Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 13:37 • Emma Gilchrist
Diefenbaker and Eisenhower

On January 17, 1961, Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and United States President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Columbia River Treaty.

It was a landmark agreement that required Canada to build three dams to aid in U.S. flood protection and power generation. In exchange for taking on the impacts of these water storage projects, Canada was paid $64 million for 60 years of flood control benefits.

Canada also received an entitlement to one-half of the estimated additional hydroelectric generation capability at power plants on the Columbia River in the United States made possible by the operation of the dams in Canada.

This power is referred to as the “Canadian Entitlement” and since 2003 it has amounted to at least 1,176 megawatts of capacity and 4,073 gigawatt hours of energy a year.

That just so happens to be nearly identical to the amount of electricity B.C. could create via the controversial $8.8 billion Site C dam — the most expensive public project in B.C. history.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 10:59 • Kyla Mandel

Forest fires covering 8,200 hectares of land in northern Alberta continue to burn out of control, spurred on by extremely dry conditions and unseasonably warm temperatures. The fires have forced the evacuation of hundreds of oilsands workers, the irony of which is not being lost on many  (just check out the reactions to this CBC article).

Climate change during the 21st century is expected to result in more frequent fires in many boreal forests, with severe environmental and economic consequences,” said a 2014 Natural Resources Canada post

About 10 per cent of Canada’s oil output — amounting to about 233,000 barrels a day — has been shut down since Monday, May 25, due to the fires. The Bank of America Merril Lynch warned in a research report that if wildfire disruptions persist, there could be a 0.1 to 0.3 per cent hit to second-quarter annualized growth.

An increase in the number of forest fires is likely to make one of the world’s most costly fossil fuel sources even more labour intensive and expensive.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 14:42 • Derek Leahy

Environmental and citizen groups in Quebec are demanding the National Energy Board (NEB) explain why it refuses to order a hydrostatic safety test of Enbridge's Line 9 pipeline, a west-to-east oil pipeline that could come online as early as next month.

A hydrostatic test or hydrotest is a commonly used method to determine whether a pipeline can operate safely at its maximum operating pressure. The test involves pumping water at through the pipeline at levels higher than average operating pressures. Enbridge is reversing the flow of the 39-year old Line 9 pipeline, which previously carried imported oil inland from Canada's east coast, and will increase its capacity from 240,000 to 300,000 barrels of oil per day.

[The NEB] claims to be transparent and to listen to what the public is saying, yet despite having all the required information in their possession for over six months, it refuses to render a written and reasoned decision on whether or not it will impose hydrostatic tests on the length of Line 9B,” Lorraine Caron, spokesperson for the citizen group Citoyens au Courant, said.

When the NEB, Canada’s federal pipeline regulator, approved the Enbridge pipeline project in March 2014, the board stated it could order a hydrostatic test of Line 9 if it felt the integrity of the 39-year old pipeline was in question. So far the board has chosen not to exercise this option and has said very little as to why.

Refusing to make a decision public means the NEB wants to keep the public in a state of ignorance. This only contributes to diminishing public confidence in the NEB,” Steven Guilbeault, executive director of Equiterre, said.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 12:59 • Carol Linnitt

Conservation group Keepers of the Athabasca is asking the Alberta government to review water usage rules for oilsands companies as the province struggles with unseasonably low water levels and raging wild fires.

Current rules set out under the Surface Water Quantity Management Framework allow two oilsands majors, Suncor and Syncrude, to continue water withdrawals for their operations even when water levels are extremely low. All other oilsands operators are required to abide by set limits.

Alberta is currently fighting 65 forest fires, some near oilsands projects, that are being fueled by extremely dry conditions. Twenty fires are currently considered “out of control.” This week the government initiated a province-wide fire ban. Water bombers are currently being used to suppress the flames.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 15:39 • James Wilt

Back in March when the prospect of a majority NDP government in Alberta was still a twinkle in Rachel Notley’s eye, the to-be premier introduced a motion to phase out the province’s use of coal for electricity by 2030.

The evidence is clear that it is time to phase out coal powered electricity in the province in Alberta. Coal is one of the single largest pollutants in Alberta. It costs our health care millions of dollars every year and is a massive source of greenhouse gas emissions,” she said, urging then premier Jim Prentice and the Progressive Conservative party to “do the right thing.”

So now that Notley has taken the reins, will she follow through with her own ambitious plan?

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 12:08 • Derek Leahy

Drinking water for more than 60 per cent of Manitoba's population will be put at risk by TransCanada's proposed Energy East pipeline, according to a report released Monday by the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition. 

The entire length of the Winnipeg aqueduct is in danger of contamination from the nearby pipeline,” the report states. “Contamination could occur from large spills anywhere along the pipeline and from small, more frequent, undetected spills between Falcon Lake and Hadashville where the aqueduct and pipeline are very close.”

Retired biophysicist and author of the report, Dennis LeNeveu, announced his findings in Winnipeg, saying the city's aqueduct is at risk from the nearby pipeline. LeNeveu added it is not just Winnipeg’s drinking water that is threatened by the 1.1 million barrels a day Energy East project.   

The drinking water supplies in the province, as well as Winnipeg’s supply are at risk of contamination from the pipeline. Many communities draw their water from rivers that the pipeline directly crosses,” LeNeveu wrote in the report.  

“Winnipeg has much to lose from the pipeline crossing within its boundaries and little to gain.”

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Friday, May 22, 2015 - 08:00 • Carol Linnitt

They say the truth will set you free. But sometimes all it takes is retirement.

That’s the case for Steve Campana, a former federal scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans who is using his retirement as an opportunity to speak openly about the federal government’s policies and the damage Prime Minister Stephen Harper has caused to public interest science.

I am concerned about the bigger policy issues that are essentially leading to a death spiral for government science,” Campana told the CBC.

He said federal scientists work in a climate a fear.

I see that is going to be a huge problem in coming years,” he said. “We are at the point where the vast majority of our senior scientists are in the process of leaving now disgusted as I am with the way things have gone, and I don’t think there is any way for it to be recovered.”

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Thursday, May 21, 2015 - 09:27 • Carol Linnitt

B.C. will continue to kill wolves for at least a decade in an attempt to save endangered caribou according to government documents released this week — but new research re-confirms that caribou declines are primarily caused by industrial development.

The province recently finished the first year of its province-wide wolf cull, which resulted in the killing of 84 animals. But documents released to the Globe and Mail indicate the B.C. government is aware habitat destruction is at the root of declining caribou populations.

Ultimately, as long as the habitat conditions on and adjacent to caribou ranges remain heavily modified by industrial activities, it is unlikely that any self-sustaining caribou populations will be able to exist in the South Peace [region],” the document says.

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