Alberta

Alberta’s New Rules May be Insufficient for Dealing with Sprawling Oilsands Tailings Ponds

It’s been almost two months since the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) released a new management framework to deal with the province’s growing legacy of oilsands tailings ponds that hold a toxic mixture of waste water, bitumen, solvents and sand.

But we’re really no closer to knowing if Directive 085 — quietly made effective on July 14 — will provide the necessary financial pressures for companies to start dealing with the almost one trillion litres of tailings that cover some 220 square kilometres of the province’s northeast.

Tweet: “We really feel like this could be strike three for #Alberta dealing with tailings” http://bit.ly/2ci6XvP #ableg #oilsands #cdnpoliWe really feel like this could be strike three for Alberta dealing with tailings,” says Chris Severson-Baker, managing director of the Pembina Institute.

Oilpatch to Solar Field: Alberta Oil and Gas Workforce Lines Up for Solar Training

oil and gas workers solar training

There just aren’t enough solar training centres in Alberta to keep up with demand from former oilpatch workers, according to Randall Benson, owner of Gridworks Energy Group, an Edmonton-based company that designs, supplies and installs solar panels.

Benson, who has worked in the solar industry since the year 2000, said Tweet: More training is needed to upgrade skills of #Alberta’s vastly underemployed oil & gas workforce http://bit.ly/2bwZGYj #ableg #cdnpolimore capacity is needed to upgrade the skills of the province’s vastly underemployed oil and gas workforce which has lost thousands of jobs in the wake of plummeting oil prices.

We do a lot of training,” Benson told DeSmog Canada. “The interest in training is unbelievable, it's gone up two or three fold just in the last couple of years. And it continues to grow.”

Benson, who said he’s had to turn people away from full classes, is currently considering opening up another training centre in Calgary to keep up with demand.

But as reports of overburdened solar training centres start to emerge, the biggest question — of who will employ all the newly trained workers — remains unanswered.

Geothermal Picks Up Steam With Alberta Proposal to Retrofit Abandoned Oil Wells

It’s been an awfully rough year for Alberta, with the resource-rich province currently grappling with a 31.5 per cent drop in oil prices, 39 per cent increase in unemployment and a quadrupling in the number of abandoned oil and gas wells.

But for many advocates of geothermal energy, that particular trio of stats represents a massive window of opportunity for the province, especially when paired with the government’s recent decision to phase out coal-fired power and generate 30 per cent of its electricity via renewables by 2030.

Tweet: Retrofit old oil&gas wells to capture #geothermal energy, put 1,000’s of tradespeople back to work http://bit.ly/2bUXeIA #ableg #cdnpoliIn short: retrofit old oil and gas wells to capture geothermal energy, putting thousands of tradespeople back to work, attracting billions in investments and producing baseload renewable power for the entire province.

The market timing is better than it’s ever been, the economic forces are better than they’ve ever been and I think we’re poised for a true boom,” says Sean Collins, partner at Terrapin Geothermics.

Interest in the idea has been growing in recent months, receiving a major boost in early August with MLA Shaye Anderson’s formal proposal to convert an inactive well to capture direct heat for an 8,000 square foot greenhouse near Leduc.

Strange Bedfellows: Alberta Brings Former Adversaries Together for New Oilsands Advisory Group

After decades of insufficient or insincere attempts to address emissions from Canada’s fastest growing source of climate pollution, a new government-sponsored oilsands advisory group may help resolve political gridlock surrounding the nation’s most contentious natural resource by bringing together industry, environmental and indigenous stakeholders.

The Oil Sands Advisory Group (OSAG) is tasked with helping the province implement a new emissions cap for the oilsands that limits greenhouse gas output to 100 megatonnes per year and will also advise on reducing the overall environmental impacts of production, according to a government statement released Wednesday.

According to Tzeporah Berman, the group's co-chair and a well-known environmentalist, the composition of the advisory group represents a notable shift in the political landscape.

Let's be clear: under previous governments environmental leaders had very little access and were outright ridiculed by many ministers and departments,” Berman told DeSmog Canada. “First Nations leaders were simply shut out. Climate change was denied.”

Tweet: ‘A lot has changed in a year in #Alberta and it is opening up new conversations.’ http://bit.ly/29UdURT @Tzeporah #ableg #bcpoli #cdnpoliA lot has changed in a year in Alberta and it is opening up new conversations.”

