions go, there’s not much. The certainty that the “current hegemonic paradigm will not allow humans to remain on this planet much longer” – and therefore the need to “walk in search of new patterns, new models, new meanings to then build new paths, new paradigms”.

And that is about it.

 


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Written by Stephen Rees

December 19, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Mea Culpa

with 4 comments

I have been doing something I shouldn’t have, feel bad about it and will now stop.

I recently read Jordan Bateman’s book about how he – almost singlehandedly – defeated the transit referendum. You cannot get it from the library or indeed most bookshops except as a print on demand. Amazon has it as an ebook for Kindle, but I am not recommending it. His technique was to stick to two simple statements and two figures. And, the key point, is that it did not matter that they were not true.

We have, of course, now become used to the idea of a post factual political landscape since both Brexit and Trump followed a similar strategy. And even though it might be effective it doesn’t make it right. The ends do not justify the means.

I have wanted to defeat the Kinder Morgan Transmountain Pipeline expansion proposal. Mostly because the expansion of the Alberta tar sands defeats Canada’s commitment  to the Paris Agreement to combat climate change. But I have noted that most people here do not  pay much attention to that. Mostly it is – as you would expect – concerns about spills. Or the noise disturbing the orcas.  Local environmental impacts score more immediately with people than distant more widespread issues. So I have been writing – and saying – “Dilbit Sinks”. Good pithy slogan. But unfortunately, if you read any of the material cited in the previous blog posts, not exactly the whole story. In fact we have had a dilbit spill from the existing KM line into the Burnaby terminal and it did get into the Burrard Inlet, and the recovery rate was very good. Which is much better news than the ongoing problems from another dilbit spill into the Kalamazoo River – which is not at all like the Salish Sea. The problem is that, as usual, the behaviour of dilbit when spilled is largely a matter of conjecture based on modelling and laboratory type simulations. So the data is both incomplete and inconsistent – a wonderfully complex and nuanced message no-one is actually going to be bothered to read about until they have to. We do know that the recent oil spills that got so much attention here – the Marathassa  and the Nathan E Stewart – are not actually a very good guide to what might happen here with dilbit since they involved Bunker C and diesel respectively. And both those products behave differently in seawater to dilbit. But they did have an impact on the Government of Canada, and the commitments to improving spill response.

Since no-one is going to spill dilbit into the sea in bad weather deliberately, just to see what happens, we will not know until disaster actually strikes. Now, if we actually had a government in Ottawa really committed to data driven policy making the precautionary principle would apply, and the pipeline would not have been approved. And it is still not too late to defeat it. Indeed we must continue the fight against it. But important though that fight is, I cannot in all conscience employ the tactics of Donald Trump, Jordan Bateman or Nigel Farage. Indeed I reserve the right to lambaste them for their lack of integrity – and cannot do that if I am guilty of the same sin of commission.

UPDATE Max Fawcett in the National Observer

But jamming up a single pipeline does nothing to achieve CO2 reduction. The concerns that I think are fair are the ones around, you know, certainly the whale population in the … the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the spill concern.

I think the spill concern is being overstated. The risks are pretty insignificant. But if it happens, it’s a disaster, no question.

And now DeSmogBlog weighs in: Review of 9,000 Studies Finds We Know Squat About Bitumen Spills in Ocean Environments

Written by Stephen Rees

December 8, 2016 at 12:39 pm

Posted in blogging, Environment

Tagged with

Tar Sands Tankers in U.S. Waters

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While I was polishing up last night’s post on Marc Garneau’s incredible claims about how safe we will be once the tankers moving diluted bitumen start moving, the following arrived in my in box.

As I am sure you are all aware, there are very few refineries set up to deal with diluted bitumen – or even heavy oil – and none at all in China. While the pipeline proponents blether about finding new markets for the tarsands, the reality is that dilbit will go to where they can refine it.screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-10-57-12-am

Picture from The Common Sense Canadian

And once again in the interests of getting information out there – since the CBC story about the tankers did not once mention dilbit – here is the entire press release:


 

NRDC Report: Tar Sands Tankers in U.S. Waters Could Skyrocket 12-Fold Under Canadian Producers’ Plans

A flood of dirty oil and possible damaging spills in the Atlantic, Pacific and Mississippi River threatens iconic species, tourism and communities; also would increase climate pollution double Keystone XL’s

WASHINGTON (December 7, 2016) – Canadian oil producers have roared back from President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline with a scheme to send hundreds of tar sands-laden oil tankers and barges down the East and West coasts and the Mississippi River, the Natural Resources Defense Council warned in a report released today.

