Is Kinder Morgan Trying to Bribe Our City?

Jump to post-Council meeting update (original text left here for context)

Tomorrow, Tuesday May 19th, 2015, the City of Chilliwack will decide whether or not to receive $800,000 from the Texas-based energy giant Kinder Morgan who is pushing for a controversial new pipeline through our community. Also on offer according to the City staff report is an undetermined but “substantial’ amount of money to be paid to the University of the Fraser Valley. There has been no public discussion on this decision, which was announced only Friday, and there remain unanswered questions about the implications of taking the money, or even considering the offer at this time.

Regardless of the risks associated with transporting the heavy oil, it is very concerning that any participant who has yet to submit evidence in a regulatory process is being offered large sums of money that hinge on the outcome of that regulatory process. That sounds a lot like a bribe.

In Chilliwack’s case, the money would be paid only if Kinder Morgan get a ‘yes’ from the National Energy Board on their new pipeline, directly aligning city interests with the fossil fuel giant.  The City are a ‘commenter’ in the National Energy Board (NEB) hearing process on that pipeline. The deadline for commenters to file their letters is still months away and the City has not submitted theirs or made public what it might contain.

One can only wonder how knowledge that the Mayor and Council have signed on to a million dollar deal that depends on Kinder Morgan getting the decision they want from the NEB would weigh on the minds of staff as they prepare the City’s evidence for the NEB review panel.

Where is the engagement with citizens?

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Water - What Price is Right?

Chilliwack_WaterWealth_rally_May_12_2013_225w.jpgAfter intense campaigning by WaterWealth and others, the pressure of public attention provided the push to finally get the new Water Sustainability Act passed early in 2014, the first new Water Act in over 100 years. Deborah Corran of the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre called the B.C. Water Sustainability Act “Overall, one of the best pieces of environmental legislation in the past 15 years”. That’s the potential.

We need to act now to make that potential a reality.

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Happy Birthday WaterWealth!

sheila_rain_300w.jpgIt is hard to believe that it’s already been over two years since we held our Launch Party Open House under the torrential rain of a Pineapple Express on March 2, 2013. On a day like that it can be easy to feel complacent about our shared water wealth on the Wet Coast.

 

As WaterWealth’s second birthday passed, with Lower Fraser snowpack at just 36% of normal and double-digit temperatures through much of January and February, it is perhaps easier to contemplate water security as something we need to plan for seriously in this region of rapid population growth, and throughout BC.

 

What follows is a look at where we've been over these first two years of advocating for our shared water wealth, and where we're headed.

 

Tides of synchronicity...

 

An issue that that arose coincidentally just before WaterWealth’s launch, and one that remains a sore-point with many Chilliwack residents, was the chlorination of Chilliwack’s award-winning drinking water. Chlorination was announced and imposed with no opportunity for input from affected residents. hi-bc-130213-chilliwack-water-1-8col.jpgAt the only public information meeting, an event that offered residents a chance to vent but no chance to have any say in the decision, which had already been made, Dr. Van Buynder of Fraser Health Authority raised the spectre of the terrible water contamination incident at Walkerton, Ontario. This was perhaps more than a little ironic given that Walkerton had a chlorinated drinking water system at the time of that incident.

 

The chlorination of Chilliwack’s water made clear that the status quo is not working. Not for the water and not for the people who rely on it. A lot has to change before we can talk seriously about a return to the pure, chlorine-free water we used to enjoy in Chilliwack, but the community hasn’t forgotten and, reflecting that community concern, WaterWealth will not forget either.

 

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Are BC’s new water laws all wet?

(Go straight to the petition here)

The term “world class” gets tossed around a lot these days. In the case of BC water law we have the opportunity to make “world class” a reality with the Water Sustainability Act (WSA). But are we?

The Water Sustainability Act (WSA) received Royal Assent on May 29, 2014. It will replace the 1909 Water Act, but the WSA itself is really a container to be filled with regulations that will determine whether British Columbians get world class water law, or whether the opportunity dribbles from our grasp.  On February 5, 2015, the first regulations were rolled out; water licence fees and rental rates. Domestic users, ie households on wells, do not have to be licenced. Power producers, ie BC Hydro, pay under other legislation. Water licences are good for 30 years, so licence fees can almost be considered a one-time fee. Once a licence is in hand, users will pay volume-based rates of $0.02 to $2.25 per million litres. The greatest change is that these rates apply to groundwater users, who until now have been unregulated in BC with no requirement to report volume of water used, how it was used, or to pay anything to the province for the resource.