Will Alberta’s Last-Ditch Effort to Save the Caribou Be Enough?

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.”

Canada’s Physicians Want to See the End of Coal-Fired Power Plants

Doctors, nurses and health care professionals from across Canada are urging the federal government to phase out coal-fired power plants within the next decade because of coal’s harmful effects on human health and its contribution to climate change.

The unusual activism from groups such as the Canadian Lung Association, the Asthma Society of Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, led by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, comes on the heels of growing global recognition of the damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power generation.

Tweet: #Canada doctors & nurses: ‘We urge the government of Canada to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2025’ #cdnpoli http://bit.ly/1tvOtv4We urge the government of Canada to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2025 as a critical and immediate action toward achieving Canada’s emissions commitments and as a means to reap significant health benefits for Canadians,” reads a submission from 15 health organizations, representing more than 300,000 health professionals.

Alberta's Abandoned Wells Quadrupled in Last 12 Months. Who Will Clean Them Up?

The Alberta government titled its 2016 budget “The Alberta Jobs Plan” but there’s one group in the province that’s disappointed it will not see its jobs proposal funded.
 
The reclamation and clean-up of abandoned oil sites was proposed as a potential job creator by the Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC). With over 37,000 orphaned and inactive wells across the province and thousands of unemployed, highly-skilled workers, PSAC said the provincial government should dedicated funds to well clean-up and reclamation.

'Failed Experiment': Alberta Folds Oilsands Monitoring Agency

Tailings pond in Alberta oilsands

The Alberta government has shuttered its arm’s length environmental monitoring agency after a report concluded the program was a “failed experiment.”
 
Minister of Environment Shannon Phillips announced Tuesday the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) would be disbanded and environmental monitoring will return back to the government.

“It ensures government is directly accountable for environmental monitoring and that issues or gaps in monitoring are responded to immediately,” Phillips said at a press conference.

Phillip’s ministry commissioned a report that described the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency as overly expensive, poorly co-ordinated and plagued by bureaucratic bickering.

“It is hard to escape the conclusion that AEMERA is a failed experiment in outsourcing a core responsibility of government to an arm’s-length body,” wrote report author Paul Boothe, director of the Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management at Western University’s Ivey School of Business.

Ethics Complaint Filed Against Alberta Minister Turned Coal Lobbyist

A complaint filed with Alberta’s Office of the Ethics Commissioner on Tuesday argues that the president of the Coal Association of Canada contravened the Conflict of Interest Act by lobbying for the coal industry shortly after leaving his post as an Alberta cabinet minister.

Until six months ago, coal lobbyist Robin Campbell served as Alberta’s finance minister. He previously held positions as minister of aboriginal relations and minister of environment and sustainable resource development.

The Conflicts of Interest Act bars a former minister from lobbying any public office holder for 12 months after their last day in office.

Progress Alberta, a non-profit progressive advocacy group, filed the ethics complaint, arguing that Campbell’s activity on behalf of the coal industry may contravene rules in the Lobbyist Act designed to prevent the use of “grassroots communication” to persuade members of the public to pressure public office holders.

Since his controversial appointment as Coal Association president, Campbell has visited communities across Alberta and spoken with media about the lobby group’s positions. At least one media report indicates Campbell called on audiences to get in touch with their elected officials.

Weaver Calls for B.C. Moratorium After Study Links Fracking, Earthquakes

Natural gas operations

The results of a new study linking hydraulic fracturing or fracking to induced earthquakes in B.C. and Alberta is reason to immediately halt the controversial extraction technique from being used in gas fields in B.C. according to Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.
 
“I am calling on both the government and the official opposition to join me in supporting a moratorium on horizontal fracking in British Columbia,” Weaver said in a statement released Tuesday. “Other jurisdictions, like Quebec, New York, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, have already suspended the practice and B.C. should follow suit.”
 
The study found a direct link between fracking and earthquakes in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin over the last 25 years. The group studied more than 12,000 wells and seismic events larger than magnitude 3.0.
 
The new research, published in Seismological Research Letters on Tuesday by a group of Canadian researchers, concludes that 90 per cent of seismic activity in the region was the direct result of fracking operations.

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