Meet the 13-Year-Old Taking On Bottled Water

AlterNet/By Maude Barlow, published Sept. 6, 2012

We should be encouraging the youth in our society to do exactly what Robyn is doing — engaging in local politics, acting to protect the environment and questioning the world around her.
In the last year, municipalities across Ontario and the rest of the country have begun taking a much-needed stand to protect local water sources. Since  World Water Day  in 2011, nine municipalities across Canada have become Blue Communities with many well on their way.

Blue Communities  are municipalities that adopt a water commons framework by: banning the sale of bottled water in public facilities and at municipal events, recognizing water as a human right, and promoting publicly financed, owned and operated water and waste-water services.

The success of the Blue Communities project in Ontario can be mainly attributed to Robyn Hamlyn who has met with 18 mayors and councillors. She talks about the environmental impacts of bottled water, the preposterous amount of profit bottled water companies make off communities’ lakes and streams and the stricter standards with which tap water is regulated. People who hear Hamlyn speak are captivated by her charm, passion and foresight to think long term about our water sources. And the incredible part of this success story is that Hamlyn is only  13 years old .

Her success has not only caught the attention of mayors, city councillors, environmentalists and media but it has also caught the attention of industry and organizations that believe water should be sold for profit. Hamlyn’s determination and effectiveness has provoked responses from Nestlé and Enviroment Probe, an organization that promotes the sale of water as a commodity.

John Challinor, Director of Corporate Affairs for Nestlé, has written letters to local newspapers saying there are other initiatives that the 13-year-old and others “can and should focus on to help preserve, protect and strengthen our water systems that are more effective than targeting bottled water.” More recently, Essie Solomon, an intern for  Environment Probe , wrote an article in the  Financial Post , chiding municipalities for taking “their advice from a 13-year-old.” It was shocking to read Environment Probe’s attack on Hamlyn who has been volunteering her free time to meet with municipal councils across Ontario to talk about the impact of bottled water on current water sources, climate change and social justice.

We should be encouraging the youth in our society to do exactly what Robyn is doing — engaging in local politics, acting to protect the environment and questioning the world around her. Solomon, whose article is condescendingly titled ” Don’t bottle 13-year-old’s water wisdom ,” would do well to pay attention to Hamlyn’s work rather than toe the line of an organization that promotes the sale of water for profit.

It’s also insulting to mayors and councillors to imply they do not examine critically the information presented to them. Not only is Hamlyn dispelling important myths about bottled water but she is also raising important issues that Canada is facing.

We believe municipal governments and other public bodies should not spend public funds providing bottled water at meetings or events, when a cheaper and more sustainable public alternative is readily available on tap. It simply doesn’t make financial or environmental sense.

Municipalities are at a crossroads and face pressing infrastructure needs in the wake of budget cuts and conditional funding from the Harper government. The Harper government is targeting water and wastewater services for privatization. PPP Canada explicitly promotes privatization of public services by only allocating the $1.2 billion under the P3 Canada Fund to municipalities that let corporations deliver water and wastewater, transportation and communications services on a for-profit basis.

The Harper government has shut down public debate on many critical water issues and amended environmental legislation that will reverberate for generations to come. So we are heartened to see municipalities take on critical water issues and provide forums for much needed debate and it is in them that we place our hope.

The Blue Communities Project is a joint initiative of the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). This project builds on a decade of Water Watch work in coalition with many other groups to protect public water services and challenge the bottled water industry.  Click here  to learn more about the Blue Communities Project.

NEB bars citizens from hearing

OIL PIPELINE: Protesters disrupt proceedings in London, Ontario

May 23, 2012  by Jonathan Sher

http://www.lfpress.com/news/london/2012/05/23/19789461.html

“We’re fed up with this,” said one native woman. She said her name is Yagotala and that she’s part of the Mohawk Nation. “The government isn’t listening.”