The free ride continues...

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2014 - Wrapping Up and Looking Forward

waterjump_300w.jpg2014, WaterWealth's second year, got off to an auspicious start with a nomination for the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce ‘Not for Profit’ Award. WaterWealth ED Sheila Muxlow presented at the Watersheds 2014 conference in Duncan, BC. A furor erupted in Chilliwack and beyond after folks found out, on the day of the public hearing, about the rezoning application for a hazardous waste facility on the banks of the Fraser River. Right next door to the hazardous waste site we investigated a report of oil leaking into a wetland area and stream. The substance turned out to be wood leachate. Not as bad as oil, but still a concern for aquatic life. That issue is now the subject of an access to information request to Environment Canada, response to which is long overdue.

The Water Sustainability Act (WSA) was the major focus of the first quarter of 2014. WaterWealth and Community-reVision.org paired up to deliver the majority of public input on the water pricing consultation. Other WSA focused activities included meetings with provincial representatives and a meeting, along with West Coast Environmental Law, with the Lillooet First Nation at the request of the Pegpiglha Council.

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 election_results_pagetop.jpg

We at WaterWealth extend our gratitude to all of the candidates who ran in the recent elections. To take up the challenge of campaigning and to be willing to take on the task of serving your community in an elected capacity for the next four years is a courageous and noble undertaking.

While water is essential to our economy as well as our ecology and is a major component of the quality of life we enjoy in the Fraser Valley, we recognize that our survey was but one of a great many requests to candidates on a vast range of issues. We thank the many candidates who took the time to respond to our survey. Based on feedback we received from the public it seems clear that those responses were well received and made a difference in votes for some. We also thank all the many volunteers who helped with campaigns and with the election process. It is such engagement that makes the places we live into communities we enjoy living in.

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Support for Caretakers of Burnaby Mountain

Yesterday WaterWealth joined 85 (and growing) other organizations in signing on to a letter of support. Specifically the letter expresses support for a Burnaby residents’ group and others opposing Kinder Morgan’s work on Burnaby Mountain. The issues go much deeper however, to issues of governance and free speech that are being played out on the ground and in the courts with ramifications for the whole country.

bby_mtn.jpg

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Mount Polley Tailings Spill

A Disaster Close to Home

 

I was glad to be working at the WaterWealth office when I first heard the news of the Mount Polley tailings disaster. My dad would approve of my being at work on a holiday, and I felt somewhat better to be working for water rather than relaxing somewhere when I heard the news. It was strange to see that news with the knowledge of the personal connection Dad and I shared to what may prove to be the worst industrial disaster in BC history. A disaster involving a mine, that mine, and water.

 

 

dad_stoking_1945_200w.jpgDad grew up on a farm in Petersfield Manitoba during the Great Depression and the Second World War. The farm gave him the toughness to work in any conditions and a slightly crooked forearm from being thrown from a Clydesdale. He didn’t much like farming.

 

004_300w.jpgHis passion from a very early age was rocks and at the first opportunity he went to work in a mine, overstating his age to get a job underground at Central Patricia Gold Mines from 1947 to 1949.

 

Dad worked at several mines through the 1950s. Mom joined him, tolerating mining camp life and even living in tents a couple of Manitoba winters.

 

In 1960 they moved to BC where Dad had been offered a job prospecting, and in 1964 Dad and his friend Sam McBeath found the copper-gold deposit at Mount Polley.

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Jump in!

WaterWealth Project & MEC partner for Home Waters

At WaterWealth we believe that water is precious. We believe that our wealth is in our water -- the economic, physical, spiritual, cultural and ecological prosperity that water makes possible. The WaterWealth Project is about taking a fresh approach to economic well-being, one that respects the needs of all living beings and provides the foundation for healthy, thriving communities.

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Round one of the NEB Hearings on the Kinder Morgan Pipeline Proposal -- Gleanings & Questions

km_route.jpgThe deadline came fast for round one (of two) information requests in the National Energy Board review of Kinder Morgan's proposal to build a second Trans Mountain pipeline from Tar Sands country to Burnaby.

Things were hopping with WSA pricing consultations, Canada Water Week, Chilliwack Official Community Plan update, FVRD riparian areas changes (pdf), a Business Survey and more.  Even without all that, tackling Kinder Morgan's 15,000 page application was a formidable undertaking!  We dove in though, and what we found was eye-opening.

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