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From the monthly archives: June 2010
Northern Opportunities: A Pretty Good Deal
Ryan Gilmore was frustrated with high school and considered dropping out. Then he learned of the dual credit programs offered by the Northern Opportunities… [read more]
Open to Everyone
Nicole Schartner says she is glad to be in the Power Engineering program at GPRC (Grande Prairie Regional College) Fairview Campus not only because she… [read more]
Fort St. John: Energized & Ready to Roll
Priding itself on being a family friendly community, Fort St. John still manages to find plenty of room for industry and business. “There’s tons… [read more]
Education Expands its Role
With an increased labour shortage looming, governments and educators in the West are scrambling to find measures to offset what could be, and in some cases… [read more]
Dams have been a large part of the Hudson’s Hope landscape since the 1960s. With yet another poised to leave its footprint next to the local dinosaurs’, the small community is left facing all the implications.
“We will be going after BC Hydro for some legacies because our community is going to be impacted (by Site C dam) for sure,” said Hudson’s Hope Mayor Karen Anderson.
“The main economy of course, is the two hydroelectric projects that we have in our community (now).”
There is some agricultural activity, she added, as well as an increasing presence of oil and gas, which has finally broken through the buffer Hudson’s Hope has been sheltered by for many years.
But no matter, at the end of the day, the community’s stability has been and, with the introduction of yet another megaproject, is likely to continue to rest squarely in the hands of BC Hydro. For some, that is not a comforting thought.
“The history doesn’t look that great for how they do things,” said Anderson. Recent history certainly adds weight to the concern. Within the last few years, transmission crews, the area manager and the business manager, have all been relocated to either Vancouver or Prince George, leaving fly-in administration in the district.
Where once all BC Hydro employees in the area lived in Hudson’s Hope, the town has seen that number dwindle away. In light of that trend, and with speculation that it might be easier for BC Hydro to attract people to the region if they were to be located in a larger community, there is real anxiety that the administration offices will ultimately end up located in Fort St. John, said Anderson.
“They have said no – but words are cheap,” she added. “If we lost that this town would be absolutely a town like in Alberta and Saskatchewan – they’re just not there anymore.”
Since the announcement Site C was proceeding, Hudson’s Hope representatives have not had the opportunity to sit down and talk with either BC Hydro or the provincial government about their concerns but as Anderson points out, they are already well aware of what those concerns are.
First among them, said Anderson, is where the new Fort St. John-Hudson’s Hope road is going to be situated when the current one is eliminated. A push by other communities in the Northeast to build a road between Chetwynd and Taylor is something Hudson’s Hope is categorically opposed to because it would route highway traffic away from their already isolated community.
“We are (isolated) and that’s a very big concern of ours. It’s a big concern in trying to keep our community viable so that we don’t lose it,” said Anderson. The reasons go far beyond BC Hydro and echo the situation in other Northeastern communities.
There is currently no fulltime physician in Hudson’s Hope and the Visiting Doctors Program that should be providing someone from Fort St. John four times a week isn’t working. It doesn’t happen, said Anderson.
There is also a need for physiotherapist services and a dentist.
“We’re actively trying to work through Northern Health and the ministry (of health) …discussing issues like that. You lose your autonomy in these little communities if you don’t have your medical services here,” said Anderson.
“If you don’t have these key things in your community you can’t grow.”
Another challenge facing the community is declining enrollment. With only 155 students in their K-12 school, the impacts roll over into sports as well.
Minor hockey is struggling to keep kids busy through the winter. With only a few high school students, teams are being made up of a broader age range than is normal and that means some other schools, when it comes time for competitions, are just not willing to be generous enough to allow kids over or under a specific age group to play.
Communications are another problem area. With limited connectivity, fiber optics infrastructure is necessary to level the playing field with other communities.
People are used to good Internet access and businesses rely more and more on those kinds of services. Anderson fears that without that, attracting the younger families to live in Hudson’s Hope becomes more difficult.
They are looking for someone to partner with to bring the standard up to what larger communities can access, said Anderson, but for now, it’s one more example of infrastructure that just isn’t in place there. She said she hopes this is something BC Hydro might be willing to help with.
“We have to get out there and sell our community more,” said Anderson. “That’s our job to do and that’s something we are looking at this year.”
Rising to the challenge
Council allocated more money in this year’s budget to do things like post signage about the community and promote it as somewhere both worthy of a visit, a lifetime, and everything in between.
“Right now we have to get our infrastructure here…Right now that’s where our focus is.”
