Sierra Club BC argues Site C project should be terminated


August 31, 2017

VICTORIA—Sierra Club BC, represented by lawyers from Ecojustice, has called for the termination of the Site C dam project in its submission to the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC).

The group argues that the enormous cost of Site C locks B.C. into major financial obligations that hinder its ability to invest in lower impact, lower cost, jobs-intensive renewable energy development that serves communities across the province much better in the long term.

“By continuing to lock B.C. into this outrageously expensive dam that we don’t need, BC Hydro is leaving taxpayers and ratepayers on the hook for huge cost overruns,” said Sierra Club BC’s Peace Valley Campaigner Galen Armstrong. “The material we’ve reviewed shows British Columbians are likely to face alarming increases to hydro rates.”

Sierra Club BC argues that available evidence, viewed in light of the BCUC’s Terms of Reference and B.C.’s Clean Energy Act, leads to a conclusion that Site C should be terminated. The group’s submission suggests:

  • Site C is likely to result in significant excess supply and BC Hydro would be forced to sell this electricity at a loss;
  • Cost estimates have already increased markedly for the project, and major capital costs lock BC Hydro into significant financial obligations;
  • Continuation of Site C will hinder BC Hydro’s ability to invest in alternative, lower-impact renewable energy that could provide community development opportunities across the province; and
  • If this project proceeds, it will put B.C. at odds with its own clean energy objectives as set out in the Clean Energy Act—and should be a major consideration for the BCUC during its review.

“We’ve known for years that Site C is not in the public interest and represents bad long term planning. It will inflict unnecessary pain on household budgets when the alternatives could provide similar or even greater benefits at a far cheaper cost,” said Armstrong.

Sierra Club BC also raised concerns that Site C energy would not reduce B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions and in fact may be used to support greenhouse gas-intensive industries such as mining, oil and LNG.

“This dam represents 1950s thinking when we should be investing in innovative twenty-first century technologies like wind, solar and geothermal energy. These industries create better long-term jobs at a third of the cost of Site C, with the benefits felt in communities across the province. Continued investment in Site C will leave B.C. poorer because we won’t be investing in clean energy innovation for communities.”

“While we’re happy the B.C. government has initiated this review, we worry that the shortened process will still not provide the fulsome review that’s necessary,” said Karen Campbell, Ecojustice lawyer. “If the government truly wants to get it right and act in the best interest of British Columbians, it needs to allow the BCUC to extend the process in order to test evidence and permit parties to ask questions of BC Hydro.

“This review gives the Commission the chance to protect the public from this unnecessary project by fully evaluating how Site C will impact B.C.’s long term energy future. We hope the Commission takes advantage of this escape hatch,” said Campbell.

“Regardless of the final outcome of the BCUC review, this project should be cancelled because of numerous factors, including the threat to prime farmland and the violation of First Nations’ treaty rights,” said Armstrong. “Just last week, the UN’s top anti-racism body strongly condemned Site C. If the current government is serious about its commitment to UNDRIP, the answer is clear: Site C must be cancelled. Cabinet must take these factors into account when it makes its final decision.”


Resources: Submission



Galen Armstrong

Peace Valley Campaigner

Sierra Club BC

Cell: 778-679-3191


Karen Campbell

Ecojustice lawyer

604-685-5618 ext. 287

Cell: 604-928-2258

It doesn’t have to be a carbon offset

Take climate action by supporting Sierra Club BC’s campaign to protect Vancouver Island’s carbon-rich old-growth rainforest! 

Travel—especially by air—burns a lot of carbon dioxide. Have you considered buying carbon credits to offset some of your emissions?

Carbon offsets run the gamut from good to bad. Credible offsets can contribute to climate solutions – if they are combined with concrete steps to reduce emissions. Unfortunately there are many examples of dubious projects, making it important to verify whether standards are met.

As an alternative to buying carbon offsets, consider supporting Sierra Club BC’s work toward lasting protection of Vancouver Island’s carbon-rich endangered old-growth rainforest.

Wood waste from a clear cut. Photo by TJ Watt.

BC’s old-growth rainforests store up to 1,000 tonnes of carbon per hectare, one of the highest rates on earth. They’re like a carbon bank, accumulating carbon in soil, trees and organic matter over millennia. Reducing emissions by avoiding logging of this old-growth has immediate benefits for the climate.

