Canada must honour commitments
Open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Environment Minister John Baird,
This January, I travelled to Central America, visiting parts of Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
I had the opportunity to travel to the islands of Bocas del Toro, Panama.
The rising sea levels around the picturesque archipelago of jungle islands proves that climate change is a clear and present danger.
The evidence was obvious to even the untrained eye and casual observer.
• Palm trees surrounded by ocean water along the mangrove islets water taxi access-route from Changuinola to Bocas del Toro.
• Abandoned foundations along main street along the water’s edge are being flooded with waves from the Caribbean Sea;
• Restaurant and hotel wharfs are being rebuilt two feet higher on the island of Bastimentos.
The Canadian government must immediately reject the plan for a fivefold expansion of oilsands production emerging out of the Security and Prosperity Partnership meeting between Canadian and US oil executives and government officials.
As per CBC News, “US and Canadian oil executives and government officials met for a two-day oil summit in Houston in January 2006 and made plans for a “fivefold expansion” in oilsands production in a relatively “short time span,” according to minutes of the meeting obtained by the CBC’s French-language network, Radio-Canada.”
“Canada is already the top exporter of oil to the American market, exporting the equivalent of one million barrels a day — the exact amount that the oilsands industry in Alberta currently produces.
A fivefold increase would mean the exportation of five million barrels a day, which would supply a quarter of current American consumption and add up to almost half of all US imports.”
“…the current extraction of oil from the tarsands results in the spewing of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere…” and, as noted in the minutes of the January meeting, the proposed expansion would require Canada to “streamline” its environmental regulations.
Already current oilsands development destroys vast tracts of land, clears forests, and consumes 26 per cent of Alberta’s groundwater.
The extraction process takes at least six barrels of water to produce just one barrel of oil.
The resulting toxic wastewater cannot be put back into circulation and sits in 50-square-kilometre pools visible from space.
It can be argued that Canada’s energy subservience to the United States has already prevented it from adhering to its Kyoto accord obligations.
Moreover, on Friday, the world’s scientists gave their starkest warning yet that a failure to cut greenhouse gas emissions will bring devastating climate change within a few decades.
The report, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is written by hundreds of scientists across the world and has been approved by every government.
It leaves little room for doubt that human activity is to blame.
Furthermore, is it not sad and ironic that as President George W. Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper go in/extend missions into Afghanistan, Iraq and now Iran for oil and gas, those very same vices are increasing the exponentially rate of growth of climate change to the tipping point of our civilization?
Canada already exports 70 per cent of the oil it produces each year to the United States while importing oil from other countries to meet our own energy needs.
“Stephen Harper claims Canada is an energy superpower”, says Jean-Yves Lefort, trade campaigner. “What kind of ‘energy superpower’ needs to import nearly half of its oil and gas from abroad?”
A growing number of Canadians, like myself, have begun to not only actively campaign for real cuts to industrial greenhouse gas emissions but also actively campaign against a move towards the creation of a continental energy and natural resources pact that would grant US investors even greater access to Canadian energy supplies.
The public appetite for serious action is growing on both fronts.
The scientific case for action is beyond doubt.
Unless the world’s political leaders deliver more than just warm words this year, they are likely to go down in history as the people who failed to heed mankind’s final warning.
Harper and Environment Minister John Baird must both:
• Reject the fivefold expansion of oilsands production immediately.
• Accept Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol & make real industrial greenhouse gas emissions cuts.
What are your plans to address these critical issues, and can I be assured that you will take action on it?
Public misunderstands batch plant and quarry
During last week’s public hearing on the establishment of our concrete batch plant and a gravel quarry near McLean Lake, we were dismayed by the inaccurate and misleading statements put forward from the floor.
I’d like to clarify things.
The following represents a brief summary of the various concerns aired.
1) Other non-contentious locations have not been researched, including another site three kilometres away:
It was suggested that Territorial Contracting has not explored other “less contentious” locations.
Several other locations have been considered, some applied for, and all were declined or deferred due to controversy.
As Yukoners we are aware it is rare for any project or location to be considered “non-contentious.”
However, our McLean Lake project has come under fire, not because of scientific evidence and environmental facts, but because of an organized opposition that has disseminated misleading and contradictory information.
The location is ideal.
It is well suited to the industrial activity proposed, will not create any adverse environmental or health impacts and is economically feasible.
These conclusions were all affirmed through numerous regulatory reviews that Territorial Contracting has already done, and the extensive environmental scrutiny applied to the project.
Territorial Contracting’s McLean Lake site has been approved at each stage.
