Submission to: Expert Panel; Review of the Environmental Assessment Process By: Patrick McLaren, Ph.D., P.Geo President, SedTrend Analysis Limited [email protected]
Since June 2014 I have been intimately involved with scientific research conducted on behalf of the First Nations to assess the environmental implications that might result from the installation of an LNG terminal at Flora Bank/Lelu Island near Prince Rupert, BC. With the publication of my research in the Journal of Coastal Research, I showed how the sediment transport regime throughout the waters of Prince Rupert is “working” from which I made a defensible prediction that Flora Bank and its associated fish habitat are likely to be lost should the terminal be constructed as designed. My approach applied an empirical, or kinematic, model known as Sediment Trend Analysis (STA®) and it is important to stress that it is not possible to undertake STA with any preconceived concept of what its findings might produce. I also became intimately familiar with the numerical modelling undertaken by Petronas and its consulting companies which, unlike the STA, was undertaken from the very beginning to prove that the development will cause “no significant harm” to Flora Bank and its hugely significant juvenile fish habitat. (Note: To undertake a study to prove a finding desirable for the funding agency – in this case Petronas – is the not science at all. It is the antithesis of science.) The irrevocable findings of the STA, despite significant efforts from Petronas and its consultants to discredit the technique, forced an entirely new way of assessing the fate of Flora Bank. Early assumptions made by Petronas had to be abandoned (e.g., the principal source of the sediments on Flora Bank coming from the Skeena River was incorrect). In the end the latest Petronas report professed to accept the conceptual model of Flora Bank’s origin and behaviour. However, what was not accepted by Petronas was the concluding STA prediction that the trestle structure could reduce wave and current energy to enable the loss of the sand and the fishery habitat it supports. Documentation exists to show the following: (1) CEAA was not interested in any science that did not support the Petronas numerical model. (2) At innumerable meetings with First Nations, CEAA, DFO and NRCan, there was no attempt to explain that the Petronas modelling provided a better prediction than that made by the STA. (In fact, it is very difficult to refute STA and, for this reason, it has won over numerical modelling in several US court cases associated with sediment transport, contaminants and liability allocations).
(3) I was stopped by the CEAA Chairwoman from questioning absurd values of current velocities generated by the numerical model as well as being accused of being disrespectful. (The discussion was stopped only when it was quite clear that the modellers were unable to provide any answers to my questions.) (4) The Lax Kw’alaams Band turned down over $1 billion offered by Petronas to allow the development on the basis of the STA and state-of-the-art biological research rather than the unconvincing prediction made by the numerical model. (5) Petronas did not hesitate to lie by first announcing that the STA model is open to too many errors for it to be reliable, but later, stating falsely, that the numerical model is fully supported by the findings of the STA (both were demonstrably untrue). (6) It was discovered that Petronas had kept some current data secret which invalidated the findings of the numerical model. Furthermore, CEAA, DFO and NRCan also knew about the supressed data, but the public had no knowledge of it. (7) Under pressure from CEAA, Petronas fraudulently adjusted a parameter of the model (bed roughness) to show that the Petronas model could now account for the observed currents that had previously been kept secret. Amazingly, CEAA accepted the Petronas assertion that the model had now been successfully validated and its “no harm” prediction could be accepted with “more confidence” (despite the fact that such a finding increased the validity of the STA prediction that Flora Bank was in grave danger from the development). (8) In Terrace, BC, on Aug. 29, 2016, I made a presentation to the First Nations, CEAA, DFO and NRCan entitled “Difficulties in accepting the PNWLNG model”. The presentation examined the differences in scientific philosophies between empirical and deductive modelling and the importance of producing a model that conforms to reality. My argument, simply stated, was: “Why would you use a model to predict 50 years into the future when the numerical model provided by Petronas cannot even explain the present?” I discussed in detail the differences between “good science” and “bad science”. My final conclusions were that the Petronas model constituted fraudulent science and that CEAA, DFO and NRCan had knowingly accepted the fraud. (9) On presenting the conclusion that the science was fraudulent, neither CEAA, nor the DFO and NRCan representatives, said a single word. It perhaps goes without saying that I was fully expecting anger, statements of defence, or even threats of a lawsuit against me, but I was not expecting silence. I think it is justified to conclude that the decision to allow the Petronas LNG terminal had already been made and that the only solution to maintain such a position was to ignore both the huge amount of science that conflicted with the Petronas model and the First Nations who had supported the research. I present the above account to demonstrate the extent to which the environmental review process is broken. Canadians have every right to be extremely concerned about the process which was manifestly apparent at the process review that I attended in Nanaimo. Not only is there concern, but there is fear that extends to the safety of the whole planet and our declining
probability of survival as the destructive role that human beings have chosen to take continues unabated. Although possibly well meaning, this review process is flawed. The terms of reference contain numerous phrases such as: “Currently, federal environmental assessment informs government decision-making and supports sustainable development” “immediately review Canada’s environmental assessment processes to regain public trust and help get resources to market” And: “Contribute to environmentally sound and sustainable development” The term “sustainable development”, an obvious oxymoron, is being applied with an erroneous assumption that we really can have our cake and eat it too. It does not take any deep level of thought to understand that the term is largely meaningless, particularly if we are assessing fossil fuels, or mining activities. It is, however, a useful term only to those who believe we can “manage” the environment to suit ourselves regardless of the alterations we inflict upon it – and there is certainly no reason to believe that this is true. The problem is that the environmental assessment process is insisting that we must take economics into account when (and again, we really all know this and far greater thinkers than me have known and warned us of such fallacious thought) economics and the environment are not part of the same equation. The environment, of which we are part of, cannot be thought of in economic terms. The former is what we were originally “given” and without it we wouldn’t exist; the latter is human-made and can be altered in any way we choose. I would like to suggest that, if there really is a desire to establish an environmental assessment process to “regain public trust” keep economics and the environment entirely separate. Stick with science to understand as best we can how the environment is working and what the implications of a particular project might be in both local and global scales (bearing in mind that we are already dealing with a badly damaged planet caused by our own excessive activities, the consequences of which are themselves only poorly understood); and examine the economic and political implications entirely separately. In this way the science will be understood to be trustworthy and the decision will be made in the context of the further environmental damage that is likely to occur. Only when these two elements are entirely separated will we have a chance to make our economic decisions in the context of the environmental consequences.