Krause: Allan report gave environmental groups exactly what they wanted

Krause: Allan report gave environmental groups exactly what they wanted

Scorned, late and a million dollars over budget, Premier Jason Kenney’s inquiry into the funding of activism against Alberta oil came to a close last week with the release of the final report by commissioner Steve Allan, a forensic accountant.

Giving environmental groups exactly what they wanted, Allan found no misconduct, nothing to impugn. In fact, his report praises Tzeporah Berman, finding her autobiography “particularly useful.”

The inquiry was called because of evidence that behind the protests, petitions, lobbying and legal action that has obstructed all Alberta pipeline projects, there has been a central funding and co-ordination apparatus called “The Tar Sands Campaign.” For a decade, I compiled this evidence by going through tax returns, financial statements, annual reports and other documents.

Initial funding for The Tar Sands Campaign came from Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a charity of the famous family that pioneered the American oil industry. Tax returns for the fund show that in 2007, it paid US$250,000 to a California organization called Corporate Ethics International “to co-ordinate the initial steps of a markets campaign to stem demand for tar sands derived fuels in the United States.”

At first, the end goals of The Tar Sands Campaign weren’t clear. That changed when CorpEthics posted a webpage that said, “From the very beginning, the campaign strategy was to land-lock the tar sands so their crude could not reach the international market where it could fetch a high price per barrel.” CBC reported this and within days, that description was re-written and those revealing words were gone.

Co-ordination amongst the funders of CorpEthics’ campaign is described on its website.

CorpEthics says that it recruits groups, determines their role and necessary funding, supervises, and reviews final reports. “Of course, we provide regular coordination meetings with the original funders to make sure they are fully apprised of campaign progress and challenges,” CorpEthics says.

The clear admission that the goal was to “land-lock” Canadian crude got me wondering whether this is intentional interference with economic relations. With the help of about 20 Calgary friends, I raised funds and retained a law firm to write a proper, legal opinion paper that was provided to the government of Alberta in July 2018.

Budget was limited so the legal opinion was only preliminary, but it was good enough for Rachel Notley, who was premier at the time. “We are working to set up a second legal opinion,” the Ministry of Energy’s office told me in November 2018.  The next I heard was, “Can we connect about next steps on potential legal action? Things moved way slower than I had hoped but I think I’ve finally broken the log jam.” That was January, a few months before Notley lost the 2019 election.

When Kenney and the UCP won, I was hoping for a lawsuit. I want to see the Rockefellers in a Calgary courthouse, explaining why they put the boots to Alberta but not Texas.

I support the goal of substantially reducing our use of fossil fuels, but I disagree with how The Tar Sands Campaign has gone about it because globally, it hasn’t kept oil in the ground. Worldwide consumption has soared from 90 million barrels per day to nearly 100 million. The U.S. lifted its ban on exporting oil and production in Texas has boomed, meanwhile, our country is in pipeline purgatory. The long stalls and project cancellations have caused generational economic pain for no environmental gain. That’s why this campaign is unacceptable no matter who funds it, Canadian or foreign.

To break the gridlock that is keeping Alberta oil from getting full value on international markets, one of the things that government and industry need to know is whether anything is illegal. Presumably, that’s why a law firm was contracted. “It will find out if any laws have been broken,” Kenney said when he announced the inquiry. But that’s not what commissioner Steve Allan did.

“No wrongdoing,” the headlines boomed when the report was released. And yet, in his 657-page report, there isn’t a single sentence of legal analysis. What the commissioner, who says he is not allowed to comment further, provided was his personal opinion, not a professional legal analysis.

The reason that I followed the money was that some of the allegations against Alberta oil are half-truths at best. Funders should bear responsibility for what they fund.

One of the false claims against Alberta oil is that the industry degrades or destroys an area the size of Florida or England. If true, that would be condemnable, but it’s just not true. Yes, the oilsands underlie a very large area and, yes, the tailing ponds are huge, but they are less than one per cent of the size of England or Florida and, by law, the land must be remediated.

Allan calls for transparency, yet his own report is heavily redacted. Entire data tables are blacked out, including all the names of 28 First Nations organizations that received US$102 million. Of the 120 pages in Deloitte’s report, at least 50 pages have substantial redactions.

Instead of public hearings, the commissioner opted for a “hearing by correspondence process.” This might have been a novel way to do a public inquiry during a pandemic, but there was almost nothing public about this inquiry. The commissioner did not make public the correspondence that he sent to environmental groups and their U.S. funders nor their replies.

The very same day that the inquiry’s report was released, the Oil Sands Pathways Initiative released the details of its commitment to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from oilsands operations. This ambitious, long-term commitment will involve carbon capture, use and storage, hydrogen and other technologies. Let’s give credit where due. Pressure from environmental campaigns no doubt spurred industry to take GHG emissions more seriously. Kudos to the enviros. And kudos to industry as well. If only we could have gotten to this point without so much collateral damage.

Source: Calgary Herald

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