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jobs versus environment

Nova Scotia’s Dirty Secret: The Tale of a Toxic Mill and The Book Its Owners Don't Want You to Read

By Jimmy Thomson - DeSmog.Ca, February 9, 2017

Lighthouse Beach, a white sand crescent on the north coast of Nova Scotia, was once considered the jewel of the region. People would flock there from New Glasgow and Pictou on summer weekends, visiting the lobster bar and swimming in the clear waters of the Northumberland Strait.

There had been plans for a twice-daily train that would carry visitors between the seaside, a hotel and a local yacht club. Dreams began of a destination national park. But all of these plans were choked off by the introduction of a giant pulp and paper mill in 1967 that literally transformed a large part of Pictou Landing into a toxic dump.

You can smell it usually before you can see it: clouds of sulphur belching from the Abercrombie Point Pulp and Paper Mill smokestacks. For decades, the plant pumped contaminated water into the strait, using Boat Harbour, once an idyllic tidal lagoon used for fishing and clam digging, as a settling pond for highly toxic effluent.

It was also once my family’s home.

My family settled over 200 years ago in this piece of Mi’kmaq First Nation territory, eventually transferring their own property into government care for — as they were told — protection for future generations.

Waves now roll in on Lighthouse Beach dark brown and foamy, the colour of Guinness, where I — like so many other kids in the area — learned to swim and sail.

The story of Pictou Landing is one of desperation, of corruption and incompetence. So perhaps it’s no surprise that when Canadian journalist and anthropologist Joan Baxter tried to tell it, old forces of power moved in to silence her. The mill’s owners tried to banish Baxter and her book The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest from local bookstores.

Of course, that backfired in spectacular fashion: The Mill sold out two printings and became the best-selling book in Nova Scotia Chapters and Coles book stores the month it was released.

I reached Baxter at her home in Nova Scotia to talk about The Mill, the stories that were told to hide industry’s impacts from locals and the fight against years of environmental racism and degradation still plaguing the region to this day.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Site C Dam Decision Causes Friction Within NDP Ranks Ahead of Provincial Council Meeting

By Sarah Cox - DeSmog Canada, February 2, 2018

When B.C. cabinet members arrive at the NDP’s provincial council meeting tomorrow in New Westminster, they will face a group of “very concerned” delegates and party members who are urging the government to reconsider its decision to proceed with the Site C dam.

We’re not going to let this rest,” said Jef Keighley, vice-president of the Surrey South NDP constituency association. “The NDP campaigned on the whole concept of transparency so let’s be transparent.”

Keighley is one of 400 people — the majority of them NDP members and supporters — who attended a Site C Summit in Victoria last weekend aimed at making the government accountable for its decision to continue with Site C and outlining an action plan to stop the $10.7 billion project on the Peace River.

We believe the NDP cabinet was misled in its ill-considered decision to proceed with Site C,” states a letter from summit participants to NDP provincial council delegates and observers, a copy of which was provided to DeSmog Canada.

A reconsideration and reversal of that decision, sooner rather than later, is critical to the long-term interest of the people of B.C.”

The letter says it is “imperative” that the provincial council agenda be amended to include a discussion on Site C. The main items on the agenda are currently the upcoming provincial budget and proportional representation.  

The council, which meets four times a year, is the governing body of the NDP between conventions, with input on issues from cabinet and the NDP’s provincial office. Constituency associations around the province elect voting delegates to the council.

When Companies Deny Climate Science, Their Workers Pay

By Carla Santos Skandier - Common Dreams, December 28, 2017

After decades spreading misinformation about greenhouse gas emissions’ role as a driver of climate change, the deceptive tactics of the fossil fuel industry are slowly beginning to backfire.

In December, for instance, General Electric announced major cuts to its fossil-fuel-heavy power department — and the pain of this unplanned transition is already being felt by the people least responsible for the company’s decisions: its workers.

In the last two years, many stories have surfaced on the knowledge major fossil fuel companies like Exxon-Mobil had about the climate impacts of their activities, and the many tactics these same companies employed to deceive the public about these impacts. But they may have also managed to deceive themselves.

Cheered on by a president who’s gone above and beyond to prop up the fossil fuel industry — from announcing his intent to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement to pushing for approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline — dirty energy companies are deluding themselves that business as usual is a possible path forward.