Until then, as the third oldest community in the province, has much to recommend it – even if there are challenges in defending what is most valued about the location.
Situated on the banks of the Peace River and nestled in a protected valley, it is an ideal spot for those with an appreciation for small town living. With a population of just over 1,100, it sits between Fort St. John and Chetwynd and is within easy access of several larger communities.
“It’s 90 kilometres west of Fort St. John, which is the energy capital of the world,” said Anderson. “We’re a little bit far out but you could live here…We’ve got clean air, we’re a safe little community, and maybe people will chose to live here instead of Fort St. John.”
It is a bustling location with a strong appreciation for culture and history. The Hudson’s Hope museum plays a huge role in the community and is looking for an even bigger role in the future.
“Right now the museum is looking to redirect their focus on the history of guiding and outfitting in the area,” said Anderson.
Longtime resident and guide outfitter Gary Powell amassed a “world famous” collection of memorabilia relating to his profession including animal heads, photos and video. His wife donated a portion of his collection to the museum after his death and the museum is considering an expansion to build a facility to house the collection.
“It would be the only one in Northern BC. That’s how our area was developed so we’re working closely with the museum on right now,” said Anderson.
A year round rope and saddle club and Tascote, an arts and cultural society help round out activities for residents.
And what small town would be complete without an annual fall fair? Hudson’s Hope holds theirs in August and every year, it grows a little more.
So while Hudson’s Hope anticipates the impacts of Site C, and like so many other Northern communities struggles to find the balance between progress and quality of life, it remains a sanctuary for her residents and a must see for the region’s travelers.
Old treaty and modernized law improving relationships between industry and First Nations
Shining a light on the past reveals a history of often contentious relations between First Nations and the resource industries in Western Canada.
Particularly in BC, the legacy of exploration, extraction and production activities carried out on traditional lands has often been one laced with distrust and deception.
But thanks to legal groundwork laid a century ago, the Northeast corner of the province has been able to benefit while operating under the kind of certainty only treaties can provide. And while the rest of the province continues to invest time and energy into untangling past encroachments of resource activities onto unceded land, industry and First Nations in the Peace Region are working together to build better relationships than before.
“The difference is that we don’t have to prove that we have rights; those rights were established in 1899,” explained West Moberly First Nations (WMFN) chief Roland Willson, whose nation signed the treaty in 1914.
While 116 First Nations in BC – 60 per cent of all aboriginal people in the province – are currently at work on 45 separate treaties to determine land rights, the Treaty 8 communities are busy laying the path for future prosperity.
Treaty 8 also covers Northern Alberta, a province where many of the 47 First Nations have long-established working relationships with oil and gas producers.
Treaty 6 (Central Alberta) and Treaty 7 (Southern Alberta) are also long-established, providing certainty to all stakeholders.
Along with two other participating nations within the Treaty 8 Tribal Association in BC, WMFN has created consultation protocol and economic benefits sharing agreements with the provincial government – agreements that allow those communities to move forward with industry on activities including forestry, oil and gas, wind projects and more.
In all, West Moberly sees about 1,500 to 2,000 referrals each year, many of which mean the start of productive relationships. Those are usually formalized through a memorandum of understanding (MOU), and in some cases, through a memorandum of agreement (MOA), which carry more legal weight.
“The bigger (oil and gas producers) that are developing long-term plays, we tend to have MOAs with them,” said Willson. “We’ve got some oil and gas companies that seem to be genuinely interested in the welfare of our communities, trying to help.”
On the horizon are regulations that promise to modernize the expectations around First Nations input and environmentally responsible use of Crown resources. The Oil and Gas Activities Act (OGAA) is a piece of legislation passed in BC last year that will update a 40-year-old framework.
Building the regulations has meant extensive input from Treaty 8 First Nations – something that is “certainly a new approach, from our perspective,” said OGC director of First Nations strategic planning Tom Ouellette.
“There is no doubt that things have changed over the past twenty years, from virtually no relationship to the New Relationship we see today”
Of course, industry in the Peace hasn’t always looked to maintain healthy relationships with First Nations. Even two decades ago, the treaty rights of ‘Indians’ were often grudgingly acknowledged, and cultural or archaeological impacts were relegated to the status of afterthoughts in many situations.
“There is no doubt that things have changed over the past twenty years, from virtually no relationship to the New Relationship we see today,” said Lee Shanks, communications manager for the BC Oil and Gas Commission, making reference to the four-year old provincial initiative to settle land claims, produce treaties and build cultural understanding.
