Category Archives: Pacific Northwest

Canadian Senate passes large tanker traffic ban off British Columbia coast

Breaking: Canadian Senate passes impact assessment act, B.C. tanker ban, arctic drilling moratorium

By Shawn McCarthy and Jesse Snyder, The Energy Mix, June 21, 2019
[Full story: Globe and Mail and National Post]
Max Goessler/Pixabay

The Canadian Senate adopted Bills C-69 and C-48 last night, along with a lower-profile measure enshrining a moratorium on Arctic oil drilling, clearing the way for the country’s new Impact Assessment Act and a federal ban on large tanker traffic off British Columbia’s environmentally sensitive north coast to become law.

“The assault from the oil and gas industry on this legislation was unprecedented,” wrote one observer, but Canada finally has “a new environmental assessment process, and the national energy board has been transformed to a new and improved institution.”

“Better rules will provide certainty to business and show investors that Canada is the best place in the world to invest,” said Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna in a statement last night, reiterating that many of the contentious amendments to both bills had been handcrafted by the fossil lobby before being adopted by compliant but unelected senators.

In the end, “Bill C-48 was passed with only modest amendments, despite efforts by some senators to create a so-called ‘corridor’ that would allow oil tankers to dock in some designated areas,” the National Post reports.

Sen. David Tkachuk (C, SK), the transport committee chair whose conduct of hearings into Bill C-69 became a matter of public discussion among some senators earlier this month, was critical of the vote, the Globe and Mail writes. But Sen. Paula Simons (I, AB), who some said was “harassed” into casting the deciding vote to defeat C-48 in committee, supported the final version of C-69. She tweeted that the 99 amendments the government had adopted, mostly from Independent senators, had “improved it hugely”.

The Post notes as well that Senate adopted the less heavily-debated Bill C-88, amending the Canada Petroleum Resources Act to ban offshore oil drilling in the North.

In December 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “announced a moratorium on offshore oil drilling across all Arctic waters, which the federal government enforced not through legislation but by simply rejecting any new bids for licences or exploration permits, effectively shutting down any would-be resource extraction in the region,” the Post explains. “The updated legislation now provides the federal government the right to enforce the drilling moratorium based on ‘the Canadian interest,’ but does not explicitly define how the threshold will be met.” In June, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett told a Senate committee that Trudeau was concerned about the risk of an oil spill in ecologically sensitive waters.


    Final decision on Tesoro’s Washington railport pushed to 2016

    Repost from Reuters  

    Final decision on Tesoro’s Washington railport pushed to 2016

    By Kristen Hays, June 26, 2015

    HOUSTON – The latest delay in a detailed government review of Tesoro Corp’s proposed $210 million railport project in Washington state means a final decision will not happen until 2016, according to a state council’s published schedule.

    The 360,000 barrels-per-day project would be the biggest in the United States, moving domestic and Canadian crude via rail to Washington’s Port of Vancouver, where it would be loaded onto vessels to supply West Coast refineries – mainly in California.

    The company had hoped to start it up by late 2014, and then pushed it to this year as the project undergoes a lengthy state review.

    Several other oil-by-rail projects, largely in California, are stalled amid opposition after multiple crude train crashes and derailments since mid-2013.

    Tesoro said the company was disappointed in “yet another delay” and remains committed to the project.

    Chief Executive Greg Goff told analysts last month that the delay to 2016 was likely as the project undergoes what he called a “painfully slow” review process.

    The projected cost also has more than doubled to $210 million from its original $100 million as Tesoro upgraded the design, including seismic dock improvements.

    Washington’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC)’s schedule, made public this week, says a draft environmental impact statement will be published in late November. The council had previously expected to release the draft report in late July.

    State law then requires a month-long public comment period which can be lengthened.

    EFSEC then will submit the final report to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has final say on whether it will be built. The new schedule, and the public comment session, pushes that submission to early 2016. Inslee will have up to two months to decide once he receives the report.

    Most Washington refineries, including Tesoro’s 120,000 bpd plant in Anacortes, receive oil by rail. No major pipelines move oil west across the Rocky Mountains or the Cascades, so West Coast refineries turn to rail to tap North American crudes that cost less than imports.

    (Reporting by Kristen Hays; Editing by Christian Plumb)

      BIG WIN: Washington state judge denies Shell appeal on rail project review

      Repost from Reuters

      Washington state judge denies Shell appeal on rail project review

      HOUSTON | By Kristen Hays, May 21, 2015 11:34pm BST

      A judge on Thursday denied Royal Dutch Shell’s appeal of a ruling that a proposed oil-by-rail project at its Washington state refinery must undergo a full environmental review, just two weeks after a crude train derailment caused a fire in North Dakota.

      Shell had appealed a February ruling from a Skagit County Office of Land Use Hearings examiner that the plan to move 70,000 barrels per day of inland crude to its 145,000 bpd Puget Sound refinery in Anacortes must be comprehensively reviewed.

      In 2014, the county said the project did not need that much scrutiny to get a permit, prompting challenges from several environmental organizations.

      On Thursday, a Skagit County Superior Court judge denied Shell’s appeal, according to court officials.

      The denial came two weeks after an eastbound crude train derailed in North Dakota, the latest in a spate of fiery mishaps since 2013 that have stoked fears about moving oil by rail.

      Shell had sought to limit the review’s scope to exclude railroad issues overseen solely by federal regulators, but said it remains committed to working with the county and other agencies to finish the permitting process.

      Shell’s refining competitors in Washington have been bringing in U.S. crudes by rail since 2012 to displace more expensive imports and declining Alaskan oil output. Shell was the last to seek oil-by-rail permits in late 2013, but by then opponents had taken notice of train crashes and safety concerns.

      The rail issue is not Shell’s only concern in the state. The company also faces opponents to its plan to use the port city of Seattle to ready rigs before they travel to the Chukchi Sea off the north coast of Alaska.

      (Reporting By Kristen Hays. Editing by Andre Grenon)