Environment minister turns down Cenovus [split from Encana] Energy project over wildlife risk, EnCana Makes First Court Appearance after Being Charged with Violating Canada Wildlife Act

[When will humans, livestock and communities be part of “wildlife” whose “habitat” is threatened by Cenovus/Encana’s “significant adverse environmental effects” and “disruptions”?]

Bureaucrats told Peter Kent reforms could undermine environmental protection by Mike de Souza, Postmedia News, December 1, 2012, Calgary Herald
Oil and gas companies were pushing for a weakening of conservation laws that could undermine the federal government’s ability to protect the environment, bureaucrats warned Environment Minister Peter Kent more than a year ago. Their briefing material, obtained through access to information legislation, was prepared a few months before the government overhauled Canada’s environmental laws to reduce federal oversight and duplication in federal and provincial environmental assessments. Those changes were then welcomed by industry in recent months as an improvement of the review process, eliminating nearly 3,000 environmental reviews on existing projects. But one year earlier, Environment Canada officials told Kent that his government had already adopted legislation, prior to this, that had “effectively” addressed duplication in federal and provincial environmental assessments. They said that this eliminated the need to further narrow the federal government’s authority to evaluate projects such as development in Alberta’s oilsands. The bureaucrats told Kent that the oil and gas industry wanted his office, at that time, to use newly-adopted legislation from 2010 to place limits on the range and powers of an environmental assessment, also known as “narrow scoping.” The new legislation was adopted in response to a 2010 Supreme Court decision on a mining project that rejected “narrow scoping.” Although the bureaucrats noted that former environment minister Jim Prentice said the new legislation was not intended to weaken assessments. “It is in the interest of all parties that the federal and provincial governments fully meet their respective mandates for the protection of the environment in relation to oil sands development,” said the briefing material, obtained by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin. “Narrow scoping for the types of projects proposed by (oil and gas industry) members would undermine the government of Canada’s ability to fulfil its responsibilities.”

The briefing material was prepared prior to a July 7, 2011 meeting between lobbyists of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers with Kent, his deputy minister, parliamentary secretary as well as Conservative political staffers, including Andrea McGuigan from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office. A spokesman for the industry association, Travis Davies, said its objective was to have the best placed regulator reviewing projects to avoid costly and lengthy red tape that would focus resources on the higher risk projects. … But in the briefing material, Environment Canada listed several reasons for the government to reject the industry lobbying efforts, including a warning that it would “weaken public trust and credibility in the environmental assessment process” and subsequent decisions, “especially when applied to major projects such as oil sands developments or large mines.” But one year later, the federal government adopted new laws in July 2012 that automatically cancelled nearly 3,000 environmental reviews — including 678 involving fossil fuel energy and 248 involving a pipeline — by weakening its range of powers and removing regulatory triggers for environmental assessments. The briefing material from 2011 also said that narrowing the scope of environmental assessments would make it “more difficult” to fulfil the government’s legal duty to consult Aboriginal groups on conduct that could harm their rights and way of life.

Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner Keith Stewart said the changes are strengthening public opposition to rules that he suggested were “rigged” to favour “Big Oil.”  “They may get a regulatory stamp of approval, but there is no social license for projects like Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline or Shell’s proposed new tar sands mines,” he said referring to separate proposals to build a new pipeline from Alberta to the west coast of British Columbia and to expand an existing oilsands mine. Kent’s office was not immediately able to answer questions about the document. Instead, it provided a statement, saying the new legislation would allow a set of regulations or allow the minister to determine what aspects of a project would be subject to an assessment, and also provide tools to reduce duplication between federal and provincial assessments. Kent announced on Friday that the government was denying approval of a major gas drilling project in Alberta following a lengthy and detailed scientific review. He said this demonstrated that the Harper government doesn’t give a green light to every proposal requested by industry stakeholders. [Emphasis added]

