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Archive for July, 2014

Water in BC

by on Jul.19, 2014, under Projects, Protest

A study published in 2011 was one of the first limited studies documenting well water contamination by methane and other gases being more intense and likely close to drilling sites. The waste water from fracking creates a disposal problem that is discussed in this video. This was known in 2011, but fracking still continues.

‘Fracking’ Explained         Uploaded on 15 Sep 2011

Biology professor and geochemist Robert Jackson in Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment performed one of the first peer-reviewed studies on the environmental consequences of hydrofracking. In a live “Office Hours” webcast September 15, 2011, he answers questions about his study

Water is our most precious resource, yet we are allowing fossil fuel extraction companies to destroy drinkable water. In addition, British Columbia’s legislature is considering building the Site C Dam, that will flood productive farmland to produce electricity for oil and gas extraction and processing. Meanwhile, California is fining people for washing cars and watering lawns and the article points out that California may not be able to produce as much food as before because of the drought. The article says,

Richard Howitt, an environmental economist at the university and an author of the report, said that while much of the state had been able to deal with the drought economically, parts of the Central Valley, the state’s agricultural heartland, were being hit hard. Huge portions of farmland have been left unplanted.

In BC, much of our food is imported and with the current drive to increased density and population in Vancouver, there will be more hungry and thirsty people here. California is now relying on groundwater for their survival and has prevented fracking companies from injecting their chemical soup into the ground.

The state’s Division of Oil and Gas and Geothermal Resources on July 7 issued cease and desist orders to seven energy companies warning that they may be injecting their waste into aquifers that could be a source of drinking water, and stating that their waste disposal “poses danger to life, health, property, and natural resources.” The orders were first reported by the Bakersfield Californian, and the state has confirmed with ProPublica that its investigation is expanding to look at additional wells. read more at ProPublica

The entire ProPublica series on fracking should be required reading for BC MLA’s as they decide the future of our water supplies, parks and farmland. Our provincial government has opened up our parks to industrialization, is considering spending billions to build a dam and infrastructure for the industry while destroying valuable farmland and jobs. Follow the latest news on my Facebook page “Leave the Oil in the Ground”  — I have been told it doesn’t come up in a search.

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LNG Export Dream is a Nightmare

by on Jul.08, 2014, under Events

Orvis_State_natural_gas_flare_01_-_Arnegard_North_Dakota_-_2013-07-04BC Path to Prosperity touted by Premier Christy Clark is an unrealistic dream that is not based on facts. It is in fact, a nightmare that will extract our non-renewable resources without adequate compensation.

In addition, the industry will destroy our groundwater, increase the risk of earthquakes, and damage human health.

At a time when many leading institutions and organizations are divesting from any investment in oil and gas, Premiere Christy Clark is committing increasing amounts of taxpayer funds to supporting, or even, subsidizing the oil and gas industry.

My conclusion from reviewing the facts and published studies is that the export of LNG will cost the province more than it will ever receive in royalties. In addition, groundwater contamination and methane leakage will continue from abandoned wells that will not be cleaned up by industry. Some of the damage may be permanent and no amount of money will be able to restore our pristine water. In addition, increased risk of earthquakes, health problems in our population and contribution to climate change all are strong signals to stop fracking. We must put a moratorium on fracking until we know more about this risky process.

LNG Development Facts

Because companies can fully deduct all capital costs before paying the full 7 per cent  LNG income tax, any cost overruns will be paid for by reduced taxes.

This means that all investment, processing and exporting expenses are paid before any tax is paid on the profit from sales. Historically, corporations find many ways to avoid showing a profit that can be taxed. Why can’t we charge a royalty on the amount of gas extracted?  The gas belongs to the citizens of this province and they should be paid for taking it. When I pay for natural gas on my home heating bill, I pay for the amount used.

Based on a more realistic expectation of LNG export volumes and prices, this analysis estimates the fully-implemented LNG income tax is likely to raise between $0.2 and $0.6 billion per year. For comparison, consider that the total annual BC Budget is $45 billion per year.

