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Environment & Energy Bulletin

Each issue of the Bulletin features an in-depth look at a current topic affecting the energy industry or environmental policy and regulation.

For Better or Worse? Changes to Environmental (Impact) Assessment

It feels like back to the future – or like being on an endless treadmill – as governments in Canada take steps yet again to “reform” environmental assessment legislation while also pursuing a myriad of other changes to other environmental and energy regulatory processes. The pretext is political messaging about a lack of public confidence in “the system” for managing environmental issues. In our view, this is largely a manufactured crisis of words over substance. Neither Canada nor BC is on the verge of environmental Armageddon or decay, no matter how loudly some groups argue otherwise. Yet both in both Canada and BC, policy-makers seem to be intent on “fixing” a system that is not broken. Canada initiated a review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012 in June 2016, along with reviews of the Fisheries Act and Navigation Protection Act. These reviews are ending after 24 months of significant effort on the part of many stakeholders. But British Columbia has now decided to add to the uncertainty and rising costs facing industry by launching several environment-related reviews within its own jurisdiction. This includes a planned “revitalization” of the province’s environmental assessment (EA) process. From the business community’s perspective, the changes proposed in the federal government’s environmental/impact assessment processes are not improvements. Time will tell if the outcomes of the BC review are positive or negative.

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2015 Paris Agreement - About, Achievements, and Accounting

The 2015 Paris accord is the latest installment of multilateral agreements aimed at addressing the rising concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the earth’s atmosphere. Paris flows from the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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The Relativism of Environmental Indicators

In the case of environmental indicators and performance measures, factors such as geography, population, and economic structure matter a lot. These are mostly ignored and assumed to be the same across all advanced economy jurisdictions in published analyses concerning environmental progress of Canada and its provinces/territoriesn, making comparisons of true performance difficult.

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Species At Risk

The new NDP government is considering options for management of species at risk in BC, and has signalled an intention to introduce stand-alone species at risk legislation. The Business Council supports the idea in-principle, but we urge the government to take time to explore the best options for ensuring effective management of species while also maintaining the province’s competitiveness and a vibrant natural resource sector.

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Understanding the Implications of the Contaminated Sites Regulation Updates

In November 2017, the BC Ministry of Environment is set to update the Contaminated Sites Regulation. This is the most significant change to the CSR since its inception in April 1997.

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The Expanding Role of Renewables in the Global Electricity Market

This edition of the Environment & Energy Bulletin examines the current global and national state of renewables in electricity markets and highlights BC's advantage, and opportunities, stemming from our 98% renewable electricity grid.

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The Risks of Needing and Wanting 'Stuff'

People are afraid of the unknown but today’s risks are no more severe than those in the past.

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Book Review: Power Density, A Key To Understanding Energy Sources and Uses

Power density—expressed in a form that accounts for the spatial requirements of energy extraction, conversion, and use—is critical to understanding paths forward for energy transitions

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An Updated Look at British Columbia's Parks, Protected Areas and Conservation Efforts

Conservation of land and marine areas is an important part of recognizing natural, ecological, and/or cultural values of biodiversity. British Columbia is a world leader in this regard.

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Air Quality - Where Are We Now? Where Are We Going?

Canada and British Columbia air quality has improved remarkably since the 1970s and has continued to improve from 2000 to today. There has been a steep decline in the quantities of pollutants including particulate matter, ground level ozone, nitrogen oxides, and sulphur dioxides. As a result, we compare favourably with the United States and most other OECD countries.

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A New Marine Regulatory Regime on BC’s North and Central Coast?

This issue of the Environment and Energy Bulletin reviews recent and prospective developments on the north and central coast, and considers some implications for the flow of goods and resources that underpin the regional and provincial economy. It also sets out a few key principles that we believe should underpin a stable coastal regulatory regime that supports sustainable economic growth.

