Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pipeline rules?

New rules may hinder Enbridge pipeline: ex-exec.

So read the headline published in the NATIONAL POST dated April 27, 2012 and written by a Jeffrey Jones.

When it comes to problems, the government seems to “think,” it has the solutions.

Over a century ago, Duncan Campbell Scott, former Minister of Indian Affairs in the MacDonald government once uttered, “We have an Indian problem.”

The solution to that problem was?...Indian Residential schools.  That system and disrespect towards Aboriginal people finally led to an apology by Prime Minister Harper in 2008 with financial compensation to all former Survivors who had attended those schools.

Today, the solution to major oil and gas projects? rules.

“They’re trying to solve the Enbridge challenges with a regulatory change, and I don’t think that’s appropriate. If you want to fix things, then sit down and think about it,” says Roger Harris, former vice president of aboriginal and community partnerships for Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines in 2008 and 2009 and, now a respected consultant.

Currently, the National Energy Board (NEB) oversees major projects like the proposed Gateway pipeline with its regulatory process, a process that includes addressing environmental, social-economic, economic, engineering, stakeholder, and aboriginal issues. And, in due process with no real time-line. Seems, the Harper government is discontent and therefore, wants new rules.

“Among the revamps, the number of federal departments and agencies that participate in reviews will be chopped to three from more than 40, provinces will be able to conduct reviews if they meet federal standards, and review proceedings for major developments such as Northern Gateway will be limited to 24 months.”

And, get this. The new rules are even retroactive to include the proposed
Gateway pipeline and Harper’s government can push aside and take over the role of the NEB if and when they want the final say.

What does Mr. Harris think?

“…when a time limit is enforced, or even the Cabinet makes a decision to move ahead on a project, it creates the perfect landscape for legal action, and it’s going to have project proponents in courts forever.”

“Many First Nations say they fear construction and operation of the pipeline will threaten traditional ways of life and leave their territories and coastal waters at risk of oil spills. Some have said court actions are a certainty if it is approved.”

As mentioned on a previous blog post, perhaps this proposed Enbridge pipeline will lead the lawyers to the only bridge constructed….the bridge to retirement.  Perhaps, the government will have to consider another solution…even more rules?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

No “natural” gas? How 'bout some whale oil.

“In one Arctic town, all’s not well.
Nothing left in the tank.

Without a solution, the town won’t survive.”

So read the headlines published in the National Post dated, April 16, 2012 and written by a Jason Unrau.

As scarce as whale oil is these days to the culture of the Inuvialuit  (Inuit) of the western arctic, they’re sitting on trilliums of cubic feet of natural gas but that gas might as well be like the bowhead whale…scarce.

The Arctic town referred to above is Inuvik, long held as the administrative centre of Canada’s Western Arctic and home to the indigenous people known as the Inuvialuit. For over a century, the Inuvialuit have adapted to change to become of significance with the oil and gas industry today, thanks a lot to their 1984 land claim agreement where economic opportunities were outlined as key to survival in today’s society.

“Without a solution, the town won’t survive,” says Joe Lavoie, a 30-year resident of Inuvik and owner of the town’s Home Hardware.

Like Joe, the Inuvialuit too are looking for a solution to survive the natural gas crisis. A crisis that was quite unforeseen; after all, for over 40 years, oil and gas companies have explored and discovered huge natural gas fields with the intention of one day shipping and selling that gas via a pipeline to southern markets.

Intention though, has turned to despair and hope.

“In March, 2010, the National Energy Board gave the Mackenzie pipeline a green light, but last week, the pipeline consortium of Exxon Mobil, Shell and ConocoPhillips decided to shelve the project.”

While these large companies have lots left in the tank with their respective gas fields, it could be the little guy to the town’s rescue…MGM Energy Corp?

“Henry Sykes, president of MGM Energy Corp., a small Canadian firm with gas holdings near Inuvik, could be the town’s white knight. Like many smaller players on the periphery of the great Mackenzie pipeline game, Mr. Sykes was counting on the (pipeline) project to get his product to market.”

Like Mr. Sykes, the Inuvialuit too counted on the pipeline and did assume its construction when it developed its own Ikhil gas field and since 1999, has supplied the town with gas through its own pipeline business. Again, with the assumption the Mackenzie gas pipeline will be built.

One big problem…low gas prices and a gluten of supply with less demand.

Sounds like Inuvik and the Inuvialuit will have to adapt…again.

How ‘bout a Gas to Liquids Refinery (GTL)?

“I suppose if somebody was doing that (building a GTL refinery in Inuvik), the more customers the better and we’d be happy to supply,” said Mr. Sykes. Furthermore, “We’re not in the business of shipping gas, we’re in the business of selling gas.”

I guess the Bowhead whale may be safe after all.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mining companies band against Bands.

Junior miners revolt over native deals.
Small resource companies band together in the wake of court clashes with aboriginals over development on Crown land.

So read the headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL dated March 28, 2012 and written by a Jeff Gray.

As courts have declared, the Crown has the duty to consult when it comes to land and resource development.  However, I often wondered…where is the Crown? Junior mining companies in northern Ontario, I hope, are wondering the same.

“Confrontations between native bands and mining companies, particularly in Northern Ontario, have been increasing.” As the headline reads, this time it is with some junior mining companies.

Enter a Darryl Stretch, “whose Solid Gold Resources Inc. was hit in January with a rare court injunction suspending drilling on claims near Lake Abitibi in Northern Ontario.”

“Mr. Stretch said the Wahgoshig wanted him to pay for a $100,000 archeological study to determine if drill sites were disturbing burial grounds. He refused, saying, Solid Gold could not afford it. He says his firm has no legal requirement to consult the band, “It’s not my obligation to go find arrowheads for those people, period,” he said in a phone interview.”


“What’s being asked of them has nothing to do with consultation.  It has everything to do with compensation, “ says Neal Smitherman, a lawyer who acts for junior miners in disputes with native groups.

As most may agree, lost arrowheads are of the past and has nothing to do with “consultation” on aboriginal and/or treaty rights which is supposed to be of a forward-looking process; i.e. will the affected first nation still be able to hunt, fish, trap, pick berries, etc. if and when there is a proposed development in an area regarded as traditional territory?

Still, finding arrowheads in traditional land use studies have become big business as first nations across Canada now look to the past and big companies have bought into that idea in order to come to some sort of resolution with first nations which then has resulted in great expectations. According to Mr. Stretch, a $100,000 dollar expectation.

According to the courts, Mr. Stretch and his company do play a part in the consultation process. A process that is supposed to look to the future regarding respect for rights.

However, arrowheads of the past have become of great value. Tell that to Mr. Stretch.