BC’s current royalty regime has not achieved a good return for the development of this finite public resource, and places more emphasis on encouraging high levels of production:

  •  Natural gas production in BC has increased by one-third over the past five years, even in the face of extremely low North American prices.
  • Yet royalty revenues have dropped significantly during this time due to low market  prices and large credits for deep drilling and gas infrastructure.

This report, by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, makes a well supported case that the revenue projections from fracking projects are greatly exaggerated. Now that China has made a deal with Russia to provide natural gas for the next 30 years, the price of BC natural gas will have to be subsidized to compete. Even though the industry is producing more gas, provincial income is dropping because the royalties are a percentage paid on profits. The report concludes:

BC should not proceed full-speed ahead to sign away non-renewable and public gas resources at any price.

Export Costs

Processing and exporting natural gas requires a great deal of investment and much of the cost will not be borne by industry. A recent article explains in the challenges faced by the LNG export industry in detail.

In a special report on global energy prospects, the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) warns that expectations for a robust liquefied natural gas industry may fall apart due to bad economics and high transportation costs.

– See more at: http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/2014/06/23/Nat-Gas-Transport-Costs/#sthash.fzPJMbJ6.dpuf

Why should BC taxpayers subsidize wealthy multinational corporations to extract our resources? The cost of transportation reduces profits and the estimates that have been used to paint a positive picture are based on highly optimistic scenarios. Why should we give up existing jobs in farms, tourism and other industries, as the land supporting these jobs is destroyed, for mythical jobs in the oil and gas business?

Taxpayer Investment

The Site C Dam will flood precious farmland and displace many people and animals to supply electricity to the oil and gas industry. It is opposed by First Nations and local residents and even BC Hydro has “not fully demonstrated the need for the Site C on the timetable it proposed” according to Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Joint Review Panel (JRP). This dam will cost billions in taxpayer money (estimates range from 8 – 16 billion) and raise all of our rates for electricity to subsidize oil and gas extraction. However, there is some confusion, because Premiere Clark has made a statement that natural gas will be burned to create electricity to process and compress the gas. This will make the resource processing produce much more pollution, but should negate the costs of building the Site C Dam. However, BC taxpayers will have to pay for this electrical generation facility instead.

Premier Clark said B.C. will use natural gas to generate electricity needed to produce Asia-bound liquefied natural gas. The process will demand as much as four times the electricity consumed by the province’s largest city, Vancouver. – See more at – http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/Environment/2012/06/25/shale-gas-coal-premier-bc/#sthash.j8YB0mSh.dpuf

Taxpayers will be covering the bill for port expansions, road and highway construction, upgrades and maintenance as well as inspection and regulation costs. The large equipment that must be transported to complete the fracking process is very heavy and requires road and bridge upgrades and maintenance. In the end, our biggest investment will be in clean up costs, as abandoned wells spew methane and leech toxins into the environment. Reports of approximately 1 million abandoned wells in Pennsylvania leaking methane in a study by a Princeton PhD Candidate discussed in this article,

Natural gas is mostly methane, (CH4), a super-potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period. So even small leaks in the natural gas production and delivery system can have a large climate impact — enough to gut the entire benefit of switching from coal-fired power to gas. Study after study, however, finds that the leaks are anything but small.  Read more at -http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/06/20/3451380/abandoned-pennsylvania-wells-spew-methane/

How many abandoned wells will we have to clean up in BC?

BC’s Climate Action Plan

How does exporting LNG fit in with BC’s Climate Action Plan? We are exporting a greenhouse gas producing fossil fuel and the amount of methane that is expelled into the atmosphere during the extraction and delivery process is a serious concern. Here are three articles that discuss the effects of methane release, a serious pollution threat. Scientific American, The Energy Collective and NY Times all have published articles critical of industry practices that allow the escape of methane into the atmosphere. This problem is not limited to fracked gas, but is widespread over the entire industry.