Under their plans, tar sands tankers and barges traveling U.S. waterways could skyrocket from fewer than 80 to more than 1,000 a year—dramatically increasing the chance of devastating spills.

That, according to the report, would put the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, including the Salish Sea, San Francisco Bay, the Gulf of Maine, the Hudson and Columbia rivers, the Chesapeake Bay and the Florida Keys, at risk for costly spills for which there is no known effective cleanup technology. In addition, as many as 130 tar sands barges per year could travel on the Mississippi River, which today sees almost no such traffic.

The potential for destructive tar sands spills endangers hundreds of inland and coastal communities. And it puts at risk multibillion tourism and fishing industries, along with protected ocean preserves and abundant marine life; including whales, dolphins and unique deep-sea creatures.

“Canadian oil producers have a scheme to flood us with dangerous tar sands oil. Their hopes to send hundreds of millions of barrels of tar sands oil into U.S. waters are truly alarming. We can’t let them endanger American livelihoods, our most iconic and threatened species, or our beautiful wild places with these irresponsible plans,” said Joshua Axelrod, lead author of NRDC’s report.

“The risks and costs created by possible tar sands spills are so substantial that local, state and federal governments should take immediate action,” added Axelrod, policy analyst for NRDC’s Canada Project. “Protecting the public, communities and the environment from a plague of dangerous tar sands oil on U.S. waterways should be their top priority.”

If all that wasn’t bad enough, the climate impact of the planned tar sands development would be severe. Expanded production would destroy a large swath of Canada’s boreal forest—a carbon storehouse that helps to mitigate climate change. And burning all the tar sands oil that the industry seeks to develop would add 362 million metric tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere each year—twice as much as Keystone XL’s tar sands would have contributed.

NRDC released the report, “The Tar Sands Tanker Threat: American Waterways in Industry’s Sights,” in a telephone-based press conference. Joining Axelrod for the event was: Stephanie Buffum, executive director at Friends of the San Juans; Michael Riordan, physicist and resident of Orcas Island; and Jewell James, a Lummi Nation representative and fisherman on the Salish Sea.

It outlines plans by Canadian producers to excavate tar sands oil from forests in northern Alberta and use four new pipeline and rail operations—and existing infrastructure on the Mississippi River—to move tar sands oil by tanker and barge down the coasts and on the Columbia, Hudson, and Mississippi rivers to reach heavy oil refinery operations in the Mid-Atlantic, Gulf coast and California.

Canadian producers are pressing ahead with these expansion plans, despite climate realities and findings like those in a 2016 report by the National Academy of Sciences that tar sands crude has unique physical properties leading to extreme clean-up challenges, including missing tools and technology that could clean the heavy, toxic oil in the event of a spill.

It’s notable that six years after a tar sands pipeline spill fouled Michigan’s Kalamazoo River and created a billion-dollar cleanup effort, the river is still contaminated.

The tar sands threat outlined in NRDC’s report isn’t theoretical. Just recently, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline expansion, which would increase oil tanker traffic by 600 percent in the already-congested Salish Sea between Washington state and British Columbia.

If the pipeline is built, much of this traffic is expected to move south along the U.S. west coast to California heavy-oil refineries. Scientists contend the project is a death sentence for the region’s beloved Killer Whale population.

“The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, just approved by Canada’s Prime Minister, would significantly increase tar sands tanker traffic and oil spill risk in the Salish Sea,” said Lovell Pratt, an expert in marine vessels and resident of San Juan Island. “According to a vessel traffic analysis, the project would cause an 800% increase in the risk of a major tar sands oil spill over the next ten years in Haro Strait and Boundary Pass—the critical habitat of the region’s highly endangered orca whales.”

NRDC recommends that in light of the tar sands threat:

* State and federal governments should reject vessel response plans for ships transporting tar sands oil because there’s no effective cleanup technology available for handling tar sands spills.
* Local, state and federal governments should take steps to evaluate legal, policy and research priorities to deal with potential tar sands oil spills and their impact on the environment.
* Policymakers in the U.S. and Canada should examine whether tar sands crude can be safely shipped on our rivers and oceans, and how enabling further development of carbon-intensive tar sands oil threatens the climate.

