Friday, February 5, 2016 - 13:10 • Derek Leahy

After languishing in the darkness for ten years, a national climate policy in Canada could take shape during an anticipated first ministers meeting in Vancouver next month. The meeting fulfills a Liberal election promise “to establish a pan-Canadian framework for combating climate change” and meet with provincial ministers within 90 days of the UN COP21 climate negotiations in Paris. 
 
“If there ever was a time this could work it would be now,” Jennifer Allan, PhD candidate and researcher with International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), said. “Canadians are mobilized and there’s more momentum for change than there’s been in the recent past, if ever.”
 
“The federal government and the provinces are not going to be able to sneak anything weak — or failure — out the backdoor,” Allan told DeSmog Canada.
 
Although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not officially announced the meeting to discuss a national climate plan with the premiers, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador published a media release earlier this week identifying March 3 as the date of the first ministers meeting to discuss a national climate change framework. 

Other sources confirmed the meeting will be held on March 3rd during the Globe Series, an international environmental business summit in Vancouver.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016 - 12:57 • Guest
This is a guest post by Sarah Petrevan, senior policy adviser at Clean Energy Canada, a program of Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue.

The big energy story this week in Canada is pipelines. Yet again. 

Why? There’s controversy, for starters, but it’s also the fact that energy exports — especially oil — make up a big chunk of Canada’s exports, and we’re an export-driven economy.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016 - 10:56 • Ben Parfitt

On January 20, BC Hydro issued a press release singing the praises of a new hydro transmission line not far from where preliminary work has begun to build the $9-billion Site C dam.

The release, headlined “New transmission line to power development in the south Peace,” featured boosterish quotes from Premier Christy Clark, Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett and BC Hydro CEO and president Jessica MacDonald, but made no mention of the dam.

Yet it highlighted for many one of the most vexing questions about why the dam, which is the single-most expensive megaproject in the province’s history, is being built at all: Why this project at this time?

“This line doubles the amount of power we can provide to the region,” enthused MacDonald. “We know it’s a growing region and BC Hydro needs to be one step ahead and ensure we can get power to where it is needed most. We want industry in B.C. to use clean power that comes from BC Hydro’s hydroelectric facilities.”

What MacDonald didn’t say, and Clark and Bennett did nothing to elaborate on either, is that the $300-million and counting transmission line is but the first of at least three in the region. Another two lines, which the provincial government wants exempt from review by the provincial electrical utilities regulator the BC Utilities Commission (the province also exempted the Site C dam project from similar review), will add hundreds of millions of dollars more to the tally for taxpayers.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - 12:00 • Andrew Nikiforuk

This article originally appeared on The Tyee.

The recommendation of an Alberta review panel not to raise royalty rates paid by oil and gas companies to the province is an economic disaster and represents a capitulation to Big Oil and its financial backers, say a variety of critics.

Released last Friday, a five-month review into the royalty system argued that low global oil prices had placed Alberta in an existential quandary and that no increases should be considered in royalty rates.

Royalty rates are not costs or taxes, but a price a company must pay to the owner for the right to develop the resource.

For 35 years, the former Tory government of Alberta consistently lowered royalty rates to among the lowest in the world. At the same time it saved almost nothing for future generations.  

But the long-delayed review, commissioned by the new NDP government in 2015 as the result of an election promise, concluded that the “current share of value Albertans receive from our resources is generally appropriate.”

The review added that Albertans should stop focusing “on questions of 'are the rates right,'” and look more “on what changes need to be made to our royalty framework to position Alberta and our energy industry to address the challenges of a very different environment and outlook for the future.”

The review then recommended maintaining current royalty rates for wells drilled before 2017 and setting a generic rate — five per cent — for all new oil and gas wells drilled after 2017, a policy equivalent to grading and selling all cuts of beef as hamburger.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - 09:20 • James Wilt
Suncor CEO Steve Williams
Suncor CEO Steve Williams

Only three-and-a-half months have passed since the federal election, but fossil fuel companies and lobby groups haven’t wasted any time in ramping up their lobbying efforts.
 
Suncor, the country’s largest energy company by revenue, has led the pack in meeting with high-ranking federal officials — logging at least 12 meetings in just over one month.
 
Between Nov. 2 and Nov. 19 the dominant oilsands player met four times with Louise Metivier, who was Canada’s chief negotiator at the UN climate summit held in Paris between Nov. 30 and Dec. 12.
 
Steve Williams, the company’s CEO and head lobbyist, also met three times with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna (on Nov. 18, Dec. 7 and Dec. 8) another three times with Environment Canada’s chief of staff Marlo Raynolds (on Nov. 5, Dec. 7 and Dec. 9) and twice more with Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s right-hand man and principal secretary ( Nov. 18 and Nov. 19).
 
“The meetings were preparatory meetings for Suncor’s participation at COP 21 in Paris,” explained Sneh Seetal, spokesperson at Suncor, via e-mail. “Our president and CEO, Steve Williams, attended as a member of the Canadian delegation at the invitation of the federal government. We discussed Suncor’s perspectives on climate change and how industry can help be a part of the solution.”

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 16:20 • Judith Lavoie
Killer whales eye oil tanker in Salish Sea
Killer whales eye oil tanker in Salish Sea

Underwater shipping noise in the Salish Sea is likely making it difficult for endangered southern resident killer whales to find food and could threaten their survival, according to a team of U.S. scientists.
 
A new, two-year study, published in the academic journal Peer J, used underwater microphones to take 3,000 noise measurements as 1,600 individual ships passed through the Washington State side of Haro Strait.
 
The study site is in the middle of critical habitat for the fish-eating southern resident killer whales and researchers found shipping noise extended to middle and high frequencies used by killer whales to echo-locate prey. Killer whales emit a series of clicking sounds and then listen for the bounce-back echoes in order to find fish.
 
The researchers found the growth in commercial shipping has raised the intensity of low-frequency noise almost 10-fold since the 1960s and there is growing evidence that it is affecting the communication ability of baleen whales, such as humpbacks, gray whales and right whales.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 14:47 • Carol Linnitt
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan

The review of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has been plagued by a critical lack of evidence, members of a National Energy Board panel heard in Burnaby last week.

Chris Tollefson, lawyer from the Environmental Law Centre representing intervenors BC Nature and Nature Canada, said the evidence presented in the hearings is insufficient to prevent the panel from discharging its duty under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Fundamentally we say there is a lack of evidence for you to do your job,” he said.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 17:34 • Derek Leahy
Miniser of Environment Catherine McKenna
Miniser of Environment Catherine McKenna

The federal government announced on Wednesday the upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with pipeline projects will be taken into consideration when federal cabinet makes its decisions on pipeline projects.

We are considering direct and upstream greenhouse gas emissions,” Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said. McKenna along with Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr made the announcement.

Today’s announcement is a great step forward and shows the federal government is listening to Canadians,” Kai Nagata, Dogwood Initiative’s energy and democracy director, told DeSmog Canada. “The dark days of the National Energy Board are coming to an end.”

The new measures will apply to pipeline projects currently under regulatory review, such as Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain and TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline projects, according to Carr. Five principles that proposed pipelines will be measured against were unveiled. One of those includes “meaningful consultation” for Indigenous peoples.

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