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

Just Posted

Saanich residents face higher sewer, water and garbage rates

Council is set to ratify an increase of 10.52 per cent for sewer

Saanich Police board chair supports department in case over fired officer, but key questions remain

Case involves former Saanich constable who was the subject of 15 separate misconduct allegations

Remember Spunky? Santa came out to Sidney to check on him

Red-tailed Hawk made headlines last year after being stolen, raised by eagles

MISSING: 59-year-old Pamela Fletcher

Fletcher was last seen in the area near Royal Jubilee Hospital on Dec. 10

Mainroad South Island reminds drivers to keep them in the loop

Call the hotlines for concerns on local provincial highways

Langford elementary school kids test their hand at entrepreneurship

Students sold their own products at a Young Entrepreneurs Fair Friday

POLL: Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?

The rain Vancouver Island is famous for is coming down in buckets,… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 11, 2018

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

‘I practically begged’: Kootenay woman with breast cancer denied referral to Calgary

Breast cancer patient left to fight disease alone after being denied referral to Calgary

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Of the 105 current senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together in Independent Senators’ Group

21 detained before Paris protests as police deploy in force

There was a strong police presence outside the central Saint Lazare train station, where police in riot gear checked bags

Media, robotics, Indigenous studies coming to B.C. Grade 12 classrooms in 2019-20

Provincial tests are also being changed for students in Grade 10 to 12, the Education Ministry said

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

Most Read