Sadly, about half of the carbon stored in these ecosystems gets released in clearcut logging. This is often combined with slash burning, an egregious practice that releases millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases annually and must be phased out.

It can take centuries until the biomass reaches previous levels—time we don’t have.


While improving forest management will help in the fight against climate change, the most urgent step is to simply leave carbon-rich and resilient forests alive and standing.

This is why Sierra Club BC is working so hard to protect ancient forests.

By becoming a member of Sierra Club BC, you can help protect British Columbia’s forests and our climate.

Vancouver Island: The last stand for carbon-rich old-growth

In BC, Vancouver Island is Ground Zero for logging of endangered old-growth rainforest. A recent Sierra Club BC analysis showed that destruction of the Island’s original old-growth rainforest is occurring three times faster than primary forest loss in tropical rainforests.

Clear cut logging in East Creek, Vancouver Island. Photo by TJ Watt.

Globally, the loss of primary forests – characterized by ecological processes largely undisturbed by human activity – is threatening species, carbon storage and environmental services. In some countries this is primarily in the form of deforestation; in other countries such as Canada, this is primarily through the replacement of rich ancient forests with even-aged young forest.

Sierra Club BC’s data shows that between 1990 and 2015, Vancouver Island’s primary old-growth forest has declined by thirty per cent.[1] (Three times higher than the ten percent decline for primary forests of tropical countries over the same time period.[2]) Only about ten percent of the biggest trees remain standing. In the last few years the annual old-growth logging rate was 9,000 hectares per year or twenty-five hectares a day.

We have estimated the impact of one year’s worth of old-growth logging on Vancouver Island on our climate. We found old-growth logging on the Island alone essentially eliminated BC’s progress in reducing carbon emissions in the same year, releasing approximately 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and nullifying the province’s progress in reducing annual emissions by the same amount.

Solutions are possible when we work together

The 2016 Great Bear Rainforest Agreements show that solutions are possible. The agreements met science-based conservation levels, strengthened First Nations rights, enabled conservation financing and forest carbon credit projects, and gave forestry companies certainty for logging under stringent standards. The Great Bear Rainforest carbon project documentation showed that the reduced rate of logging is resulting in 600,000 tonnes of carbon emissions reductions annually, benefiting the region’s First Nations with revenue from carbon.

The Great Bear Rainforest lies within a particularly rich region of the province – and North America – for carbon retention. Map source: BC Ministry of Environment.

New protected areas and conservation measures for Vancouver Island must respect First Nations rights and interests, enable a transition to sustainable second-growth forestry and support diverse economic activities such as tourism and reduce carbon emissions. The Ahousaht Nation in Clayoquot Sound is leading the way in demonstrating alternatives to old-growth logging, with their land use vision that includes an end to industrial logging in their territory.

Sierra Club BC mapping shows approximately 1.5 million hectares of remaining old-growth forest on Vancouver IsIand and the South Coast area that are currently unprotected. Within this area, there are 600,000 hectares of relatively productive stands, with significant carbon storagecapacity and a higher likelihood of getting targeted for logging. These forests alone store the equivalent of thirteen times BC’s annual emissions.

Sierra Club BC will work with the new BC government, First Nations and the forestry sector to increase protection of ecosystems with high carbon and species habitat value, in particular temperate rainforests, as a key element in its response to global warming. Old-growth rainforest is more resilient than younger forest, and BC’s ecosystems and species habitat are shifting rapidly in a changing climate. That’s why ecologists consider the remaining old-growth a “non-renewable” resource.

Join us today

We will only get there with your support. We cannot tell you exactly how many tonnes of carbon will remain stored in ancient trees as a result of our work, instead of getting chopped and partly burned in slash piles. But we can assure you that our role has been and will continue to be critical to ensure progress for new protected areas and our climate.

Please consider supporting Sierra Club BC’s work toward lasting protection of Vancouver Island’s carbon-rich endangered old-growth rainforest.

You can do this by becoming a member of Sierra Club BC. The best way to support our work is with a monthly contribution of $8, $15 or $25.

So, are you in?


Feature image by Andrew S. Wright.