Ewart: Kent sends mild message with his Suffield ruling by Stephen Ewart, December 1, 2012, Calgary Herald
Nothing says the federal government isn’t “an automatic green light for all development projects” like its rejection of a non-material natural gas project for an oilsands producer not really interested in the natural gas business. Way to send a message, Peter Kent. “It’s a clear indication that they won’t approve projects that the industry doesn’t really want,” said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada. “It’s a PR tactic.” Be that as it may, the Ord’s kangaroo rat, Sprague’s pipit and other animals and plants deemed at risk by industrial activity in the National Wilderness Area within CFB Suffield in southern Alberta will appreciate Friday’s ruling from Canada’s environment minister. It’s been a long time coming. In 2005, Encana first proposed drilling 1,275 shallow gas wells there, but by the time Ottawa ruled on the plan to produce 125 billion cubic feet of gas under the prairie grasslands the rights to the resource had shifted in a corporate split to Cenovus Energy. Cenovus said it’s “disappointed” in Kent’s ruling. So is Alberta Premier Alison Redford.

The company contends it’s operated responsibly in the area northeast of Medicine Hat for almost four decades. The premier echoed that sentiment, adding “it’s important that we allow development that is environmentally sustainable.” Don’t worry, they’ll get over it. Oilsands production – the business Cenovus is actually in – increased by 44 per cent from a year earlier in the third quarter while the Calgary-based company continued to manage the long-planned decline of its gas production. As for the Alberta government, these days it collects more revenue from gambling or liquor or tobacco than natural gas royalties. … “Developing this resource is not a priority,” said Cenovus spokeswoman Rhona DelFrari. “It’s no longer our focus … the times have changed.” They certainly have. The company doesn’t intend to pursue any compensation from the federal government. The CFB Suffield NWA was created in 2003 in recognition of the area’s ecological integrity and the diversity of native plants and animals. It’s one of the few large blocks of dry mixed-grass prairie remaining in Canada and accounts for about 30 per cent of the protected grasslands in Alberta. The development of the Suffield Block dates to 1975 when Alberta’s government created Alberta Energy Company largely with shallow gas and oil assets beneath the largest military base in Canada. [Emphasis addesd]

Ottawa says no to Cenovus [Encana] Energy gas project in CFB Suffield wildlife area by The Canadian Press, November 30, 2012, Calgary Herald
Environment Minister Peter Kent says he won’t approve an Alberta gas project planned by Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE). The proposal involves a shallow gas infill development project in the CFB Suffield national wildlife area. … Kent says the project would put wildlife at risk and he had to turn it down.

Environment minister turns down Cenovus [Encana] Energy project over wildlife risk by The Canadian Press, November 30, 2012, CTVNews
The federal government has vetoed an Alberta gas project proposed by Cenovus Energy (TSX:CVE) because it would have threatened the habitat of 19 species at risk. Cenovus Energy initially proposed to drill up to 1,275 shallow gas wells in the CFB Suffield national wildlife area, doubling the number of wells that were in place before the area was declared a protected zone. It’s the first decision Environment Minister Peter Kent has announced since the government passed new, streamlined, environmental assessment rules amid much controversy last spring. “It’s clear the adverse environmental effects that would be caused by the proposed project are significant,” Kent told reporters outside the House of Commons. “As a result, I’ve decided that the project will not be granted federal approval to proceed. The environmental impacts are simply too great.”

Cenovus has the right to try again for approval with a revised proposal, but Kent held out little hope for a change of heart. “There would be significant disruption, I would think, even under a new proposal.” “Our government, the Harper government, takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously. Protecting the environment matters to our government. And this decision, I believe, demonstrates exactly that.”

