1. ExxonMobil continues plans to shutter the offshore
Yesterday, ExxonMobil asked the Utilities and Review Board (UARB) for permission to shut down and abandon its Point Tupper Fractionation Plant. This follows a March application to the National Energy Board to close and abandon the Goldboro Gas Plant. ExxonMobil says the Sable Offshore Energy Project (SOEP) is “in a stage of naturally declining production,” and wants to abandon the entire project by 2020.
Both the fractionation plant and gas plant are part of the SOEP, which started producing natural gas in 1999. SOEP consists of five fields — Venture, South Venture, Thebaud, North Triumph, and Alma — that contain a total of 21 wells spread across 200 square kilometres of seafloor near Sable Island. (These are shallow water wells — the deepest is at 76 meters, and of a different category than BP’s operation, which is at a depth of 2,800 metres).
“Through interfield pipelines, the gas and liquids [collected from the SOEP wells] are gathered at the central Thebaud platform for initial processing, then transported via a 26’’ gathering pipeline to landfall in the Country Harbour area of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia and then to the Goldboro Gas Plant where the natural gas liquids and remaining water are removed,” explains the application. “The Goldboro Gas Plant produces marketable natural gas that flows to markets in Eastern Canada and the Northeastern United States via the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline (M&NP). The Goldboro Gas Plant also produces natural gas liquids which are routed by pipeline to the Point Tupper Fractionation Plant for additional processing prior to being sold.”
At the Point Tupper plant, the natural gas liquids are refined into propane, butane, and liquid condensate.
2. Affordable housing
“The provincial government won’t allow Halifax to implement a policy that could create hundreds of units of affordable housing in the municipality annually, even after a direct request,” reports Zane Woodford for StarMetro Halifax:
… [Halifax] council was hoping to put inclusionary zoning to work in HRM. Such a policy requires property developers to include affordable housing in apartment or condo buildings they construct in an area, whether it’s just certain zones or the entire municipality.
“Based on HRM’s average annual housing starts of 1,800-2,500 units, a 10 per cent requirement of affordable housing could produce 180-250 affordable units per year, which is more than the number of units produced in the past two decades,” said a report to a council committee in 2016.
But Halifax doesn’t have the power to create the legislation. In December, regional council voted to ask the province to make an amendment to the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter. A spokesperson for the province’s Department of Municipal Affairs said the government hasn’t done so.
3. Jean Michel Blais
Yesterday, Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean Michel Blais announced he will retire “by March 31, 2019.” That date is the end of this fiscal year, and I’m guessing will allow Blais to take whatever vacation time he’s accrued before then.
Blais was the much-needed outsider that took control of the force. Previous to Blais, and going back to at least the 1950s (probably even longer), the chief had been appointed from within the ranks, which led to all sorts of problems. I often get the sense that Blais is trying to steer a giant organization towards modern currents of policing, only to resisted by a crew of traditionalists who want to stick to the old straits.
That’s not to say Blais didn’t have his own shortcomings, but I’ll give him props for trying.
4. #NOPIPE Land & Sea Rally
Tomorrow at noon, people protesting Northern Pulp Mill’s plan to pump effluent from the mill into the Northumberland Strait will gather at the Pictou Exhibition Grounds and then march to the Hector Quay Marina on the waterfront. At the same time, boats will gather at the mouth of the harbour and sail to the Hector.
A press release announcing the protest reads:
Lobster fishermen have just hauled their traps from the Northumberland Strait for the season. Now they are readying their boats for the #NOPIPE Land & Sea Rally on Friday, July 6.
“We have had long days of fishing for the last two months, but we haven’t lost focus on what’s at stake,” says Allan MacCarthy, a third-generation lobster fisherman from Caribou Wharf, NS. “Friday, July 6 is our day to unite and tell our government that dumping 70-90 million litres of pulp waste a day into prime fishing grounds is not acceptable.”
MacCarthy expects to see fishing boats from all three Maritime provinces and Pictou Landing First Nation in Pictou Harbour at 1 pm on July 6, to show their opposition to Northern Pulp’s proposed new effluent treatment system. The proposed system would pipe waste effluent through a 10 kilometre underwater pipe from the Abercrombie Point pulp mill to discharge into the Northumberland Strait, home to rich lobster, crab, scallop, herring and mackerel fisheries and spawning grounds.
“The No Pipe rally has been buzzing over our VHF boat radios and at the wharfs for the last few weeks,” says MacCarthy. “This proposed pipe has fishermen from Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick uniting like we never have before. One fisherman has even offered a $500 reward for the boat traveling the farthest to the rally.”
“We all fish the same waters,” says Bobby Jenkins from the PEI Fishermen’s Association. “What happens to the Northumberland Strait will affect the futures of all of us. PEIFA will be at the rally to say “No Pipe in the Strait.”