[1]  The original extent of old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island was 2,600,000 hectares, of which anestimated 1,082,000 hectares were remaining by 1990. By 2015 the remaining old-growth was reduced to 748,000 hectares, adecline of 30 percent over the course of just 25 years.

[2]  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, tropical countries showed an overall decline of 10 percent of their primary forest in the last 25 years (from 1990 to 2015).

B.C. budget offers 1950s thinking in response to 2017’s challenges


February 21, 2017

Sierra Club BC released the following statement from communications director Tim Pearson in response to the release of the 2017 B.C. Budget:

“This budget offers 1950s thinking in response to 2017’s challenges.

“It’s a budget blind to the need to transform our economy away from fossil fuels. It’s a budget blind to the potential jobs and prosperity that can be created with a realistic road map to a post-carbon economy. And it’s a budget that shows no meaningful commitment to climate action.

“Where are the investments in the affordable, renewable energy alternatives and innovation that will power our economy and provide jobs now and far into the future? Nowhere.

“Instead, we get support for the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tankers project, increased fracking and the Site C megadam—a boondoggle that will subsidize fossil fuel exploitation and drive ever increasing Hydro bills for decades to come.

“Every million dollars invested in fossil fuels generates two jobs. That same million dollars would deliver 15 jobs via renewable energy projects.

“If we want a thriving economy and good, green, family-supporting jobs, we need a budget that will drive a shift to a sustainable, post-carbon economy.

“We need affordable, climate-friendly energy sources that will create jobs in communities throughout B.C. and drive innovation in clean technology.

“We need a genuine commitment to forest health, not the re-announcement of last year’s reforestation funding and no real plan for how our forests will aid in climate action.

“For years, this government has treated the environment and climate change as an afterthought. This budget is no exception.

“It’s a blindness that will hurt our economy and rob us of jobs, as other jurisdictions leave us behind in innovation, as the market for fossil fuels evaporates and as British Columbians are left to pay down mountains of debt.”


Tim Pearson
Director of Communications, Sierra Club BC
(250) 896-1556

Pay up, Chevron: BC cities, towns challenged to hold fossil fuel industry accountable for climate impacts


January 25, 2017

VANCOUVER, BC, Coast Salish Territories – More than 50 community groups from across BC have signed onto an open letter arguing that fossil fuel companies owe BC communities for their fair share of the impacts of climate change. The letter was delivered to all 190 municipalities and regional districts in BC, asking them to demand accountability from the fossil fuel industry, up to and including considering lawsuits against Chevron and other big fossil fuel companies.

“Fighting climate change only works when everyone does their fair share. The fossil fuel industry expects communities to pay the costs to adapt and rebuild from climate impacts, while they pocket hundreds of billions of dollars of profits,” said Andrew Gage, Staff Counsel with West Coast Environmental Law. “When communities demand accountability from fossil fuel companies, the industry will finally have an incentive to get out of the way of those who want to build a sustainable future – or, better yet, to start working with us.”

The open letter references the work of carbon accountant Richard Heede, who has calculated that pollution from the operations and products of the three largest fossil fuel companies alone (Chevron, Exxon and Saudi Aramco) represent almost 10% of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today. Just 90 entities – mostly fossil fuel companies – are responsible for about 2/3 of the historic greenhouse gas emissions.

Montana Burgess, Executive Director of the West Kootenay EcoSociety signed on to the letter because her rural region is already experiencing the impacts of carbon pollution.

“Thanks to global fossil fuel pollution, our communities are having to prepare for winters with less snow and much more rain. We’ve seen how this creates landslides, drought and forest fires at home, in the West Kootenays. Right now, ordinary people are paying for these costly disasters. Each community needs to do its part to transition off fossil fuels and get onto 100% renewable energy, but until Chevron, Exxon and the other big oil companies take responsibility for the harm caused by their products, we won’t get there on the global scale,” Burgess said.

The signatories to the letter – which include representatives of the environmental, health, human rights, women’s rights and faith sectors – point out that BC communities are already paying significant costs for the impacts of climate change. In addition to direct impacts – such as wildfires, flooding and the destruction of forests by the mountain pine beetle – communities also faced with the costs of preparing for expected impacts, such as paying to build infrastructure that can withstand rising sea levels, extreme weather, droughts and other climate impacts.