The opposition NDP was not impressed. Critic Megan Leslie said it has been obvious for years that the Cenovus proposal was a no-go, and the minister left his formal recognition of that fact until the eve of United Nations climate negotiations where Canada’s reputation is taking a beating. “It’s amazing that the minister has set the bar so low that just doing his job is newsworthy,” Leslie said in an email. She said the decision comes on the heels of another non-announcement designed to hype Canada’s environmental credentials. Earlier this week, Kent announced new draft regulations to cut emissions from cars and light trucks during the latter half of this decade. “That’s two pretty cynical announcements in one week, the week before the minister leaves for international climate negotiations,” Leslie said. “The first was announcing an American announcement to great fanfare — an announcement that the U.S. made this summer — and now an announcement that, three years later, the government won’t rubber-stamp industry’s application. And we’re supposed to be impressed?” [Emphasis added]

Kent rejects Cenovus Energy gas project in Alberta, Opposition questions timing of announcement after six years of review by The Canadian Press, November 30, 2012, CBC News

Canada rejects Cenovus gas project in Alberta by David Ljunggren, Randall Palmer, Gerald E. McCormick, Reuters, November 30, 2012, Yahoo.ca
Cenovus wanted to drill up to 1,275 new shallow gas wells at Canadian Forces Base Suffield National Wildlife Area over a three-year period, but federal Environment Minister Peter Kent told reporters: “The environmental impacts are simply too great.” A government statement said the Cenovus project would essentially have doubled the existing 1,154 gas wells…

Suffield National Wildlife Area Saved from Expanded Drilling! by Chris Sutton, November 30, 2012, Nature Canada
Great news! Environment Minister Peter Kent announced today that it would deny a proposal from energy giant Cenovus to add 1,275 shallow gas wells and 220 km of pipeline inside Suffield National Wildlife Area! Suffield NWA is a special space of rare prairie grassland, sand hills and ancient glacial valleys. It’s home to at least 19 federally listed species at risk, including the burrowing owl, the loggerhead shrike, and Ord’s kangaroo rat. Nature Canada supporters raised their voices in alarm over this potentially precedent-setting development as far back as 2008, when thousands of you demanded public hearings into Cenovus’ (then called Encana) plans. No permit of this nature has ever been granted inside a national wildlife area in Canada, and you reminded the government that’s the way it should stay. Thanks in part to your letters early in our campaign, we did manage to convince the government to conduct a full and public review of the proposed drilling project. The independent panel that conducted that review found that the project would likely result in significant interference with the conservation of wildlife. Now, nearly three years after the panel recommended rejecting Cenovus’ permit, the federal government has made the right decision and said “no” to Cenovus’ proposal. When our elected officials make the right call, it’s important that they hear from Canadians. So, please, add your voice. Send your letter of congratulations to Ministers Peter Kent and Peter MacKay today.

Environment minister says no to Cenovus Energy gas project in Alberta by Heather Scoffield, The Canadian Press, November 30, 2012, CanadianBusiness.com

[Refer also to: Cenovus boss a new type of CEO Since being spun out of Encana, Cenovus has seen its shares rise to the point where the company’s market value is through $27 billion compared with Encana’s $14.5 billion

Canadian Forces Base Suffield Juggling Oil Industry, Environment And Military Mission

Who’s in Charge? The Secret Standoff in CFB Suffield

Put in a Word for Canada’s Suffield National Wildlife Area!

EnCana donation questioned as company awaits energy decision

EnCana $1 Million donation to University of Calgary questioned as company awaits energy decision

Drilling dispute in wildlife area may stretch into 2008

Military guards environment from EnCana

Oil firms ‘negligent’ at Suffield, Wildlife areas damaged by industry: report

EnCana exposed, Damning evidence of environmental damage

Suffield Files Reveal Disturbing Story of Environmental Degradation, Non-compliance by Energy Companies and Industry Giant EnCana

Alberta Landspraying While Drilling (LWD) Review

Inflaming a Conflict, Alberta Landowners Claim Coal-bed Methane Drilling Contaminates their Water. Or Are They Just Reviving Old Rivalries Between Farmers and Industry?