Since the OGC was established in 1998, consultation agreements have been hammered out between it and the eight BC member communities of Treaty 8, making a clear process for all stakeholders to follow.
In addition, cultural awareness initiatives and funding support for both GIS training and traditional community knowledge have helped to bridged the once-massive divide that existed between regulators and First Nations in the North.
The OGC’s focus is on getting oil and gas companies talking to First Nations. An open dialogue has produced success stories, such as Calpine Canada Resource’s re-routing of a pipeline in the Doig River First Nations traditional area. After hearing concerns about the pipeline’s proposed placement on a culturally-sensitive ridge area, OGC-facilitated meetings led to the pipeline being re-routed through a lowland muskeg area instead – to the satisfaction of everyone involved.
Many companies have worked hard to build relationships with First Nations, and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has a long standing relationship with Treaty 8 that includes regular ‘Chief- to-Chief’ meetings.
But as always, there’s room for improvement. “(Some) oil and gas companies want nothing to do with us and actually go out of their way to exclude us,” said Willson.
“We have a couple companies that have long term development plans in the area that we have absolutely no relationship with.”
Willson sees the province as still being “unable to keep up with recent court decisions,” at least one of which was initiated by WMFN. Their legal petition resulted in Vancouver-based First Coal Corporation being ordered to halt their exploration work near Chetwynd, after the BC Supreme Court determined there was inadequate consultation carried out by BC’s energy ministry.
The complaint stemmed from the effect of that exploration on the Burnt Pine Caribou herd, which WMFN has a treaty right to be able to hunt.
“Because consultation lies with the province, industry sometimes doesn’t think they should come talk to us,” he said. We like to tell proponents, when they come to us, ‘We’ll put all our energies into working together, or if you choose, we can put all our energies to working against you’,” he said.
“We leave it up to the proponent. We don’t want to play games; we’re too busy.”
The WMFN has had positive relationships thus far with wind power proponents – “a big part of it is they know they have to come in and talk to us; and the more they have us on their side, the easier their application processes are,” Willson said – but feel let down by the consultation process involving another kind of turbine: the Site C hydroelectric dam on the Peace River.
“If we could build Site C without having to flood the valley, it would be no problem,” said Willson. But the fact that it will seriously fragment wildlife corridors and degrade habitat means it will have a direct impact on the band’s treaty rights to hunt wild game.
“The flooding of the valley is a completely irresponsible impact, and it’s not necessary, he said. “The impacts we are still suffering from the W.A.C. Bennett and Peace Canyon Dams have never been addressed,” Willson added.
Spanning BC and Alberta is the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, which would run from Edmonton to Kitimat carrying oil and condensate. While agreements have been reached with many nations along its 1,170 kilometre route, the prospect of an oil spill on land or from supertankers connecting to the pipeline continues to be a flashpoint for concerns.
A broad coalition called the Coastal First Nations has pledged to stop the pipeline at all costs, and a report last June by CIBC World Markets warned investors that the Enbridge pipeline would be delayed by tough First Nations negotiations.
The controversial nature of the project has already played a role in derailing Enbridge’s deal with Beijing-based PetroChina, who were negotiating to reserve half the pipeline’s capacity.
In Northern Alberta, Athabascan First Nations groups have been carrying out highly-publicized campaigns against oil sands developments, citing water withdrawals from the Athabasca River and high cancer rates in the area are two of the main rallying points.
In the big picture, Canada’s failure to unreservedly sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples continues to spur unrest amongst the aboriginal population. After more than 22 years of discussion, the international agreement was signed by 143 countries in 2007. Four countries opposed the agreement at that time, and only Canada and the US have not revised their positions since then.
While that national building block has yet to fall in place, First Nations in this part of the country have been successful in upholding their rights to pursue their own institutions, economies, cultures and spiritual practices while supporting industrial activity.
Through determined efforts and patient partnerships, the relationship between industry and First Nations is bound for continued improvement.Click here to get in touch with the author of this post
The Northeast Aboriginal Business & Wellness Centre Society is dedicated to providing business support and advisory services to aboriginal entrepreneurs while offering programs enhancing spiritual, mental, emotional physical health and wellness.
Their client base includes the Fort Nelson, Prophet River, Halfway River, Blueberry, Doig River, Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations. In the past five years the centre has assisted aboriginal people in Northeastern BC to expand or start more than 60 businesses and access more than $4.5 million in funding. Similar centres exist in Prince George and Cranbrook, BC, as well as Fort St. John.
Paulette Flamond began as a member of the founding Board of Directors of the organization and soon after became their executive director. She is herself an entrepreneur, owner of Scoop Clothing in Fort St. John.
