Friday, February 09, 2018

Leading Alberta Expert, Dr. David Shindler, Tosses Cold Water on Rachel and Justin's Bullshit.

Look into his eyes. A second or two. Then look at what he's holding out for you to see. Does he have to move his lips to convey what he's saying?

Kudos to the Edmonton Journal for publishing Dr. Shindler's op-ed, "BC's Pipeline Vigilance is Backed by Science." Rachel, and her courtier, Justin, probably won't be happy to hear what Dr. Shindler has to report for it guts their "don't worry, be happy" sham. He writes:

In November 2015, an expert panel of the Royal Society of Canada issued a report on what was needed to be able to safely transport crude oil, including both bitumen and diluted bitumen. They found that we knew surprisingly little of what was necessary to safely transport these materials, and to mitigate the damage from the inevitable spills.

High-Priority Research Needs Identified by the Expert Panel

Research is needed to better understand the environmental impact of spilled crude oil in high-risk and poorly understood areas, such as Arctic waters, the deep ocean and shores or inland rivers and wetlands.

Research is needed to increase the understanding of effects of oil spills on aquatic life and wildlife at the population, community and ecosystem levels.

A national, priority-directed program of baseline research and monitoring is needed to develop an understanding of the environmental and ecological characteristics of areas that may be affected by oil spills in the future and to identify any unique sensitivity to oil effects

A program of controlled field research is needed to better understand spill behaviour and effects across a spectrum of crude oil types in different ecosystems and conditions.

Research is needed to investigate the efficacy of spill responses and to take full advantage of “spills of opportunity.”

Research is needed to improve spill prevention and develop/apply response decision support systems to ensure sound response decisions and effectiveness.

Research is needed to update and refine risk assessment protocols for oil spills in Canada.

Such a research plan would take several years and considerable funding to complete. On the face of it, B.C. Premier John Horgan’s plan to do the necessary homework before allowing the pipeline and terminal to be built seems to be well supported by science.

One might ask: Why hasn’t the science been done to protect the environment while bitumen is shipped? After all, both the federal and Alberta governments have known for years that they wished to ship crude oil or bitumen from the West Coast.

Most likely, they were counting on the B.C. government to simply wink and approve the pipeline with the most cursory of environmental impact assessments. After all, past B.C. governments have done this with all sorts of industrial developments, to the detriment of B.C.’s environment.

Crude oil spills are no joke. Effects of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill are still clearly visible on long reaches of the Alaskan coast, and some species still show effects of the spill. We still have a thriving fishery on the West Coast, in striking contrast to Eastern Canada, where timid politicians were bullied into choosing jobs and industries over salmon and cod.

Trudeau and Notley are trying to pull a fast one on British Columbia. Notley has done everything to hector BC except launch the flying monkeys.

There's a legal maxim that he who propounds must prove. You assert some claim, the onus is on you to prove it. That onus is squarely on these governments and the Bitumen Barons they so tirelessly serve.

Even more relevant is the "precautionary principle" which, if it applies anywhere, it's the transportation and shipping of dilbit. It holds that the commencement of a process or introduction of a product whose ultimate effects are disputed or unknown should be resisted.

Dave Shindler is professor emeritus of ecology at the University of Alberta, a voice who inconveniently does not hesitate to speak truth to power.


Anonymous said...

Once you've accounted for the external costs of producing tar sands oil, it doesn't even make economic sense. If the oil pimps were forced to account for externalities, they would never produce another barrel in Alberta. The fact that they're not is evidence of market failure requiring government regulation to correct. Here, the oil pumps are attempting to offload external costs onto the people of BC, who don't benefit from the sale of diluted tar. This is highly unfair and not at all in the national interest no matter how you calculate it.


the salamander said...