Members of Six Nations and Occupy London voiced their concerns about a request by Enbridge to reverse the flow of oil in a London area pipeline so it travels west to east, from Sarnia to Westover, near Hamilton.

Spooked by native and Occupy protests, the National Energy Board has barred citizens from a hearing that could remove obstacles to bringing oil to Southwestern Ontario from Alberta’s oil sands.

“It is unfortunate today that we have to take this step,” board chair Roland George said Wednesday. “(Protesters) have not shown respect and caused serious concerns about the safety of those in attendance.”

Only media and groups that applied earlier to intervene in the issue will be allowed in the hearing room Thursday at Hilton London — others can only tune in to a live webcast.

Earlier Wednesday, moments before pipeline giant Enbridge was to speak to the board, protesters brought the hearing to a halt, rising to their feet, a leader bellowing out at the injustices and others repeating phrases as if at a revival.

Board members fled the room as members of the Haudenosaunee First Nation decried what they called an intrusion on their lands and treaty rights.

video

“Mic check!
The people here
believe the NEB hearings
are illegitimate,
inaccessible,
and undemocratic.
Although we respect the efforts
of organizations at this hearing
that are raising concerns
about environmental threats
and Indigenous treaty violations.
We are here to challenge Enbridge,
the National Energy Board,
and the Conservative government.
The federal government
can completely overrule
the decision made here.
You are also failing to consider
the impacts of tar sands expansion
and all the treaties being breached
by this proposed pipeline reversal.
This project cannot go forward
without the free,
prior,
and informed consent
of the Haudenosaunee,
who would be directly
impacted by a pipeline rupture.
So, the official hearing is now over
until your request
has been approved by HDI
The Haudenosaunee Development Institute
and we would now like to commence
The People’s Hearing
with statements from the Haudenosaunee themselves.”

“We’re fed up with this,” said one native woman. She said her name is Yagotala and that she’s part of the Mohawk Nation. “The government isn’t listening.”

A board official, with police backing him, ordered the room cleared and nearly all left without incident — one woman was arrested.

The hearing resumed later with police monitoring who could enter the room.

First to speak was Enbridge, which wants to reverse the flow of oil in a pipeline in London’s backyard so it moves from west to east, from Sarnia to Westover near Hamilton.

Less reliable oil from overseas can be replaced by Alberta crude, said Enbridge lawyer Douglas Crowther. “This will benefit shippers, producers and the broader Canadian public interest,” he told the energy board.

He disputes claims by environmentalists, who point to a rupture of an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan two years ago and say Londoners should be alarmed because the pipeline crosses under the Thames River just north of the city.

The Aamjiwnaang First Nation argued Enbridge had done far too little to establish the changes it plans are safe for the environment or respectful of treaty rights.

There’s been no oil in the pipeline this year and a trickle last year, so Enbridge must show if increased flow will denigrate the air, water and soil, Aamjiwnaang lawyer Scott Smith told the board.

Then the company must share findings with, and seek input from, Aamjiwnaang First Nation, he said.

Instead, Enbridge has only studied some of the changes and addition to its infrastructure, he said.

Environmentalists fear Enbridge’s push to reverse the flow of oil near London is the first step toward moving oil to the U.S. east coast, a move that could speed oilsands production and degrade the global environment.

Some environmental groups will make their case Thursday.

Margaret Vance, president of the Ontario Pipeline Landowners Association, has immediate concerns: the pipeline is within two kilometres of her farm north of Woodstock. “I don’t want to walk out on our backyard and see a field of oil.”

Native protesters shut down Enbridge hearing in Ontario

Led by Six Nations community members, Enbridge Line 9 hearings disrupted, shut down for half a day.

May 23, 2012

http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2012/05/native-protesters-shut-down-enbridge.html

LONDON, Ontario — Dozens of environmental justice activists led by Indigenous activists from Haudenosaunee successfully “mic checked” a stop to Enbridge Line 9 hearings in London early Wednesday morning. Members of the National Energy Board had traveled to London to hear presentations from major oil conglomerates as well as environmental NGOs. After successfully disrupting meeting, Haudenosaunee representatives explained that they had not been consulted about the pipeline plans, which would negatively impact their lands.