NWB: Can you provide a little background on your organization?
PF: In 2002 there was a meeting of the Treaty 8 chiefs and leaders of the oil and gas industry, and they believed there was a need for a centre to assist aboriginal entrepreneurs interested in working with the industry. We started in February of 2003 with funding for three years from the treaty negotiations office. I was on the founding Board of Directors and then that April moved to the position of executive director.
We started with seven staff at a time when Fort St. John was smokin’ busy, and by 2005 we had helped 30 entrepreneurs start businesses in the oil and gas industry. Then we lost our original funding but the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation and Western Economic Diversification stepped up so we could continue. The number of staff has been cut in half but we continue to provide the service, last year assisting with six business startups and two expansions.
NWB: Have you seen changes in the way you operate since you started?
PF: Eventually we saw more diversification away from just oil patch businesses and into more service-related and retail operations. Now, with developments in the Horn River Basin and the Montney area, people are looking at new opportunities for oil patch work, and there may be other opportunities if the Site C dam goes ahead. There’s potential there but how big it will be I don’t know.
When we started most of the business plans we saw were for ‘Mom & Pop’-type operations. But now the (aboriginal) communities are focusing on their own business. It’s sad to see the Mom & Pops go because small businesses like that are the backbone of our economy.
NWB: What specific services do you provide to your clients?
PF: The first thing we do is an Equifax credit check. We don’t want to waste the clients’ time or ours if they aren’t going to qualify for funding. Then we give a Business Plan Guide to the client; sometimes they can complete these themselves but often we help them build their business plan and we have a Certified General Accountant on staff to help them with their financial projections for the plan.
We are available to help them with their research but we want to empower them so most often we just assist; some require more coaching than others, obviously. These days, people are pretty savvy and many can pout together the whole package themselves. Then we have funders from All Nations Trust come up, or we submit the material to them and Aboriginal Business Canada. The turnaround on these is good – usually 4-12 weeks. We also have access to the First Nations Fund set up in the 1970s in BC, which offers loan/grants which is funding that is 40 per cent forgivable.
NWB: What are the goals of the society?
PF: First and foremost, we want to keep our funding in place. It ends in 2011. These centres have shown they do work and are a good resource for the clients, especially since they are culturally sensitive to the clients. We want to maintain the status quo but we have also expanded our focus to meet some needs. We’ve added the “Wellness” component, a partnership with Northern Health, as an add-on to our business services.
By offering wellness programs and coaching we can show clients a more holistic approach to living. To succeed in business there must be personal wellbeing. It’s all about balancing your life.
NWB: What is hardest for First Nations entrepreneurs going into business for themselves?
PF: The industry is an old boys’ network so it’s hard to break into that. There are also territorial boundaries and issues in which an aboriginal entrepreneur may not have permission to work in another First Nation’s territory. Plus, if they life on a reserve their access to capital is difficult because they don’t own their own home and thus they lack equity.
NWB: What do others need to know about doing business with First Nations-owned businesses?
PF: It is very important to know the protocols involved in working with First Nations people and to have some cultural understanding. It’s worth it to take some training in this regard, and to approach them from a position of respect.
It’s helpful to get involved with their communities and most of those in the industry understand that and are getting involved. Ultimately, we’re all the same and we operate in the same world. First Nations just have their own culture and that needs to be respected as you would any other culture.
NWB: What unique perspectives do aboriginal entrepreneurs bring to business and industry?
PF: They bring their unique perspective on the land and also their knowledge of the territory in this area. And they have the capacity and talents to do the work, given the opportunity. It’s a really untapped rich resource that isn’t being utilized; people don’t realize the potential. Aboriginal people, many of them, operate in both worlds, and that’s a great resource.
We’re producing a Service & Trade Directory for aboriginal business and that will contain good news stories and information about partnerships with industry. That will help people understand, and if they can understand our role in arts and culture too, it will open peoples’ eyes to what’s taking place here.
NWB: What do you see in the future for aboriginal people in business in Northeastern BC?
PF: If you had asked me two years ago I would have said everything was going down the tank. But now I’m optimistic, and that’s largely due to the impact of the Horn River and Montney gas plays and the potential of Site C. There’s no doubt in my mind that aboriginal entrepreneurs will thrive in the future and will be more in control of their own destiny. There’s lots of opportunities coming up and they will thrive and grow.
Summer’s heat has only just arrived but one group of people are already thinking of how they can help heavy equipment operators prepare for winter.
