Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Response from Minister of Natural Resources: Hon. Joe Oliver

About 2 weeks ago I received a reply to my open letter to Stephen Harper about the economic and environmental cost of our current National Energy Policy (2010). The reply has come from Joe Oliver (Minister of Natural Resources) and it appears that someone has read at least part of my letter.

In fact, they rightly call me on my statement that states that "selling Alberta's bitumen to Asia will only benefit Alberta and its' multi-national corporate partners". I would have been much more accurate if I would have stated that "selling Alberta's bitumen will overwhelmingly benefit Alberta and their corporate partners" while the rest of Canada bears the majority of the risks.

It also seems that Mr. Oliver - or whoever answered my letter - also missed the part where I stated that I am Albertan by background and that I have a long career in the oil and gas industry. Otherwise, I think they would have written less or taken the time to be more accurate. More on this in my upcoming reply.

For the time being, here is the response from Minister Oliver's office.


Mr. W. Keith Hirsche
1161 Chapman Road
Cobble Hill, British Columbia VOR 1L7

Dear Mr. Hirsche:
The Prime Minister's office has forwarded to me a copy of your correspondence of
July 19, 2011, regarding Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines project
(the Project) and the need to move towards a sustainable energy future.

You indicated that the profits and rewards associated with selling Alberta's bitumen to
Asia will only benefit the province and its multinational corporate partners. However, there
are numerous benefits associated with Canada's oil and natural gas industries. According to
Statistics Canada, in 2010, Canada's petroleum exports (e.g., crude oil, petroleum products
and natural gas) accounted for 21 percent of all exports and are a key component of Canada's
merchandise trade surplus with the outside world. This surplus benefits all Canadians.

In addition, the oil and gas industry provides an important source of revenue for governments
via royalties, federal and provincial land taxes, and land sales. The four provincial
governments that control most of Canada's oil and natural resource production (Alberta,
Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador) also contribute billions
of dollars each year to Canadian provinces in the form of equalization payments.

Oil and natural gas are used to produce thousands of products, from petrochemicals to
building supplies to plastics. Direct and indirect employment from Canada's upstream
oil and gas industry is estimated at 500,000 jobs.

Currently, Alberta's oil sands account for 52 percent of Canada's oil production. The
Canadian Energy Research Institute estimates that, over the next 25 years, the Canadian
oil sands industry alone could generate more than 900,000 jobs and inject more than
$2.1 trillion into the Canadian economy. Clearly, benefits from Alberta's oil sands
development accrue all across Canada.

With respect to the Project, given its complexity and interest in it from Canadians and
First Nations groups, the Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment, referred
the Project for a panel review. The Project will be thoroughly reviewed by a three-member
Joint Panel (the Panel) to satisfy the requirements of both the Canadian Environmental
Assessment Act and the National Energy Board Act. The Panel's broad environmental
assessment mandate covers the review of the pipelines, the terminal, the docking facilities
at Kitimat, and the marine transportation portion of the pipelines project.

The Panel recently issued its hearing order and will commence community hearings in
January 2012, followed by final hearings in June 2012. The Panel's review is open to all
interested parties, and information on participation is available on the Panel's Web site
at www.gatewaypanel.review-examen.gc.ca. The Panel's findings will include an
environmental assessment report, including recommendations, for Minister Kent and,
subsequently, a determination of whether the Project is in the public interest. If the Panel
finds the Project in the public interest, the Government of Canada will make the final
decision regarding whether the Project can proceed.

You also noted a concern regarding tanker traffic associated with the Project.
I would like to stress that safety, security and environmental stewardship are of paramount
importance for transportation regulation, including tanker traffic in Canadian waters. Under
federal and provincial law, tankers are free to travel to and from British Columbia ports and
do so currently, safely importing and exporting crude oil and petroleum products.

The shipping of crude oil and petroleum products by tanker is governed by the Canada
Shipping Act, which is administered by the Honourable Denis Lebel, Minister of
Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities. Should you have any other questions or
comments on matters related to tanker traffic on the British Columbia coast, I recommend
you contact Minister Lebel directly.

Finally, regarding the need to move towards a sustainable energy future, the Government
is committed to growing Canada's clean energy advantage. In fact, the ecoENERGY Retrofit
- Homes program was recently renewed to allow homeowners to make their homes more
energy-efficient. Earlier this year, Budget 2011 announced the ecoENERGY Innovation
Initiative, a new program that supports energy technology innovation with a view to produce
and use energy in a cleaner and more efficient way. These initiatives are key components of
the government's action to achieve real emissions reductions, while maintaining Canada's
economic advantage and its ability to create jobs for Canadians.

Thank you for writing on these important matters.
Yours sincerely,
The Honourable Joe Oliver, P.e., M.P.

2 comments:

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