 


“We are not only fighting for our rights but yours too,” said grandmother and long time Indigenous activist Ruby Montour, after members of the board and lawyers from the oil companies left the presentation room. “They need to be fair with our people, with you, your ancestors and your children. The environment is going to pay big time if these pipelines rupture and they need to listen to our concerns. They need to speak to us, the real people who need to be spoken to, whose treaties have been broken. They forced us to go to school, they forced us to learn, and we learned so now we know when they are lying or cheating. Well, they can’t anymore. They can’t force things on our lands.”

Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc. is proposing the Line 9 Trailbreaker Pipeline to transport tar sands oil through some of the most important natural and cultural landscapes in eastern Canada.  Under the plan, Enbridge would pump corrosive tar sands oil – the dirtiest oil on the planet – through a pipeline that was built in 1975. Enbridge has taken the first step to implement this plan by recently filing a permit application with Canada’s National Energy Board.

“This project cannot go forward without the free, prior and informed consent of the Haudenosaunee who would be directly impacted by a pipeline rupture,” said Metis activist Sakihitowin Awasis who led the mic check that was repeated by over two dozen activists in the room. The Mic Check continued: “The people believe the NEB hearings are illegitimate, inaccessible and undemocratic”

“Pipelines have been stalled or stopped going westward through British Columbia, southwards through Texas (the Keystone XL) and are now being pushed eastward through Ontario. It will be met with similar resistance,” said organizer Toban Black outside the five star Hilton Hotel after the meeting was recessed.

Awasis was arrested by London police, held for over an hour and released with a trespass ticket.

The National Energy Board public hearing was shut down for half the day, after which only the press and the official intervenors were allowed to re-enter. After submissions from intervenors inside the room, the Board ruled that members of the public could re-enter if the intervenors vouched that the people coming in would not be disruptive.

Activists stayed outside and organized a People’s Hearing where statements were read by those gathered and others who had submitted their statements online http://peopleshearing2012.wordpress.com/line9/ .

Enbridge wants to pipe tarsands oil to Montreal

The $100-million Line 9B reversal is expected to be available for service in early 2014, assuming it gets National Energy Board approval.

Posted on May 18, 2012   by Michelle Lalonde

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Enbridge+pipe+tarsands+Montreal/6640747/story.html

MONTREAL – Now that Enbridge Inc. has announced its intention to pipe oil from Alberta’s oilsands projects not just through Ontario, as previously announced, but all the way to Montreal, Quebec environmental groups are demanding a National Energy Board assessment of the overall project.

 

 

Public hearings into the company’s project to reverse the flow of crude oil between Sarnia, Ont., and North Westover Station near Cambridge, Ont. are to begin in London, Ont., next week. But this week, the company announced it will be also be asking the National Energy Board to approve a project to reverse the flow in existing pipelines to get oilsands oil from Ontario to Montreal.

Quebec environmental groups sounded the alarm last August that Enbridge was reviving piece by piece its controversial Trailbreaker project, abandoned in 2009 due to a poor economic climate. That project proposed to reverse the flow direction in existing pipelines that have traditionally brought foreign oil from Portland, Maine, up to Montreal and west to Ontario refineries. The idea with Trailbreaker was to allow the same pipelines to bring Alberta oil east to Montreal, and then south.

Enbridge says the Trailbreaker project is still dead, but the company wants to reverse the flow in its Westover-to-Montreal pipeline because it now has long-term commitments from the Suncor refinery in Montreal East and the Ultramar refinery in Lévis.

The pipeline, which Enbridge calls Line 9B, can carry up to 240,000 barrels of crude per day. Refineries are now interested in Alberta crude because it’s selling at about $20 less per barrel than the foreign-sourced oil they are buying now, a spokesperson for Enbridge told The Gazette.