Thermex Engineered Systems Inc.’s engineering manager, Roger Arnot says now is the time to look at what the options are for making sure heavy equipment doesn’t lose money due to winter freezes.
“It is new technology…(even if) heating equipment has been going on for many years. I suppose the biggest practice and the thing we run into is not another method of heating but just 24 hour idling – and that’s been a practice for 50 years,” said Arnot.
Until just over a year ago, operators had limited options for preventing costly downtime from engines too cold to run. The trade off has often been either incurring the environmental impacts of cold-weather idling or risking very expensive downtime, he explained.
Idling was not really an issue until the last 10 years, however skyrocketing fuel costs and, more recently, the growing attention being paid to environmental impacts have prompted a second thought about the wisdom of that option.
Often, something like a parachute could be used to cover equipment in a bubble that could then be heated and eventually, six hours of eventually, equipment could be warmed to the point it was operational.
With estimates that downtime can cost smaller companies thousands a day – and in mining that number can rise to as much as $100,000 – even six hours spent waiting for equipment can mean a substantial loss.
Those numbers move from substantial to astronomical when multiplied by the number of -30 degree days in a season.
“What’s different about our equipment is we’re not trying to heat up an entire machine,” said Arnot. “We’re going for the engine block because that’s what they want to do – start the engine.”
Thermex has developed a line of heat exchange products that can bring down the time it takes to thaw out an engine from hours to minutes – between five and 10 in many cases, said Arnot.
“Rather than heating air, it’s actually heating the coolant. It’s tying in through quick couplers right into the engine coolant and it’s heating up the coolant thereby warming up the block so they can get it started.”
PortaThaw, as the name suggests, is a diesel powered portable unit. It’s estimated that it takes 0.2 US gallons per engine start at -40 degrees and that’s a huge difference from the approximately 2 gallons/hour for overnight idling.
It’s not for everyone cautions Arnot. For the guy and his pickup, it’s likely too expensive to be practical but if there are multiple pieces of equipment likely to need heating, costs can be recouped in less than a week for larger operators and a week or two for smaller operations, said Arnot.
It also won’t work on air-cooled diesels because they don’t have block coolant but as Arnot points out, that situation accounts for only .05 per cent of equipment.
“What typically we find is that operators with 10 machines or less, they get by with one of these quite comfortably. We have some large oilfield contractors and construction people that, on average, will have one per 10-12 units in their fleet,” he said.
The only real limitation is how much time is available for moving the PortaThaw from one piece of equipment to another. Thermex has a solution for those who might have to do too much of that as well.
“There is a configuration of PortaThaw that is FleetHeat. It uses the same basic heat exchanger as PortaThaw but it’s mounted in a trailer with a generator and with fuel tanks and antifreeze tank and it becomes, instead of a portable unit, it becomes a heating plant,” said Arnot.
“In that case, you can now take a dozen machines and quick-couple all of them into this thing while it’s running on its own overnight. Usually that happens through hitching rails.”
HeatProbe, the third product in their line, deals with the other cold-weather issue: heating hydraulics.
A hydraulic tank heater, HeatProbe claims to keep hydraulics warm even in winter extremes, protect against hydraulic pump and PTO damage and, as with their other products, ultimately it allows for increased productivity and equipment performance.
“Heavy equipment, 90 per cent of it or more, the functions of it, once it’s going, are hydraulically powered or controlled so the engine often is doing not a whole lot more than running a big hydraulic pump” explained Arnot.
“Hydraulics can be like molasses in 30 or 40 below and very stubborn – and very costly because if the full power is engaged while the fluid is too thick it can completely ruin a hydraulic pump that might be worth $6,000 or $7,000 or more.”
From the same source of heat, be it the ProtaThaw or FleeetHeat, or even the engine of the piece of equipment once it is running, that coolant goes through the heat exchanger that screws into a hydraulic tank and transmits heat into the hydraulic fluid. From 15 to 20 minutes later equipment will be warm enough to start work.
“Cost is an issue that everybody is well aware of and the three major considerations are equipment downtime…fuel costs…equipment downtime and wear and tear, and the environmental impact is becoming far more important.
“That’s what’s happened in Fort McMurray. Just in the last year we’ve had a huge outflow of mines that want to get onto this system because they’re under scrutiny for so many different areas of environmental emissions that if they can say, ‘Our fleet doesn’t idle overnight anymore,’ that’s a pretty big statement to make,” said Arnot.
Thermex is already working with some of the larger companies on either the Alaska or the Mackenzie pipeline projects. Although the projects are a few years down the road, said Arnot, they are already planning ahead for staged deliveries as their equipment is built.
