$2.25, or $0, The Bigger Issue at Hand to the Recent B.C. – Nestle Ground Water Sale.

The recent sale of groundwater extraction rights to Nestle by the B.C Government [1] does not simply outline the gross undervaluation of an essential resource but actually goes a step further and introduces a much more complex debate: how or if we should be assigning a price tag to these natural resources.

The current price on groundwater in B.C. for large-scale uses is set at $0, so while the increase to $2.25/million litres is an improvement (¢10/TRILLION litres would be as well), it is still a ridiculous pricing when compared with other provinces.

This undervaluation of natural resources is nothing new. In fact it happens all the time, and everywhere across the globe. It is especially the case in underdeveloped nations that have few working industries but the natural goods and services their environment have, which becomes easier and cheaper for corrupt governing bodies to sell off to the extraction sector than to properly develop themselves. At least in Canada, and other developed nations, we have the resources and institutions to make these extractive processes less damaging and more accountable, i.e. the Environmental Impact Assessment process.

Aside from the under cutting of essential resources for human life, in case that wasn’t exciting enough, this sale has highlighted a broader and much more complex debate on whether we should be assigning a price for natural goods like water and how could/should it be done.

This option is problematic but is continuously backed by policy makers and international governing bodies such as the World Bank, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and the IUCN.[2] They see the global market as a way to regulate resources and avoid their mistreatment. Most importantly the issue lies in this simply being the a continuation of the neoliberal agenda thinking process that a market value can solve every issue known to humans.

This ideology has promoted environmental injustice in under developed nations by exporting the extraction sector to countries without any other industry on which to rely. Some corrupt officials will choose to sell off natural resources cheaply, without any protective services, instead of developing them safely for the benefit of their own constituents. This often occurs because it seems as if it is their only option in part, if not wholly, because of the neoliberal structure.

Before we start slapping price tags on our one and only planet’s gifts, we should start rethinking the structures that have led us to this point, and who are still entrenched in their seats of power, more than willing to allow the status quo to continue. If we push nature into the global market then we run the risk of simply continuing the mechanisms that have brought us to this point of expected environmental collapse.

On a final note, just to add some confusion to the matter, would putting a price on the environment be all bad? The answer is likely no. Nature is already being exploited so if we were to start assigning prices, a concept that corporations and those who are adding to the planet’s destruction can understand, it may actually influence them to implement better practices and cleaner mechanisms. In EIA, the precautionary principle to environmental development, monitoring and compliance checking is one of the core ideals, but is often the source of most of the processes downfalls. If we were to monetize nature, maybe the penalties would finally begin to prop these steps up to the forefront of EIA.

Before completely ending I would like to suggest further readings, found within the following references section into the matter as this post has barely even skimmed the surface of the entire debate, especially [3] which has an excellent write up on the debate as well as a lively commentary rebuttal by several expert professionals, and [4] which is a transcript of a lecture on this topic, also offering the recording of said lecture (be warned it is lengthy at 1 hour and 18 minutes, but absolutely worth it).

[1] Fumano, Dan. (2015, March 9th). Outrage Boils Over as B.C. Government Plans to Sell Groundwater for $2.25 per Million Litres. The Province. Retrieved from http://www.theprovince.com/news/Outrage+boils+over+government+plans+sell+groundwater+million+litres/10865416/story.html

[2] McAfee, Kathleen. (1999). Selling Nature to Save it? Biodiversity and the Rise of Green Development. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 17:2. 133-154.

[3] Unmüßig, Barbara. (2014, August). Monetizing Nature: Taking Precaution on a Slippery Slope. Great Transition Initiative. Retrieved from http://www.greattransition.org/publication/monetizing-nature-taking-precaution-on-a-slippery-slope

[4] Monbiot, George. (2014, July). Put a Price on Nature? We Must stop this Neoliberal Road to Ruin. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2014/jul/24/price-nature-neoliberal-capital-road-ruin