“Quebec refineries have been forced to take crude from the North Sea or West Africa or the Middle East and they are paying quite a bit more for that crude than those who have access to production from Western Canada,” said Stephen Wuori, president of Enbridge’s Liquids Pipelines division.

Équiterre’s Steven Guilbeault and ecologist David Suzuki said Quebecers’ interests will not be served by this project.

“The pipeline, which would carry the tarsands oil all the way from Alberta to Quebec, would go through some of the most densely populated areas of the country, such as the Greater Montreal area,” Guilbeault said, adding polls have shown Quebecers are against oilsands oil because of the environmental impacts of that industry.

Suzuki said Canadians should be reducing their dependence on oil, and pushing their governments toward renewable energy.

“We have always said that the tarsands oil should stay in the ground, period,” said Suzuki, in Montreal this week on speaking engagements. “But this whole battle over pipelines is masking the big question, which is why don’t we have a national energy policy in this country?”

Environmental Defence and Équiterre released a statement Thursday charging that pumping oilsands oil through pipelines in Ontario and Quebec will mean more air pollution and more risk of toxic spills into waterways. They demanded that the National Energy Board assess Enbridge’s full plan, rather than just pieces of it, so that questions of greenhouse gas emissions and risks of spills over long distances can be addressed.

“Getting raw tarsands oil through pipelines is like moving hot, liquid sandpaper that grinds and burns its way through a pipe, thus increasing the chance that weakened pipelines will rupture,” the groups said in their joint press release, adding that pipelines that transport tarsands oil in the U.S. spill three times as much oil per mile as the average pipeline.

But Wuori objected to this characterization.

“The notion that we are putting sandy crude through the pipe is absolutely false,” he said.

The oil that will be shipped through the 9B pipeline will be either diluted bitumen or partially refined crude, and more likely the latter since it is a lot like the light crude refineries in Montreal and Lévis are currently refining, he said.

Wuori stressed that oilsands oil is not sandy by the time it goes into the pipeline. The crude is analyzed at the intake to the pipe to ensure it is no more than 0.5 per cent sediment and water, he said.

“I can’t say that any particular crude is never going to move through that pipeline, but this project is really about light crude for these refineries, because they can get it at more attractive prices than their current sources,” Wuori said.

The $100-million Line 9B reversal is expected to be available for service in early 2014, assuming it gets National Energy Board approval.

It’s Official

Leaked documents reveal Harper government’s active targeting of anti-oil sands organizations.

Posted on February 24, 2012   by Adam Kostrich

http://www.mediacoop.ca/story/it%E2%80%99s-official/10032

Expanding oil sands production at the expense of Canada’s international reputation and the natural environment is an issue of respect. Respect for Indigenous rights, the democratic process, and the natural environment are losing the battle against the reverence of the almighty dollar.

It’s Official: A story about environment and governance.

Documents obtained by the Climate Action Network via access to information legislation reveal that the Harper government drew up lists of “adversaries” and “allies” to the Athabasca oil sands in March of last year.

The document, entitled the Pan-European Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy, states that it was produced in order to “refram[e] the European debate on oil sands in a manner that protects and advances Canadian interests related to the oil sands and broader Canadian interests in Europe.” It was created in response to EU sensitivities about the emissions-intensive nature of the Alberta oil sands project around the time of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference of December 2009.

In a list of principal actors, the document labels environmental NGOs and Aboriginal groups as adversaries of government economic interests, and lists the National Energy Review Board and energy associations such as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and the Consumer Energy Alliance as allies.

Shortly after its release, the leaked report was supplemented by Greenpeace’s release of a copy of minutes from a meeting of government and oil representatives, obtained under the same legislation. Attendees of the March 2010 meeting included the deputy ministers of Alberta Environment and Alberta Energy, and David Collyer, the President of CAPP.

Stated goals of the meeting included CAPP “upping their game on oil sands outreach” and “turn[ing] up the volume on the existing approach,” denoting an effort to both expand and intensify attempts to gain public support.