“We will work with any company of any size to identify what their needs are,” said Arnot but strongly recommends not waiting until “October surprises”.
“Where we will have problems, and we have in the past, is in December when their fleet is all down and they want 12 units.”So while the sun shines on the North, it is the ideal time to take a few minutes and visit www.thermex-systems.com or give them a call at 1.800. 865.1532. Their heat exchange technology might be a welcome addition to your fleet.
What politics lost, business gained when Grande Prairie’s Eileen Marlowe decided that the best way she could help aboriginal people was to start her own personal development company.
Like many business owners, she started by identifying what she loved to do, found a gap in the market and set about being the one to fill it. The road wasn’t always easy and there were hurdles she needed to jump and strengths she needed to develop along the way.
“There isn’t anything that I can’t do, there are only things that I don’t want to do,” said Marlowe.
“I don’t think because I’m aboriginal I’m not going to fit in – I don’t think that way. I’m not afraid: I’m fearless.”
That wasn’t always the case for Marlowe. Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, and financial insecurity were the biggest challenges Marlowe said she faced when she started KCB Strategies September 2009.
“I needed to get over that part first and decide ‘I’m going to focus on this and I’m not going to half-assed go at it – that I need to go at it 100 per cent,’” she explained.
From a childhood that modeled more negative than positive, she has learned to find the path to self-esteem, confidence and to express those qualities in her business. She may not have been able to articulate just what she wanted when she left home but she knew that she wanted something different.
“I grew up in a large family and things weren’t always all that great so I think very early on, even before I went to high school, I knew I was going to take a very different path than my parents,” said Marlowe.
“I knew before I left at 15 that, once I left, I wasn’t going to go back. I wanted to try different things. I wanted to go different places.”
Ironically, the periodic visits to the small First Nation community she grew up in was one of the things that let her see there was a need for aboriginal people to learn better ways of relating to each other and about building interpersonal and communication skills.
For Marlowe, that starts with a healthy self-esteem. After learning everything she could about how to make that happen in her own life, she decided that it was something she wanted to pass on to others. Several positive professional experiences in a teaching capacity were pulling her in that direction, she opted to make that her career.
There is no end of learning on the path to self-development she’s learned, and for a time, she was sure she needed to fully master all the skills she wanted to teach others. But she recognized that she could wait her whole life before getting to do what she felt called to do with that approach.
She decided then that she simply needed to pursue what she’d been talking about for the last ten years.
“I thought, ‘I just need to do it – quit thinking about it, quit talking about it and just do it,” she said.
“It’s (how to present yourself), it’s whether or not you’re able to interact comfortably in a conversation with strangers, and even if you are able to do that, it’s how you are able to articulate yourself when you’re speaking.”
That is at the core of the skills she passes along in her seminars. To date, her attention has been focused on presenting her experience to aboriginal communities but she is open to teaching the same skills to non-aboriginal groups.
The other key thing she stresses to her students is the importance of networking. It’s something she thinks many aboriginal people might be a little intimidated about.
“I went to the Chamber of Commerce mixer and I’m the only aboriginal person in the room, obviously the only aboriginal person in the room, and I walk in there and I see that but I don’t let that deter me.
“I’m comfortable with going up to anyone and starting a conversation and then going into what it is I do and trying to sell that and get people interested in a project I was working on…” she said.
That ability to bring people together to see a project through to fruition is one of the strengths she draws on.
“To me, it’s just a matter of, ‘Now’s not the time to crumble. If you want this project to be successful you need to exude confidence, you have to be clear, you have to know what it is you’re doing, and deliver the message as clearly as possible.’”
That attitude didn’t come naturally – it was something she learned by seeking out mentors, others in business that had what she wanted, and by learning from them. It’s something she passes along to her students.
One of the people that inspired Marlowe was Joe Handley, who served as premier of Northwest Territories between 2003 and 2007.
In turn, Marlowe mentors others in her seminars by sharing her own experience so her students have a first hand example of a more positive way to approach each other and the world.
Her final advise to others thinking of going into business for themselves sums up her basic life philosophy.
“If at any time you‘re feeling stuck or frustrated, don’t force the issue. Stand back a bit, let it go, if it’s going to come it’s going to come on it’s own time…Sometimes I am my own worst enemy,” she concluded.Click here to get in touch with the author of this post
Highlights From The Pembina Institute’s In Situ Oil Sands Report Card.
