Top News

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 - 12:33 • Carol Linnitt

Companies in Alberta’s oilsands are scrambling to find a way to reclaim tens of thousands of kilometres of seismic lines cut into the boreal forest before regulations that mandate the recovery of endangered caribou habitat are implemented in late 2017.

But while crews experiment with planting black spruce in piles of dirt during minus-25 degree weather in a bid to repair the forest, the Alberta government continues to lease massive segments of the region for further exploration and still hasn’t mandated reclamation of seismic lines.  

The controversy over caribou habitat and wolf culls in Alberta has stewed for years, but the issue of seismic lines has been largely overlooked. It’s these linear corridors cut through the forest (used to set off explosive charges to locate oil and gas deposits) that encourage predators like wolves to infiltrate what remains of fragmented caribou habitat.

I don’t think a lot of people thought these seismic lines were a big deal,” said Scott Nielsen, an Alberta Biodiversity Conservation Chair and University of Alberta professor. “But … there are these cascading effects that you can’t anticipate.”

In a century of oil and gas development, hundreds of thousands of kilometres of these wolf freeways have been cut through Alberta’s forest. In one section of the Lower Athabasca region alone, south of Fort McMurray and extending out to Cold Lake, there are 53,000 kilometres of seismic lines.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 - 08:54 • Judith Lavoie

B.C.’s approval of a new mine in a transboundary watershed has added fuel to simmering Alaskan anger about the province’s surge of mine development adjacent to the southeast Alaska border.

The province has granted an environmental assessment certificate to Pretivm Resources Inc. for the Brucejack gold and silver mine, about 65 kilometres northwest of Stewart and 40 kilometres upstream from the Alaskan border.

The underground mine, which has not yet received federal approval, will be close to the headwaters of the Unuk River, which flows from B.C. into Alaska. The Unuk is one of Southeast Alaska’s largest king (chinook) salmon rivers and drains into Misty Fjords National Monument, one of Alaska’s most popular tourist destinations.

Brucejack is adjacent to the large Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM) mine, which received B.C and federal government approval last year, despite strong opposition from Alaskan politicians, fishermen and tribal governments.

It is too much, too fast,” said Chris Zimmer, Alaska campaign director with Rivers Without Borders.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 - 13:14 • Emma Gilchrist
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan Kinder Morgan

The mayors of Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, City of North Vancouver, Victoria, Squamish and Bowen Island have declared their “non-confidence” in the National Energy Board’s (NEB) review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and are calling on the federal government to put the current process on hold until a full public hearing process is re-instated.

It has become apparent that the NEB process does not constitute a ‘public hearing’ and is completely inadequate to assess the health and safety risks of a proposed pipeline through major metropolitan areas, and the potential risks of shipping bitumen oil to Burnaby and through Burrard Inlet, the Salish Sea, and along the coastline of British Columbia,” the mayors write in their declaration.

The mayors also call upon the Government of British Columbia to re-assert its role in environmental assessment and to establish a provincial process, including public hearings, to assess the Trans Mountain proposal.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 - 12:37 • Kevin Grandia

While the office of Canada's Environment Minister is claiming it is consulting with the provinces on a long-term climate commitment, Quebec's Minister of Environment says he hasn't heard from anyone in more than three months. 

As part of preparations for a United Nation's climate leadership summit to be held later this year in Paris, the United States is set to submit its carbon emission commitment to the UN today.

And pressure is mounting against the Harper government as it tries to explain why it is failing to meet the same agreed deadline of March 31st to submit its own set of commitments.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 - 11:39 • Carol Linnitt
pipeline spill Jimmy Jeong

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) is working hard to undo damage caused by pipeline company Kinder Morgan’s refusal to release oil spill response plans in British Columbia. The company's lack of disclosure angered the province of B.C., especially when it was revealed that Kinder Morgan released detailed spill response plans in Washington State for portions of the pipeline that extend across the border.

The pipeline association recently announced it would form a task force to address the issue, hoping to waylay growing public concerns by developing “guiding principles” for disclosure.

A number of our members have faced significant public pressure to disclose all information contained in emergency response plans. The CEPA task force will work to support that by establishing clear principles and guidelines that seek to find the right balance between the public’s right to know, the privacy of personal information and the security considerations also required for public safety,” Jim Donihee, chief operating officer with CEPA, said.

Monday, March 30, 2015 - 16:34 • James Wilt

We will continue to have a strong economy while meeting the 2020 [climate] targets … and we will meet those.”

It was a bewildering statement, like something out of a poorly scripted political drama. The idea that within the next five years, Alberta  the province responsible for over 35 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2012  would meet its emissions targets would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic.

But that’s what was said.

And by Diana McQueen, a former minister of environment, no less. By the very person who’s now leading the revision of the province’s oft-delayed climate change framework.

Back in 2008, the Alberta government, then headed by Progressive Conservative leader Ed Stelmach, brought forward a fairly weighty climate change strategy. Goals were set, policies outlined.

Our targets,” wrote Stelmach, “are based on sound research not wishful thinking.”

The strategy promised that by 2020, the province’s annual emissions would fall by 50 megatonnes below “business-as-usual” numbers  in 2008, that number was  232 megatonnes per year.

But according to Environment Canada’s most recent projections for emissions, Alberta’s annual output will instead grow to 287 megatonnes a year — an overall increase of 55 megatonnes, which means that the target (a 12 per cent increase from the 2005 number) will be missed by a full 27 Mt.

Monday, March 30, 2015 - 10:02 • Emma Gilchrist
CRA charity audit charity chill, UVic, ELC report

The release of a University of Victoria study calling for updates to Canadian charitable law created quite a stir last week.

The study, prepared for DeSmog Canada, was covered by the Toronto Star, Vancouver Sun, Victoria Times Colonist, Canadian Press, Macleans, The Tyee, Yahoo! News and CFAX.

The report called for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to clarify rules around “political activities” — defined as any activity that seeks to change, oppose or retain laws or policies — and to provide a more generous limit on allowable policy advocacy in line with other common law jurisdictions such as Australia and New Zealand. It also called for the creation of a politically independent charities commission to remove the potential for political interference in audits.

The findings were raised in the House of Commons by Victoria NDP MP Murray Rankin, who stated the report “analyzes the alarming lack of clarity in the rules governing political activities for charities.”