Changing the project’s location at this late point in time on the basis of conjecture is unreasonable, costly, time consuming and will further delay development excessively.
Territorial Contracting needs to move forward quickly from both an economic and environmental standpoint.
Territorial Contracting has limited time and aggregate resources in its present location. It will take several years to develop a sustainable operation at the proposed site in an environmentally safe manner.
However, Territorial Contracting cannot afford to lose further time and money on this proposition, which jeopardizes the stability of the Yukon’s primary concrete supplier.
2) Scope of the Gartner Lee review is not satisfactory to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation:
While some are disappointed with the scope of the Gartner Lee review, it is our understanding the report’s terms of reference were brought forward at a public council meeting in June 2006 and thoroughly discussed.
The final stages of a zoning-amendment process is not an appropriate time to question the scope of a review undertaken by council to ensure the integrity of the planning process.
3) Lack of consultation with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation:
Some assert the First Nation was not consulted during the LARC process. The minutes from the LARC meeting (application number 2002-0117) prove otherwise.
Indeed, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation was included in the initial meetings and all efforts were made to contact the Kwanlin Dun First Nation in following proceedings, but no response was forthcoming.
4) Proposed buffers are insufficient:
Although this point was raised, no recommendations on buffer distances were offered.
The proposed buffers and setbacks comply with environmental standards and conform with the Official Community Plan.
5) Zoning approval for Territorial Contracting will lead to Skookum Asphalt relocating:
We are not aware of any truth to the insinuation that Skookum Asphalt will apply to move its asphalt plant to the area of McLean Lake when its current lease expires.
Territorial Contracting is a concrete operation and has no connections to Skookum Asphalt, or asphalt production in any manner.
The decisions of the mayor and council must be based on the application currently before them and not on rumour and conjecture about the future plans of other businesses.
This rezoning consideration should focus solely on the TCL proposal and not be affected by what may or may not occur with other gravel operations in the immediate area.
The Official Community Plan states: “The operation of aggregate quarries in Industrial – Service areas with known deposits, particularly those along McLean Lake Road may continue, but are expected to be redeveloped over time to other service industrial uses” (Section 8.6, Policy 3).
The construction and operation of a concrete batch plant is consistent with this stated goal as the ongoing use of the area for concrete batching will be consistent with the move to Service Industrial for the area upon exhaustion of the aggregate resource.
6) McLean Lake soils are highly porous and will increase the likelihood of contamination of the watershed:
This statement on the permeability of the soils is unconfirmed and thus, at this point, conjecture.
Contamination is always of utmost concern. However, as described in our proposal:
The plant will be constructed with appropriate berms.
The batching process will be operating on a concrete pad in the plant-facilities area that will flow to a series of concrete tanks so this water can be used in the batching process.
And best-management practices will ensure that all possible measures are taken to prevent spills and to respond rapidly to such events, if they do occur.
7) The OCP is not being followed, specifically sections 8.2 and 11.2:
Policy 8 section 8.2 stipulates that, “Further environmental studies, and management plans shall be conducted, in consultation with the local neighbourhood, prior to any gravel or mineral extraction on or around Sleeping Giant Hill.”
Policy 4 of section 11.2 provides that, “A detailed hydrological and hydrogeological assessment of the McLean Lake watershed shall be undertaken prior to any further gravel extraction.”
It is our position that the requirements of the first policy have been met through the extensive regulatory processes involved in bringing this project to its current stage.
We have also complied with the second policy through the hydrogeological assessment undertaken as a part of the report prepared by Access Consulting Group and entitled Project Description and Environmental Assessment, Mclean Lake Gravel Quarry and Batch Plant Whitehorse, Yukon, 2003.
8) McLean Creek flows directly into Schwatka Lake and will cause contamination:
McLean Creek travels underground for the majority of its length as it descends first to Hobo Lake, then Ear Lake and finally to Schwatka Lake.
9) The proposed batch plant is on the shores of McLean Lake:
This is clearly untrue. The minimum 50 metres buffer separating surface water (lake) and industrial development, which is prescribed pursuant to the OCP, is adhered to and, in fact, will be exceeded in every case.
10) The proposed project will attract more operators (and industrial development) to the area:
The area is already zoned for Industrial Quarry uses with a plan to move towards Industrial Services uses upon exhaustion of the aggregate resources, indicating that council intends industrial development to take place over the long term in this region.
11) The project will have an adverse impact on air quality and produce toxins (carcinogenic cement dust):
The comment was made that prevailing winds would push air contaminants into the neighbourhoods of Copper Ridge, Granger, Hillcrest, Valleyview, and Lowbird.