.. thanks Mound.. I was thinking and wishing some new credible articles were handy for reposting or reference.. bingo bango Dr Shindler. I do however believe we need a clever strategy to examine and reveal the realities of the rush to strip resources and get them to Asia. I am beginning to think we need to treat the overall process as a 'crime scene'.. or a political bitumingate. But wait ! There's more ! uh oh, the fracking

Funny how the scenarios always require massive shipping from BC's marine coast.. damn the consequences, fire all torpedoes

Yes yes.. I get it. Its for the ECONOMY stupid Its to grow the ECONOMY... Its the kumbaya & high paying jobs jobs jobs meets 'everything is wonderful, in its own time' in 3 part harmony. If we just feed the gaping maws of China, Pakistan and India & do so with resources stripped from Canada eh.. it will be wondrous, harmonious and feel goody.. and hoovering in a big whack of TF workers and building political memberships around immigration is icing for your cake.. which we never really get to eat.. and in fact we never are allowed to look too closely at the mysterious cake.

I like what Norm Farrell is doing out your way.. hoping he turns his talents to examining the mechanics of diluted bitumin, LNG & the whole fracking nightmare.. We need a purloined copy of the political gaming guidelines.. at the very least going back to Stephen Harper et al..

1 - First we trash Environmental Protections
2 - We hug a few cuddly bears
We strip the earth, build pipelines
Sell it off to the Asians via supertankers
Bring in cheap labour & bribe mainstream media
We become millionaires
Have another election for the stupid people
Repeat as needed, rinse and floss
Friend, can you send 50 so we can repeat

Lorne said...

This puts to the lie all the Team Trudeau rhetoric about evidence-based decision-making, doesn't it, Mound.

The Mound of Sound said...

Sal, Dave Shindler's warnings tell all Canadians that, yet again, their prime minister has shown he's simply not to be trusted. He has repeatedly claimed that his government has "done the science" and yet he's never produced it. I expect they have done the science. Harper's crew also did the science. In a rare moment of honesty former enviromin, Peter Kent, when asked if his scientists had developed a means to tackle a bitumen spill, admitted they hadn't but assured the reporter they were working on it. That they still don't know what to do was confirmed when McKenna approved Corexit for use on BC waters. These people are appalling.

I think Shindler's op-ed puts the onus squarely on Trudeau/McKenna to show us this science they claim to have done, offer it up for peer review and explain why they've kept it under wraps when it really should have been made public.

They still have the political power but they no longer have any moral or ethical case until they answer each of Shindler's points. The opponents of this pipeline hold the moral and ethical high ground and Shindler affirms that.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, Lorne. I read the Fenian's post supporting the pipeline and you can see how the Liberal position is shifting. Rachel Notley has Justin Trudeau's balls and he isn't getting them back until she gets her pipeline.

I knew Team Trudeau was bent when, in early 2016, McKenna defended her go slow approach to climate change as a matter of "national unity." Really? She actually said, "I'm not saying we destroy the planet" but...

Jim Carr is reprising the role of Joe Oliver, even talking about calling out the army to deal with pipeline protesters. Carr certainly got his tits caught in the wringer on that one.

Harper's pipeline secret police are still in operation, uniting oil patch security, the RCMP and CSIS, against all pipeline dissidents. They're now Justin's Stasi.

Then in an act befitting a master sneak thief, McKenna's enviromin quietly approved the use of Corexit in BC waters.

In all of this I sense a real malevolence. We coastal British Columbians are not "good Canadians" if we refuse to let them have their way with us. Just close your eyes and focus on national unity.

If it comes down to asserting our right to protect our coast against a generational catastrophe or national unity, I'm prepared to choose.

Toby said...

Is McKenna getting a backhander from the oil industry? She sure acts like an astroturf plant. She doesn't deny the science; just acts like it's not important. Some Environment Minister.

Anonymous said...

Corexit was used in the Gulf of Mexico.
The stake holders were being begged to not use corexit at all.
It damages the eco system.
The area has not had much exposure of the consequences of the Mexican disaster.
Once a spill has happened as little is done to ensure the environment is stablized.
Vancouver harbour spill response was untimely ad they argued about who was responsible to respond.
Then they hand the coast guard the pr job.
The coast guard that was neutered had to speak to the public on a confusing change of responsibility.
Now we are promised better spill response than 22 hours that had to be deployed to remote location off BC coast.
To add insult and pretend corexit is safe or desired is pathetic and a firm example of how a paternalistic society DOESNT learn from mistakes.

