I had a fascinating exchange with the CEO of the Pacific Carbon Trust (PCT) last week. I’m troubled by the structure of the PCT and some of the projects it has approved for “carbon offsets.”
The $25 million/year of public money going into the PCT is only available for private-sector projects. Luxury resorts and hotels, greenhouses, Lafarge and Encana have been recipients. In examining the latest Encana project, I discovered what I believe are valid questions about whether Encana should have qualified for the trust’s money.
Ethically, I struggle with giving public money to a highly profitable company that is also one of B.C.’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases. I also raised technical questions about whether Encana should have qualified for “offset” money according to the standards of the PCT and government regulations.
The trust’s CEO made an interesting and forceful challenge to me: he asked if I was calling into question the two validators of the project (KMPG and an engineering firm) and the regulator of the industry (Oil and Gas Commission). All three agencies had certified that the project qualified for our tax money and, therefore, according to the CEO I was supposed to be satisfied.
My rebuttal to the CEO was mentioning the savings and loan debacle in the U.S., Enron, the derivatives mess that collapsed the U.S. economy, and the recent BP disaster. It is every legislator’s duty to question regulators and third-party validators. When legislators fail in this duty, history proves that the public interest is all too often not protected.
Vicki Huntington and I have asked the premier to allow a committee of legislators to investigate the impacts of the expansion of the development of B.C.’s unconventional natural gas resources using hydraulic fracturing.
This highly controversial technology is being banned, subjected to moratoria, or is coming under question in other jurisdictions. We’ve asked the premier to strike a special committee of the legislature to examine the regulatory framework and the scientific information about the environmental and social impacts of using this technology.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.