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Council of Canadians C 69 submission on energy and climate

*The following submission was sent to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development April 5, 2018.* 

To: Members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development

RE:  Bill C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Submitted by: Andrea Harden-Donahue, Energy and Climate Justice Campaigner, The Council of Canadians

The Council of Canadians thanks the Standing Committee for inviting written submissions on Bill C-69. However, the timelines for written submissions and to request to present before the committee are too short and we urge you to extend these deadlines.

We are deeply concerned that the Trudeau government introduced a Time Allocation motion that shut down debate after only two days.

If the Standing Committee and the Trudeau government truly want to hear from Indigenous nations, local residents, community, water and environmental groups, you must extend the deadlines and give people proper timelines to engage in this important debate about this complex and lengthy bill.

For now, the Council of Canadians offers these considerations:

Enshrine United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Standards in Environmental Assessments

While Bill C-69 states that cooperation with Indigenous peoples is a purpose of the Act, it focuses on constitutional rights and falls short of directly mentioning the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as the word “consent.”

Bill C-69 also narrowly defines Indigenous peoples to mean “Indians, Indian, Inuit and Métis,” overlooking the inherent jurisdiction of many Indigenous peoples.

Project list must be released

Not knowing what projects will be subject to the new Impact Assessment process inhibits our ability to adequately comment on the legislation.

For example, it was reported in the media that Environment and Climate Minister Catherine McKenna said tar sands (oil sands) in-situ projects were unlikely to trigger an assessment. The existence of Alberta’s 100 million tonnes emissions cap was given as the reason for this.

In-situ projects produce much more climate pollution compared to open pit mining. A 2016 study by the Pembina Institute found in-situ projects’ “emission intensity” to be around 60 per cent higher than mining due to the natural gas burned to generate the steam used.[i] These projects should trigger an environmental assessment that includes a credible climate test regardless of the provincial cap. We also note that the cap allows for a 45 per cent increase in oil sands emissions, which is inconsistent with Canada’s Paris Climate Agreement commitments[ii] and includes significant loopholes.[iii]

Offshore drilling not worth the risk

The Council of Canadians was deeply disturbed to read Minister McKenna’s recent press release[iv]noting  approval for British Petroleum (BP) to drill up to seven exploratory wells off the coast of Nova Scotia,  stating the drilling is “not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.” We note also that StatOil wants to explore offshore of Nova Scotia and BP is in the process of seeking approval for up to 20 wells offshore of Newfoundland. As independent journalist and author Antonia Juhasz has pointed out,[v] BP wants to drill up to twice the depth of the well that caused the Gulf of Mexico disaster in 2010, which heightens the risks. Juhasz further notes these are the same risks that are being rejected by nearby U.S. states.

CNSOPB and CNLOPB should only play an advisory role

Bill C-69 grants more authority to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB), and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) by giving them the power to participate in the impact assessments for offshore drilling projects. This includes the ability for Cabinet to amend the Act to require assessments of projects regulated by the offshore boards to be conducted by review panels appointed by the Minister. These panels, comprising at least five members, would also include at least two appointed on the recommendation of the offshore petroleum boards or members of the boards.[vi]

The petroleum boards are made up of unelected political appointees who are primar­ily oil industry veterans. They have conflicting mandates to promote oil and gas development and protect the marine environment. The Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia (CPONS), a project of the Council of Canadians South Shore chapter, has raised clear concerns with the petroleum board’s track record on not adequately involving the public meaningfully in their deliberations. If the government wants to regain public trust in environmental assessments, granting greater authority to petroleum boards is not the right direction.

This is supported by the findings of the government-appointed Expert Panel tasked with reviewing Environmental Assessments which stated:

“…an authority that does not have concurrent regulatory functions can better be held to account by all interests than can entities that are focused on one industry or area and that operate under their own distinct practices.”[viii]

Seismic surveys and other seismic programs must be reviewed 

Despite the growing evidence[ix] that seismic surveys can do serious harm to endangered species such as the right whale, as well as species important to sustainable fisheries, Canada only has guidelines in place with no real prohibitions. Seismic surveys should be subjected to the same rigorous science and review as any other offshore projects.

The CPONS submission further identifies important recommendations for amending and improving Bill C-69 with regards to offshore drilling that the Council of Canadians supports.