Pipeline Busts and the Laissez-Faire Environmental Protection Provided by the EIA Process

arkansas oil spill

Photo taken in the wake of the pipeline leak in Mayflower, Arkansas, 2013

Environmental emergency crises requiring swift containment and recovery actions have become synonymous with the oil and gas industry, because of their history of spills. There are countless examples where monitoring checks were called into question, such as the the spill in Mayflower, Arkansas, or the Lac-Mégantic tragic train derailment, or  the seepage into the Yellowstone River or the diesel spill that affected Longeuil, and bigger disasters, with widespread damage to massive systems like the BP Deepwater Horizon spill or the continual damage to the Nigerian Delta. These are but a few examples out of hundreds.

oilinfographics

The amount of these calamities show they are more than simple coincidence and are indicative of a more serious issue within the industry of environmental protection during the post development stages, during operations and the dismantling of a project. This is not restricted to the oil and gas industry. In the early stages of development, the process of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) helps to guide a project to environmental responsibility. However it has been widely documented by EIA experts that the later stages of the process have fallen by the wayside. The rigidity of checks and standards during the early EIA stages become more relaxed as regular operations begin and responsibility falls on the proponent of the original project.[i] [ii] Recognizing this need for better industry monitoring practices, many critical studies have looked into its improvements and have suggested numerous possibilities.[iii] [iv] [v] The dilemma of the monitoring phase is the lack of commitment on the proponent’s part to responsible monitoring programs. Reactive measures prevail. This is opposite to the rest of the EIA process, which is geared towards prevention.

bpoilspill infographicThe misstep of EIA is that there is a “build it and forget about it syndrome” (Noble, 2010), which has allowed many corporations to profit in spite of disastrous events, by arguing the extent of the damage and paying less fines, as well as getting away with less than required remedial processes again and again. Tighter regulations and standards need to be adopted during the monitoring and follow-up stages in order to prevent these types of disasters from happening. Transparency within the project’s operations is also vital in maintaining an environmentally safe project. Greater involvement of citizens in the immediate area of the project can also have a beneficial relationship between corporation and community, promoting a greater corporate social responsibility and a mutual trust,[vi] though such programs still hinge on the effort of the proponent and their commitment to preventing environmental damage, and providing proper clean up if such issues do occur.[vii]

EIA as a whole needs to be refocused to the entire life-cycle of a project, not only the beginning stages, otherwise it fails its main prerogative of environmentally protective development, and mitigating serious ecological disasters.

[i] Noble, B. (2010). Introduction to Environmental Impact ASsessment: A Guide to Principles and Practice (2nd ed.). Ontario, CA: Oxford University Press. p. 160.

[ii] Weston, J. (1997). Planning and Environmental Impact Assessment in Practice (1st ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. p. 141-142.

[iii] Hunsberger, C. A., Gibson, R. B., & Wismer, S. K. (2005). Citizen Involvement in Sustainability-Centered Environmental Assessment Follow-Up. Environmental Impact Assessment, Review 25. p. 609-627.

[iv] Arts, J., Marshall, R., & Morrison-Saunders, A. (2005). International Principles for Best Practice EIA Follow-Up. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 23:3. p. 175-181.

[v] Marshall, R. (2012). Environmental Impact Assessment Follow-Up and its Benefits for Industry. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 23:3. p. 191-196.

[vi]  Lawe, L. B., Wells, J. & Mikisew Cree First Nations Industry Relations Corporation (2005). Cumulative Effects Assessment and EIA Follow-Up: A Proposed Community-Based Monitoring Program in the Oil Sands Region, North Eastern Alberta. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 23:3. p. 205-209.

[vii] Birk, J. & Noble, B. (2011). Comfort Monitoring? Environmental Assessment Follow-Up Under Community-Industry Negotiated Environmental Agreements. Environmental Impact Assessment, Review 31. p. 17-24.

Toronto, ON, Canada

 Saving Our Assets: Downfall of Climate Change Adaptation

by: Mabel Wong

In 2013, the city of Toronto experienced extreme fluctuations in weather, resulting in extreme heat, heavy ice storms, and severe rainstorms (City of Toronto, 2014). Whether or not global warming is occurring, the realities of dealing with climate change are. In an urban setting, economic threats exist when controlling damage to infrastructure and assisting citizens’ well-being in times of extreme weather. The need for climate change adaptation and mitigation is vital for the resilience of Toronto during future changes in weather patterns due to climate change. Tools for environmental assessment would be beneficial to managing infrastructure and ensuring that they are resilient against climate change. However, environmental assessment is weak and stricter guidelines are needed to help cities become resilient against climate change.

