Andrew MacLeod of The Tyee is reporting that BC Government officials aim to exempt natural gas producers from requirements they contribute to an industry fund that would pay to clean up toxic spills.
The gas sector would be exempt through a system that redefined what substances would be described as toxic.“…’This takes [natural gas] off the table for these elements (and possibly coal – need some work on coal),’ [Jim] Hofweber wrote in the message to Fazil Mihlar, the assistant deputy minister for oil and strategic initiatives in the ministry of Natural Gas Development, and Jim Standen, an assistant deputy minister in the Environment ministry.
…B.C. operators of natural gas pipelines and compressor facilities would still need to respond to spills and report them, but they would be excused from paying into the proposed fund that would be used to clean up spills…
When political history of this era is finally revealed, people may learn of circumstances that led to Liberals becoming indentured servants of natural gas producers. Clearly, they are not trying to maximize returns to the public. MacLeod reported,
In 2012, companies produced 3.5-billion cubic feet [per day] of natural gas in B.C., making the province the second largest producer in Canada, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers…
Finance ministry records show natural gas royalties were $169 million for the 12 months ended March 2013. However, during that period, the liability for recorded credits that producers will deduct from future royalties increased by $160 million. Had government followed Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, the net revenue from gas royalties would have been reported as $9 million for the year.
At US$5 per million Btu, the value of the year’s gas production was about $6.5 billion. The return by way of royalties amounts to about one-tenth of one per cent and the size of gas industry employment ranks low in BC’s job market. So les amitiés particulières are not explained by public financial benefits.
We know that ADM Fazil Mihlar and others in the resource ministries are proponents of neoliberalism and libertarianism. In The Guardian, George Monbiot examined American writer Matt Bruenig’s description of attitudes toward property rights attached to those political philosophies:
Those who have acquired [property] should be free to use it as they wish, without social restraints or obligations to other people. Their property rights are absolute and cannot be intruded upon by the state or by anyone else. Any interference with, or damage to, the value of their property without their consent – even by taxation – is an unwarranted infringement.
In British Columbia, regulators who don’t believe in regulation are at the tables negotiating with the oil and gas industry. With ideologues like Fazil Mihlar, their fundamental attitudes would have government earning no royalties at all. Indeed, that is a work in progress, with additional benefits such as unregulated fracking and below-cost electricity being made available as well.
One hundred years ago, the platform of America’s Progressive Party stated,
Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.
More than 20 years ago, after meltdown of the Bennett coalition, power brokers from the business community selected Gordon Campbell to lead the Liberals to power. The party was directed and financed by special interests; its mandate was to make policies that were friendly, not to business but to big business. When Christy Clark was appointed Liberal leader, with support of fixers like Gwyn Morgan and Patrick Kinsella, the rewards to large enterprises accelerated.
Conniving to transfer environmental risks of gas production to the public from the companies that control 99.9% of the revenues is just part of the loyalty BC Liberals feel toward their sponsors.
Most readers will be aware there is one other possible explanation for incomprehensible rewards flowing to gas producers in BC. Addressing that possibility would require a team of forensic accountants and police investigators and access to records of foreign banks.