It is a fact that modern concrete batch plants have little impact on air quality.
Emissions to air originate primarily from building heating and vehicle exhaust.
Some dust will be produced during the quarrying process, but this increase in dust will be negligible when compared with the dust that is currently being produced from the nine active quarries in the area.
Much concern was also raised over the toxic effects of cement dust.
We reiterate strongly that virtually no cement dust will be released into the atmosphere, as this is the most expensive component of concrete production.
Allowing fugitive releases of cement dust would have a negative effect on the operating costs of the batch plant.
Cement is contained within silos equipped with baghouses to capture fugitive dust. Territorial Contracting will use the best-management practices in the construction and operation of the proposed batch plant to prevent the release of any cement dust.
There were also several statements made equating concrete batch plants with asphalt plants, and this has caused considerable confusion.
The project is not, and will not become, an asphalt plant. Concrete production and asphalt production are completely different industrial processes.
12) Lack of consultation with Copper Ridge residents:
It is our position that consultation with Copper Ridge, Granger, Hillcrest, Valleyview, and Lowbird residents was not required, as they will not be affected by this project in any manner.
13) The rainbow trout population in McLean Lake will be irreparably damaged:
The expected water use of the project is very low and there will be no direct withdrawal from, or discharge into surface water.
The McLean Lake watershed is not expected to experience any adverse impact from the proposed operation, as determined by the environmental assessment undertaken by the Land Application Review Committee, initiated in 2002.
14) The proposed location is surrounded by existing residential properties:
The proposed location is in an area which already contains 11 existing quarry leases. The only residential neighbourhood within one kilometre of the site is the 17 lot McLean Lake/Squatters Row neighbourhood.
15. There will be negative impacts on tourism:
The proposed project is a small operation in an area of 11 existing gravel leases. It is already zoned as an Industrial Service Zone.
The establishment of this plant will have negligible impact on the Yukon’s tourism industry.
16) There is too much public concern for the project to proceed:
This perception is without foundation.
Much of the concern that was evidenced during the proceedings last evening has only been raised at the final moments of this application process and is based on misinformation about the project and the natural processes of the McLean Lake area.
We are aware of a number of supporters of this project who have submitted letters to the city.
It is our understanding that these supporters were unwilling to attend a public hearing, which might be dominated by loud and forceful opponents of the project.
17) False Creek in Vancouver was ecologically destroyed by a concrete batch plant, which was shut down for this reason:
False Creek has been the location of extensive industrial activities for more than 100 years.
While it is well known that False Creek is in poor ecological health, one concrete batch plant, regardless of past practices, cannot be blamed for a century of poor industrial practices.
Two batch plants have been located on False Creek, one plant near Main Street and the other on Granville Island.
The plant located near Main Street, owned by Lafarge Canada Inc., was closed and relocated after a substantial offer from a developer in the early 1990s.
The second, owned and operated by Ocean Construction Supplies Ltd. is still in operation and has maintained its operating licence by adhering to the strict environmental requirements of the federal, provincial and municipal governments.
Granville Island was primarily an industrial location until the mid- 1970s, when a move was made to change the complexion of the island to include a public market, art college, live theatre, microbrewery, arts and crafts shops, restaurants and other businesses that cater to tourists and local shoppers.
This has resulted in Granville Island becoming the second-largest tourist attraction in Vancouver.
Despite the growing attention to tourism, negotiations for a new lease for the concrete plant began in 1997 with the government.
In 2003, Ocean Construction Supplies Ltd. was granted a new 50-year lease, clearly indicating that batch plants and other land uses can co-exist.
18) Concentrating quarries and other industrial uses in one area is not good long-term planning:
Directing quarries and other industrial activities to concentrate in single areas rather than promoting or permitting scattered haphazard industrial development is indeed established as good long-term planning practice. Quarries obviously must be located in areas containing aggregate resources.
19) Not enough people have been made aware of this project:
Extensive public notification has been carried out in compliance with regulations and throughout the LARC environmental assessment and Whitehorse rezoning processes. Stakeholders were also contacted directly.
We trust that the facts and information presented in this letter will clarify many of the arguments raised during the recent public hearing.
We are confident that we have prepared a responsible development plan that is consistent with Whitehorse’s Official Community Plan and national environmental standards.
We would be pleased to provide you with additional information, if required, and to answer any questions that you may have on the TCL proposal.
Time is of the essence for this project. We therefore are respectfully requesting a prompt decision on the TCL rezoning application.
Ron Newsome, Territorial Contracting, Whitehorse