General

Oil Companies Facing Spurt of Lawsuits After Robbing Oilfield Workers of Millions in Wages

U.S. oilfield workers are facing a big problem, and it’s not just the depressed prices in the worldwide oil markets.

Those who have jobs, especially the lowest level and dangerous jobs in the oilfields, are at high risk of being stiffed in a variety of ways. And they’ve started to fight back.

Five years ago, when the price of oil was high and fracking operations were ramping up throughout Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado and other states, there were plentiful stories about oilfield workers, many with minimal experience, pulling down six figure incomes. But even though the industry is known for paying high wages, the big paydays are more often due to the total number of hours worked, sometimes with workweeks exceeding 100 hours.

And these workers are very likely to be victims of “wage theft,” a denial of wages by employers wrongly classifying them as exempt from overtime, or paying them flat salaries regardless of the number of hours worked, or reneging on production bonuses.

Why I Wrote a Book About How to Clean Up Toxic Debates

I wrote my last book, Climate Cover-Up, because I wanted to take a deeper look at the science propaganda and media echo chambers that muddied the waters around climate change, fuelled denial of facts and stalled action. The book was a Canadian best seller, was reprinted in Spanish and Mandarin and became the basis of many lectures, panel discussions and presentations I have given around the world since it was published in 2009.
 
I continued to be perplexed and frustrated by the spin doctoring swirling around the global warming issue, making it easy for people to refute the reality of what’s going on and ignore this critical collective problem. But as time went by I became even more concerned and alarmed by the crazy state of debate today in general — the toxic rhetoric that seems to permeate virtually all of the important issues we face, whether it’s a discussion about vaccinations, refugee immigration, gun control or environmental degradation.

‘Industrialization of the Wilderness’: Wade Davis on the Northwest Transmission Line

An ugly thread of misspent taxpayer dollars, environmental destruction and conflict-of-interest — backed by a government beholden to the mining industry — runs along the recently completed Northwest Transmission Line, charges acclaimed explorer and scholar Wade Davis.

The $716-million transmission line, budgeted in 2010 at $404-million, snakes 344 kilometres into B.C.’s wilderness, from north of Terrace to Bob Quinn Lake, and, to the alarm of downstream Southeast Alaska residents, the line is opening the area to mining in the headwaters of vital salmon-bearing rivers.

Those concerns have grown exponentially since the Mount Polley tailings dam collapsed in August 2014, sending 24-million cubic metres of toxic debris flowing into Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake, and groups in B.C. and Alaska are warning that a Mount Polley-type disaster in the area known as the Sacred Headwaters, where acidity is likely to be high, would wipe out the multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industries on both sides of the border.

Agriculture, not Energy, Will Fuel Canada’s Economy in Coming Decades: Experts

The agriculture sector will rise in importance in coming decades as the world warms and moves away from fossil fuels.

That’s the most recent prediction from Jeff Rubin, former chief economist for CIBC World Markets, whose latest book, The Carbon Bubble, forecasts a not-so-distant future in which climate change will open up the possibility for cultivating crops, historically grown in places like Kansas and Iowa, much further north. At the same time, Rubin argues, global dependence on fossil fuels will drop, freeing up capital to migrate to crops like corn and soy.

There could be some tremendous opportunity for Western Canada, in the same provinces that are likely to be victims of the carbon bubble,” Rubin told DeSmog Canada. “Food is the only real sector in the commodity field that has been resilient, that’s kept its pricing power. You could argue that just that alone is sufficient.”

Agriculture has always played a major role in Canada’s economy. Rod MacRae, associate professor of environmental studies at York University and national food policy expert, notes the food sector trails directly behind energy and automobile manufacturing, employing one in every eight Canadians.

10 Things We Learnt From Reddit About Understanding Climate Change

Two professors of cognitive psychology – Stephan Lewandowsky, from the University of Bristol, and Klaus Oberauer, from the University of Zurich – did a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) this week.

The topic up for discussion was: “The conflict between our brains and our globe: How will we meet the challenges of the 21st century despite our cognitive limitations?”

Evidence Released at TransCanada’s Keystone XL Permit Renewal Hearing Sheds Light On Serious Pipeline Risks

Keystone XL protest by Doug Grandt

Just because TransCanada continually states that the Keystone XL pipeline will be the safest pipeline ever built, doesn’t mean it is true.