The Province of BC has estimated that Metro Vancouver Municipalities will need to spend $9.5 billion between now and 2100 to address rising sea-levels (about $100 million per year on average).

West Coast Environmental Law and many of the signatories are hoping to engage with and support local governments who pursue fossil fuel company accountability. West Coast has launched a website – – providing resources to help local governments draft letters to the fossil fuel industry, including template letters and fossil fuel company addresses. West Coast is also offering local governments legal research and support related to possible litigation against the fossil fuel companies.


View the open letter to BC local governments


For more information, please contact:


Andrew Gage | Legal Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law

604-601-2506 (Vancouver) or 250-412-9784 (Victoria),


Anjali Appadurai | Climate Communications Specialist, West Coast Environmental Law




Quotes from signatories around the province:

“If the fossil fuel industry is prepared to endanger the integrity of creation by contributing so directly to changing the climate of the planet, they should at least be equally prepared to hold themselves accountable. Some of their profits come at the expense of communities and they should pay those costs.”

– Robert Hart, Knox United Church, Terrace

“Just as the tobacco companies are being forced to pay for the health costs they tried to hide, fossil fuel companies will be held to account for the damages from climate change. With a climate denier in the White House, it is now more important than ever for Canadians to take on a leadership role in forcing carbon polluters to stop putting communities at risk and to pay for the harm already being felt.”

– Keith Stewart, Greenpeace Canada

“Local governments are already on the front lines dealing with climate impacts like wildfires and drought. Making polluters pay will relieve the burden on local taxpayers and businesses.”

– Caitlyn Vernon, Sierra Club BC

“Protecting our environment is one of the ways we protect our health and that of future generations. British Columbia has an important responsibility to all Canadians to ensure that our energy policies are good for the health of populations and the planet. ”

– Cecelia Velasco, Public Health Association of BC

“For too long pollution profiteers have ignored climate change while expecting the rest of us to pay the tab. Now it’s time for them to pay up. Adapting to a warming world will cost BC communities billions of dollars — an impossible price tag that would rob us of money for transit, parks and just about everything else. Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for the fossil fuel industry’s willful negligence.”

– Peter McCartney, Wilderness Committee

“The fossil fuel industry began in earnest 150 years ago. But times have changed, and now we’ve run the course with fossil fuels, and it’s time to move on to better forms of energy, because now the harms far exceed the benefits. Those who cling to the old ways need to be persuaded that they must do their part to bring about this transition. If persuasion fails, then legal action is the obvious next step.”

– Warren Bell, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment

“As people committed to the life and teachings of Jesus, we are challenged by his readiness to call the powerful to be accountable for their misuse and abuse of power. In the same spirit, we believe fossil fuel industries which profit from intensive greenhouse gas emissions should be financially accountable for the effects they are causing on our climate and the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. We encourage other people of faith and concerned citizens across BC to join hands in demanding these companies take responsibility for causing harmful climate impacts.”

– Jason Wood, EarthKeepers

“Climate change will affect all of us, and it will certainly affect salmon and the communities they feed. We urge our local governments to exercise every tool available, including the law, to demand accountability from the fossil fuel industry.”

– Heather Forbes, Salmon Coast Field Station Society

“Fossil fuel companies reap enormous profits from the remains of the ancient creatures and plants that they dig out of the ground as oil or other fossil fuels. The cost of cleaning up the mess left behind is usually paid for by the public. This is an untenable situation and the fossil fuel companies know it. They should be required to provide compensation for the costs associated with the environmental effects of their activities which contribute to the ever more extreme climate which the planet is suffering.”

– Gayle Neilson, Sunshine Coast Conservation Association

Green Jobs BC: Working together toward a just transition

By Tim Pearson

January 5 2016

The health of our economy cannot be separated from the health of our environment.

The myth that we have to choose between the two is peddled by forces opposed to increased environmental protection and effective climate action—forces that stand to profit from destructive megaprojects and the endless extraction of finite resources.

And let’s face it—they have been quite successful at it: the myth endures.

So it’s worth asking ourselves, have we been unwittingly perpetuating it, instead of undermining it?

Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow: BC's Green Jobs Conference 2016. Photo courtesy of Green Jobs BC.

Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow: BC’s Green Jobs Conference 2016. Photo courtesy of Green Jobs BC.

When we, as environmental voices, focus too much on what we are against—be it the logging of old growth, or fracking, or an oil pipeline—and neglect to talk about what we are for, we play into the hands of our opponents. We are then pitted against resource-dependent communities, the unemployed, underemployed and marginalized, and those who fear for their economic security.

The media build this narrative by highlighting stories featuring conflict, as this is what attracts the audience they want.

Environmentalists—often disproportionately urban, middle class and white—have been successfully caricatured as a privileged cohort who can “afford” to oppose development, while less fortunate folks must suffer the consequences in the form of lost opportunities and jobs.

And yet the reality is that we are all in this climate change boat together. To steer a new course we need everyone’s skills and expertise, solutions that work for everyone, and everyone’s buy-in and support.

justtransition_sidebarTo achieve long-lasting solutions, we need to build a broad and sustainable political consensus on the need for action. All of society needs to work together for a future that supports sustainable jobs in a healthy environment, a future that leaves no-one behind.

That’s why Sierra Club BC’s participation on the Steering Committee of Green Jobs BC is so important.

Green Jobs BC is a coalition of environmental organizations and organized labour. The coalition shares a vision of an inclusive, sustainable economy that provides good jobs, is socially just, protects the environment and reduces carbon emissions.

Late in November, I attended the Green Jobs BC conference in New Westminster.

Some of the most interesting discussions I had there were around the concept of a “just transition” to a post-carbon economy. What is a just transition?

A just transition means that the burden of change will not be placed disproportionately on a few.

It means that those who are most vulnerable to change will be protected.

It means that the process of shifting to a post-carbon economy will increase social justice for workers, women, the poor, and all oppressed groups.

A just transition is essential to achieve and maintain the broad political consensus necessary to allow climate protection policies to work in the long run.

Many attendees from organized labour pointed out to me that all too often mere lip service is paid to the concept of just transition.

Irene Lanzinger, President of the B.C. Federation of Labour, asked me what I think would happen if a displaced worker who used to earn $40 an hour was told they will get retraining, but that training qualifies them for work that pays half as much. Well, pretty clearly, that worker isn’t going to buy into this plan. That worker will see the transition as anything but just for him or her and their family.

This is one of the reasons why we as a society have to take the concerns of workers seriously as we tackle climate change. And that is why environmentalists, labour and social justice advocates must work together, just as we are through Green Jobs BC.


Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow: BC’s Green Jobs Conference 2016. Photo courtesy of Green Jobs BC.

We need to find climate solutions in which workers in all parts of the province can see a secure future for themselves; a shared vision that will inspire all of us to put our shoulder to the wheel and make happen.

How do we do that? Those of us who identify more as ‘environmentalist’ than ‘worker’ can start by listening and learning, to ensure that what we are asking for is more inclusive. We can study labour history, and learn the ways that unions have improved the rights of all workers over the decades. We can organize in our communities in ways that build relationships with union locals, incorporate diverse views and voices into the changes we are calling for, and invite workers to our events and rallies. In turn, we can start showing up in support on picket lines or finding other ways to show our solidarity.

The exploitation of the environment is intimately tied to the exploitation of workers. The quest for profit above all other values has driven the erosion of worker rights just as surely as it has the erosion of environmental protections.

“Nothing about us without us” is organized labour’s refrain. When we as environmentalists include workers in our discussions, strategizing and actions (and vice versa), we will build dialogue, trust and ultimately a powerful alliance.

And out of that alliance we can build the broad political consensus necessary to allow climate protection policies to work in the long run.

Kinder Morgan panel report raises crucial questions for cabinet

By Caitlyn Vernon

November 3, 2016

Do you remember those hastily-arranged, poorly-organized meetings that the federal government set up in the dog days of August to get input on the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tankers proposal?

You know, the meetings in which an ad hoc ministerial panel was charged with the task of compensating for the enormous shortcomings of the National Energy Board’s process, conducted under the Harper government? The meetings at which 91.4 per cent of speakers opposed Kinder Morgan?

Well, the panel released its report this week, and it raises a series of crucial questions for the federal cabinet. Simply put, these questions make approval impossible.