Right of appeal

The inclusion of a right of appeal process is critical for allowing the public and Indigenous peoples to ensure processes are fair. Appeals should be heard before a tribunal with expertise in the resolution of environmental disputes.[x]

Credible Climate Test

The Act should mandate the assessment of all climate implications and set out clear requirements and guidance for considering climate impacts [xi] to ensure projects are consistent with a credible plan to meet Canada’s Paris Climate Agreement commitments and a long-term 2050 phase-out of fossil fuels. If projects are inconsistent with these commitments they must be rejected. This test should apply to all projects with climate implications. Bill C-69 is unclear on how it will analyze climate impacts and base decisions on climate considerations.

Bill C-69 must be consistent with Paris Climate Agreement and 2050 phase out of fossil fuels

Ensuring a safe climate for ourselves and future generations should be a core purpose of Impact Assessments.

As stated in the Lofoten Declaration[xii] which the Council of Canadians has endorsed, we are in a deep hole with our climate. While a full transition away from fossil fuels will take decades, we must begin by not digging ourselves any deeper. Simply put, there should be no new fossil fuel extraction or transportation infrastructure built to help expand fossil fuels, and governments should grant no new permits for them. This is the appropriate context within which Bill C-69 should be approached.

This was the conclusion of the ground-breaking report, The Sky’s Limit: Why the Paris Climate Goals require a Managed Decline of Fossil Fuel Production, which looked at a global carbon budget consistent with the Paris Agreement. The report found that, “oil, gas and coal in already-producing fields and mines are more than we can afford to burn while keeping likely warming below 2 degrees C [while] the oil and gas alone are more than we can afford for a medium chance of keeping to 1.5 degrees C.”

The Canadian report, Can Canada Expand Oil and Gas Production, Build Pipelines and Keep Its Climate Change Commitments?[xiii] draws a similar conclusion. It finds that a future scenario with one large LNG export facility in B.C. being built, coupled with expansion under the Alberta emissions cap (which has significant loopholes), would still see the oil and gas sector absorb 45 per cent of allowable emissions under Canada’s 2030 target. This would require a 47 per cent reduction (below 2014 levels) in the rest of the economy, meaning deep and painful cuts outside of the fossil fuel sector. 

Canada is clearly on a collision course with global ambition to address climate change. Industry and governments are encouraging exploration for offshore Atlantic oil and gas production, the tar sands and related transportation infrastructure continue to expand, the B.C. government is incentivizing an LNG export port, and plans are underway to increased fracked natural gas.

It is time to reckon with the moment of history we find ourselves in. We need to stop further expansion of fossil fuels and effectively manage existing industries in the context of achieving a 2050 phase out of fossil fuels in a manner that supports both workers and resource extraction dependent communities.

Thank you for your consideration of these important matters.

Andrea Harden-Donahue

Energy and Climate Justice Campaigner

The Council of Canadians


[i] Measuring oilsands carbon emission intensity, Pembina Institute, <http://www.pembina.org/pub/measuring-oilsands-carbon-emission-intensity>

[ii] <http://canadians.org/blog/why-minister-mckenna-being-unreasonable-kinder-morgan-pipeline>

[iii] Barry Saxifrage, ‘Hard cap’ for oilsands climate pollution has loopholes the size of Nova Scotia, National Observer, <https://www.nationalobserver.com/2018/03/20/analysis/hard-cap-oilsands-climate-pollution-has-loopholes-size-nova-scotia>

[iv] News Release: Scotian Basin Exploration Drilling Project – Environmental Assessment Decision, Government of Canada,  <http://www.ceaa.gc.ca/050/document-eng.cfm?document=121523>

[v] Antonia Juhasz, OPINION: Offshore drilling too risky for U.S. Eastern Seaboard, but not for Canada? Chronicle Journal <http://thechronicleherald.ca/opinion/1553156-opinion-offshore-drilling-too-risky-for-u.s.-eastern-seaboard-but-not-for-canada>

[vi] Anna Johnston, Questions and Answers about Canada’s Proposed New Impact Assessment Act, West Coast Environmental Law.

[viii] Building Common Ground:  A New Vision for Impact Assessment in Canada, The Final Report of the Expert Panel for the Review of Environmental Assessment Processes at page 50.

[ix] Lindy Weilgart, see publications, <http://whitelab.biology.dal.ca/lw/lindy.htm>

[x] Making the Mid-term Grade: A Report Card on Canada’s Proposed New Impact Assessment Act.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Lofoten Declaration,<http://www.lofotendeclaration.org/>

[xiii] J David Hughes, Canada Canada Expand Oil and Gas Production, Build Pipelines and Keep Its Climate Change Commitments?, < https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/can-canada-expand-oil-and-gas-production-build-pipelines-and-keep-its-climate>