I am very alarmed and not a little annoyed at the Christy Clark government’s lackadaisical and casual attitude towards the dangers of liquified natural gas ( LNG) right from the source through to the last tanker leaving the Strait of Juan De Fuca. We are told that this production and sale of LNG will be the financial saviour of the province. Such was the enthusiasm for this project at the beginning we were told that by 2017 we want to have $1 trillion in the bank from this brilliant government initiative. That number is preposterous of course and it’s now been scaled down to $1 billion, further scaled down from that, and now no longer mentioned.
It is assumed by the government and indeed by the NDP that LNG and and it’s transportation both on land and on sea are relatively free from risk. Leaving aside “Fracking” for the moment, nothing could be further from the truth.
Nothing is free from risk. It is true that there is far greater attention paid to LNG tankers than to other fossil fuel carriers. It is also true that the leak of a LNG pipeline would not likely be so serious as a leak of bitumen or dilbut. That is a hell of a long way from saying that there is no risk. The risks of explosions at either a plant or from a tanker accident are sufficiently real that on at least two occasions the Congress of United States has done extensive investigations into their concerns and have concluded that there are very serious risks involved.
Something corporations studiously ignore when the word “risk” is used, is the consequence of when that risk becomes a reality. For example, looking at the entire world, the risk of a nuclear plant having serious trouble is probably pretty remote. We know, however, what happens if that risk does indeed become a reality. So it is with LNG. The fact is that a “risk “is a reality waiting to happen.
The one thing that jumps out is that the opinions are very much divided. When you look at these opinions closely you’ll see that the people who think LNG poses no real risk are generally corporations dealing and oil, natural gas or mining such as the Mosaic Corporation.
What is extremely interesting is to see research done by people to be affected by LNG. The research done, for example, by the Bowen Island Council is of considerable interest. More extensive and more recent is the work done by Howe Sound Society, a vibrant organization whose influence is increasing every day.
To go further afield, take a look at the Quoddy Bay, in Maine, reaction where a large plant was proposed. This was on the Canadian border near Campobello Island and Prime Minister Harper is said to have opposed the plant taking its tanker traffic in Canadian waters and said so in the House of Commons. As we know, of course, somehow the West Coast doesn’t matter as much as the East Coast!
It is not my purpose here to run down the risks and inevitable consequences. As I have truly said, however, that while the risks may be minimal the consequences are catastrophic.
My point is this – how come the provincial government has not assessed these risks and consequences? Why has there been no study? Why hasn’t the public been informed? Where has John Horgan and the NDP been?
The scarcely left wing Forbes magazine rates a liquified natural gas explosion as the second worst accident possible after a nuclear power plant explosion. Surely this is enough for our right wing government, whose ministers no doubt read Forbes magazine religiously, to take some steps to assure the people of British Columbia that this number two potential disaster does not happen here. Or, at the very least let the public know what the risks, thus the ultimate realities, are.
We should not be surprised at the slipshod attitude of Christy Clark and her colleagues. Look at how Premier Photo-op has handled Tar Sands pipelines to our coast and the consequent tankers. Her sole policy has been to lay down three preconditions.
First, pipeline and tanker undertakings should satisfy aboriginal peoples. Since the recent Supreme Court of Canada case in Tilhqu’ot it is scarcely necessary for Premier Clark to concern herself much about that. First Nations have plenty of ability to look after themselves.
Secondly, Ms. Clark wishes BC to have satisfactory compensation from the pipeline deals. She will get this compensation by way of bribes and she knows it. What she is saying, is that like a lady of the night, British Columbia has it’s price. We are quite willing, according to her, to sell our heritage for a mess of pottage. The only question is how much the “johns” will pay us.
Thirdly she says that there must be “world class” clean-up procedures in place. This would seem to be the cornerstone of her policy.
First of all, “world class” are weasel words. What are the devil does “world-class” mean?
Presumably it means the best in the world and the best-known cleanups have, one assumes, been practiced by Enbridge in their multitude of ongoing spills. One must also assume that Enbridge brought to bear “world class” procedures at their calamitous spill on the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Of what consolation is it to British Colombians that when Enbridge has a spill in British Columbia, we will get the same procedures that failed so badly in the Kalamazoo River?
The point, obviously, is that the Christy Clark government does not give a fiddlers fart about oil spills in our province or in our waters and prefers instead to use some soft sounding words in hopes that nobody notices.
The Clark government’s attitude towards LNG is the same as it is towards pipelines and oil tankers – grossly negligent.
The Christy Clark government is hand in glove with rapacious industry and an uncaring federal government. We, the people of British Columbia, are expected to believe what these people say, drop our guard, relax, and let things take their course.
The LNG plant proposed in Squamish at Woodfibre is a floating plant. God only knows how many supertankers it will sustain if it is up and running full blast, so to speak. LNG tankers, bigger than the Empire State building, will clog Howe Sound and pose a never ending risk of catastrophic portions. I am quite willing to concede that these tankers will be the safest LNG tankers in the world, just like Enbridge’s cleanup procedures.o What I also say, however – and no one can deny this – is that they pose a risk. Likewise, it cannot be denied that when this risk becomes a reality the consequences will be catastrophic.
As long as human beings are involved, there will be human error. With LNG, human error will be calamitous. .
Uncaring, eyes only on bribes to be proffered, the Christy Clark government does absolutely no research on the subject and simply offers British Columbia huge financial returns if her policy works out.
In conclusion, I return to my constant theme. We must be prepared, en masse, for civil disobedience. Whether we are talking LNG plants, gravel pits at McNab Creek, LNG pipelines, oil pipelines, tanker traffic or whatever, we must be prepared for large numbers of us to go to jail rather than to accept these decisions.
In assessing the situation, it’s fair to say that not a single solitary civil liberty accorded to any of us came about other than by civil disobedience. Whether it is freedom of the press, freedom of speech, the right to assemble, the right to privacy or whatever it may be, the notion was resisted by the establishment to the bitter end and only achieved by forceful actions by the public. Establishments, including governments and large corporations, do not like civil liberties. Freedoms get in the way of what they want to do. They shield themselves by saying “that disobedience is against the law”.
The law is stacked. The older amongst you will remember what labour laws were like before the 1970s. When there was a strike, employers went to court and got an injunction against picketing. Once that injunction was granted, the picketers went to jail for contempt of court for indeterminate times. This grossly unfair situation was finally solved by the government passing the Labour Relations Act.
What happens now is that if you oppose, let us say, a pipeline and stand in front of a tractor, you have committed a civil offence against the company who thus has the right to sue you. It is a civil matter. The company doesn’t, however, pursue its civil law option and instead gets an injunction from the judge preventing you from doing it again. When you do it again, suddenly it is no longer a civil matter but a crime and you go to jail. This subverting of justice is how large international companies and their handmaidens, the governments, prevent the people from expressing their wishes.
The companies and governments, of course, tell us that there is already been an environmental assessment procedure at which we are all welcome to speak. What they don’t tell you is that those environmental commissions are about as fair as an old Soviet show trial.
The public is not allowed to question the need for the project. That essential question is out of order. This means, of course, that people who want to have a hearing on the merits of the project have no way of making their objections known much less listened to by their governments. The company doesn’t listen and of course the governments don’t listen either.
If we love our province and want to see it’s desecration prevented, civil disobedience is our only choice.