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Deep Panuke Blog

Day One, Monday, March 5, 2007

Sierra Club of Canada takes on EnCana as Deeply Flawed Deep Panuke Hearings get underway in Halifax

Early arrivals to the Halifax Merriott Harbourside Hotel for the NEB (National Energy Board)/CNSOPB (Canada Nova Scotian Offshore Petroleum Board) hearings into EnCana’s revised Deep Panuke offshore gas project got a taste of what was to come in the lobby when they grabbed their free-for-the-taking copies of the Chronicle-Herald. The front-page headline read: “EnCana asks for Panuke flexibility.”

But the subhead came closer to EnCana’s true position: “Development may hinge on permission to abandon pipes on sea floor when gas runs out.”

And the story itself put the lie to any lingering notion that what EnCana had in mind had anything to do with “asking” or their own “flexibility”:

Two conditions will be laid down by EnCana Corp. today as the Calgary energy giant seeks regulatory approval to develop the $700-million Deep Panuke natural gas project off Nova Scotia.

EnCana says government regulators must leave it up to the oil and gas company to decide how the gas will come ashore at Goldboro, Guysborough County, and is also demanding the right to abandon the underwater offshore pipeline when the project expires.

Those conditions will be outlined today in Halifax when EnCana executives make their pitch before the National Energy Board, which regulates pipelines, and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, which oversees the offshore development plan.

Dave Kopperson, EnCana’s Atlantic vice-president, says the two conditions are critical to the success of Deep Panuke.

The energy giant has two proposed offshore pipeline transportation options, including the existing pipeline being used for the Sable gas project. The second option involves building a $200-million, 176-kilometre subsea pipeline to move gas ashore to link up with the Maritimes & Northeast pipeline for delivery to Atlantic Canada and New England.

"As EnCana has not yet determined a preferred option, it is EnCana’s view that your approval of Deep Panuke must allow for both pipeline options, leaving the final decision on the option selected to EnCana," Mr. Kopperson says in his opening statement to be given today before the two-member review panel.

EnCana has also made it clear it does not want to have to spend money to clean up the steel offshore pipeline and insists it wants to leave it along the ocean floor.

Mr. Kopperson says leaving the pipeline is "consistent" with industry practice and represents the best option for safety, environmental and technical reasons.

"The environmental assessment for Deep Panuke has determined that leaving the infield flow lines, umbilicals and export pipeline in place will likely have no significant environmental effects. Removing this infrastructure would add significant unknown costs with no benefit to the environment."

He says the project will provide huge benefits for the provincial economy.

"Deep Panuke will provide jobs, business and training opportunities for Nova Scotians and other Canadians, and contribute to the economic health of the province."

The project must receive regulatory approvals and the nod from its board of directors before the project could go into service in 2010. The Sable project has been operating since late 1999 and is expected to run out of gas within the next five years.

The hearing gets underway today and a decision is expected later this year.

So, EnCana on day one hit the ground rattling its sword, threatening to pick up its rig and head back to the tar-sands-land unless regulators let them have their way.

But Sierra Club Canada Team—Bruno Marcocchio, Alan Ruffman and Mark Dittrick—got in a counterpunch, issuing a press release that should show up in the press on Tuesday.

EnCana’s first move of the day, even before the hearings got underway, was to call off a scheduled 9 o’clock press conference, probably figuring that the press had already come through for them.

And so, the hearings began, with some stacking of the deck already obvious.  Interveners, those who actually showed up, which was about half as many as signed up, discovered that instead of several panels dealing with different aspects of the Deep Panuke project, the standard and expected procedure, a single monolithic proponent panel that nearly outnumbered the rest of the hearing’s participants fielded intervener questions from one and all.  Interveners would have just one shot at EnCana, in alphabetical order, “Sierra Club of Canada” following “Seafood Producers Association of Nova Scotia,” and that would be it. Three rows of suits, around twenty in all, lined up like two football teams that are facing in the same direction, both playing defense.

Some came looking for jobs. Others, compensation. Sierra Club of Canada and a few others were after answers.

Marcocchio went first, shortly after the lunch break, with four mega-binders bristling with home-made Post-Its spread over the small podium-side table at which Ruffman and Dittrick were seated, their notepads at the ready.

Bruno began by questioning EnCana’s characterization of the project’s CO2 emissions as “extremely small.” In one chart, EnCana described their CO2 output as: “The estimated contribution of the Deep Panuke Project to total estimated GHG by all Canadian human-made sources is extremely small (0.3% of 2003 Canadian totals).” 

Put another way, the Deep Panuke project alone, not counting the CO2 from the eventual burning of the CH4 sent through the pipeline, will add an amount of CO2 equivalent to one third of one percent of all the CO2 produced in Canada annually as a result of human activity—an amount equal to one three hundredth of the sum total of all the CO2 emitted by every car, truck, bus and airplane, every coal or gas or oil-fired powerplant, every woodstove, every construction project, every industry large or small and every fossil-fueled home-heating unit in Canada.

Was this, the 0.3% figure, Bruno queried, a typo? Surely a decimal was misplaced.

No, EnCana answered, that was the number, but assured Bruno that natural gas was a bridge fuel and it would replace fuels that put out considerably more CO2 into the atmosphere than gas.

Bruno asked the EnCana rep to the ESSIM (Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management) Initiative, who was seated in EnCana panel’s front row, why at the ESSIM table he opposed efforts to identify areas of ecological significance in the area, including the area containing the Deep Panuke project, and was told that that was one process and this was a different process and that they didn’t have anything to do with one another.

Bruno also questioned the wisdom of putting the development of a decommissioning plan far off into the future to some time prior to commencement of decommissioning. He submitted that such a plan should be developed now.

Other areas addressed included the impact on quahogs of trenching where about half of the optional platform-to-shore feeder line would run below the sea bottom. Then there

A live broadcast of the proceedings is available at Transcripts of the questioning, should be available very soon after it is given.

The three SCC representatives retired to the rustic innards of the Lower Deck Pub next door for a sober assessment of the day-one events.

Ruffman noted that none of the government interveners asked any questions. “Not DFO. Not Environment Canada. Not Natural Resources Canada.”

Alan recalled that when he asked one of the government representatives why he wasn’t asking any question he replied that he’d submitted a 135-page brief “years ago.” He was now there just “listening.”

So much for the public observing their government at work.

Ruffman then volunteered that Bruno Marcocchio upheld his end very well. “He read the report and was well-versed on the questions he wanted to ask. So, in that sense, I think that Sierra Club earned kudos from those who stuck around in the afternoon and listened. I think that as an environmental group Sierra Club has a lot of credibility and it certainly upheld that today.”

Ruffman’s up on Tuesday, with Marcocchio providing his review at the end of the day.

First positive note on Tuesday: The morning news from CBC Radio contained a significant clip of Bruno’s comments on Deep Panuke’s “extremely small” CO2 emissions.


Offshore Oil and Gas Links

Deep Panuke Coordinated Public Review

SCC protecting marine areas from offshore oil and gas page

Atlantic Canada Chapter's Oil and Gas campaign page

Sierra Club of Canada National Office