Toronto’s Ice Storm in 2013

2013 Flooding on a Highway After Heavy Rainstorm

It is evident that Toronto takes climate change adaptation and mitigation seriously, but actions require time and they are far from few. Toronto committed to reduce greenhouse gases as part of the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) as early from 1990 (Gore, 2010). Major milestones produced from this network are few, but the city is still committed to adapting towards climate change.  In 2008, the city developed a report called Ahead of the Storm: Preparing Toronto for Climate Change (City of Toronto
ghgEnvironment Office, 2008). This document is impressive in indicating the pressure for adapting to climate change and it also suggests actions that will come. Follow up is still needed as no other report has been produced since. However, more resources can be found on the Toronto Region Conservation website regarding climate change actions (http://trca.on.ca/the-living-city/climate-change/).

Further action from Toronto should include the use of environmental assessments, as they are used for project planning and decision making. Normally, they look at a project’s impact on the environment, but the reverse is uncommon. The danger here is that cities facing climate change like Toronto, need to consider the reverse. How are their infrastructures responding to climate change? In an ideal situation, environmental impact assessments (EIA) would guide policy makers and project planners to plan appropriately against environmental effects by creating alternative plans, implementing mitigation efforts, monitoring and follow up strategies.

cleanup costs

Damages and repair costs in Toronto for 2013 (Toronto Region Conservation, 2015)

The attitudes towards EIAs are not great though. EIAs are often seen as fulfilling requirements by politicians and project planners see EIA as an approval for proceeding with a project (Conacher, 1994). Even the reports themselves are weak because climate change effects are only considered in passing or mentioned briefly in the preparation of the report (CEAA, 2012; Ministry of Environment, 2014). Studies reveal that it is difficult to enforce any policy when interests of governments, ecologists, and economists, are not the same (Shepherd & Ortolano, 1996; Conacher, 1994).

lai et al

Interconnection between environment, economy, society and human socioeconomic impacts depends on land-use planning. To ensure impact assessment or mitigation efforts, all must be considered.

Climate change adaptation is not looking good so far for Toronto. EIA use, policy implementation, and project planning could be better integrated to adapt to climate change. If interests are not lining up, I’m sure the cost of cleaning up after extreme weather and the general safety of citizens should be some factors of similar interest. No matter how weak EIAs are currently, a change in attitudes towards EIA in the face of climate change is needed if any productive actions are made in adapting to climate change.

Resources

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. (2012). Incorporating climate change considerations in environmental assessment: General guidance for practitioners. Retrieved from: http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=A41F45C5-1&offset=3&toc=show.

City of Toronto Environment Office. (2008). Ahead of the Storm: Preparing Toronto for Climate Change. Retrieved from: http://www1.toronto.ca/City%20Of%20Toronto/Environment%20and%20Energy/Our%20Goals/Files/pdf/A/ahead_of_the_storm.pdf.

City of Toronto. (2014). Resilient City – Preparing for a Changing Climate. Retrieved from: http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2014/pe/bgrd/backgroundfile-70623.pdf.

Conacher, A. (1994). The integration of land-use planning and management with environmental impact assessment: Some Australian and Canadian perspectives. Impact Assessment, 12(4), 347-372.

Gore, C. (2010). The limits and opportunities of networks: municipalities and Canadian climate change policy. Review of Policy Research, 27(1), 27-44.

Lai L, Huang X, Zhang X. (2003). Study on strategic environmental impact assessment in land-use planning. China Land Science, 17(6), 56-60.

Ministry of Environment, Canada. (2014). Preparing and reviewing environmental assessments in Ontario. Retrieved from: https://dr6j45jk9xcmk.cloudfront.net/documents/1809/3-8a-11-preparing-and-reviewing-eas-en.pdf.

Shepherd, A. & Ortolano, L. (1996). Strategic environmental assessment for sustainable urban development. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 16, 321-335

Toronto Region Conservation. (2015). Local Impacts. Retrieved from: http://trca.on.ca/the-living-city/climate-change/climate-science/local-impacts.dot.