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An Overview of Canada’s Environmental Assessment Regime

As the Liberal government takes up the reins in Ottawa, it has signalled a shift in its approach to energy, environment and natural resource development, particularly in the context of resetting relations with Aboriginal peoples.  As it sets out to review Canada’s EA processes, several key principles should be top of mind:

    • The integrity of the regulatory process and institutions are best maintained when they are at arms-length from the political realm.
    • A core purpose of a regulatory body is to evaluate technical matters in an impartial way, free from undue political or stakeholder influence.
    • Regulatory reviews that set (and adhere to) timelines promote certainty for proponents and contribute to a favourable setting for investors.

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Carbon Pricing, Fusion Style – Policy Issues to Consider When Carbon Taxes Meet Cap-and-Trade

While there appears to be a growing consensus on the need to price carbon, there is no consensus on the most effective means of doing so – either via taxes or trading schemes.

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Some Reflections on the Global Energy Transition

Is the world in the midst of a rapidly accelerating migration away from fossil fuels, toward a much greater reliance on carbon-free sources of energy? If one takes seriously the speeches of Environment Ministers or the content found on the web sites of many well-known environmental advocacy organizations, the temptation is to answer “yes.”  The reality, however, is more complex.

In this edition of Environment and Energy Bulletin, Jock Finlayson analyzes the recent projections of three well-respected sources - the International Energy Agency (IEA), the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) and British Petroleum (BP).  He concludes that for the world as a whole, there is certainly evidence of an incremental move away from fossil fuels as a primary energy source, in favour of low/no-carbon forms of energy.  However, looking out over the next two decades, the trend-lines point to a real, but far from revolutionary, energy transition, one that is unlikely to entail an absolute reduction in the quantity of fossil fuels produced and consumed globally by 2035 or 2040.

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Rethinking Social Licence to Operate -- A Concept in Search of Definition and Boundaries

This edition of Environment and Energy Bulletin,  guest authored by David Bursey, a partner with Bennett Jones LLP, examines the evolution of  Social Licence to Operate (SLO) in the approval of resource development projects and its recent rise in popular use.  It then considers how the concept relates to political governance and law.  Finally, it assesses the implications of how SLO is being applied – for good and for bad, but most often without a proper context.


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Risk: Perception, Reality and the Policy Process

Risk is a socially constructed, complex concept that humans have developed to deal with the fear of unknown events that may happen in their lives.

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Getting a Handle on the Environmental Goods and Services Industry

Previous editions of the Environment and Energy Bulletin were concerned with the criteria and tools that can shed light on how green jobs and other environment-related activities contribute to the economy. This paper is another piece in the exploration of that topic. Here, we adopt a somewhat narrower focus by looking at “the environmental goods and services producing sector” of the economy.

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Compliance and Enforcement

What exactly is compliance and enforcement (C&E)? One might think there is an easy answer. But despite the myriad of organizations with C&E policies and staff dedicated to this type of work in a broad range of areas such as taxation, crime, workplace health and safety, and the environment, it is challenging to identify an accessible literature on the theory, evolution and practice of C&E.

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The LNG Opportunity in BC: Separating Rhetoric from Reality -- Part II

In Part I of this two-part series, we reviewed the main economic critiques of LNG development in British Columbia, concluding that while there are risks and economic uncertainties with respect to LNG in the province, the critics are largely off base with their professed economic concerns. Here in Part II, we address the more analytically challenging environmental issues that have been identified by various commentators who doubt the benefits of LNG.

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The LNG Opportunity in BC: Separating Rhetoric from Reality -- Part I

At the same time as China and Russia signed a massive 30 year, $400 billion natural gas trade agreement, the BC government continued its push to establish an LNG industry with a (successful) global LNG conference in Vancouver. The May event came on the heels of Premier Clark’s fifth trip to Asia promoting, in part or full, LNG opportunities in the province.  

The China-Russia agreement is emblematic of the changing energy supply landscape; it also speaks to the size of the potential opportunity for jurisdictions like BC considering the contract constitutes only 29% of China’s future import requirement.

Closer to home, critics continue to question whether BC can develop the LNG sector in a responsible and economically sensible manner that will deliver the benefit set expected by government.  

In this two part Energy and Environment Bulletin, we assess the validity of arguments suggesting BC is making a mistake in seeking to advance LNG and that the province would be wiser to halt, slow down or significantly change its approach to LNG development. 

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