This self-delusion may be beginning to reach its limits. The latest sign arrived on December 7 at General Electric — a global player in electricity for the past 125 years — with the announcement of an 18 percent cut to the power department, the biggest and one of the oldest departments of the company.

CEO Russell Stokes pulled no punches explaining the cuts: The decision aims to right-size the business amid a decline in fossil fuel usage — particularly coal and natural gas. The announcement came a mere two years after GE’s decision to double its fleet of large coal turbines — a clear misjudgment.

This would be good news if it not for one detail: jobs. GE’s decision alone will cost 12,000 jobs worldwide.

If companies continue to resist transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables, these massive jobs losses will be just the beginning.

The Department of Labor estimates that roughly 200,000 people are currently employed in the oil and gas extraction and coal mining sectors. But the number could be in the millions if supportive work, construction, and indirect services of fossil fuel dependent communities are also considered.

Fortunately, the renewable industry is booming. The Department of Energy recently reported that almost twice as many people were employed in solar energy last year than coal, gas, and oil electricity combined.

But matching displaced fossil fuel workers to new jobs won’t be simple. It matters where those jobs are being created, and someone will have to make sure fossil fuel workers get a chance to qualify for new positions.

As if this weren’t hard enough, companies’ continuous denial and misrepresentation makes things worse. Their decision to “right-size” usually comes as last minute massive lay-offs, without giving workers a chance to plan ahead.

In the last few weeks alone, major institutions like Johns Hopkins University, ING bank, and the French insurance giant AXA have pulled their investments from coal, and the World Bank has announced it will no longer invest in any fossil fuel projects. The writing is on the wall, and the decline of fossil fuel production is both necessary and increasingly inevitable.

This is all good news for the climate. But we also need a plan to support those employees on the front lines of the energy sector. We need to stop letting workers’ lives be collateral damage of misguided corporate decisions.

Would the Atlantic Coast Pipeline be the job creator its TV ads claim?

By Sue Sturgis - Facing South, December 15, 2017

Dominion and Duke Energy got more bad news about their controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline project this month, with North Carolina regulators announcing they would not issue the necessary air quality permit for a planned compressor station in Northampton County by Dec. 15, as the utilities had hoped. The proposed 600-mile pipeline would carry fracked gas from West Virginia to North Carolina, with most of it used to generate electricity at gas-fired power plants.

On Dec. 4, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) — headed by the Environmental Defense Fund's former Southeastern regional director Michael Regan — asked for additional information about air pollution impacts, indefinitely extending the deadline for a response. This marks the fifth time that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's administration has asked the ACP developers for more information about the project, which has the necessary approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission but still needs air, water and erosion permits in North Carolina. Last month the state requested additional details about economic benefits to communities along the pipeline's route.

Amid ongoing questions from state regulators about the ACP's impacts, its developers are running TV ads in North Carolina touting the project's job-creation potential. They're doing so through a group called the EnergySure Coalition, an alliance of pro-pipeline businesses and associations that's funded by Dominion and Duke as well as the other two minor ACP investors, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas.

One of the recent ads features Durwood Stephenson, a commercial and industrial construction contractor based in Johnston County, which lies along the ACP's route. He's also the executive director of the U.S. 70 Corridor Commission, a regional economic development group.

"We need the pipeline if we're going to bring in industries and jobs," Stephenson says.

But are those job claims accurate? Will the $5.5 billion pipeline that would be financed primarily by Dominion and Duke Energy ratepayers be an economic boon for Eastern North Carolina, a region that faces higher-than-average unemployment?

An analysis released last week concluded that the developers' jobs claims are overly optimistic. It was commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council and carried out by the Applied Economics Clinic (AEC), a nonprofit consulting group housed at Tufts University in Massachusetts that focuses on energy, environment and equity. The researchers looked at the overall economics of the ACP as well as specific claims about manufacturing jobs and found the developers' promises to be unsubstantiated.

"Recent data on states with new natural gas pipeline capacity does not support the claim that the addition of a new natural gas pipeline in a state is correlated with lower industrial electricity prices or an increase in the number of manufacturing jobs in that state," the report said.