Saving Our Assets: Downfall of Climate Change Adaptation

Court Ruling Expands Duty to Consult to Law Making Process?


(9)

Late December 2014 the Federal Court ruled that the Canadian Government breached its duty to consult obligations to aboriginal groups when it drastically changed its federal environmental policies in 2012.(1)

The complaint was initiated by the Mikisew Cree of Alberta who argued that they were left out of the legislative development process of the 2 Omnibus Bills in 2012. The bills focused on budget cuts, including cuts in environmental protection, which had the potential to run contrary to First Nations treaty rights and constitutional guarantees protecting their lifestyle and livelihood. This triggered a duty to consult by Canada, the Mikisew claimed, a duty that Canada did not respect.(1)

The duty to consult had not been extended to the law making process before. Hence, I was intrigued when I first heard about it and wanted to see how the case would develop.

Back to the Mikisew, they were not merely speculating on the implications of these legislative proposals passing without adequate scrutiny. In the name of economic prosperity Bills C-38 and C-45 drastically skinned and gutted the protective substance of environmental legislation people like the Cree relied on as buffer from western development projects. These included the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and the Canadian Environmental Impact Assessment Act. For the Mikisew, legislative alterations implied reduced protection of freshwater, impacting Treaty 8 territory, and in turn, Mikisew livelihood. Their dependence on generations of traditional fishing, trapping, and travel was now in jeopardy.(2)(3)

(8)

It is not the first time groups have turned to the Courts to reaffirm civil rights. The government’s duty to consult obligation is something that was established in the Haida Nation v. BC Minister of Forests case back in 2004, when the Supreme Court extended aboriginal rights considerations to contemplations by the government that have the potential to affect native or treaty rights (4).  Clearly, contemplations with wide sweeping results as those in question here ought to have triggered such a duty.

The Federal Court’s decision on this matter is kind of a big deal. It officially declared to have shared the opinion that the Crown ought to have consulted with the Mikisew when the bills were introduced into Parliament due to the sweeping consequences argued. This reaffirms the potential of the mandated policies to have negative consequences and paves the way for further scrutiny on future legislation approval in favour of aboriginals and the environment.(1)(3)(5)

It is unfortunate though, that the Court did not go further. The Court drew a distinction between legislation development and legislation approval and emphasized its stance not to meddle with legislative matters as far as bills are still being drafted.(3)(5)

In my past experience studying judicial politics and constitutional legal matters this reluctance makes perfect sense. Courts are often cautious about tampering with Parliamentary jurisdiction. Judicial remedies on questions of rights breaching government conduct that some claim valid judicial mandates(6) and proper dialogue, are accused by others of judicial supremacy.(7) Issues of policy get especially controversial.(7)

This implies that the core of the controversy in passing an omnibus bill – namely the decision making process on its content – remains backdoor politics; aboriginal groups only get access to a legislation document (bill) already produced, with no chance to really influence what goes in the design that potentially impacts their lives.

At least though, as JFK law corporation also pointed out, it was a progress nevertheless: “This is the first time a court has squarely addressed the issue of whether the duty to consult attaches to any part of the law making process”…and concluded that it is in fact triggered once a completed bill is introduced.(5)