The panel asked that Cabinet consider how building this pipeline can be reconciled with Canada’s climate change commitments. Spoiler alert: it can’t—you can’t build pipelines and be a climate leader. End of story.

#StopKM rally in Victoria

Rally at the summer meeting in Victoria. Photo by Kat Zimmer.

The panel also asked how cabinet could square approval with a federal commitment to reconciliation with First Nations. Again, you can’t, given the numerous First Nations who adamantly oppose this project.

The panel pointed out recent oil spills and the inadequacy of response and suggested that “the Government must decide whether the Trans Mountain Pipeline is a worthwhile risk.”

The panel asked how the federal cabinet can be confident of its decision given the flaws in the NEB process and public criticism of the ministerial panel’s own review. Good question.

The reality is that the report from the Ministerial Panel does not provide the basis for Cabinet approval of Kinder Morgan. We can only imagine how Prime Minister Trudeau, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, and Environment & Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna are scrambling to figure out how to spin this.

In fact, approving this project would be abandoning Canada’s commitment to real climate action, would impose a death sentence on the southern resident orca population and would invite ecological and economic disaster in the form of an inevitable tanker spill.

The Ministerial Panel report makes clear that there is no way to approve this pipeline without undermining commitments on climate and indigenous rights.

If cabinet takes the report’s questions seriously and bases its decision on the best available science, there is no way this pipeline will be built.

And yet rationality has been lacking lately. It’s distinctly possible that the federal government will announce approval in the next few weeks, just as it approved the Petronas fracked gas plant and the Site C megadam (which will power the fracking fields in the Peace), and just as it adopted the grossly inadequate emissions targets of the Harper government.

But stay tuned, because along with the 91.4% of people who voiced their opposition to the panel, we aren’t going anywhere. This is our home, and the fight is far from over.

Please donate today to help us keep up the fight.

Feature image by Gerry Gaydos.

Kinder Morgan report raises questions that make pipeline approval impossible


November 3, 2016

Victoria, B.C.—Sierra Club BC released the following statement from campaigns director Caitlyn Vernon.

“The report by the ministerial panel, released today by Natural Resources Canada, highlights the failures of the NEB process and raises a series of crucial questions for cabinet’s consideration.

“These questions make approval impossible.

“In answer to the panel’s question about climate change, the science is clear: building this pipeline would make it impossible to meet Canada’s climate commitments. You can’t build pipelines and be a climate leader.

“Regarding the panel’s question about how cabinet could square approval with a federal commitment to reconciliation with First Nations, the answer can be found in the numerous First Nations who firmly oppose this project.

“The panel also raises the question of how cabinet can be confident in an assessment based in a process full of flaws, both the NEB process and the ministerial panel meetings themselves.

“The panel asks—given recent spills and the inadequacy of spill response—whether this pipeline and tankers project is worth the risk.

“They also note the evidence presented to the NEB that the project would have significant impact on southern resident killer whales that are protected under the federal Species at Risk Act.

“This panel was no remedy for a flawed NEB process, and this report does not provide the basis for a federal cabinet approval.

“Approving this project would be abandoning our commitment to real climate action, imposing a death sentence on the southern resident orca population and inviting ecological and economic disaster in the form of an inevitable tanker spill.

“If cabinet takes these questions seriously and bases its decision on the best available science, there is no way this pipeline will be built.”



See attached backgrounder for a summary of flaws in the ministerial panel processes.



Tim Pearson

Director of Communications, Sierra Club BC




The problems that Sierra Club BC and other organizations have identified with the ministerial panel’s approach include the following:

Lack of clear mandate

  • Panel had no mandate to make recommendations based on their findings, and therefore no clarity for participants on how the government would use the information it compiled, how it would be compiled, or how it might impact Cabinet decision-making.

Inadequate outreach to key participants

  • Some local First Nations leaders and municipal officials only heard about the meetings through Facebook and other unofficial channels, while others were informed on short notice.
  • Meetings of “experts” were scheduled, but no outreach was made to experts who had concerns about the project. They were left to self-identify.

Panelist conflict of interest/perception of bias

  • Panel Chair Kim Baird had a past business relationship with the proponent, was a registered LNG lobbyist, and penned a pro-pipeline op-ed in a national newspaper while the panel process was underway.