Climate change policy in B.C. must deal with controversies – Kinder Morgan, Site C, and more

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, December 4, 2017

In his November 30 article, “Where is B.C. headed on climate action?”, Marc Lee of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives begins with a bit of history – November 2017 marks the 10 year anniversary of the passage of  B.C.’s  Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act, followed by B.C.’s carbon tax, the first in North America, in 2008.  His overview then discusses climate change policy since the Liberal government and its Climate Leadership Team (CLT)  were replaced by the government of the New Democratic Party in Summer 2017.  Specific issues raised: the new government may still be considering the  development of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) on the north coast; an inadequate annual increase to the carbon tax of just $5 per tonne per year (instead of the $10 per tonne recommended by the CLT); the need for a public inquiry into fracking  (as called for by the CCPA and 16 other organizations); and the need for leadership on more stringent regulation of methane emissions.  The author concludes:  “The BC government’s opposition to Kinder-Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline expansion is laudable. But there is much left to be done on climate action in BC… We need an action plan commensurate with the urgency posed by climate change and the aspirations of leadership claimed by BC politicians.”

Although Marc Lee has written about the controversial Site C Dam project previously, he doesn’t include it in this overview, although it is still very much a live issue.   Following the Report of the Independent Review of the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC)  on November 1, the government indicated it would decide by December 31 whether to proceed with the project or not.  On December 1, the B.C. Green Party, the government’s coalition partner, sent an Open Letter to the Premier, arguing for cancellation of Site C on the grounds that it is likely to continue to exceed budget, and that alternative sources of energy are now cheaper.  Questions about the job creation forecasts used to justify the original decision have also been raised – most relying on the latest analysis from the University of British Columbia Water Governance Institute. Their latest  full report  was released on November 23; a 2-page Briefing Note also released argues that terminating Site C and pursuing  the alternative scenario put forth by BCUC would create three times as many jobs as the construction and operation of Site C by 2054, albeit with short-term job losses.  The longer term scenario forecasts jobs in site remediation, energy conservation, and alternative energy projects, including in the Peace River region.  Commentary on the jobs debates has appeared in “Digging for The Truth on Site C Dam Job Numbers ” in DeSmog Canada (Nov. 16) and  in “ A BC without Site C best bet for taxpayers ” an Opinion piece in The Tyee written by  Jay Ritchlin of the David Suzuki Foundation, which labels the call for current construction jobs as “a red herring”.

Also in The Tyee:Construction Unions Pressing for Completion of Site C” (Nov. 24) , which takes a deep dive into a recent press conference of the Allied Hydro Council of BC, a bargaining agent for unions at previous large hydro projects, and an advocate of the Site C project. The detailed article, outlining ties between the Council and the NDP government, is by Sarah Cox, author of  Breaching the Peace: The Site C Dam and a Valley’s Stand Against Big Hydro (UBC Press, forthcoming Spring 2018).    The Allied Hydro Council submission to the BCUC Inquiry is here .

Alternatives to the Site C Dam Will Create Way More Jobs: UBC Analysis

By Judith Lavoie - DeSmog Canada, November 28, 2017

Alternatives to the $10 billion Site C dam would produce significantly more jobs than construction of the controversial hydroelectric dam, according to a new study led by the University of British Columbia.

The analysis by researchers from UBC’s Program on Water Governance found that if Site C is scrapped, there would be modest job losses in the short-term — 18 to 30 per cent until 2024 — but job gains of between 22 and 50 per cent through 2030.*

A recent three-month investigation conducted by the B.C. Utilities Commission found alternatives to Site C, including wind energy and conservation measures to reduce provincial electricity demand, could replace the dam at an equal or lower unit energy cost.

By 2054, the B.C. Utilities Commission alternative portfolio will have created three times as many jobs as Site C,” Karen Bakker, one of the authors of the report and co-director of the Program on Water Governance, told DeSmog Canada.

Site remediation, geothermal construction and energy conservation will create thousands of jobs each year,” she said.

Alternative energy, such as wind power, creates many more jobs for every dollar spent, Bakker told DeSmog Canada.

Digging for The Truth on Site C Dam Job Numbers

By Sarah Cox - DeSmog Canada , November 16, 2017

Site C jobs are often cited as a main reason to proceed with the $9 billion dam on B.C.’s Peace River. But how many jobs would Site C actually create? Are there really 2,375 people currently employed on the project, as widely reported this month?

DeSmog Canada dove into Site C jobs numbers. We found dubious claims, political spin, and far too much secrecy.