References

  1. West Coast Environmental Law. (2014, December 22). Federal Court: Canada Acted Unconstitutionally in Ramming Through 2012 Environmental Law Changes. Retrieved February 1st 2015, from http://wcel.org/media-centre/media-releases/federal-court-canada-acted-unconstitutionally-ramming-through-2012-envir
  2. Shared Value Solutions. (2014, December 21). 5 Reasons Why the Mikisew Legal Victory a Victory for Canada’s Environment. Retrieved February 4th, 2015, from http://info.sharedvaluesolutions.com/blog/5-reasons-the-mikisew-legal-victory-a-victory-for-canadas-environment
  3. Federal Court of Canada. (2014, December 19). Mikisew First Nations v. Canada, Judgement and Reasons. Retrieved February 1st, 2015, from http://wcel.org/sites/default/files/T-43-13%20RJJ%20RHD%20%28%20Dec%2019%202014%29.pdf
  4. Maria Morellato. Research Paper for the National Centre for First Nations Governance. (2008, February). The Crown’s Constitutional Duty to Consult and Accommodate Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. Retrieved February 8th, 2015, from http://fngovernance.org/resources_docs/Crown_Duty_to_Consult__Accommodate.pdf
  5. JFK Law Corporation. (2015, January 18). Legislative Changes to Federal Environmental Laws – Duty to Consult Triggered. Retrieved February 8th, 2015, from http://www.jfklaw.ca/legislative-changes-to-federal-environmental-laws-duty-to-consult-triggered/
  6. After all, Section 52 of the Constitution and more precisely S. 24(1) of the Charter affirm judicial authority by claiming, interested parties may turn to a court of competent jurisdiction to have any matter of law reviewed and grant discretion for remedies rendered.
  7. James Kelly, Governing with the Charter: Legislative and Judicial Activism and Framers’ Intent (Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, 2005
  8. Retrieved February 10th, 2014, from  https://www.google.ca/search?q=duty+to+consult&biw=1280&bih=923&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=6NnaVJXtDYGgyATY2YGgDg&sqi=2&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAg#imgdii=_&imgrc=3P2-HmGJwGLCCM%253A%3BfBjIrDvA5iloXM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.troymedia.com%252Fwp-content%252Fuploads%252F2014%252F11%252Fcircle_gavel_head.png%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.troymedia.com%252F2014%252F11%252F16%252Fcommon-misconceptions-about-the-duty-to-consult%252F%3B280%3B207   
  9. Retrieved February 10th, 2014, from https://www.google.ca/search?q=athabasca+river&biw=1280&bih=923&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=zt3aVKiFDI78yQSH3YK4BQ&sqi=2&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAg#imgdii=_&imgrc=bp5m4hIBjP2XgM%253A%3BbyExlTcdURE5uM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.ramp-alberta.org%252F_system%252FThumbnailCache%252FUserFilesImageAthabasca~downstream~of~Muskegjpg.700.-1.2091386766.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.ramp-alberta.org%252Friver%252Fgallery.aspx%3B700%3B525

Sustainability: What’s that supposed to mean?

The Importance of Water

Humankind is entirely dependent on water, including for energy. “Water and energy are strongly interlinked: water is required to produce, transport and use all forms of energy to some degree” (UNESCO, 2014, p.12).

Created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Water Development Report (WWDR) ranked Canada among the richest countries in the world for water (UNESCO, 2014). However, this allows for an energy policy that further permits the production of Canadian oil-sands in Alberta, resulting in large amounts of carbon emissions and water use, a policy of which is unsustainable. See the video below for a short explanation of the Alberta oil sands production process.

Sustainability

According to Environment Canada (2014), sustainability is “about improving the standard of living by protecting human health, conserving the environment, using resources efficiently…It requires the integration of environmental, economic and social priorities into policies and programs and requires action at all levels – citizens, industry, and governments.” It follows that “using resources efficiently” and “action” from citizens are important parts of energy policy development. If this is what is meant by sustainability, though, I have problems understanding the relevance of its emphasis throughout Government documents.

The democratic process ceases to exist at the policy level, for example, in Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) sees SEA as a method to evaluate Canadian Energy Policies (CEAA, 2014). According to the CEAA (2014), there are no SEAs that exist at this time nor have there ever been any, regarding Canada’s energy policy. This is not sustainable, since incorporating citizen action at the policy level, according to Environment Canada’s own definition of sustainable, is virtually non-existent.

Oil-sands development has some of the most adverse effects. According to David Harvey of the University of Toronto: “Tar sands oil entails 5-60% more greenhouse gas emissions on a life-cycle basis than conventional oil” (ForestEthics, 2013, p.6).

According to the Canadian Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP), in 2012, the Alberta oil-sands operations alone produced 50,285,958.95 tons/CO2eq. Comparatively, the entire province of Quebec produced 17,765,573 tons/CO2eq for the same year. Furthermore, in Canada, it takes about 7-10 M3 of water to produce 1 M3 of Bitumen, the raw oil-sand from Alberta that still requires further processing into crude oil, which itself requires more energy (NRCAN, 2014). This is not sustainable, since it takes about 7-10 times the amount of water to produce 1 unit (barrel, gallon, litre, etc.) of oil. This is not using resources efficiently.