The company’s pipeline construction record is facing intense scrutiny in America’s heartland, where many see no justifiable rationale to risk their water and agricultural lands for a tar sands export pipeline.

New documents submitted as evidence in the Keystone XL permitting process in South Dakota — including one published here on DeSmog for the first time publicly — paint a troubling picture of the company’s shoddy construction mishaps. This document, produced by TransCanada and signed by two company executives, details the results of its investigation into the “root cause” of the corrosion problems discovered on the Keystone pipeline.

B.C.’s Jumbo Municipality, Created to Support Failed Ski Resort, Hangs in Balance as Proponents Fight to Build Luxury Project

There are no residents or buildings in the municipality of Jumbo, B.C. The only development proposal planned for the voterless town — the Jumbo Glacier Ski Resort — has been sent back to the drawing board by the province and a Supreme Court judge is considering an application to dissolve the municipality.

But, for now, activity in the Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality will continue as usual, says Mayor Greg Deck.

The Kootenays municipality of Jumbo was created by the provincial government (some say undemocratically) in 2012 for the sole purpose of dealing with the controversial Jumbo Glacier Resort project, but in July the Environment Ministry allowed its environmental certificate to expire after ruling the project had not been substantially started in time to meet its permit deadline.

David Suzuki: Premiers' Energy Strategy Falls Short

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

On July 15, a state-of-the-art new pipeline near Fort McMurray, Alberta, ruptured, spilling five million litres of bitumen, sand and waste water over 16,000 square metres — one of the largest pipeline oil spills in Canadian history. Two days later, a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota derailed in Montana, spilling 160,000 litres and forcing evacuation of nearby homes.

At the same time, while forest fires raged across large swathes of Western Canada — thanks to hotter, dryer conditions and longer fire seasons driven in part by climate change — Canadian premiers met in St. John’s, Newfoundland, to release their national energy strategy.

The premiers’ Canadian Energy Strategy focuses on energy conservation and efficiency, clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. But details are vague and there’s no sense of urgency. We need a response like the U.S. reaction to Pearl Harbor or the Soviet Sputnik launch!

Nexen’s Brand New, Double-Layered Pipeline Just Ruptured, Causing One of the Biggest Oil Spills Ever in Alberta

A pipeline at Nexen Energy’s Long Lake oilsands facility southeast of Fort McMurray, Alberta, spilled about five million liters (32,000 barrels or some 1.32 million gallons) of emulsion, a mixture of bitumen, sand and water, Wednesday afternoon — marking one of the largest spills in Alberta history.

According to reports, the spill covered as much as 16,000 square meters (almost 4 acres). The emulsion leaked from a “feeder” pipe that connects a wellhead to a processing plant.

At a press conference Thursday, Ron Bailey, Nexen vice president of Canadian operations, said the company “sincerely apologize[d] for the impact this has caused.” He confirmed the double-layered pipeline is a part of Nexen's new system and that the line's emergency detection system failed to alert officials to the breach, which was discovered during a visual inspection. 

Exclusive: B.C. to Pay Millions to Subsidize Petronas Pollution Due to Secretive LNG Emissions Loophole

The B.C. government plans to subsidize Malaysian gas giant Petronas to the tune of $16 million, in part due to a promise to exclude a significant chunk of the greenhouse gas emissions from the Pacific Northwest LNG project from compliance penalties, DeSmog Canada has learned.

British Columbia’s politicians are in a special summer sitting at the legislature right now to debate Bill 30, the Liquefied Natural Gas Project Agreements Act, which will allow the government to enter into a $36 billion agreement with Petronas and pave the way for B.C.’s first major liquefied natural gas export plant, located near Prince Rupert.

Under the terms of the 140-page deal, the province would compensate the LNG consortium if future governments raise income tax rates for LNG operations, add carbon taxes that specifically target the industry or make changes to rules on greenhouse gas emissions. That could result in the province paying out $25 million a year or more.

While the compensation clause has commanded the lion’s share of attention, DeSmog Canada has learned that the B.C. government has quietly excluded two sources of Petronas’ emissions from compliance standards, which will result in the province paying out millions of dollars in subsidies.

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