More information about the tar sands tanker and barge threat report is here: https://www.nrdc.org/resources/tar-sands-tanker-threat-american-waterways-industrys-sights

A blog on the issue by Josh Axelrod is here: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/josh-axelrod/new-report-tar-sands-industry-targets-americas-waterways

More about NRDC’s work related to fossil fuels is here: https://www.nrdc.org/issues/reduce-fossil-fuels

An audio recording of the press conference on the tar sands tanker and barge threat will be here: http://www.hastingsgroupmedia.com/NRDC/TarSandsTankerReport.mp3

Earlier this year NRDC released another report “Tar Sands in the Atlantic Ocean: TransCanada’s Proposed Energy East Pipeline,” focusing on TransCanada’s plans for the Energy East pipeline that would dramatically increase tanker traffic along the East Coast. That report is here:  https://www.nrdc.org/resources/tar-sands-atlantic-ocean-transcanadas-proposed-energy-east-pipeline

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 7, 2016 at 11:01 am

“Increased B.C. tanker traffic will be safe”

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This is the claim by Canada’s Transport Minister Marc Garneau, which is examined in a CBC documentary. There is no commenting permitted under the article on the web page.

So I posted this to facebook instead

I read the article, I listened carefully to the video report. There were many references to “products” “diesel” and even “Alberta oil”. But what will be coming down the pipeline and will be shipped on the tankers – and transhipped to super tankers somewhere offshore – is diluted bitumen. And that is not a “product”. It is not even crude oil. It is heavy tar mixed with sand that has had about a quarter of its volume added with natural gas liquids. Diluted bitumen. In a spill the diluent evaporates, and tar sand sinks. It has been years since the Kalamazoo river spill – and that is far from clean. No one in this documentary talks about dilbit.

And dilbit sinks. It is not recoverable and pollutes for a long time. And we need answers that are appropriate to the problem. Talking about diesel – or even bunker C, the guck that spilled in our harbour recently from a bulk grain carrier – is not relevant. The risks of a dilbit spill have not been presented or assessed in this report. How can they say it will be safe?

And just in case you think that because dilbit sinks it won’t be an issue, let me remind you of this

Not enough is known about the impact oilsands bitumen could have on ocean plants and animals to assess the risks of moving it through marine environments, according to a new study.

“Basic information is lacking or unavailable for several key sources of stress and disturbance, making it impossible to carry out a complete risk assessment,” said the paper, which draws its conclusion from an examination of more than 9,000 papers on oil and the environment.

The paper has been peer reviewed and will be published next month in the journal Frontiers in the Ecology and Environment. Although it has been shared with the federal government, it has not been publicly released.

That was in the Vancouver Sun on November 30

I did write to the West Coast Marine Response Corporation, and this is what I got back

We did discuss diluted bitumen with the CBC, but that portion of the interview was not included in their final edit.

The body in Canada that is responsible for looking into the fate and behaviour of hydrocarbons in the ocean is Environment Canada. They published a report in 2013 on the topic, which you can read here: https://www.ec.gc.ca/scitech/6A2D63E5-4137-440B-8BB3-E38ECED9B02F/1633_Dilbit%20Technical%20Report_e_v2%20FINAL-s.pdf

For WCMRC comments on diluted bitumen, I would refer you to our submission to the TMX panel, you can read that document here: http://wcmrc.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/TMX-Ministerial-Panel-WCMRC-Presentation-August-16-2016.pdf

I have just started reading the first of those reports, and was surprised to read

A diluted bitumen blend spill occurred in 2007 from a pipeline operated by Kinder Morgan into Burrard Inlet, Burnaby, B.C. (TSB, 2007). The product spilled was Albian Heavy, a blend of synthetic crude oil and heavier oil sands product. Approximately 224 cubic metres of oil were released, with 210 cubic metres being recovered (TSB, 2007). Oil escaped under pressure from a pipeline rupture. Spilled oil migrated through the sewer system into Burrard Inlet where it began to spread on the water. Approximately 15 000 m of shoreline were affected by the spill.

An assessment of the spill clean-up and environmental impacts was commissioned by Kinder Morgan five years after the spill (Stantec Consulting Ltd., 2012b). The report of that assessment indicated that spill response operations were effective at removing oil from the environment and in limiting the short- and long-term effects of the spill. Oil was recovered by skimming and booming, as well as by flushing and removal from the affected shorelines.