Even a Life-Cycle Assessment shows treatment disparity between conventional energy (fossil fuels), nuclear and renewables (Ecolateral, 2014).

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 3.44.44 PM

Sustainability is more like “sustainability”. It is clear that Canadian energy policies do not live up to Canada’s own definition of sustainability, not only by erosion of the democratic process but also by way of one of the most inefficient uses of one of the most precious resources in the world: water, on which all of humankind depends. This is compounded by the exponentially increasing amount of carbon entering the atmosphere every day, the air you and I breath. In any sense of the definition, how does this sound sustainable and in light of these facts, how can we truly believe that our Government is handling our resources in the most sustainable fashion?

For more information on the current politics of fossil-fuel development, please visit:

http://www.greenworldrising.org/#!ep2-carbon/clzn

References

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. 2014. The Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. Accessed on January 8th, 2014. Available from: https://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=B3186435-1

Environment Canada, 2014. Facility GHG emissions by province/territory.

Accessed on January 7th, 2014. Available from: http://www.ec.gc.ca/ges-ghg/donnees-data/index.cfm?do=province&lang=En&year=2012.

Environment Canada, 2014. Sustainable Development. Accessed on January 7th, 2014. Available from: http://www.ec.gc.ca/dd-sd/

ForestEthics Advocacy, 2013. Who writes the rules? A Report on Oil Industry Influence, Government Laws, and the corrosion of Public Process.

Natural Resources Canada, 2014. Accessed on January 7th, 2014. Available from: http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/oil-sands/water-management/5865.

Oil Sands Information Portal, 2014. Accessed on January 7th, 2014. Available from: http://osip.alberta.ca/library/Dataset/Details/443.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 2014. The United Nations World Water Development Report: Water and Energy. (1).

Making room for oil in Kitimat, B.C: First Nations response to LNG Development

The coverage of First Nations response to liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in British Columbia has carried over into 2015. At first it may seem like the headline could read: “First Nation groups have changed their tune regarding energy infrastructure in Kitimat, B.C”, but this is a simplified version of the story. In reality it is much more complex, especially in light of opposition to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline and continuing First Nations negotiations to ensure that development on traditional lands will happen on their terms.

IMG_4387

Photo by Ariel Smith. Burns Lake, BC, August 2013

During my trip to Kitimat in 2013, I was made aware of the eclectic mix of pure pristine wilderness and burgeoning economic development in the region. The Rio Tinto Alcan plant isn’t far from the fishing hole turn-off, nestled alongside the towering coastal mountains and dark green forest, making this forced harmonization hard to miss. The overlap of development and wilderness in Kitimat mirrors itself in the opinions of those I met. Economic opportunities are welcomed with opened arms, but communities are well aware of the cost to their coast and the island-spotted Douglas Channel. For now, it seems like LNG development is the lesser of two evils and if handled properly could mean important economic benefits for the community and many First Nation groups. It is viewed that natural gas projects are less prone to leaks and spills than oil development is, and therefore seems like the safer choice that may reduce the impact on traditional lands. This view is behind why many have strongly opposed Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline, as exemplified in protests such as this:

The most recognized project proposal in the region has been the Kitimat LNG Terminal Project, a joint effort between Chevron Canada and Apache Canada. The project will be located along Bish Cove, close to Kitimat’s port. The project has been approved but is currently delayed due to lagging investment decisions [1] . Aside from this project, 18 different LNG projects have been proposed for the Kitimat region [4], which could amount to almost 3 million dollars in revenue shares for First Nation communities [2]. Below is a video from Apache Canada explaining the Kitimat LNG plans [3]:

An estimated 40% of the northern First Nations (20 groups or so) who will be impacted by the development of LNG plants and pipelines have agreed to terms and conditions regarding revenue shares with the BC government and responsible companies [5]. The Haisla and Wet’suwet’en First Nations are among the 20 groups affected. Both groups are aware of the economic benefits brought on by energy infrastructure in the region and want to make sure they are included in such opportunities.