While excitement for the rally builds among fishermen on the water, momentum is also gaining on land.
Chief Andrea Paul of Pictou Landing First Nation, has invited chiefs from the three Maritime provinces to stand with her at the July 6th rally.
On rally morning, Pictou Lodge manager Wes Surrett will host the Tourism Industry of Nova Scotia’s (TIANS) Board of Directors’ monthly meeting. “I couldn’t be more pleased that TIANS asked to hold their meeting in Pictou on July 6, in order to attend the rally at noon,” says Surett.
“Businesses in the Pictou area have faced challenges from poor air quality from the pulp mill for years,” Surett explains. “Pulp effluent in the Strait would be a huge blow to the $200 million tourism industry on the Northumberland Shore and our brand of clean, warm waters.”
Rally organizers say the event is starting to take on a life of its own. “We’ve had so many offers of support from individuals and organizations,” says Krista Fulton of Friends of the Northumberland Strait. “While some say the mill has divided the community for 50 years, I’ve witnessed how Northern Pulp’s latest proposal has drawn this community closer together.”
Town of Pictou Mayor Jim Ryan is one community member who has stepped up to the plate. Ryan will open the event and welcome people to the rally and the community.
In the neighbouring municipality of New Glasgow, resident and avid sport fisherman, Matt Dort, has built his own on-line audience of over 17,000 to help spread the “no pipe” word and promote the rally.
Fulton says organizations including the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre, and the Council of Canadians have been spreading the word beyond Pictou County through their regional and national networks. Halifax’s Ecology Action Centre has offered bus transportation for people needing a ride and are encouraging those with vehicles to carpool.
“We are so pleased to see so much support coming from outside Pictou County, because this issue really does affect the whole province,” says Fulton. “We encourage people to stay in Pictou for the weekend and take in the Pictou Lobster Carnival festivities. We are proud of our fishing culture here in Pictou and once the rally wraps up, we’ll take the rest of the weekend to celebrate the end of a successful lobster fishing season and the safe return of our fishermen.”
Fulton promises that local restaurants will be serving up lots of the Atlantic Coast lobster that the Maritime provinces are so famous for.
The #NOPIPE Land and Sea Rally is organized by Friends of the Northumberland Strait and the Northumberland Fisherman’s Association. More rally information at nopiperally.com.
5. Second container port fantasy
“A new study cautions governments against putting public cash into new port infrastructure in Nova Scotia, and suggests private investors should choose who wins the battle for East Coast container traffic,” reports Michael Tutton for the Canadian Press:
The document, paid for by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the province’s Transportation Department, examines the prospects of the Port of Halifax and proposed container port facilities in the Strait of Canso and in Sydney.
It says private-sector stakeholders should determine which projects go forward.
The report by CPCS consultants continues to highlight challenges, raised in a previous report published in 2016, faced by the Novaporte development at the Port of Sydney, including the lack of railway access and the possibility of ice in the harbour.
Tutton writes that the report says the nonexistent container terminals at Sydney and Melford could conceivably handle the giant ships that are supposedly about to start coming through the Suez Canal to North America, ships that Halifax cannot serve. But just last month, the global freight insurance corporation TT Club published Brave new world? — What industry leaders really think the future holds for container transport, an extensive study that examines how the container industry will evolve over the next 25 years, until 2043. In a press release announcing publication of the study, TT Club summarizes its results as follows:
So what will change in the future or will the familiar boom and bust cycle continue? ‘Brave new world?’ reports five broad conclusions:
1. The physical characteristics of the industry are unlikely to change, as the container and the ships that carry them will still exist over the next 25 years
2. Trade flows will become more balanced across trade lanes as incomes converge between East Asia and developed economies, and the emerging economies in South Asia and Africa “catch up”
3. Automation will be broadly adopted across the value chain, especially on the landside in ports, terminals, rail and trucking, to unlock significant efficiencies
4. Digital, data, and analytics will cause a fundamental shift in the sources of value creation and customers will expect a high level of reliability, transparency and user-friendliness
5. The industry leaders in 2043 will look very different; some will consolidate, others may change their business model. Some will be “digital natives”, either start-ups or e-commerce players optimising the container transport leg of their supply chain.
In short, there will be more container traffic around the world (one analyst names Africa as the main expansion territory for the industry), and the industry “won’t be displaced by ‘sci-fi’ concepts like autonomous floating containers or undersea hyperloops.” Nor will the existing fleets of ships be substantially replaced. The bulk of container traffic will continue to be carried by ships that Halifax can handle (and for reasons that I won’t go into here, even the super ships that will be built will be deployed in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, not the Atlantic).