Heather McKinnon said...

Will B.C. Stop the 600,000 barrels of oil from Alaska from being shipped right past their coast to?

The Mound of Sound said...

As I understand it, Heather, the Americans still honour the 'tanker exclusion zone' protocol for tankers transiting from Alaska to the Lower 48. I cover this in another post today.

Anonymous said...

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon 6:27, there are a number of posts on this blog pertaining to Corexit including links to an excellent Vice News feature on the product. Here's a good place to begin:

Anonymous said...

Leave it in the ground. disgusting economics.

Anonymous said...

So, while we're discussing proof, we of course know for a fact that the fish in the pic has been affected by an oil spill? If we assume the fish has a cancerous growth can it be tied to oil? Humans get cancer ALL THE TIME and I don't believe any of them have been swimming off the coast in a pool of oil....just saying. Great photo though!

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Anon 8:49. That's a freshwater fish from the Fort Chipewayn area along the Athabasca River that has been contaminated by leaking tailing ponds. You may recall that it wasn't just the fish that were contracting cancer. So were the people of that First Nations settlement. Their local GP, a Brit, sounded the alarm. The Alberta government denied there was any problem. Dr. Shindler went, ran thorough tests on the Athabasca River water and - bingo.

Now we haven't had the opportunity to discover what a dilbit spill will mean to our coastal waters, especially not after they douse it with Corexit. The Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon disasters give us an idea only they were conventional crude oil, not dilbit. Bitumen is a far different animal than ordinary crude oil.

I was going to be snide but I chose to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you were just exercising critical thinking which is always commendable. That said, there's no end of information on dilbit, Corexit, bitumen spills to be found even by simply searching this blog. In these posts, links abound. If, however, you're just into denialism, then you're wasting both our time on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Sad really Trudeau under the veneer of young and hip is really a cheerleader for expanding tar sands with a pipeline to feed China. And insults my intelligence by saying building a pipeline will help save the planet.
Trudeau just a pretty face bought and sold.

Anonymous said...

Follow up to fish comment.
I appreciate the absence of snide remarks. The single greatest element missing from any "modern" debate is civility. Its all about insults and who can find the bigger more outrageous "headline"
Let's not confound debates...tailings ponds vs. tanker shipping. Two very separate debates. Pipeline shipping is proven to be the safest means for moving oil products. Leaving it in the ground is simply not an option at this point in time--moving towards reduction on dependence on oil products is certainly a laudable goal ( and one we should be moving towards) but we (as a society) are not equipped to do it tomorrow. In the meantime, let's ship product the safest way possible. I love the way the Exxon V is always thrown about as a reason to not move forward with KM pipeline expansion. The Exxon was a single hull tanker and MANY MANY valuable lessons were learned and applied.
As the world's need for oil cannot be shutoff like a lightswitch, let's be prudent and mindful about the safest way to go about moving it.

The Mound of Sound said...

Two points, Anon 10:58. We can't shut off oil like a lightswitch as you note. We can, however, greatly accelerate the transition from fossil fuels and we're not doing that. The scientific consensus, and it is powerful, is that the path we're on will not allow us to meet even our weakest warming targets. We're heading into a very dangerous future, especially now that we've triggered major natural feedback loops.

You're using a straw man argument on the Exxon Valdez. I was referencing the Valdez to point out the perils of Corexit as a chosen dispersant and the fact that, a quarter century later, it's still not cleaned up. Then we have the Deepwater Horizon debacle and, again, Corexit was used with disastrous results. So what is Canada's 'world class' oil spill response intending to use? Corexit. There's pretty good information on Corexit at Wiki with loads of links to the research that's been done on it that led one Congressman to call it the Agent Orange of the sea.