Though shoreline intertidal zones were oiled, most marine sediments had only a small increase in measured PAH concentrations, with 20 of 78 monitored sites exceeding water quality guidelines (Stantec Consulting Ltd., 2012b). Levels of extractable hydrocarbons and PAHs for surface water quality requirements were met in 2007. Subtidal marine sediments were monitored through 2011, with most samples having levels of PAHs below the water quality requirements. Those subtidal sediment samples that did exceed the maximum regulated PAH levels appeared to be caused by sources other than the spill. Based on these observations, only trace amounts or less of oil from the 2007 spill appear to have remained in the marine harbour sediments.

and from the conclusions

This work demonstrates that, in waters where fine- to moderate-sized sediment is present, these oils are at risk to sink, when there is a high degree of mixing energy available. However, the effects of different mixing regimes, including current flow, on oil-sediment interactions have not been examined in the present work. Comparisons to meso-scale testing in lower mixing energies by other researchers have revealed some differences between, for example, water-uptake by oils. Testing in the wave tank described in Chapter 5, moderate mixing of the oil-sediment aggregates, resulted in a suspension of the materials. Available mixing energy factors seem to have an influence on the fate of the formed oil-sediment aggregates. While the present work illustrates some of the forms that these oils may possibly adopt following a spill, more work is needed to understand the mechanisms and rates of formation of these states, and to understand the factors that govern the transitions between these fates. [emphasis added]

Written by Stephen Rees

December 6, 2016 at 9:27 pm

Dire Straits

with 4 comments

The increase in shipping traffic if the TransMountain pipeline expansion is actually implemented poses a quite extraordinary threat to the Salish Sea. I heard on the CBC yesterday that the ships used to load at pipeline terminal in Burnaby are smaller than optimal, so they will be running a shuttle service to supertankers moored off the coast somewhere for transhipment. And do not forget that we are talking about diluted bitumen: this is a heavy mixture of tar and sand mixed with natural gas condensate to get it to flow. In the event of a spill, the lighter fractions quickly evaporates, and the bitumen sinks. That means it is for all intents and purposes irrecoverable. Indeed, I think, as campaigners against the pipeline, we need to take a lesson from Jordan Bateman and repeat “dilbit sinks” whenever anyone talks about what a great idea tar sands exports are.

The following is a letter that Susan Jones has sent to our politicians. She copied it to Fraser Voices and has given me permission to reproduce it here.


 

The Right Honourable Justin P. Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

The Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources

The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport

The Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

Members of Parliament    Ottawa, Canada, K1A 0E4

Have you any idea of what you have just approved with the Kinder Morgan pipeline in British Columbia?

Your statistics and statements of fact are not correct and should be referenced.

According to the website below:

“ More than 10,000 vessels transit  the lower Strait of Georgia, Boundary Pass and  Haro  Strait each year. But that includes  tugs, fishing boats, private  yachts and  ferry boats.  There are about  3,000 large tankers, container ships and  bulk carriers that pass the same way each year.  Adding  another 400 tankers would increase  the total traffic to about  ten ships a day, a bit less than  one every hour,  coming  or going.”

http://www.tideflats.com/oil-tankers-in-haro-straight/

This is not 1% increase as stated by the federal Liberal Government.  It is more than a 13% increase in large ships.

Also, you have not included other planned increases as outlined in the article referenced below.  If all proceed, there will be a 40% increase in large vessels through the narrow shipping lane from Vancouver to the Pacific  This is also the route traveled by the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcas) which you are entrusted to protect.

http://www.islandtides.com/assets/reprint/oil_20140306.pdf

The information you have broadcast is not “evidence based” and it is not “safe” for the amazing environment of the Strait of Georgia, Boundary Pass, Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Just take a look at the maps below and see how narrow the shipping passes are from Vancouver to the Pacific.  In addition, the passage from the Juan de Fuca Strait to the Pacific is dangerous and subject to strong winds, and powerful currents.  The area, also known as the Big Eddy is rich in nutrients supporting entire food chains – from plankton to whales.

Take a look at the route below and think about the impact of even a minor accident or spill.  Even without an accident, the noise impact of increased numbers of large ships interferes with whale communication leading to mortality.  The impacts of increased numbers of large vessels cannot be effectively mitigated.