B.C. gas-well health study by Intrinsik Environmental Sciences Inc. called into question

Click map to  enlarge, zoom in on PDF for legal land descriptions (black are deeper energy wells)
Source: AccuMap and Abacus Datagraphics Ltd and Encana data, only to April 2006. Many more Encana gas wells continue to be drilled and frac’d in the community above the Base of Groundwater Protection. Two Encana gas wells were drilled and frac’d near and a third deviated under the Ernst property in 2011 (photo below); three deviated shallow Encana gas wells drilled near the contaminated Rosebud Hamlet and Ernst water supplies in November 2012, all to be frac’d above the Base of Ground Water Protection (Photos below)

Encana 02-13-27-22 W4M deviated drilling under Ernst property October 2011, her dangerously contaminated water well is in this barn

November 17, 2012, Encana deviated drilling the 14-12-27-22 W4M gas well to be frac’d above the Base of Ground Water Protection, Photo taken in the Hamlet of Rosebud

EnCana waste dumping from deviated drilling at 14-12-27-22 W4M near Hamlet of Rosebud November 18, 2012

EnCana heavy waste dumping November 2012, facing west towards the Encana 05-14 gas well that was repeatedly fractured directly into Rosebud drinking water aquifers in 2004 without community consultation first

CAPP’s 2006 Best Management Practices for NGC/CBM:  “Drilling fluids are transported, stored and handled in tanks. Typically, drilling fluid waste will be transported off-site for re-use and treatment/disposal…. Drilling mud includes a number of additives to maintain the fluid at desired viscosities and weights. Some additives may be caustic, toxic, or acidic.”

EnCana Bluegrass Blues / BBC World News America Preview by BBCWorldNewsAmerica, April 23, 2008
David Willis took you to West Colorado where small towns there are experiencing a natural gas boom. During filming, a group of local residence played a bluegrass song that Encana took them to court to stop singing and it was thrown out of court.

EnCana Makes First Court Appearance after Being Charged with Violating Canada Wildlife Act Press Release by Federation of Alberta Naturalists and Nature Canada, December 5, 2007
EnCana will make their first court appearance at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, December 6 in Medicine Hat Provincial Court in response to the charge of violating the Canada Wildlife Act in the Suffield National Wildlife Area (NWA). It is expected that EnCana will request full disclosure of evidence against them and that another court date will be set for their next appearance.

“The results of this case may impact EnCana’s application to drill an additional 1,275 shallow gas wells in this same national protected area,” says Cliff Wallis, vice-president of Alberta Wilderness Association. “We believe that EnCana’s drilling application should not even have been considered, given the environmental significance of the NWA.” The coalition opposing this application, which may go to a hearing in early 2008 before a federal/provincial Joint Panel, comprises the Federation of Alberta Naturalists, Southern Alberta Group for the Environment, Nature Canada, Alberta Wilderness Association, World Wildlife Fund Canada, and Grasslands Naturalists.

In October 2007, EnCana was charged under the Canada Wildlife Act after installing a section of gas pipeline in the NWA without a permit in March 2005. The NWA is a 458-km2 protected area within CFB Suffield (2,690 km2). It provides secure habitat for more than 1,100 native species, including 16 federal Species at Risk and 78 provincially listed “at risk” species. “The NWA contains a unique ecosystem of international importance including a large contiguous block of native prairie, sensitive sand dune habitat, and an unusually high density of species at risk,” says Sandra Foss, president of the Federation of Alberta Naturalists. “We find it astounding that this project would even be considered, given the ecological diversity and sensitivity of the area.” “The coalition will be following this trial closely,” says Nature Canada President Julie Gelfand. “We are concerned about the effective protection of the Suffield NWA and its wild species, and we are also very interested in the overall enforcement of the Canada Wildlife Act.” [Emphasis added]

[This post is dedicated to Lisa Bracken’s Dad]

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