Mike Bell, Island Tides, May 5 2016
It is fitting that we are celebrating the demise of Compliance Energy and its Raven Coal Mine project. Members of our community and our First Nations fought the project tooth and nail for more than five years. It is indeed time for a celebration. But it is also time for a citizen autopsy. What have we learned?
As we take a closer look and sort through the entrails of Compliance and the Raven project to find the cause of death, there are other influences besides our opposition, such as the economy and the decline in coal prices. But we also come to a disturbing conclusion. Our examination of the project reveals that Compliance was only a symptom of a much greater problem: a coalition of multinational corporations and governments that together form a carbon conglomerate.
It is held together with international trade agreements that allow companies from Korea and Japan to have more say over the future of our home than we have; huge tax dollar subsidies for oil and gas companies and projects; millions of dollars for lobbyists; and, as has become increasingly apparent, strong global opposition to green energy project and, in some cases, funding of climate-denial organizations. Compliance might be dead but the carbon club is still very much alive. From the get-go the BC government has been a card-carrying member.
As part of her original election campaign, Christy Clark promised to develop nine new mines and help expand 10 more. She has opened up provincial parks to resource development projects, provided major subsidies for carbon projects and either removed ‘unnecessary’ environmental legislation or refused to enforce it. Courts have found her remiss in trying to fob-off on the federal government her responsibility for environmental reviews, and they have cited her for refusing to consult First Nations. Recently, Bill Bennett, her government’s energy minister, said that clean energy projects are not a priority.
The BC government’s priority, of course, is the Site C dam in northeastern BC. It is an $8.3 billion project, an economically risky venture opposed by farmers and First Nations. Among other things it is designed to provide huge amounts of water to slake the unquenchable thirst of fracking operations. Part of the project is a give-away in term of tax benefits and cutbacks in environmental requirements to Petronas, the Malaysian multi-national oil and gas company. Petronas will supposedly oversee the building of a pipeline to transport the fuel from northeastern BC to the Pacific coast where it will also build an LNG terminal. This project is currently being opposed by First Nations and some local communities.
So what can we do? We can help the transition away from fossil fuels by supporting local and provincial businesses specializing in green energy. But there is something more immediate, work that more of us can get involved in: changing our political systems.
In our last local elections we elected some very good people. But they find themselves impotent in an impotent system. Because of existing legislation, they have no authority over resource developments in the Comox Valley. They can just make suggestions.
In the last provincial election the only party to speak out about the Raven Coal Mine was the Green Party. BC Liberals, of course, were supporting the project. The NDP’s local candidate was not allowed to come out against the mine for fear that word would get around in other communities that the party was opposed to mines.
The real problem is staring us in the face—the power of the carbon conglomerate. It’s almost as if the carbon multinationals are operating a global spaceship that sucks up government leaders, brainwashing them, changing their economic systems, eviscerating their environmental regulations and damaging their social systems. Then they dump them back on earth programmed to follow the approved resource extraction plan.
Though that last bit may seem a tad over the top, in this case it is nothing compared to what multinational carbon companies are doing to countries and communities around the world.
So now the autopsy is completed and the coroner has filed his report. Though the incompetency of Compliance was a contributing factor, the real cause of the problem was the system that gave rise to the project and guided it from the beginning.
Where do we stand? We still have those new companies with 10 new leases wafting in the breezes above our home waiting to swoop down if and when the winds of change raise the value of coal.
Though we have not destroyed or reformed the system, we’ve got a start. We understand much more than before about aspects of a system that threatens our home. And we have learned to mobilize a community.
Now we must deal with the system itself. We citizens must find our voice, help adapt the system and lead our political leaders through the long transition from the carbon world into a valley of clean energy. We didn’t elect our political leaders to give them power. We elected them to empower us.