No one can accurately say how much methane is leaking from wellheads, processing plants, pipelines and other natural gas facilities, but there is a growing body of evidence that the amount is significant. 

This is important because methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and a study from Stanford shows that the amount of methane in the atmosphere is much higher than estimated in the US. No similar studies have been completed in Canada, but industry’s own studies show that fracked wells leak more than conventional wells.

 . . .industry studies clearly show that five to seven per cent of all new oil and gas wells leak. As wells age, the percentage of leakers can increase to a startling 30 or 50 per cent. But the worst leakers remain “deviated” or horizontal wells commonly used for hydraulic fracturing.

Estimates show that BC natural gas can be dirtier than coal and create more climate impact, some deposits contain high proportions of CO2 in addition to methane that is released into the atmosphere..

“A 2010 study by Mark Jaccard and Brad Griffin for the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions concluded that adding 4 million tonnes (MT) a year to the province’s GHG inventory, at time when the province needs to subtract millions of tonnes, means ‘that the B.C. government will sustain a 20-year Canadian climate policy tradition — failure to meet its GHG emission targets.'”- See more at: http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/Environment/2012/06/25/shale-gas-coal-premier-bc/#sthash.j8YB0mSh.dpuf

Why do we have a Climate Action Plan if there is no attempt made to meet the targets?

Other Negative Effects

British Columbia is an earthquake zone. There is strong evidence linking earthquakes in Oklahoma to fracking, because they are not in an earthquake prone area. The government of BC  is taking on a very high risk in encouraging fracking in our province. Who will pay for earthquake damage?

Then there are health risks. There is well documented evidence that fracking contaminates groundwater and releases airborne toxins that cause serious health problems including birth defects, infertility and cancer. Who will pay for these extra health costs?

We must stop fracking in order to save our groundwater for future use. With global climate change shrinking glaciers, we will become more dependent n groundwater to irrigate crops and to sustain life. Who will pay for the de-salination plants to make ocean water useable?

Report from Montana listing Dangers from fracking including:

  • Contamination of groundwater
  • Methane pollution and its impact on climate change
  • Air pollution impacts
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Blowouts due to gas explosion
  • Waste disposal
  • Large volume water use in water-deficient regions
  • Fracking-induced earthquakes
  • Workplace safety
  • Infrastructure degradation

It is up to the citizens of BC to know the facts and work to ban fracking in BC.

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Direct Democracy for Canada

by on Jul.01, 2014, under Events, Projects

Direct Democracy In Action:

A New Vision for the Senate of Canada

We can use the power of the internet to give people more of a voice in their democratic process. I propose a model that will empower people to be directly involved in government decisions that affect issues they care about.

I propose creating a Digital Senate that will act as a second opinion to the current elected legislators in Canada as a new system for governance. This Digital Senate will be a website community that will exist on the internet and be an economical and efficient delivery system for direct democracy.

The current Senate of Canada is an appointed body that is allowed to propose legislation and may block legislation passed by the elected parliament. We do not think such a body, based on the British House of Lords, has any place in a democratic society.

The powers of the current Senate should be assigned to the Digital Senate, but not the salaries and perks.

 

A New Model for Governance

The Senate of Canada is in dire need of reform, but old models retain the idea of concentrating decision making power into the hands of the few. The Senate has never been an elected body, but recent scandals have emphasized the problems inherent in granting a Senate seat by the authority of the government in power.

There is wide public support for a change in the Canadian Senate, and some are in favour of complete abolition. However, we need a system of checks and balances in a democracy, so we propose an innovative reform using internet communications.

 

The Digital Senate

The current level of internet connectivity in Canada, with many public access points in libraries, government offices  and community centers, means that internet access is not a barrier to participation. Part of the funding that is used for the current Senate could provide free internet for everyone in Canada.

Qualifications

A Canadian citizen eligible to vote in Federal elections can be a member of the site

Members of the Digital Senate site can choose to be Senators in order to vote on behalf of others

 

Issue Based Model

The current system has political and geographical influence in the choice of who will be a senator. Now our country is tied together by the internet, we would like to propose an issue based model, instead of a geographic or political affiliation.