Unreasonable, late stage interference in submissions process

  • Approximately 55,000 people submitted comments and letters, but 2 days before the comment deadline, the Panel sent letters to numerous individuals and citizens’ groups that said they would not consider repetitive letters initiated by third parties. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association found this “dismissal is an unreasonable interference in expression of freedom of individuals and their participation in a public consultation process.” After the BCCLA letter, the NEB reversed its decision, but the experience left participants with a continued sense of government bias against citizens opposed to the proposal.

Poor Meeting Organization

  • Meetings were announced on short notice in the middle of summer. The online process to register was cumbersome and a deterrent to participation.
  • Locations in many communities were difficult to access and no provisions were made to make access easier. Due to time and room capacity limitations, hundreds of attendees were not able to participate.
  • No translation was available for French-speaking participants until the last 2 days of meetings.
  • No official records (no stenographer or audio-video recordings) were taken and the Panel’s mandate was broad and poorly defined, amplifying concerns of process bias.


Federal Approval of Petronas: A betrayal of salmon and climate

October 3, 2016

For months, we have been asking whether Prime Minister Trudeau would side with B.C.’s wild salmon and a liveable climate, or with foreign multinationals who just see B.C. as a place to exploit for profit.

Sadly, his choice became clear last week, with the federal government’s announcement that it has approved the Petronas fracked gas plant at Lelu Island.

This is terrible news for salmon populations on the Skeena River. The plant is slated to be built right next to the river’s estuary, a nursery for hundreds of millions of juvenile salmon. Canada’s second largest salmon run may have just had its death warrant signed by the federal government.

The approval of Petronas is also very bad news for the climate. The Petronas fracked gas plant is a carbon bomb that will make it impossible for B.C. to meet its already weak climate targets. This plant alone would be responsible for an astonishing 11.5 to 14.0 megatonnes of climate pollution per year, equivalent to five times the official reported emissions for all of B.C. As the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has noted, the climate impacts of the plant would be “high in magnitude, continuous, irreversible and global in extent.”

Simply put, expanding the extraction of fracked gas is incompatible with limiting global warming to 1.5 to 2⁰C.

Canadians who voted for action on climate change want real commitments and real action, not just empty promises of sunny ways. Placing conditions on the approval won’t add up to concrete action against climate change. Instead, the conditions are a rubber stamp on new fossil fuel infrastructure that feigns a rigorous approval process.

It has been almost one year since Canadians elected a government with a mandate to take real action on climate change, but it is increasingly difficult to distinguish the Trudeau government’s climate change action from those of the Harper government. The federal government has now adopted the woefully inadequate Harper-era emissions targets—a slap in the face to all Canadians who wanted to see bold action.

We need to safeguard our environment while pushing our economy into transition toward a post-carbon future of green jobs. Now is the time for transition to renewables, not the time for building more climate-polluting projects.

This decision is not the end of the story. Petronas says it will review the project to see if it’s financially viable before deciding whether or not to proceed. And First Nations are considering legal challenges.

Sierra Club BC will continue to highlight the dangers posed by Petronas, its incompatibility with decreasing global demand for fossil fuels, and the benefits of the alternatives. We’ll also continue to push for both the federal and provincial governments to include a rigorous climate test in all future environmental assessments, so this kind of climate-killing approval can never happen in the future. In the process, we will help build the case for Petronas to walk away.

Please donate today to help us continue our work on climate solutions.

Statement: Today’s Petronas approval a betrayal of salmon and climate


September 27, 2016

Sierra Club BC released the following statement from campaigns director Caitlyn Vernon in response to the announcement by the federal government that it has approved the Petronas fracked gas plant:

“Today is a terrible day for anyone who cares about salmon and the future of our climate.

“The math is simple: we can’t keep expanding fossil fuel extraction and expect to pass on a livable world to our children and generations yet unborn.

“Canada’s second largest salmon run, on the Skeena River, may have had its death warrant signed today, through a reckless disregard for the dangers the Petronas fracked gas plant poses to hundreds of millions of juvenile salmon in the Skeena estuary.

“The Trudeau government’s lofty rhetoric on climate has been proven nothing more than sunny ways talking points.

“Actions speak louder than words. This government’s actions have betrayed its own promises and all the Canadians who voted for action on climate change.