About one-fifth of Alberta is available for an environmentally intense form of oil sands development known as in situ, or ‘in place’, extraction. The in situ process involves drilling several wells into the oil sands deposit, and then heating the oil sands underground using high-temperature steam so the bitumen can flow to a well and be pumped to the surface.
Mining is currently the predominant means of producing crude from Alberta’s oil sands, but in situ techniques could allow access to the 80 per cent of Alberta’s oil sands resources that are too deep to mine. Unfortunately, there is limited information about the environmental impacts and performance of in situ oil sands development.
Drilling Deeper provides a first-of-its-kind analysis of the environmental performance of in situ oil sands by comparing nine operational facilities from all three oil sands areas: Athabasca, Peace River and Cold Lake. The analysis follows the same report- card style methodology as Under-Mining the Environment, the Pembina Institute’s 2008 report that evaluated and compared the environmental performance of 10 existing and proposed oil sands mines.
In this new report, the Pembina Institute compared in situ projects on 17 environmental indicators grouped in five categories: general environmental management, land, air emissions, water and climate change.
In the first-ever assessment of environmental performance for deep oil sands development, Canadian in situ oil sands projects received marks ranging from 25 per cent to 60 per cent. Five of the nine projects surveyed scored less than 50 per cent, and the average score was only 44 per cent. These results demonstrate there is substantial room for improvement across the sector.
With the highest-ranked project scoring only 60 per cent and a nine-project average grade of 44 per cent, it is clear there is significant room to increase the environmental performance of in situ oil sands operations.
Many operations demonstrate leadership in some areas of project-specific environmental performance, and most companies have an environmental policy that commits to continuous improvement.
Primrose/Wolf Lake, Suncor Firebag, Suncor MacKay River, Cenovus Foster Creek and Imperial Oil Cold Lake were above average in overall environmental performance.
• Each project was a commercial-scale operation performing near expected technical performance.
• All four operations incorporate cogeneration into their facilities, reducing air and greenhouse emission intensities.
• The companies perform relatively well on environmental management.
Canadian Natural Primrose/Wolf Lake, Husky Tucker, Shell Peace River, JACOS Hangingstone and Cenovus Christina Lake all scored below the average environmental performance.
• Three of the projects were demonstration or pilot projects, which operate less efficiently and typically do not incorporate water recycling and sulphur recovery technologies.
• The other two projects were commercial facilities performing below their expected technical performance, resulting in increased emissions, water use and waste disposal rates.
Additionally, companies are lagging in the following key areas:
• Very few in situ operators have established absolute reduction targets for air emissions, water use and greenhouse gas emissions that go beyond regulated requirements. No project received full points on these indicators.
• Aside from a modest commitment from Suncor, no company invested in biodiversity offsets to compensate for the terrestrial impacts associated the development of its facility.
• Only two companies (Imperial Oil and Shell) have third-party accredited environmental management systems.
• Only three companies (Suncor, Cenovus and Shell) financially support the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute and its prov- ince-wide biodiversity monitoring program.
Want More Information?
For more information and a complete list of recommendations, download the full report, Drilling Deeper: The In Situ Oil Sands Report Card, from our website, www.oilsandswatch.org. You will also find photos, videos and other information and reports about the oil sands.
This report was prepared by Jeremy Moorhouse, Marc Huot and Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute and used with their permission.Click here to get in touch with the author of this post
In the wake of province’s push for Site C, Aeolis Wind Power awaits opportunity to develop a ‘world-class’ renewable resource
With winds of change blowing through BC’s Peace Region, wind power companies have been scrambling to develop projects in the hopes of landing a lucrative contract with BC Hydro.
Aeolis Wind Power initially appeared to be a step ahead of the pack, but now find themselves on the outside looking in, with no purchase agreements. In the wake of the provincial nod on the Site C hydroelectric dam, and the introduction of the potentially game-changing Clean Energy Act in BC, the company finds itself at a crossroads – despite having blazed the trail that others are now following
“We were the first ones to do major prospecting out there, and some of these ridges, like Hackney Hills, have a wind resource that is really second to none,” said Aeolis founder and CEO Juergen Puetter.
“Those are world-class wind resources, so we can’t imagine that it would not ultimately get developed at some point.”
That wind resource dovetails well with hydro power capacity on the Peace River, which can be ‘shaped’ to mutual benefit – when the wind is blowing, the flow through the dam can be reduced to store energy for when there’s little or no wind. The prospect of the 900-megawatt Site C dam, a project now entering its environmental assessment phase, could bode well.