Back to Tutton’s article, the ACOA report repeats that old canard that “increased use of the Suez for South East Asian and Indian cargoes to and from North America will offer a real opportunity for Nova Scotia as its ports are first-in, last-out on this routing.” I’ve dispelled this illusion many times, but Tutton talked to Jean-Paul Rodrigue, a professor of geography at New York’s Hofstra University in Long Island, who also threw water on it:
He also said he remains “a little bit skeptical” about the viability of a second Nova Scotia container port, due to the lack of a large local market in Atlantic Canada.
That’s it exactly. Nova Scotia being “closest to Europe” or the Suez Canal or whatever is a disadvantage to shippers, not an advantage. They can’t sell many or even any goods here, so we’re just a transshipment port, somewhere to land on the way to somewhere else. Unload the containers and put them on trucks to go outtahere. There’ll be small reasons why that’s necessary occasionally, but in the main, shippers want to get their goods closest to their ultimate destination, which is high-population areas like Chicago and New York, and areas with intense industrial production (which in North America remains the U.S. Midwest).
It’s highly unlikely that much private money will go into building a second container port in Nova Scotia. But political pressure could cause governments to spend the billions needed to fulfill that fantasy.
1. Fort Beausejour
“Traditional summer tourist destinations in these parts are 18th or 19th century fortifications, like the Citadel in Halifax or, my favourite, Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal,” writes Stephen Archibald:
A drive-by fortification, that you may never have stopped to enjoy, is Fort Beausejour, symbolically defending the New Brunswick border at Aulac.
The original fortifications were built by the French in 1751 to demonstrate their sovereignty over territory to the west. The British had already built a fort close to the present day Nova Scotia Welcome Centre (sort of a You’re Not Welcome Centre). And, of course, at that moment Halifax was being established as a British stronghold to irritate Cape Breton (Louisbourg). That has endured.
Archibald writes at length about the fort, with lots of photos, and only towards the end of his essay tells us about his personal connection to it:
We stopped at Fort Beausejour because in 1968 (that would be 50 years ago), I had a summer job here working on an archaeological excavation and had not made a real visit since.
I was responsible for excavating a subterranean, wooden storage building buried inside one of the bastions of the star-shaped fort. The 200-year-old collapsed structure was very well-preserved because it had been covered with several meters of damp clay.
Partly as a result of my reporting on the Glen Assoun case, I’ve become obsessed with wrongful convictions, and that in turn has led me to the podcast Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom.
Flom is a producer in the music industry, and brings a wonderful New York accent and no-bullshit attitude to the podcast. Each week, he interviews people who have been wrongfully convicted and have spent decades in prison for crimes they did not commit. These are deep dives into single cases, showing how police and prosecutors either overlooked evidence or actually conspired to convict people they knew were innocent, how the wrongfully convicted survived in hellish prison conditions, how they kept hope, how they were eventually released, and what they’re doing with their lives now. There are redemptive twists in the stories which show the incredible fortitude of spirit of those profiled, so the podcast leaves me with a mix of anger and inspiration.
With the exception of one story from Kenya, the podcast surveys only American cases. As Flom reminds us, there are many thousands of people who have been wrongfully convicted in the U.S.; it’s an epidemic, a common occurrence. We know about these cases because they are revealed by an infrastructure of Innocence Projects across many states, which in turn tap into wrongful conviction projects at law schools, and as well there is well-funded investigative reporting.
As I listen to the stories, I’m struck that there are nowhere near as many organizations and reporters looking into Canadian cases, and so far as I know, no law school has taken the issue on in a major way. Innocence Canada does incredible work, but it is underfunded and under-resourced. Since 1993, the organization has helped overturn 23 wrongful convictions; in terms of people who have spent decades in prison in Canada, there are a handful of other wrongful convictions that have been overturned without Innocence Canada’s help, but the total number is certainly well below 100.
As there are scant resources put into investigating wrongful convictions in Canada, I’m convinced that there are many, many cases that are simply unknown.
Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — here’s the agenda.
No public meetings.
No public meetings this week.
Formulating Success Math-Stats Networking and Pitch Event (Thursday, 5pm, Room 1011 and Atrium, Rowe Management Building) — tech start-ups will make us all rich. I’m spending all my tech start-up riches at the beer garden tonight, how about you?
No public events.
In the harbour
5am: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Bedford Basin anchorage from St. John’s
6am: ZIM Texas, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Algeciras, Spain
7am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
11am: Hoegh Transporter, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from New York
11:30am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport back to Pier 41
3:30pm: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Argentia, Newfoundland
4pm: Hoegh Transporter, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
4:30pm: ZIM Texas, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
5pm: Asian Moon, container ship, arrives at berth TBD from Mariel, Cuba
7pm: Feng Huang Ao, asphalt tanker, arrives at McAsphalt from New Orleans
5:30am: Morning Christina, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
4pm: Morning Christina, car carrier, moves from Autoport to Pier 31
8pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
10:30pm: Morning Christina, car carrier, sails from Pier 31 for sea
No cruise ships are scheduled to arrive until Monday.
I like the heat.