Nova Scotia environmentalists campaign for a moratorium on oil and gas drilling after BP spill

In late June, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Drilling Board  (CNSOPB) issued an incident report –  summarized in the National Observer in “ BP Canada spews thousands of litres of toxic mud during offshore drilling incident near Halifax” ; CBC reported “Mi’kmaq want answers from BP Canada after drilling mud spill off Nova Scotia coast” (June 26) .  Yet on July 23, the Board issued   a notice allowing BP to re-start operations, and describing the terms of  an investigation into the incident.  CBC summarized it all in “BP Canada restarts drilling off Nova Scotia after spill”. 

In response, the Offshore Alliance of Nova Scotia on July 19 sent  Open Letters to Prime Minister Trudeau  and to the Premier of Nova Scotia  , stating : “The inadequacies of the current regulatory and impact assessment regime, the failure to consider the latest science (on risk assessment, dispersants, impacts of seismic, added risks of deepwater drilling, ocean acidification, and recovery of the fishery, to name a few), the poor state of public awareness and involvement and the magnitude of the risk to the marine biosphere and to the present and future economic base of Nova Scotia’s coastal communities all demand an up-to-date, thorough public re-examination. We anticipate an inquiry of this nature could take up to two years. In the meantime, there should be a moratorium on all new oil and gas activity offshore respecting the established precautionary principle.”  Similar demands had been made in an  Open Letter in June to Canada’s Environment Minister, and names the members of the Offshore Alliance – approximately 20 fisher, social justice and environmental organizations, as well as concerned communities and individuals. They issued their call through the Sierra Club of Canada – the July 19 press release is here .

Nova Scotia offshore drilling signsLocal member organizations of the Offshore Alliance of Nova Scotia include the Clean Ocean Action Committee (COAC), which represents fish plant owners, processors and fishermens’ organizations in southwestern NS, and the Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia (CPONS) .  The CPONS explanatory Position Paper discusses the issues of what is at stake, and  asks “what is regulatory capture?”.  The CPONS website includes resources to “Take Action”,  including a number of petitions and addresses for a letter writing campaign.  The Council of Canadians is also monitoring offshore drilling on the East Coast here  , and maintains its own active petition  which calls  on the federal government “to stop BP from drilling up to seven exploratory wells and institute a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in offshore Nova Scotia. We further demand an end to proposed changes under Bill C-69 that would grant east coast petroleum boards more power in the environmental assessment process for Atlantic offshore drilling.”

 

 

 

Victoria B.C. joins the movement for climate accountability, demanding compensation from Big Oil companies for climate change impacts

On October 12, the Council of Victoria B.C. voted unanimously to send a Climate Accountability Letter to twenty companies, including Exxon, Chevron and Shell, asking them to cover the costs the community is likely to  incur to plan for or recover from the impacts of climate change.  The motion also included an agreement to call upon fellow local governments across Vancouver Island, British Columbia and Canada to write similar letters. Such letters are part of  the Climate Law in our Hands campaign launched by West Coast Environmental Law and almost 50 other groups  in January 2017.

Accountability Letters may be seen as largely symbolic, but are a first step in the movement for legal action against these “Carbon Majors”, which is the goal of the Climate Law in our Hands campaign.  The campaign and the movement is based on the work of Richard Heede, whose 2013 research identified 90 entities (producers of oil, natural gas, coal, and cement) that are collectively responsible for almost two thirds of human-caused greenhouse gases historically. Heede updated his research in July 2017 –  naming the 10 oil and gas companies who are responsible for 26% of all fossil fuel emissions since 1988.  See the Climate Accountability Institute , where Heede is Director, or see  West Coast Environmental Law for a spreadsheet with details about each company, as well as model letters for municipalities who want to join the campaign. Andrew Gage of WCEL compiled an excellent overview of new research and legal developments about Climate Accountability in September .

In September, San Francisco and Oakland, California became the latest and largest cities to sue the Carbon Majors: see “California leads the way: San Francisco and Oakland the latest to sue fossil fuel companies” . (They  join the California counties of Marin, San Mateo and San Diego and the city of Imperial Beach).  The press release from the City Attorney’s Office outlines their case against Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell  : “The lawsuits ask the courts to hold the defendants jointly and severally liable for creating, contributing to and/or maintaining a public nuisance, and to create an abatement fund for each city to be paid for by defendants to fund infrastructure projects necessary for San Francisco and Oakland to adapt to global warming and sea level rise. The total amount needed for the abatement funds is not known at this time but is expected to be in the billions of dollars.”