  • Number of direct construction jobs BC Hydro said Site C would create in March 1991: 2,182  [1]
  • Number of Site C direct construction jobs promised by Premier Gordon Campbell in April 2010: 7,650  [2]
  • Number of Site C direct construction jobs promised by Premier Christy Clark in December 2014: 10,000  [3]
  • Workforce at peak employment at the W.A.C. Bennett dam, B.C.’s largest dam, in the 1960s:  3,500  [4]
  • Workforce at peak employment at the Peace Canyon Dam in the 1970s: 1,100  [5]
  • Number of pages redacted from the B.C. Liberal government’s response to a 2016 Freedom of Information request asking for documents related to Site C’s job creation figures: 880  [6]
  • Time it took to receive the request: 11.5 months
  • Number of pages with redactions  in BC Hydro’s 692-page response to a 2017 Freedom of Information request asking for daily worker headcounts at Site C: 692[7]
  • Date BC Hydro said it did not have daily and weekly headcounts for Site C workers on the project site or staying at the workers’ lodge: October 12, 2017  [8]
  • Number of people BC Hydro’s Site C main website page says were employed on the project in September 2017: 2,375  [9]
  • Number of Full Time Employees (FTEs) among them: unknown
  • Minimum number of days a contract worker must be employed to be included in BC Hydro’s monthly Site C jobs tally: unknown
  • Approximate number of direct construction contract workers included in the September 2017 Site C workers tally: 1,164  [10]
  • Approximate number of other contract workers included in the September 2017 Site C workers tally: 750  [11]
  • Number of engineers and project team staff, including at BC Hydro’s head office in Vancouver, included in the September 2017 Site C workers tally: 461  [12]
  • Number of workers laid off at the Site C construction site in August 2017: 120  [13]
  • Number of workers laid off at the Site C construction site in September 2017: approximately 200  [14]
  • Number of workers laid off over Thanksgiving weekend, 2017: approximately 60[  15]
  • Number of workers laid off in early November 2017: approximately 30  [16]
  • Mentions of the layoffs on BC Hydro’s website: 0
  • Current number of Site C workers according to Liberal MLA Mike Bernier: 2,400  [17]
  • Cost of Site C in 2010: $6.6 billion
  • Cost of Site C in 2012: $7.9 billion
  • Cost of Site C in December 2014: $8.8 billion
  • Cost of Site C in November 2017: potentially more than $10 billion  [18]
  • Date BC Hydro filed a quarterly report with the B.C. Utilities Commission saying Site C was on budget and on track to meet its 2024 completion date: September 29, 2017  [19]
  • Date the BCUC released a report saying it is not persuaded Site C will be finished on time and that the project is over-budget with completion costs that could exceed $10 billion: November 1, 2017
  • Date the B.C. government will make a final decision about Site C: before December 31, 2017

A just transition from climate change and unemployment – a trade union perspective

By Joseph Mathunjwa - Daily Mavrick, November 7, 2017

The global economy is facing numerous structural challenges. With the looming fourth economic revolution characterised by even more technological development and mechanisation, the future of productive labour is bleak. Most unskilled and semi-skilled workers are likely to lose their jobs. Even some skilled workers are not spared from this emerging catastrophe, as numerous job categories – such as brick-layers – are increasingly becoming redundant.

This points to the urgent need for planning, for conscious investment in job-rich, growth opportunities that enable economies to build productive capacity in labour intensive sectors. One way of achieving this is to strengthen wage led growth, which, in turn, stimulates aggregate demand through enlarged household incomes. Without a dramatic increase in the wages of mine workers, farm workers and all employed people in our country, we will never be able to deal with South Africa’s most urgent problems: inequality, mass unemployment and poverty.

Since unemployment is the greatest determinant of poverty and income inequality, we can expect these, too, to worsen. Already, in 2015, 30.4-million people, that is, 55.5% of the population live on less than R441 per month, or less than R15 per day. The fact that 10% of South Africa’s population earn around 60% of all income, points to South Africa’s widening inequality. Even more alarming is that the richest 10% of the population own at least 90–95% of all assets. 

With these terrible statistics in mind, it becomes redundant to repeat what we have been saying as a trade union for a long time, namely, SA urgently requires the redistribution of wealth.

When the millions of working people in our country can afford what the few take for granted – a television set, a washing machine, dining room table, etc – we create the conditions for developing the economies of scale that can sustain local industries from the intense competition coming from a globalised economy. In this way, we will be able to make in-roads into the almost 10 million people who are out of work, out of income and out of dignity.