“I think we’re going to take a wait and see attitude here,” said Puetter, adding there’s no clarity yet on how Site C would affect transmission capacity. “It could be good or bad – we don’t know.”
Site C will be a significant factor for the energy industry in Northeast BC, he said, as the push to produce more gas is also tied to the federal government’s announced intent to replace coal power plants with natural gas plants.
“That will further increase demand for natural gas, which means more drilling, more compressor stations, more processing plants, all of which take electricity,” he said. “BC Hydro will need a lot more energy than they think they have in their current plan.”
For Aeolis, more immediate concerns lie around the process of developing renewable power in BC.
On paper, Aeolis’ 1,400-megawatt Thunder Mountain project south of Tumbler Ridge appeared to be a can’t-miss prospect. With support from several area First Nations, a strong unidirectional wind, a secured a license of occupation, and an environmental assessment (EA) certificate approved in December 2009 – making it the only wind project under the 2008 Clean Power Call to gain that certificate so far – it appeared to be a strong candidate amongst the 68 proposals submitted.
But the project was not selected among the 19 renewable power projects awarded BC Hydro electricity purchase agreements (EPAs) in mid-March, which included five wind power projects near Tumbler Ridge and Chetwynd. Nor was it among the second and final group of EPAs awarded at the end of March for four more projects.
Finavera Renewables won EPAs for four separate wind projects in the Peace, while Capital Power’s Quality Wind Project near Tumbler Ridge was also approved. Of concern to Puetter are the viability of the projects selected.
“Some very strange awards were made,” he said. Not knowing BC Hydro’s selection criteria – which likely include price, quality of the wind resource, permitting, and First Nations agreements – makes it tough to evaluate, he said.
“We know the wind, we know the resource, we know a lot of things, and we also have seen how awards have been done by BC Hydro in the past, and what the consequences were,” he said. “If you look at the history, they have so far awarded four wind projects: two were never started, one went bankrupt and only one was built.”
The province’s foray into wind power development dates back to 2003, when Premier Gordon Campbell announced the Holberg Wind Energy Project had been selected as part of an $800 million investment in private-sector power. That project imploded due to an inadequate wind resource relative to the $55 per megawatt hour BC Hydro had agreed to pay for the power.
Under the 2006 Call for Clean Power, the Mount Hays Wind Farm Partnership near Prince Rupert never got off the ground, while Earthfirst’s Dokie Ridge Wind Project near Chetwynd went bankrupt before being picked up by Plutonic Power, and is now under construction. The only wind project built without incident was Altagas’ Bear Mountain Wind Project near Dawson Creek, which began selling power last November.
“What really irritates us is that during the call, when you’re not able to lobby or talk to anybody, some of the proponents are able to go to BC Hydro and negotiate a new deal behind closed doors, which have also been exempted from review by the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC),” he said, referencing the Earthfirst-turned-Plutonic project.
“There’s no transparency, we have no knowledge of what’s going on. And we don’t think that is a level playing field.”
The BCUC exemptions stem from the introduction of BC’s Clean Energy Act in late April. The Act would exempt Site C, the Northwest Transmission Line and recent BC Hydro calls for power from needing the commission’s approval. That means the reasons behind awarding the EPAs under the 2008 Clean Power Call are unlikely to ever become clear, said Puetter.
“We had expected a review…that would allow some understanding of what this is all about – what the pricing was, why were these projects selected over others. Now the door is shut on all that, and there’s no way for the BCUC to assess if this is actually in the ratepayers interest.”
The Act could mean new opportunities for Aeolis to sell its power, but those paths aren’t yet clear.
“We’re waiting to find out what the province means, because they are talking about export opportunities, with BC Hydro as an aggregator, yet have also invited the private sector to directly pursue export opportunities, which we are,” Puetter said. “We need to see, as time goes by, how much the BC government really wants to do this.”
Aeolis is still pursuing “a number of options” for Thunder Mountain and its 15 other projects in BC, and remains optimistic about the industry in BC.
“We hope the projects that were awarded get built, as projects that don’t get built hurt the industry – they hurt everybody,” he said.BloClick here to get in touch with the author of this post
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In this issue:
• Safety: Bill of Goods or Best Practices?
• Forestry Rebound
Oil sands image linked to cooperation
CALGARY – Oil sands company leaders hope collaborative endeavours will improve their image.
The latest alliance, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), was announced at a Calgary press conference early March.
Talisman announces sale agreement
CALGARY - Talisman Energy announced an agreement with Xstrata Coal to sell certain non-producing, non-core coal properties located in northeastern British Columbia for US$500 million in cash.