“The Petronas fracked gas plant will make it impossible for B.C. to meet its weak climate targets.

“190 conditions don’t change the math: it’s not possible to be a climate leader and build new fossil fuel infrastructure like the Petronas fracked gas plant.

“As the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has noted, the climate impacts would be ‘high in magnitude, continuous, irreversible and global in extent.’

“The harsh reality is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish the Trudeau government’s actions on climate from those of the Harper government.

“Harper-era emissions targets—pathetically inadequate as they were—have now been formally adopted by the Trudeau government. Now Petronas has been given the green light, with every indication that Kinder Morgan may be approved next.

“Canadians were looking to Trudeau to take bold action to safeguard our environment and push our economy into transition toward a post-carbon, green-jobs future. Now is the time for transition to renewables, not the time for building new, climate polluting projects.

“Today’s announcement is a betrayal of the promise of change upon which this government was elected. And it is a shameful betrayal of our future and of future generations.”



Tim Pearson
Director of Communications

Kinder Morgan faces wall of opposition in BC

When the Canadian government decided to throw together last-minute public meetings on the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline during the height of summer, they seemed to hope the meetings would float serenely under the radar.

Packed Victoria town hall on August 23. Photo by Kat Zimmer.

Packed Victoria town hall on August 23. Photo by Kat Zimmer.

The meetings were poorly promoted and the timelines were inadequate to allow people to properly prepare presentations. The locations weren’t clear and the meeting structure and online process to register were unwieldly and off-putting. Several meeting dates changed and more dates were added due to an outcry about some communities being excluded. The meetings had an ad hoc feel and it wasn’t clear to anyone how the government would use the information it compiled, or even how it would be compiled. Local First Nations told us they heard about the meetings only because organizations such as Sierra Club B.C. alerted them.

Despite all this, it was genuinely inspiring and heartening to see a passionate determination on the part of ordinary citizens to have their voices heard and to stand up for this coast. About 400 people showed up to the Victoria public meeting, many driving several hours to be there. Yet more than 100 people were shut out of the room, denied their chance to be heard.

In all the meetings, 418 people were opposed, with only 39 speaking in favour – a decisive 91.4 per cent against Kinder Morgan’s proposal. In addition, 17 First Nations were opposed, as were 21 local governments.

Over 100 people were shut out of the Victoria town hall. Photo by Kat Zimmer.

100+ people shut out of the Victoria town hall. Photo by Kat Zimmer.


The federal government had billed these meetings as an effort to compensate for the multiple shortcomings of the original National Energy Board hearings. The NEB recommended approval of the pipeline and tankers proposal despite widespread opposition.

Sources close to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau say he is determined to approve a pipeline – and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain is the likeliest candidate. We can’t let the federal government use this latest panel to provide an air of legitimacy to the NEB’s deeply flawed process.

Prime Minister Trudeau has said that “governments grant permits, communities grant permission”. With each of the meetings along the pipeline and tanker route, it became more and more clear that permission has not been granted. British Columbians prefer a commitment to real Sunny Ways, without the fossil fuel haze and economic malaise of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

The public meetings provide the Prime Minister with an excellent opportunity to make a change in policy direction. His government now has community backing to drop its support for Kinder Morgan and bring Canada’s economic policy into alignment with his commitments on climate. Their mandate to move boldly and decisively on climate and the economy has been confirmed. The climate math is strikingly simple: It is not possible to be a climate leader and build tar sands pipelines.

Saying no to Kinder Morgan would be to say yes to our Paris climate commitments, to protection of BC’s environment and economy from the threat of catastrophic pipeline and tanker spills and to repositioning BC and Canada as job-growth leaders in the emerging renewable energy economy.

VIDEO: Victoria environmental roundtable on August 23, courtesy of Ed Johnson at the Saanich Report

At 4:40, our climate & energy campaigner Larissa Stendie takes on the impossibility of spill response and the panel’s bias.

At 19:00, our campaigns director Caitlyn Vernon talks about the climate change implications of the pipeline.


Featured image (Top): Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps spoke at a large, peaceful action outside the Victoria townhall organized by Sierra Club BC, Wilderness Committee, and Greenpeace. Photo by Kat Zimmer.