We've had ten years under Harper and two years under Trudeau to do the essential testing and research. The most favourable take is that it simply hasn't been done. The more likely take is that it has and both industry and governments won't release their findings.
Environment Canada says the research hasn't been done. The Royal Society says no fewer than seven core areas of research haven't been done. Dr.Shindler says the obvious, that British Columbia has a rock solid case for demanding the truth and getting at it.

I agree with you. "Let's be prudent and mindful about the safest way" to go about it. Today would be a great time to start. Fifteen, possibly twenty years ago would have been better. And, if you really want the safest way to go about it, that would begin with refining out the most dangerous components of bitumen on site, in Alberta. That's also the prudent course if you cleave to the precautionary principle so appropriately applicable to bitumen. Minimize the externalized risks offloaded on British Columbia by transporting fully refined, synthetic crude. That's easy peasy.

Safety and prudence have no place in the current pipeline/supertanker scheme. That's almost laughable and I'm not being snide in saying that.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough. Discussion won't lead anywhere on the net....I'm simply not in the camp of people who fear that a spill is inevitable....take care.

The Mound of Sound said...

Agreed. Thanks. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

The threat from a a pipeline is minimal as it can be turned off. The threat from a tanker spill greater. What baffle people seeing the pipelines as a greater threat then tankers coming into port loaded or leaving port loaded.

The Mound of Sound said...

"The threat from a pipeline is minimal as it can be turned off." Anon, do you have any awareness of the history of pipeline leaks in Canada and the United States? Ask the people of Kalamazoo, Michigan, how minimal their pipeline spill turned out to be? Ask them about how responsible Enbridge was when it came time to cleaning up the mess. A lot of information is now in the public realm. Spend some time going through some of these reports. You really need to inform yourself.

As for tankers, history shows that they tend to go down in or near coastal waters. Rarely do they founder in the open ocean. I recently had a reader mention that modern, double-hull tankers are safe. In fact they're "safer" but far from safe. That double hull gives the tanker a better chance of withstanding a low-impact event, such as grounding on a shoal, but we don't have a lot of that here. We do have a lot of bottom tearing sub-surface rock formations. Double hulls are not proof against a collision with them.

Anonymous said...

Ok,fair enough. Why then do we need to twin the pipe line? Why can't KM & Gov. be happy with existing pipline & currented tanker traffic? Why the urgency to move more oil, when we should be moving towards reducing our dependence on oil?

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon 10:15. All good questions. You might have imagined they would have been asked and answered by now. You won't hear the fossil fuelers and their political supporters delving on these matters.

They also don't want to discuss "stranded assets." The term refers to those types of fossil fuels that are the most carbon-intensive or lowest value. Thermal coal (as opposed to metallurgical coal) is one. Heavy oil such as bitumen is another. There's still a market for them but it's a question of how much longer.

Coal is really no longer needed for electrical generation. Even in the interim while alternative energy comes on stream the electrical energy markets have an abundance of natural gas on offer. It seems hard coal will always be needed for production of steel.

Bitumen is also in peril. The industry and its governmental collaborators "cook the books" to make it appear viable. One way they do this is to externalize risks such as that faced by British Columbia from pipeline and tanker spills. Treating them as irrelevant until they happen means there's no need to factor them in as profit-killing contingency costs.

There's a case before the Supreme Court now that illustrates how industry handles these problems. A shell company is created. It buys a resource asset from the original owner/operator, giving a secured charge against the transferred asset. On the books the new company has an asset and an equivalent debt. Fair enough. Only the new company is really set up to launder the asset. New company fails and goes into receivership. One of the claims against the estate is the government's claim for environmental clean up costs. However, in an insolvency, secured creditors get paid first out of the debtor's assets. The government's claim is a lower, unsecured debt. Well, the assets were worth the amount needed to pay the secured creditor, the original company, so the government gets stiffed and taxpayers have to bear the clean up costs. Plenty of this going on. More to come.