Environment Minister Peter Kent stated that the documents are not indicative of the government’s approach to defending the reputation of the oil sands. But the government’s rhetoric is not well received by those who oppose oil sands expansion, the same individuals who have long been implicitly labeled “anti-Canadian” by government communiqués.

“While not surprising, Harper’s ongoing criminalization of Indigenous people is extremely disturbing,” Indigenous and environmental activist Clayton Thomas-Muller told theLeveller.

“The blanket labeling of Aboriginal groups as adversaries of Canada’s economic agenda is another instance of the two-faced bold lies that the Harper government is so comfortable operating in,” he said, referencing the fact that the Pan-European Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy papers were exposed on the eve of a Crown meeting between the Harper government and Aboriginal leaders.

Commenting on the influence of the oil industry in shaping public opinion through the media, Thomas-Muller said, “it’s a disproportionate playing field,” citing a $24 million public relations campaign undertaken by public relations firms such as Ethical Oil and CAPP. Both the Harper government’s duplicity and its relationship to Canadian oil companies, Thomas-Muller says, “tears at the very fabric of democracy.” In his view, this is not an accident.

“What there is right now is a skewed and polarized portrayal of these issues, and as long as it is so polarized there is no debate.”

On the issue of polarization, journalists and academics have drawn parallels between the Harper government’s list and the infamous lists drawn up by US Senator Joseph McCarthy, who worked feverishly to associate political dissent with disloyalty during the 1950s, and the “with us or against us” approach of former US President George W. Bush.

The report gives some context to the Harper government’s recent behaviour, which blurs the line between the economic interests of big business and Canadian interests.

At the Durban Conference in December 2011, Canada walked tenderly around commitments to reduce or limit carbon emissions before backing out of the Kyoto Protocol altogether after the conference had ended. All this in the name of ensuring economic stability – which in this case means continued profit growth for business.

Last month, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver memorably accused “radical” groups – his loose definition of which seemed to include any coherent opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and whom he claims are sponsored by “foreign money” – of attempting to “hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.” He claimed that these groups were receiving funding from “foreign special interest groups” to undermine the Canadian economy, “no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth.”

Minister Oliver’s comments about foreign money and hijacked regulatory systems seem more applicable to the government of Alberta than to political dissidents.

At a speech given during September 2011’s Canada-Asia Co-operation Energy Conference, Minister of Alberta Energy Ron Leipert said that Chinese industry had invested some $15 billion in the oil sands in 2010, in part because more than half of the world’s oil reserves accessible to private investment are in Alberta. In addition, China has pledged $2 billion towards the construction of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline to the Pacific coast, which is being met with staunch opposition from environmental and Indigenous groups. Foreign money indeed.

As for “attempts to hijack the regulatory system,” the CAPP delegation stressed to Alberta government representatives in a 2010 meeting the “opportunity cost” for intensifying public relations campaigns. They explained their “desire for coordination between industry and the federal and provincial governments on this issue.” This begs the question – who desires this coordination if it takes place outside the democratic process, and who is primed to benefit from it?

Increasingly transparent cases of the Canadian oil industry and the Harper government working in tandem to puppeteer public opinion on economic and environmental issues show that the Harper government prefers a welcoming business climate to a habitable environmental climate. Expanding oil sands production at the expense of Canada’s international reputation and the natural environment is an issue of respect. Respect for Indigenous rights, the democratic process, and the natural environment are losing the battle against the reverence of the almighty dollar.

Abitibi’s $500-million lawsuit an outrage, national council says

Days before the federal budget is to be tabled, AbitibiBowater has announced it is filing a NAFTA Chapter 11 challenge against Canada for $500 million.
“Newfoundland is only taking back the land and water rights it lent Abitibi on condition they produce newsprint. If Abitibi is not going to do that any more, for whatever reason, the province is within its rights to reclaim the land and demand the company clean up what’s left,” states Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew. Continue reading