After the March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate: What next?

Panels not pipelines by Abdul Malik

From Edmonton, photo by Abdul Malik, posted on People’s Climate Movement Facebook page

The  March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate drew thousands to Washington D.C., and cities around the world, including communities across Canada. Coverage in Canada, so far, seems limited to brief overviews – see  the CBC and here  and the Energy Mix.    For the most complete   photos and posts from across Canada, as well as video from Washington, go to the  People’s Climate Movement Canada Facebook page – where the group is hosting a conference call on May 3 for a discussion of “what’s next?”.

A report in Vox  brings together photos and video of the Washington crowds, while noting  that, compared to the Science March on April 22, the Climate March was  “more explicitly anti-Trump, more intersectional, and more social justice oriented.”   Organizers are quoted as claiming  more than 150,000 people attended,  including 43 labor union buses, indigenous  people and communities of color, and a big faith and youth contingent.   Other U.S.  reports are at Think Progress  ;  Inside Climate News , and mainstream media, which generally focussed on crowd estimates  and photos of “the best signs”:   “Climate March draws thousands of Protesters Alarmed by Trump’s Environmental Agenda”   in the New York Times ,  and  the Washington Post report , which was republished in the Toronto Star  .

As for that obvious question of “what’s next?”,  read “It can’t just be a march it has to be a movement. What’s next for climate activists”  (April 30) in the Washington Post or The Climate March’s Big Tent Strategy Draws a Big Crowd: But will it make a difference?” in  The Atlantic (Apr. 30), which states:  “Whether the protest will eventually result in political success is an open question. Due to the hyperpolarized politics of climate change, it may ultimately depend on other factors—whether the Democratic Party can harmonize a political message, for instance. And the lack of any one unifying climate policy may prove troublesome when it comes time for the movement’s leaders to govern again.

But protests are not only about legislative success. …Rather it is for people to register their mass discontent and mobilize around a movement’s shared goals. For the moment, the People’s Climate Movement seems to have accomplished that. ”

Sudbury climate march

From Sudbury Ontario Climate March, posted at People’s Climate March Facebook page

Workplace resistance to the Trump agenda, and tracking the changes

The deliberately-executed distraction and turmoil of President Trump’s policies in the U.S. threaten and weary us all, at the same time that well-planned  resistance is most necessary.  Long-time activist Frances Fox-Piven wrote in The Nation in January, before the Inauguration,  “Throw sand in the gears of everything”, reflecting on past resistance movements in U.S. history, including civil rights and the Vietnam War.  She asks, “ So how do resistance movements win—if they win—in the face of an unrelentingly hostile regime? The answer, I think, is that by blocking or sabotaging the policy initiatives of the regime, resistance movements can create or deepen elite and electoral cleavages”.  Fox Piven puts strong hope in the actions of state and local governments, as well as citizen action. She also points to the defining protest which finally turned government policy on the Vietnam War: soldiers refused to followed orders.

In   “Where’s the best place to resist Trump? At Work” ( Washington Post ,Jan. 31; re-posted to Portside) the authors argue that  “ From solidarity strikes to slowdowns and sit-ins, workplace revolt is a key strategy in opposing the new administration”.  Describing some of the early anti-Trump protests, they state:  “These actions are indispensable, and may form the seeds of a new movement, but people should not ignore one of the most powerful means of resistance and protest that they have: their roles as workers.” Federal workers are not the only ones with the power to resist and disrupt, though federal workers are leading the way with courageous initiatives such as information leaks and alternative Twitter accounts.  The longshoremen in Oakland, California for example, declined to report for work on Inauguration Day :  see “Want to Stop Trump? Take a Page From These Dockworkers, and Stop Work”   in In These Times  (Jan. 23).  Or read “Some New York Taxi Drivers Are Striking In Protest Of Trump’s Refugee Ban”  in Buzzfeed (Jan. 29).

altepaResistance by federal workers is described in “In Show of Internal Dissent, Federal Workers Rising Up Against Trump”  a February 1 article from Common Dreams.  Another ongoing, public form  are the many   “rogue” Twitter accounts, started by the National Parks Service ,and now including very active accounts at  alt_EPA (with over 300,000 followers), alt_Interior  , alt_NOAA  , alt­_DOL , and more.  Ironically, they form a goldmine of activist information.  But beware of trolling accounts and imposter accounts.