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screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-10-33-27-amDownload this map in .pdf format

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Living Oceans

 

Written by Stephen Rees

December 1, 2016 at 10:44 am

Port development trumps BC agriculture

with 4 comments

Canadians did not vote for this. The expectation they had was that electing a Liberal government would produce a rapid, radical change of direction from the Conservatives. Instead of that we have seen what is apparently always the way with Liberals: campaign on the left, govern on the right. It was certainly my bitter experience in the first Canadian election I was able to vote in after I became a citizen in 1992. I read “The Red Book” which set out a Keynesian agenda for the country, so I voted Liberal. Then Paul Martin became Finance Minister and we went on with all the conservative policies I had voted against. Of course I did not get caught twice: I voted Green last time. Not nearly enough people did that, so we are forced to repeat history.

The opponents to the Massey Tunnel replacement have long held the view that real reason for this megaproject is further port expansion. Once the tunnel has been replaced by a bridge, the tubes will be removed from the river bed, and dredging will commence. Of course, the Environmental Assessment for the project ignores this completely. And ports are a federal responsibility. We now have confirmation from federal agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay:

“We do not want to lose agricultural land but it’s no good producing products that you can’t move, either,” MacAulay said, answering a question from Country Life in BC following a presentation to Greater Vancouver Board of Trade members on September 12. “So it’s one way or the other – the port in Vancouver has to be efficient to move the products to market. The Asian market is a big market, only going to get larger, and we want to be there.”

So we can now add loss of land from the ALR to the Site C project, the Lelu Island LNG project and the almost certain federal approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion to the “sunny ways” of our new Prime Minister. Yes, I am sure he looks very appealing to many when he takes his shirt off. But I do not think that is nearly enough to justify his policies.

Of course I am risking a lot by openly opposing this government. We have already seen how the practice of the Conservative Government

  • audits of the environmental charities for political activity, ignoring the Fraser Institute far more blatant flouting of the same law;
  • removal of Canadian citizenship with no right to an oral hearing, no right to have the matter referred to a judge, and no right to even know the extent of the case against them
  • Creation of a “New”CSIS as a secret police force

continued by this government. Of course, if I do find myself without citizenship I will not actually be able to prove that it was environmental activism that was used to brand me a terrorist – but that is already happening.

Is Trudeau any different than the old boss?

Written by Stephen Rees

October 13, 2016 at 1:20 pm

The Fraser Surrey Docks Coal Export Proposal

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BNSF 6386 Delta BC

You probably know already that proposals to expand coal exports at several ports in the United States have failed to get the necessary local approvals. Unfortunately, in Canada, we do not have local control of the ports like they do down there. Here the port is a federal concern, and under Stephen Harper they got used to doing pretty much whatever they wanted. The ports in Canada are actually controlled by the industries and companies that use them and hence they are immune – to a large extent – from concerns expressed by the people who live next door.

Except that there are some remaining powers, which under the new Liberal government may actually have some force. provided that Justin actually keeps all those promises he made before the election. Case in point is the idea that Fraser Surrey docks could be used by BNSF to load thermal coal from the US Powder River Basin for export to power stations in Asia.  Given that the size of ships that can navigate the Fraser are currently limited by the depth of water over the Massey Tunnel and the headroom under the Alex Fraser bridge, the idea is to use barges to tranship the coal from the railhead in Surrey to Texada Island where a new, deep water ship terminal would be built. The desperation of the coal exporters willingness to even consider this kind of expense is borne out of two considerations: the market for thermal coal is shrinking, and the US federal government is beginning to wonder why it is giving away coal at knockdown prices from public lands. Given the endorsement of the Paris Agreement by the US and China, the days of expanding coal fired generation of electricity are clearly numbered. Together with the plummeting price of both solar and wind power, and ways to cheaply store that.

The Dogwood Initiative is fighting the proposal.   They wrote to me as follows:

Yesterday, regional bureaucrats approved a wastewater permit for the Fraser Surrey Docks coal export proposal, moving this climate-killing megaproject one step closer to construction.

This is our chance to stop millions of tonnes of U.S. thermal coal from slipping out through the Lower Mainland to be burned in Asia.

Metro Vancouver must now consider whether to issue an air quality permit that would allow Fraser Surrey Docks to pollute our lungs and our communities with coal dust and diesel fumes.

The good thing is Metro’s board is made up of elected local politicians — accountable to you. They’re on the record against any expansion of coal exports on the Fraser River, and they have the power to put the brakes on Fraser Surrey Docks.

If enough people speak up, we can empower Metro Vancouver to protect our communities and our climate.

Will you take two minutes to write to the Metro Vancouver Board and ask them to stand firm in their opposition of Fraser Surrey Docks?

