Thursday, June 30, 2016 - 14:26 • Sarah Cox

In only its earliest phases of construction, the Site C dam project has already spent more money than projected and missed key benchmarks, threatening to undermine Premier Christy Clark’s commitment to taxpayers to keep the project on budget and on time.

BC Hydro documents filed June 10 with the province’s independent public utility watchdog, the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC), show that that Site C expenditures totalled $314 million more at the end of March than was originally budgeted for that date.

The same documents, reviewed by DeSmog, also flag the potential for cost overruns if interest rates climb, taxes increase or the Canadian dollar continues to depreciate over the projected eight remaining years the dam is under construction.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016 - 13:56 • Carol Linnitt

First Nations save us again.”

That was the message of a text I received from a friend after they heard of the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to overturn the Harper government’s approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

And it’s true: First Nations have borne the social burden once again of calling out undemocratic, law-breaking government actions that threaten the climate, the environment and human health.  

Alongside the many First Nations that brought a legal challenge against the Northern Gateway pipeline approval were several environmental organizations that brought attention to the ways the project threatened endangered species and marine life.

But it was the former government’s tragic lack of First Nations consultation that caught the court's attention.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016 - 12:58 • David Suzuki

We’re living in a time of records. More renewable energy came on stream in 2015 than ever — 147 gigawatts, equal to Africa’s entire generating capacity — and investment in the sector broke records worldwide. Costs for producing solar and wind power have hit record lows. Portugal obtained all its electricity from renewable sources for four straight days in May — the longest achieved by any country — and Germany was able to meet 90 per cent of its electricity needs with renewable power for a brief period. Clean energy employment and job growth now outpace the fossil fuel industry by a wide margin.

That’s just a portion of the good news. Oil prices have fallen so low that some more damaging activities are becoming unprofitable, a record number of coal companies are going bankrupt or filing for bankruptcy, and fewer coal mines are operating in the U.S.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016 - 08:51 • Judith Lavoie
Mount Polley Mine Spill
Mount Polley Mine Spill

Six B.C. mines pose threats to Alaska’s most productive salmon rivers and should be investigated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, according to a coalition of conservation groups and Alaskan First Nations who are invoking legislation that says it is the Interior Department’s duty to investigate when foreign nationals may be affecting U.S conservation treaties.

A petition presented to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell suggests that B.C. mines close to the Taku, Stikine and Unuk watersheds diminish the effectiveness of two treaties that protect Pacific salmon, steelhead trout, grizzly bears and woodland caribou.

The treaties are the Convention for the Conservation of Anadromous Stocks in the North Pacific Ocean and the Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the Western Hemisphere.

The coalition of U.S. and Canadian groups, including Earthjustice, the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group, Sierra Club of B.C., Craig Tribal Association, Friends of the Stikine Society and Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, are echoing a previous call by Alaska’s congressional delegation to refer the transboundary mines controversy to the International Joint Commission.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016 - 16:45 • Sarah Cox
Chief Marvin Yahey
Chief Marvin Yahey

The B.C. government has significantly accelerated the rate and scale of industrial development in the Blueberry River First Nations’ traditional territory over the past four years despite knowledge of alarming impacts, says a major science report released today.

Our very life, our way of existence, is being wiped out,” Blueberry River Chief Marvin Yahey told a Vancouver press conference. “It’s devastating. It’s really impacted my people, culturally but socially also. It puts a lot of stress on a community.”

The report, authored by Ecotrust Canada and based on B.C. government data, found that up to 84 per cent of the Blueberry River traditional territory in B.C.’s northeast has been negatively impacted by industrial activity.

Almost 75 per cent of the territory now lies within 250 metres of an industrial disturbance, and more than 80 per cent is within 500 metres.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016 - 08:17 • Judith Lavoie

A grim story of serial depletion of fish stocks, lack of accurate information about fisheries, overfishing and poor management is documented in a new study on the state of Canada’s fisheries.

Less than one quarter of Canadian fish stocks are considered healthy and the status of 45 per cent of stocks couldn’t be determined due to an absence of basic, current information, says the report commissioned by Oceana Canada and conducted by marine biologists.

As Canadians we perceive ourselves to be good stewards of the environment, but when it comes to our oceans, we have failed to live up to that ideal,” said University of Victoria biologist Julia Baum, lead author of the scientific report.

We need to get serious about ocean conservation in Canada. Sound management and recovery of our fisheries must become a political priority.”

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Monday, June 27, 2016 - 14:53 • Carol Linnitt
Woodland Caribou
Woodland Caribou

When the Alberta government released its draft plan to save the province’s dwindling caribou populations from local extinction earlier this month, it was heralded as a major step forward — but big questions remain.

The biggest one: after years of failing to intervene in the caribou crisis, will the new plan be enough to bring them back from the brink of extinction?

It was great news for northwest populations where big protected areas are needed and there’s still time there to ensure caribou recovery,” conservation specialist Carolyn Campbell from the Alberta Wilderness Association told DeSmog Canada.

But when it comes to the Little Smoky range, it’s still not enough, Campbell said.

The problem is the underlying causes of predation are still allowed to worsen in the next five years by restarting logging and by implying energy infrastructure can still go ahead,” she said. “We can’t support the plan continuing to destroy habitat.”

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Friday, June 24, 2016 - 11:00 • Judith Lavoie
Flathead Basin
Flathead Basin

Gravel-bed rivers and their floodplains are the lifeblood of ecosystems and need to be allowed to run and flood unimpeded if species are to be protected and communities are to cope with climate change, a ground-breaking scientific study has found.

The broad valleys formed by rivers flowing from glaciated mountains, such as those found throughout B.C. and Alberta, are some of the most ecologically important habitats in North America, according to the team of scientists who have done the first extensive study of the full range of species that rely on gravel-bed rivers, ranging from microbes to bears. The paper was published online Friday in Science Advances.

In the region that stretches from Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to the northern Yukon, gravel-bed river flood plains support more than half the plant life. About 70 per cent of the area’s bird species use the floodplain, while deer, elk, caribou, wolves and grizzly bears use the plains for food, habitat and as important migration corridors.

While everyone knows that fish rely on rivers, the scientists found that species such as cottonwood trees need the river flood to reproduce and the ever-changing landscape of changing channels and shifting gravel and rocks supports a complex food web.

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