Alberta

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.

Fact Checking the Coal Industry’s 'Information Meetings' in Alberta

This is a guest post by Benjamin Thibault and Andrew Read of the Pembina Institute

These are not good days for the global coal industry. There is bad news at every turn, with countless reports of “sputtering” and even falling demand.

Alberta has been a bastion for coal use in Canada. For now, the province burns more coal for electricity than all other provinces combined. But the writing has been on the wall for some time; over the long run, dirty coal-fired electricity is not compatible with credible climate change reduction strategies or with the public demand for cleaner air. These are the realities behind the province’s commitment to improve Alberta’s air quality and climate reputation by phasing out coal power pollution by 2030.

It is within this context that the Coal Association of Canada (CAC) is touring Alberta with “ACT information meetings.” But the “information” simply does not reflect coal’s stark modern reality. Let’s do some fact checking.

Canada Must Adapt to Low Oil and Gas Price Environment, International Energy Agency Warns

If Saudi Arabia’s oil minister’s dire warning about high-cost energy producers didn’t effectively get the message across that Canada needs to adjust to a new market reality, perhaps a new warning by the International Energy Agency (IEA) might.
 
“We are likely to see continued capacity increases (in) the near term, with growth slowing considerably, if not coming to a complete standstill, after the projects under construction are completed,” the IEA said in an oil market overview published Monday.
 
According to the IEA, Canada’s oil era may be coming to an end due to dramatically low prices, increasing environmental concerns, a lack of public support for pipelines and evolving climate policies.
 
In an in-depth review of Canada’s energy portfolio and policies released Thursday, the agency urged Canada to adopt strong climate goals as it considers future energy production.
 
“As a leading exporter of oil, coal, natural gas, uranium and hydropower, Canada is a cornerstone of global energy markets and energy security,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said as he presented the report, Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Canada 2015.

Alberta's Unprotected Foothills Forest No Longer a Refuge for Threatened Species

By Chris Wood. This article originally appeared on The Tyee

The sound of water is loud in a land muffled by snow. No human sound penetrates this broad valley between tapering extensions of the Rocky Mountains, 100 kilometres southwest of Grand Prairie, Alberta. A stray beam from the low winter sun washes the landscape in pink. A young doe caribou makes her way to the water. She's thin, ribs visible beneath her winter coat. At the water's edge she lowers her head to drink.

Suddenly grey shapes burst from the shadows. The swiftest comes racing over her own hoof-trail, leaps and sinks sharp teeth deep into her haunch, lacerating ligament. Within minutes, the doe's struggle is over. The wolves settle in to eat.

For Alberta's foothills caribou, death row is a fraying triangle of pine, spruce and aspenforest and meadows, stretched along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains and running roughly from Banff, west of Calgary, some 630 kilometres north and west over the provincial border into British Columbia. A broad thumb of forest thrusts east toward Slave Lake.

A second area with a similar ecological community, not quite as large, straddles the provincial borders north of Fort St. John, B.C. Anchored on Alberta's Chinchaga Wildland Park it holds the headwaters of the Hay River. The two areas are isolated from each other by the trans-border Peace River and its development corridor of gas fields, forest mills and a soon-to-be-built third hydroelectric dam and reservoir on the river.

Alberta Keeps Low Oil and Gas Royalties, Committing 'Profound Political Mistake,' Critics Say

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.

Calgary Mayor Nenshi, Premier Wall Blast Montreal’s Energy East Opposition

Several prominent western Canadian politicians came out firing at Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre’s announcement yesterday that Montreal-area municipalities will oppose TransCanada’s Energy East oil pipeline project. The outraged western leaders were not exactly polite in their criticism either.

He’s wrong on this one. There’s no better way to put it,” Calgary Naheed Nenshi told CTV’s Power Play. “The alternative is more oil by rail and people in Quebec know the dangers of oil by rail, tragically.”

I trust Montreal area mayors will politely return their share of $10B in equalization supported by (the) west,” Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said on Twitter.

The 82 municipalities of the Communauté Municipale de Montréal (Montreal Metropolitan Community) voted yesterday to oppose the 1.1 million barrels a day proposed pipeline going through their jurisdictions. The environment risks outweighed the meager economic benefits of the project, according to the political body representing nearly four million Quebecers.

Alberta Is Way More Progressive Than Alberta Thinks, According to New Poll

Albertans are more politically progressive than assumed, according to findings collected by Ottawa’s Abacus Data and published in a recent report titled “The Quiet Majority.”

Commissioned by Progress Alberta — a brand new left-leaning, non-partisan organization based in Edmonton — the poll discovered that 59 per cent of Albertans self-describe as “progressive” and tend to vastly overestimate the percentage of other Albertans who self-describe as conservatives.

We had a hunch that Albertans were a little more progressive than the perception out there, but the results were pretty incredible, to be frank,” says Duncan Kinney, founder of Progress Alberta. “Really, what surprised me the most was just how much Albertans overestimate how conservative other Albertans are.”

To be fair, the definition of “progressive” seems fairly nebulous: some 72 per cent of people who voted for the Alberta NDP in May harnessed the label to describe their political affiliations, but 47 per cent of those who backed the far-right Wildrose Party also used it.

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