With a Digital Senate, there is no need to meet in Ottawa because the Senate is a web site. This immediately gives national public access to the discussions and issues that citizens are interested in. Our government currently trusts our income tax and other personal and sensitive information to be sent through the internet, so a similar system of encryption and identification can be used to identify Canadian citizens who are qualified to vote.

Each voting citizen has one vote on each issue tabled in the Senate. Each Senator represents one issue of their choice, then voters can assign their vote on that issue to a Senator representative or vote independently for themselves.

The default is to limit each Senator to one issue at a time, but it may be permitted by the Senate, upon application, that a Senator can represent more than one issue, especially if the issues are related.

How it Works

The Digital Senate would be a web site that would enable the citizens of Canada to have direct input into issues or to assign their vote to a representative or proxy.

Citizens of Canada who are eligible to vote can register to be a member of the Digital Senate.

The current Senators will be retired and collect whatever pensions are owed to them. They will be welcomed into the new organization as members, the same as any other Canadian registered to vote.

Members have their own private page that shows who they are supporting on certain issues and where they can manage their votes and proxies. They can sign up for news on what issues are before the Senate so they can be aware and decide their vote.

If a citizen member wants to be a Digital Senator, then they must make parts of their page public, so everyone can see who they are supporting and their network of influence. Senators would be citizens who are experts in the field or otherwise interested in an issue and are willing to work on legislation or other tasks.

A Senator candidate then posts their qualifications on the page that has been created for the specific issue they are interested in working on. They invite other citizen members to assign their votes to them by stating their position and how they plan to act.

Citizen members who are interested in that issue, then go the page to learn the news and to see if there is someone they want to support. There will be public forums and discussion on the issue page.

If a citizen finds someone who has similar opinions to their own, then they can assign their voting proxy to them. If a citizen collects enough proxies, then they are recognized as being a Digital Senator and become eligible for tax deductions and support through the Canada Council for the Digital Senate.

Every citizen can vote on issues directly, or they can assign their vote by proxy to a Senator. If the Senator does not vote the way they said they would, then the citizen’s vote can be immediately withdrawn. If there is a suspected pay off or other reason the Senator did not vote as promised, the citizens who gave the proxy can complain and appeal the vote.

If the citizen finds that the representation is not what they hoped for, in general, they can withdraw and reassign their proxy at any time. If a Senator loses too much support, they revert back to member status and are no longer eligible for financial support. Citizens are encouraged to vote directly, but as each issue will take time, we anticipate that most citizens will want to have the option for proxy representation on some issues.

 

The Financing

The virtual nature of the Digital Senate will enable us to have many more Senators because there is no direct financial compensation for involvement in the process.

Senators may claim a tax credit using a formula based on the number of people who have assigned their vote. The tax credit could be a refund for those who do not have sufficient income to need this deduction. If additional funding is required for meetings, projects, research or conferences, then a Senator can apply for funding through a system based on the Canada Council for the Arts jury process, called the Canada Council for the Digital Senate.

The Canada Council for the Arts is a proven model used for decades for arts funding, so provides the impartial checks and balances required in a democracy. If this model is considered inadequate for the Senate, then any changes to funding practices for the Senators must also be applied to funding for artists.

We can keep the current Senate Chamber for historical and meeting purposes, but practically, no permanent physical presence is required.

The present Canadian system costs $106,264,111 a year, not including contributions to the pension plan.

http://sen.parl.gc.ca/senproactivedisclosure/Document/FinancialStatement2010-2011_E.PDF

That is a lot of money that can be used to establish the administration for a web based community and fund the Canada Council for the Digital Senate. It would be available for information, discussion and voting from your phone, tablet or computer.

If required, it could fund public internet access points or internet for every voter in Canada, specifically to make sure any citizen of Canada can participate. There would be enough money to fund some instructors or resource persons based in the community to assist anyone who wants to participate.

 

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