LNG Terminal Project location on the Douglas Channel. Source: Globe and Mail

Aboriginal communities in Kitimat and throughout British Columbia have not been incorporated into energy development projects in the same way non-Aboriginal Canadians have [2] . Chief Karen Ogen from Wet’suwet’en remarks that this has caused a “dependence on declining funding from the federal government”[5], forcing many to sit and wait for economic help.

Individuals, families, and leaders from northern B.C First Nations are trapped economically because of the exclusion from energy projects. It is not an issue of ‘voiceless’ Canadians; it is a problem of deaf governments and energy proponents, choosing to listen to bits and pieces rather than the whole story. Governments struggle with complex stories because their goal is to build consensus among citizens. The story of LNG support does not jive well with the Enbridge and Canadian government agendas, because by supporting this kind of development, many groups are firm in their decision to keep intrusive oil off their lands.

References:

1. National Energy Board. Kitimat LNG NEB Export Licence Application: Appendix 2 – Project Description and Status. July 27, 2012.

2.Eyford, Douglas R. Foraging Partnerships, Building Relationships: Aboriginal Canadians and Energy Development. November 29, 2013

3. LNG Canada. “What is the transportation process for natural gas?”. Retrieved February 5, 2015 from http://lngcanada.ca/faq-items/what-is-the-process-of-getting-natural-gas-from-the-ground-to-the-end-customerB.C. aboriginal group eyes Enbridge’s

4. Globe and Mail. “Kitimat terminal for LNG project”. (2014, November 27). Retrieved February 1, 2015, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/bc-aboriginal-group-eyes-enbridges-kitimat-terminal-for-lng-project/article21803843/

5. Vancouver Sun. “More First Nations signing on in support of LNG projects in northern B.C”. (2015, January 7). Retrieved February 2, 2015 from http://www.vancouversun.com/business/energy/More First Nations signing support projects northern/10709543/story.html?__lsa=08f2-a93a#ixzz3Qu3

Environmental Justice and Sustainability

Environmental justice offers both an opportunity for political mobilization and action, and a policy principle to guide public decision making [1]. Environmental justice has two main dimensions [2]:

341861) The placing of a discourse of justice firmly within the framework of sustainability;

2) The identification of integral connections between justice and equity, and wider questions of governance.

There are many different definitions of environmental justice and it has some commonality with sustainability, which means ensuring a better quality of life now and in the future, while living within the limits of supporting ecosystems.

Environmental justice is based on the principal that all people have the right to be protected from environmental pollution and live in an enjoyable, clean, and healthful environment [2]. This means the equal protection and meaningful involvement of all people with respect to the development of laws, regulations, policies and the equitable distribution of environmental benefits. Both environmental justice and sustainability thus have a common factor and inseparable relationship. However, many countries do not respect such interdependency and are concentrated on sustainability and development while failing to address injustices.

In Brazil struggles over environmental justice are alive and well. Historically, the country failed to consider the indicators and standards for environmental protection and sustainable development. This issue is especially visible in the last century, while Brazilian people were farming and producing coffee. During that time, the farmers had the lowest values of living. All the while the traders and company owners were living with wealth and freedom.

http://www.cafod.org.uk/News/International-News/Brazil-activist-award

Recently, Brazil has become more interested in social and environmental justice. The country had a strong representation in the international conferences held about environmental justice in South America. Recent studies have focused on extremely important criteria and indicators for living in clean environments with great economy and just social life in Brazil. [1] [3]

References:

[1] Carla Grigoletto Duarte, Kyrke Gaudreau, Robert B. Gibson, Tadeu Fabrício Malheiros, Sustainability assessment of sugarcane-ethanol production in Brazil: A case study of a sugarcane mill in São Paulo state, Ecological Indicators, Volume 30, July 2013, Pages 119-129, ISSN 1470-160X, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2013.02.011.
[2] Agyeman, J. and Evans, B. (2004), ‘Just sustainability’: the emerging discourse of environmental justice in Britain?. The Geographical Journal, 170: 155–164
[3] Henri Acselrad, The “Environmentalization” of Social Struggles – the Environmental Justice Movement in Brazil
[4] http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/october/gospel-and-social-justice-in-brazil-interview-with-mauricio.html?paging=off.
[5] http://www.cafod.org.uk/News/International-News/Brazil-activist-award.