Top News

Saturday, April 19, 2014 - 09:55 • Derek Leahy

Last Tuesday the government of Ontario announced the Thunder Bay Generating Station – Ontario’s last coal-fired power plant – had burnt off its last supply of coal. The electricity of Canada’s most populous province is officially coal free.

Today we celebrate a cleaner future for our children and grandchildren while embracing the environmental benefits that our cleaner energy sources will bring,” says Bob Chiarelli, Ontario’s 
Minister of Energy, in a press release.

The coal power plant in Thunder Bay was one of five in Ontario that a little over ten years ago produced 25 per cent of the province’s electricity. Burning coal is a particularly polluting form of generating electricity and shutting down Ontario’s five coal plants is the equivalent of pulling seven million cars off the road in terms of global warming greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Ontario is the first province or state in North America to successfully phase out the burning of coal to produce electricity. The Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development describes the move as the “single largest regulatory action in North America” to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 12:51 • Carol Linnitt
fracking natural gas

B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak has reversed and apologized for excluding First Nations from two amendments that would eliminate the province’s mandatory environmental assessment of gas developments and ski resorts.

As DeSmog Canada recently reported, the Orders in Council were passed without public consultation and would exclude major natural gas processing facilities and resorts from undergoing a standard environmental review and public consultation process.

The rescindment is a direct result of backlash from the Fort Nelson First Nation (FNFN),” Anna Johnston, staff counsel with West Coast Environmental Law Association, told DeSmog Canada. “Yesterday, at an LNG Summit hosted by the FNFN, they ‘drummed out’ government representatives due to the provincial government’s failure to consult with them on the Orders.”

B.C. officials were escorted from the forum on liquefied natural gas (LNG) after news of the eliminated environment assessments broke. At the forum, called “Striking a Balance,” Chief Sharleen Gale of the FNFN asked B.C. government officials to leave the room, saying “what I learned from my elders is you treat people kind. You treat people with respect…even when they’re stabbing you in the back.”

Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 11:44 • Erika Thorkelson
climate change, mosquito

In May 2000 in the town of Walkerton, Ontario, heavy rains swept water containing the O157:H7 strain of E. coli bacteria from a nearby farm into a well of drinking water. For almost two weeks, the two city workers in charge of water quality claimed that there was no danger. Meanwhile, 2300 people fell inexplicably ill and seven died.

City managers Stan and Frank Koebel both faced criminal charges for their part in the slow response to the outbreak. In his report, Justice Dennis O'Connor lambasted the provincial cuts to the Environment Ministry, which lead to the incompetence on the ground level. It was a disaster that could have been prevented had the public officials in charge acknowledged the problem and acted earlier.

At the ICLEI Livable Cities Forum in early April, Public Health Agency of Canada researcher Manon Fluery invoked the specter of Walkerton as a way to illustrate the growing public health risks associated with climate change. Rising water levels, she said, could lead to a growth in gastrointestinal illnesses related to water borne diseases. Extreme weather events that batter aging infrastructure could lead to cross contamination between sewage and drinking water.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 16:36 • Carol Linnitt
bc, fracking, environmental assessment

Major natural gas projects and ski resort developments now have the option of being built in B.C. without environmental assessment after the Liberal government quietly deposited two Orders in Council Monday. (Update April 17, 2014: The B.C. government has rescinded this decision. Read our new post here)

The Orders – passed without public consultation – include changes to the Reviewable Projects Regulation under the provincial Environmental Assessment Act which eliminate mandatory environmental review of new and/or modified natural gas and ski facilities. As a result, proposed projects like the Jumbo Glacier Resort or new natural gas processing facilities may skirt the approval process without standard environment review, which involves public consultation.

These regulatory changes only heighten the crisis of public confidence in B.C.’s environmental assessment process,” said Jessica Clogg, executive director and senior counsel with West Coast Environmental Law Association (WCEL) in a press release.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 09:27 • David Ravensbergen
canadian mining companies, transparency

On March 3rd, former Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver unveiled a new transparency initiative that will require Canadian mining companies to report significant payments made to governments both abroad and in Canada. Under the new law, medium and large publicly traded companies will post the details of payments above the $100,000 threshold on their company websites, listed on a project-by-project basis.

Oliver described the initiative as a “comprehensive and meaningful approach” designed to “enhance transparency and accountability in the mining and oil and gas industries.” 

The new legislation comes as the most recent installment in a long list of policy changes implemented by the Conservative government in an attempt to improve the international standing of the Canadian extractive industries.

Last month saw the opening of the Vancouver headquarters of the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development (CIIEID), a joint project between the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and École Polytechnique de Montréal that received nearly $24.6 million in funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development. According to the CIIEID website, the institute’s mission is “to improve governance of extractive sectors in developing countries.” 

The timing of both Oliver’s announcement and the opening of the CIIEID reflects not only the growing importance of the mining and oil and gas sector to the Canadian economy, but also the increasing level of social and environmental conflict associated with the activities of the Canadian extractive industries both at home and abroad.

Monday, April 14, 2014 - 10:11 • Emma Gilchrist

A lawyer representing the City of Burnaby says the National Energy Board (NEB) has turned its review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline into a “mere paperwork exercise” by cutting all cross-examination from the process.

We were expecting that there would be public hearings and cross-examination of the evidence,” Gregory McDade said at a City of Burnaby information session last week. “There are no hearings … There will be no public examination of Kinder Morgan’s evidence whatsoever.”

In a YouTube video from the information session, McDade deconstructs the NEB’s April 2nd “hearing order,” noting that the only way for the City of Burnaby to raise concerns is now by submitting written “information requests.” This applies to all intervenors, including the Province of B.C. and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

They call it a hearing order, but it should be called a ‘no hearing’ order,” McDade quipped.

What we have here is a mere paperwork exercise. It is not a hearing and it is not public. It is not independent. All three panelists on the National Energy Board are from the oil and gas industry.”

Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain proposal would triple the amount of oil the company ships to Burnaby and increase the number of oil tankers travelling through Vancouver Harbour and the Gulf Islands seven-fold.

Saturday, April 12, 2014 - 21:28 • Emma Gilchrist

Kitimat residents have voted against the Northern Gateway pipeline, with 58.4 per cent of ballots in the city’s plebiscite being cast against the project, as of around 9 p.m. Saturday. In total, 1,793 voted against the proposed project, while 1,278 or 41.6 per cent were in favour.

3,071 ballots were cast, marking a high turnout (62 per cent) in the community of roughly 4,900 eligible voters at the terminus of Enbridge’s proposed oil pipeline. Fifty-six per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in the last municipal election.

We’re celebrating with the Haisla outside in the park…and they’re surrounding the Douglas Channel Watch with thank you signs. They’re performing a drum song right now,” said Patricia Lange from Douglas Channel Watch.

It’s a really powerful moment.”

The vote, although non-binding, is an important part of the public relations battle being waged over Enbridge’s project. Enbridge brought in teams of paid corporate canvassers from out of town, placed full-page ads in northern newspapers and launched a “Vote Yes For Kitimat” website.

This vote is confirmation we are going to stand firm and say no to the influence of big oil,” Lange said.