The importance of the climate jobs work the Alternative Information & Development Centre (AIDC) has been leading is that it identifies where the jobs can be created. As AIDC’s latest research – One Million Climate Jobs – Moving South Africa forward on a low-carbon, wage-led and sustainable path – makes clear, there are potentially hundreds of thousands of jobs in championing low carbon development, as the complimentary strategy to a wage-led development path.

The AIDC’s solidarity with AMCU (the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union) is greatly appreciated. It is a solidarity based on a shared approach and conviction of the urgent need to confront the numerous challenges facing our economy, the people whose needs the economy is supposed to meet and the sustainability of human life on a planet heating to unsustainable levels.

However, AMCU is a trade union representing mine workers and construction workers. These workers are embedded in the very industrial processes that are at the centre of contributing to global warming and other environmental problems. It is inescapable that, if we are going to move decisively to a low carbon less polluting economy, it is going to be at the cost of coal mining, coal fired energy plants, coal to liquid gas, etc. Unless jobs are offered to our members in clean industries, they would never voluntarily agree to the shutting down of mining and energy industries. It would be like asking them to commit suicide.

Paperwrenching Prisons and Pipelines

By Panagioti - Earth First! Journal, October 28, 2017

AUTHOR’S NOTE: If your the type who likes to cut to the chase, here it goes: There are two open comment periods for Environmental Impacts Statements (EIS) that you should know about. One for the Sabal Trail Pipeline and another for the Letcher County federal prison. So take a few minutes to submit a comment ASAP using those links embedded up there. For those who prefer some background and deeper analysis, read on…


Last year I co-authored “From Prisons to Pipelines” with a former-prisoner and Lakota friend from the Pine Ridge Reservation. We were moved to write by the #NoDAPL and #PrisonStrike grassroots organizing efforts that were sweeping the nation, particularly in ways that hit close to home for us.

Since that was published, a prison in Appalachian East Kentucky and a pipeline through the springlands of North Florida both became hotspots on the unofficial map of eco-resistance. Right now, there are opportunities in both of these efforts to significantly broaden the base of support for these two fights and build the long-term foundation for effective resistance.

“Paperwrenching” an EIS approval is the one of the most effective strategies for securing environmental victories, and it is essential groundwork for campaigns that escalate to direct action (especially for folks who might try to use a necessity defense in court following an action, and want to show documentation of their efforts prior to facing criminal charges).

Fracking jobs figures slashed, free water subsidy revealed: New economic report

By staff - Lock the Gate Alliance, October 30, 2017

A report released last night by the NT Fracking Inquiry reveals a massive drop in projected jobs figures if fracking goes ahead across the Northern Territory.

The previous Deloitte’s report that has been used to push the fracking industry showed that in 2040 there would be 6,321 jobs in the highest possible fracking scenario.

In stark contrast, the new ACIL Allen report shows there will be only 558 jobs in their highest possible development scenario by the year 2043.

“This new economic report by ACIL Allen shows will get less than 10% of the jobs we were told we would get in the previous Deloitte’s report if we allow fracking across the NT," said Naomi Hogan of the Lock the Gate Alliance.

“The 13,000 jobs figure in the ACIL Allen report is based on adding up the jobs required each year over 25 years. It assumes that every person loses their job after just one year, and then a new position is created. It’s a misleading figure.

The report shows that total employment in the Northern Territory was 132,200 in August 2017. So even if we go with the highest number of fracking wells, we’re still only getting an extra 500 jobs in a year. That’s a tiny 0.4 percent increase in the number of jobs in the Northern Territory.

“The report shows that even if this risky fracking industry were to proceed, there would be less than a half a percent extra jobs created each year in the Territory, and most of these would be for fly in fly out workers from other parts of Australia.

Shockingly, the report reveals that fracking companies will access all their water for free. (see page 52)

“While Territorians pay through the nose for water, this report highlights a NT Government subsidy for the fracking industry to extract billions and billions of litres of Territory water in the coming decades for free.”

“There are other industries in the NT creating far more than a few hundred fly in fly out jobs that do not put groundwater at risk from fracking chemical contamination and spills, and do not rely on getting access to billions of litres of free water.

“Defying scientific reports on the impacts of the fracking industry, the report fails to cost in the impacts on other Territory business who could have their water supply drop, or their water contaminated by spills and leaks.

“ACIL Allen failed to account for any loss of money to tourism operators and food growers that rely on clean uncontaminated groundwater and natural springs.

“This economic model reveals it does not include the costs to the NT economy from having to deal with the long-term contamination impacts of fracking chemical spills.