Regulators who oppose regulation

A Boston Globe report ought to interest Canadians because the Massachusetts experience improves understanding of how regulators who do not believe in regulation work hand-in-hand with industry.

The case involves a natural gas compressor facility in Weymouth, 10 km southeast of downtown Boston. The station is part of an Enbridge pipeline system that conveys fracked gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale to consumers in US northeast. Government had granted air quality plan approval in 2017 but the permit was appealed by six public interest groups.

Opponents warn that its operations would negatively impact health in environmental justice areas that already experience above-average rates of respiratory illness.

After public protests, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) sent air samples for analysis in 2018, asking a private laboratory to test for the presence of 64 potential toxins. The regulator announced that test results affirmed the project approval. But the completed tests only reported on a fraction of toxins associated with gas production.

When attention was drawn to other labs providing different results from samples drawn from the same location, MassDEP asked their lab for a more complete report. The government agency received comprehensive results but withheld them from parties appealing the air-quality permit until the evening before the final day of the appeal hearing. Shortly afterward, MassDEP dismissed the consolidated appeal.

The Weymouth gas compressor station. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Of course, no one was surprised. Government bureaucrats across North America believe their job is to expedite fossil fuel production. They prefer to be facilitators, not regulators.

While in operation, the Massachusetts compressor plant and surrounding residents have encountered difficulties. Last month, the Globe reported:

For the fourth time in less than a year, a controversial Weymouth gas compressor station is shut down, bringing yet more scrutiny to a site federal regulators are already reexamining…

The shutdown brought fresh attention to a site that has already earned the ire of a number of prominent Massachusetts politicians, as well as local environmental activists. And it comes at a perilous moment for the company, after federal regulators said they would take a rare second look at the site’s community impact and safety protocols.

“No one in the surrounding community should have any confidence that this facility can operate in close quarters with schools and homes,” Senator Ed Markey said in a statement Friday…

It is not just pipeline pumping stations that present human hazards from gas production and transmission. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) examined information about Pennsylvania well sites:

The analysis – based on peer-reviewed research and emissions data collected at Pennsylvania well sites – examines both the total amount of methane and volatile organic compounds emitted from oil and gas sites. These pollutants increase global warming and threaten public health.

The conclusion should be astounding to anyone who has not examined industry practices. To those paying attention, it is similar to what has been shown elsewhere. The determination?

Environmental organization Earthworks released a video in 2017 showing massive amounts of otherwise invisible air pollution on public lands in Utah. They used a $100,000 Optical Gas Imaging camera tuned to detect methane and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Methane is a climate pollutant 86 times worse than carbon dioxide. Oil and gas VOCs often include health hazards like benzene, a carcinogen.

Earthworks examined gas wells in Montney Basin in Northeastern British Columbia in December 2018. Specialized cameras captured images of otherwise invisible methane. Science-based non-profit environmental organization David Suzuki Foundation reports that methane pollution from BC oil and gas industry is a multiple of the level reported by government and industry.

Profit-seeking corporations and government agencies cannot be trusted to protect us from industrial poisons and mishaps. Just to identify risks, we rely on private citizens and environmental organizations. Our own tax dollars are used to weaken efforts to protect people and the environment.

The Kenney/Allan Inquisition in Alberta is just one example of taxpayers paying millions of dollars to spread unfounded conspiracy theories. The objective is to fool Albertans into believing that oil and gas production proceeds without negative consequences, and anyone who says different is trying to damage the province.

Little is different in British Columbia. Government refused to charge a mining company controlled by influential multi-billionaire Murray Edwards after the Mount Polley tailings dam collapse. The Narwhal reported:

On August 4th, 2014 a four square kilometre sized tailings pond full of toxic copper and gold mining waste breached, spilling an estimated 25 billion litres of contaminated materials into Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake, a source of drinking water and major spawning grounds for sockeye salmon. According to Mount Polley mine records filed with Environment Canada in 2013, there were “326 tonnes of nickel, over 400 tonnes of arsenic, 177 tonnes of lead and 18,400 tonnes of copper and its compounds placed in the tailings pond,” in 2012.

Following the Mount Polley mine disaster, a local state of emergency was declared for the Cariboo Regional District over drinking water contamination concerns…

The Narwhal
Six years after Mount Polley disaster, expert recommendations not fully  implemented: report - The Narwhal

Bev Sellars, then acting chief of the Xat’sull First Nation, filed private charges related to the destructive collapse. John Horgan, who had expressed “surprise” that his government declined to prosecute Mount Polley Mining Corporation (Imperial Metals), refused to allow the private prosecution to proceed.

Ms. Sellars expressed an important concept:

In my culture, we have a sacred responsibility not only to care for the land, waters, animals, and people living today, but also for the next seven generations to come.

Those words have little meaning for members of BC’s NDP government. They employ wilfully blind regulators to promote fossil fuel expansion.


9 replies »

  1. So many things to self censor about because it just repeats, ad nauseum, how bad this government is or should i say, how bad government is.

    So much wrong, combined with a politcal ennui, which is just short of a heroin high, government shambles along caring about nothing, except their grasp on power.

    Until there is wholesale change to our politcal system, nothing will change and mediocrity will rule the day.

    Never has there been a collection of politicians, civically, provincially, and federally, in power so utterly useless at their tasks, that even simple change is near impossible. Doing nothing, while collecting six figure salaries is their only goals.


    • You and Mike Flynn are right on all accounts. When you guys talk about the ones in charge of the system and government etc. only care about their grasp on power. Psychopaths in charge as Mr. Flynn says. I can’t help but bring up, that as far as the Covid situation goes, I think The top BC Health Official is a nutter bent on the love of her power over life and death, and shameful media figures praise her and worship her like followers of a mesmerizing cult leader.

      If the cowards spent more time being objective and critical unbiased real journalist or broadcast journalists press gallery people we would all be in a better place.

      Horgan and Dix, Farnworthless and the rest, run around blathering about their governments greatness and taking completely unwarranted victory laps while their incompetence and stupidity gets people killed like during the heat wave, no rapid tests for the seniors in LTC that got many more killed, making masking only recommended during a new variant fourth wave beginning. Now the politicians come out with their ideas about what to do during this smaller heat wave which is closer normal summer. Idiots the lot of them.

      Trudeau is a missing many screws, and cares only about his little world and would sell out Canadians to his overseas love interest, China like a traitor doing his business in the back alleys of the night…

      We now have a possible fourth delta variant wave starting as if we didn’t know, and the little nut jobs Horgan and Dix led by the big nut in red shoes here in BC took away the extra barrier of mandatory mask wearing, and numbers are climbing. Oh but Central, Okanogan has to mask up again. What was not obvious to keep masks mandatory especially in indoor settings in the first place, and children under twelve not vaccinated are more at risk. I pray that they will be protected from this scourge because I cannot trust the idiots in charge to do that.

      I’m living through and witnessing with my family how leadership of the system is proving to be so utterly incompetent self serving, and negligent to their duties of office. Sorry but I think this is on topic because Covid is the most important bad situation of the time right now when we talk about government and wackos in charge of the system. Site C. Sure that’s important as many other subjects are but this is the most important because people are dying and have died and too many have died because of shear incompetence and selfishness on a grand scale by so many our officials and leaders across the nation. You could say led by psychopaths.


  2. Yep. Just another story to reaffirm my belief that our system/Governments/institutions/corporations are run by psychopaths.


  3. Just read an article about the Federal Government bailing out the Newfoundland Labrador Government over the Muskrat Falls Hydro project. Will the Federal Government bail out the BC Government over Site-C?


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