Thursday, July 2, 2015 - 13:50 • Darcy Rhyno

Nova Scotia is potentially on the hook for millions of dollars in decommissioning costs as ExxonMobil prematurely winds down production at a massive offshore gas project near Sable Island.

In 1997 the province’s Liberal government negotiated a deal with Exxon to get the Sable Offshore Energy Project, about 190 kilometres off the coast of Nova Scotia, up and running. As part of that arrangement, Nova Scotia promised to pay a portion of decommissioning costs at the end of the project’s life.

The costs, expected to be in the millions, will be deducted from the $1.7 billion in royalties collected by the province since operations began in 1999.

Nova Scotia Energy Minister Michel Samson said a portion of the royalties have been set aside to pay the province’s contracted share of the decommissioning, but added he “[didn’t] have the exact numbers.”

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - 11:58 • Guest

This is a guest post by Gus Van Harten, professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School and author of Sold Down the Yangtze: Canada's Lopsided Investment Deal with China. This post originally appeared on the Globe and Mail.

For years, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government told Canadians that it could not act on climate change until China joined in. Yet, in 2014, the government quietly finalized a 31-year investment treaty that, in essence, gives Chinese oil companies an advance bailout against a range of steps that Canada may need to take on climate change.

Take, for example, the call by more than 100 scientists for limits on oilsands expansion until a serious Canadian plan on climate change is in place. What is a serious plan? The scientists said it would need “to rapidly reduce carbon pollution, safeguard biodiversity, protect human health and respect treaty rights.”

Now, consider Canada’s new Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) with China. 

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Thursday, June 25, 2015 - 17:27 • Emma Gilchrist
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip

The Treaty 8 First Nations have received notice from BC Hydro that work on the Site C dam could start as early as July 6 — despite court proceedings still being underway.

Treaty 8 First Nations have applied for judicial review of the federal government’s decision to grant an environmental assessment certificate, arguing the Site C dam infringes on their treaty rights. The joint review panel’s report on Site C found the dam will result in significant and irreversible adverse impacts on people in the Treaty 8 communities.

The federal appeal begins the week of July 20, 2015. But Treaty 8 First Nations say that BC Hydro has ignored requests to put construction on hold until the outcomes of the court proceedings are known. BC Hydro did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

The provocative activities that the B.C. government is recklessly trying to advance are irreversible, and will leave an irreparable and permanent scar on the land,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. “These deliberate actions will also indefinitely scar B.C.’s relationships with First Nations.”

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Thursday, June 25, 2015 - 14:37 • James Wilt
Oilsands emissions
Oilsands emissions

It’s finally happening: after years of stalling by the Progressive Conservatives, Alberta’s new NDP government announced Thursday it will double the province’s meager carbon levy on large emitters by 2017.

Industry and environmentalists alike welcomed the decision, while also saying it doesn’t go far enough. 

Currently, any facility that emits more than 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year must reduce its emissions by 12 per cent below typical performance or pay $15 per tonne for emissions over the baseline. By 2017, the new framework will require companies to lower emissions by 20 per cent below typical performance, with a $30-per-tonne levy for emissions above that target.

It’s not going to drive the meaningful reductions or give the market incentives that we need,” said Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015 - 12:06 • James Wilt
Oilsands air pollution
Oilsands air pollution

“Transparent,” “credible, “world-class” — those are just a few of the words that have been deployed to detail the aspirations of the one-year-old organization tasked with monitoring the air, water, land and wildlife in Alberta.

But there are a lot of questions about whether the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA), funded primarily by industry, has lived up to its goal to track the condition of the province’s environment.*

Unlike the Alberta Energy Regulator, which the new NDP government is considering splitting into two agencies to separate its conflicting responsibilities to both promote and policy energy development, AEMERA hasn’t spent much time in the public spotlight — yet.

Last October, Alberta’s auditor general slammed the agency for releasing its 2012-2013 annual report in June 2014, well after when it should have been released. The auditor general also said the report “lacked clarity and key information and contained inaccuracies.”

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015 - 08:07 • Carol Linnitt

“I’m surprised that nobody has been killed here since the spill.”

That’s what one resident of Likely, B.C., recently told me at her home near Quesnel Lake, the site of the Mount Polley mine disaster that sent 24 million cubic metres of mining waste into the lake last August.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity she said she was warned by another community member about discussing the Mount Polley mine spill with journalists.

Be careful, they said to me. Be careful.”

She said another woman, who lives up the road, received three separate threatening phone calls after speaking with a television crew in the wake of the spill.

One person told her she should mind her own goddam business.”

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Friday, June 19, 2015 - 13:49 • Derek Leahy

The National Energy Board (NEB) ordered high-pressure testing of a segment of Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline before the line, a west-to-east oil pipeline, can begin operating according to a press release issued Thursday.

Before Line 9B becomes operational, hydrostatic testing results of three segments of the pipeline must be provided to and approved by the NEB,” the National Energy Board — Canada’s federal pipeline regulator — said.

Enbridge requested permission to reverse the flow of a 639-kilometre portion of the Line 9B pipeline between North Westover, Ontario and Montreal. Line 9B is part of the larger Line 9, which Enbridge hopes will carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to Eastern Canada.

Community groups, particularly in Quebec, have long requested the high-pressure, hydrostatic test. A hydrotest or hydrostatic test is a commonly used method of determining if a pipeline can operate safely at its expected operating pressure. Recently a number of groups demanded the NEB explain why it would not order a hydrotest of Line 9.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015 - 16:46 • Emma Gilchrist

A billion-dollar plan to build a 6,300-bed resort in the glacial wilderness near Invermere is essentially dead in the water after B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak ruled Thursday that construction on the controversial Jumbo Glacier Resort did not start in time.

That means the project’s environmental assessment certificate has expired and the proponent, Glacier Resorts Ltd, would need to re-apply if it wanted to continue with the project.

 “We are overjoyed with the province’s decision,” said Robyn Duncan of Wildsight, a group that has fought the project for years. “This is the only reasonable outcome for this beleaguered project.”

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