With prices collapsing and coal projects being cancelled around the world, this delay could be enough to permanently end the threat of an expanded coal port. In the past five years, seven thermal coal export proposals have already been stopped in the U.S.

The tide is turning against coal, and we need the elected members of the Metro Vancouver Board to show real leadership by saying ‘no’ to Fraser Surrey Docks.

We’ve made it quick and convenient, so please take a couple minutes to write to them right now.

We can stop this project, but not without you. Please take action today.

Will

P.S. In 2015, there was so much public interest in the wastewater permit that Metro Vancouver offered a public consultation period for the first time. An unprecedented number of local residents voiced health, safety and environmental concerns about the management plan for wastewater at the coal port expansion. It set the project back by a year. Now the real fight over the air permit begins. Will you be one of the people willing to stand up and speak out?

So of course I agreed and sent the following missive to the Metro Vancouver Board

Dear Metro Vancouver Board Members,

Across the west coast of the United States, communities have stood up against the expansion of coal export facilities. Quite apart from the immorality of increasing fossil fuel exports at a time when our climate is nearing the limits of what it can cope with and remain livable, these communities raised real concerns about the  impacts of coal dust on the local population. Carrying pulverised coal in open rail cars at speed spreads fine dust over a wide area. We already see this in Greater Vancouver due to current coal export movement. We also see that the supposed mitigation measures offered by the railway and terminal operating companies are worthless.

Metro Vancouver Board members ought to be concerned about climate change and the very doubtful economics of coal exports, but sadly you have no legal ability to act on those concerns. You do however have the opportunity to prevent more damage to our health and the environment. The existing coal export operations show how careless these operations are, and how weak our control systems have been. We simply cannot afford to be so reckless with human health any more. You must refuse the air quality permit given the shameful performance of these operations to date.

And to date I have had three replies which give me some cause for hope

Thank you for contacting our office, your message has been received.

Please note, staff will look into your correspondence and follow up as soon as possible.

To report a City Service related problem or time sensitive matter, please visit www.surrey.ca to connect with the appropriate department.

Sincerely,

Linda M. Hepner

Mayor

City of Surrey

Well, ok that one is just an automated acknowledgement, but the next two are better

Thank you for writing to me on this matter of the proposed coal transfer facility at Fraser Surrey Docks, as I appreciate the opportunity to clarify that my position and the Metro Vancouver Board position continues to be in  opposition to coal shipments from the Fraser River Estuary. On June 12 2015, the GVRD Board passed a Notice of Motion to write to Port of Vancouver and FSD indicating this and I have included the minutes of the meeting for your convenience. (item H. 1 )

http://www.metrovancouver.org/boards/GVRD/RD-June_12_2015-MINS.pdf

 

While the Sewage Control Manager did  issued a liquid waste discharge permit to Fraser Surrey Docks on September 6, 2016 in relation to their proposed coal transfer facility, it continues to be Metro Vancouver’s position that before the facility can operate it must also obtain an air quality permit and Metro Vancouver has not yet received an  Air Quality permit application. This position of requiring an Air Quality permit  is not without opposition from the proponent, as the facility is on federal land and there is a potential constitutional issue of jurisdiction.

 

The Sewage Control Manager is directed by GVS&DD Sewer Use Bylaw No. 299 2007, to independently evaluate applications based on technical merit and in accordance with bylaws and the BC Environmental Management Act. When the technical criteria are met, the Sewage Control Manager is required to issue a Liquid Waste Discharge Permit. Had the Sewage Control Manager rejected the permit application, FSD could have moved forward with other wastewater control measures, including applying to the province for a permit to direct discharge to the Fraser River.

 

To be clear, the issued permit is very narrow in scope and only allows for storm water runoff and wastewater from activities like dust mitigation and equipment wash-down from the potential FSD facility to be discharged to the Annacis Wastewater Treatment Plant.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Acting Mayor Raymond Louie

Vice-Chair – Metro Vancouver Regional District

And then

Thanks for your email. Surrey City Council stands opposed to the coal export terminal and has passed a resolution to that effect. Furthermore, with the price of thermal coal, it is highly unlikely that the proposed export terminal and the transportation from the US will make economic sense for the foreseeable future. Thank you for your concern in this matter.

Bruce Hayne

Councillor, City of Surrey

Now if you have read this far, you know what is coming

Wouldn’t you like to add your thoughts to this process: not as a comment to this post (though a copy here would be interesting) but your own thoughts: it seems that the Metro Board is actually listening.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 7, 2016 at 8:16 pm