Other web sources to follow U.S. developments, especially those related to climate change and environmental regulations,  are: Climate Central   ;   Common Dreams   ; Democracy Now: Donald Trump Coverage ; Inside Climate NewsThink Progress ; and   350.org   . Also notable,  Deregulation Tracker , where the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law (Columbia Law School) is  monitoring changes to  legislation and regulations, and the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative , which  is  monitoring, documenting, and analyzing changes to approximately 25,000  federal  websites using proprietary software that allows them to track changes to the language and code.  Climate Central published “The EPA Has Started to Remove Obama-era Information”   (Feb. 2)  based on the EDGI monitoring.

Climate science and facts in the Trump Administration -protecting the public right to know

For those who rely on U.S. climate change research and science, two recent  incidents in the Trump transition are noteworthy. First, the U.S. Department of Energy released a Directive for Scientific Integrity,  approved January 4, 2017,  which states:  “The cornerstone of the scientific integrity policy at DOE is that all scientists, engineers or others supported by DOE are free and encouraged to share their scientific findings and views. ” Department of Energy personnel “will not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings or intimidate or coerce any covered personnel, contractors or others to alter or censor scientific or technological findings or conclusions.” It also directs the DOE to appoint a “Scientific Integrity Official within the Office of the Deputy Secretary of Energy to serve as an ombudsperson for matters related to scientific integrity.”  Canadians, who recall the muzzled scientists of the Harper era , will applaud the policy, even as we  continue to fight for scientific rigour  in environmental assessments .  A recent DeSmog blog explains.

Every day brings new developments in Washington:  President Trump has effectively gagged staff at the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture.  In response, a Scientists March on Washington is being organized, according to Scientists.jpgClimate Central (Jan. 25).    The preliminary website states: ” There are certain things that we accept as facts with no alternatives. The Earth is becoming warmer due to human action. The diversity of life arose by evolution. Politicians who devalue expertise risk making decisions that do not reflect reality and must be held accountable. An American government that ignores science to pursue ideological agendas endangers the world.”

A  reassuring development for researchers, in light of the Trump order to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency website:  Volunteer scientists, computer programmers, librarians and citizens  have been hard at work since December,  gathering and archiving environmental and climate change data produced by the U.S. government, in advance of the Trump inauguration. “Guerilla archiving” events, beginning at  the University of Toronto , have also taken place at  University of Pennsylvania,  San Francisco, and Los Angeles (on Inauguration Day!)  in the coordinated task of identifying and gathering the URL’s of important sources of information which will likely become vulnerable to removal in the Trump government.   Read “Climate Data Preservation Efforts Mount as Trump Takes Office”  in MIT Technology Review (Jan. 20) for an up to date summary and links to some of the many players in this complex effort.  A December blog by The Project Archivists Responding to Climate Change (ProjectARCC) group explains the major players and indicates the scale of the effort.

Briefly, many of the collected web sites are being stored in the servers of the End of Term Web Archive,   a collaborative effort  of established actors such as the Internet Archive , (which already stores 279 billion web pages!), Library of Congress, the U.S. Government Publishing Office, University of California Digital Library, and others. Over 10,000 URL’s of federal climate data websites have already been nominated for archiving, according to the public list available here , though none of the “in process”  web pages are available to view yet . For those concerned by the scrubbing of the White House website of all mentions of “climate change”,  a separate White House archive , housing the Obama version, is available here .

The University of Pennsylvania’s Program in Environmental Humanities is housing a separate DataRefuge project, in part to back up environmental data sets that standard Web crawling tools can’t collect.  The  Climate Mirror is a distributed effort conducted by volunteers to mirror and back up  data in locations outside the U.S. – an effort also underway at the Internet Archive.   Quartz has published  “Hackers downloaded US government climate data and stored it on European servers as Trump was being inaugurated”    (Jan. 21) .

Most of the work is being done by volunteers, who are eager for help and donations.  The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative   has a clear set of requests for help, including a list of upcoming archiving events in Ann Arbor and New York City. There is a well-developed process to nominate vulnerable sites, which requires the help of knowledgeable researchers, as well as a need for programmers and IT nerds to work on scripts to help harvest data sets and web pages not easily accessed.  The Free Government Information  website (another volunteer group )  has also published “2016 End of Term (EOT) crawl and how you can help” .   Success will ensure that environmental data and facts survive in the public realm.