Tag: Environment

The Last Straw and the Pipeline

Governments have often made decisions based on impulse rather than reason. A classic example is the fallacy of “the last straw” – the straw that broke the camel’s back. Similar impulsive decisions are now being made in the assessment of a pipeline’s effects. Let’s think about that.

If a camel’s back can hold, let’s say, 1000 straws, and if one more straw will break its back, it is illogical to believe that it was only the last straw that broke its back. Each of the 1001 straws has weight. All of them together create load on the camel’s back. The first straw is no better than the last straw. They are all load. If you don’t believe me, just ask the camel!

THE LAST STRAW DIDN’T BREAK THE CAMEL’S BACK

If you remove one or more of the 1000 loaded straws, then adding that proverbial “last straw” will be harmless. The false assumption is that all of the old load is okay, but new load is not. This leads us to the wrong decision: to ban new load while preserving old load. The right question is not “Which load is good load?” but rather, “How should Canada decide who is allowed to add straws onto the camel’s back (up to the maximum load)?” The task is to allocate space rationally on the limited capacity of the camel’s back.

Canada is facing two pipeline-related issues similar to the camel’s back. The first of these is CO2 emissions, the second, underwater noise caused by increased tanker traffic.

Continue reading “The Last Straw and the Pipeline”

Appealing the Trans Mountain Pipeline Decision Part 1: The National Energy Board Issues

I took the three photos below on a trip to Vancouver in 2016.

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Orcas travelling through the Vancouver harbour

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Bulk carrier moving slowly.

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Bulk carrier at anchor.

Background

Part 1 of this analysis discusses the issues around the National Energy Board recommendation to Cabinet, and Cabinet’s acceptance of it to approve the pipeline’s construction licensing. Part 2 will discuss the issues around the Crown’s consultation of several First Nations.

The CD Howe Institute recently published my brief (500 word limit) analysis of the Federal Court of Appeal’s (FCA’s) decision to overturn the Cabinet’s approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.  I recommended that the federal government should appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). You can read that here, and continue to read my fuller analysis below.

Click here to read my short analysis on the CD Howe Institute website.

One of the reasons the Court gave for its ruling was that the Cabinet approved a  National Energy Board (NEB) environmental assessment (EA) report recommending approval.  The court held that the NEB report was so fatally flawed that the Cabinet could not reasonably have approved it.  The NEB had discussed, but not included in its formal EA, future increases in tanker traffic to and from the pipeline’s marine terminal in Burnaby, a Vancouver suburb.  That additional traffic might have harmful impacts on the Southern Resident Orcas, an endangered species. Continue reading “Appealing the Trans Mountain Pipeline Decision Part 1: The National Energy Board Issues”