Alberta

Wed, 2014-12-03 10:49Derek Leahy
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Ontario Backs Down From Full Assessment of Energy East's Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Jim Prentice and Kathleen Wynne

Ontario will not look at greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands industry in deciding whether to support TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline project. The province will only consider emissions in Ontario from the proposed pipeline according to an announcement by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on Wednesday.

Ontario’s review of the Energy East pipeline will not have credibility unless emissions in Alberta are taken into account,” Adam Scott, climate and energy program manager with Environmental Defence Canada, told DeSmog Canada.

Wynne’s announcement in Toronto comes during a visit from Alberta Premier Jim Prentice to discuss Quebec and Ontario’s seven conditions for the 1.1 million barrel-per-day proposed pipeline. Ontario and Quebec have stated in their conditions “the contribution of greenhouse gas emissions” from Energy East must be taken into account.

Tue, 2014-12-02 11:23Derek Leahy
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Alberta Premier Prentice Lobbies For Energy East in Ontario and Quebec

Jim Prentice

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice begins an Energy East lobby tour today in Quebec City to try to woo the premiers of Quebec and Ontario into supporting TransCanada's 1.1 million barrel-per-day oil pipeline proposal.

It is a sign the project is in danger,” Patrick Bonin, a Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner based in Montreal, told DeSmog Canada. “Over 70 per cent of Quebecers don’t want Energy East to be built.”

Ontario and Quebec announced last month that Energy East would have to meet seven conditions to gain the provinces' approval of the 4,600-kilometer pipeline from Alberta to New Brunswick. Included in these conditions is a demand for a full environmental assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the pipeline.

Fri, 2014-11-28 13:49Carol Linnitt
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Environment Canada Study Reveals Oilsands Tailings Ponds Emit Toxins to Atmosphere at Much Higher Levels than Reported

There are more than 176 square kilometres of tailings ponds holding waste from oilsands development in the area around Fort McMurray, Alberta. According to new research released from Environment Canada, those tailings ponds are emitting much higher levels of toxic and potentially cancer-causing contaminants into the air than previously reported.

As the Canadian Press reports, Environment Canada scientist Elisabeth Galarneau is the first to conduct field studies in the region and her research confirms that previous estimates of chemical release into the air have been massively underestimated.

We found that there actually does appear to be a net flow of these compounds going from water to air,” Galarneau told the Canadian Press. “It’s just a bit under five times higher from the ponds than what’s been reported.”

A previous study used modeling to estimate potential chemical release, but Galarneau’s study, published recently in the journal of Atmospheric Environment, relied on air samples and filters located in the study region.

Tue, 2014-11-25 12:15Carol Linnitt
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Energy East Opposition Fund Swells Past $300K After Crowdfunding Campaign Makes Headlines

Energy East fundraiser Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois

Perhaps it’s the charming student activist, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who donated his $25,000 Governor General’s Literary Award to the pipeline fight, or perhaps it was the scandalous documents leaked last week that showed pipeline company TransCanada has teamed up with one of the world’s most powerful PR firms, Edelman, to manipulate public opinion surrounding the Energy East pipeline.

Or maybe it’s the fact that at least two-thirds of Quebecers oppose the construction of a 4600km pipeline that will carry 1.1 million barrels of oilsands crude through their province (and five others) for export. Maybe onlookers, disturbed by the 50 arrests on Burnaby Mountain, have felt compelled to prevent a similar situation from erupting east of Alberta.

Who knows?

But what is becoming clear is the firestorm of public opposition that is committing to the fight against Energy East. Twelve hours after Nadeau-Dubois announced his $25,000 donation on the Radio-Canada talk show Tout le monde en parle on Sunday donations surpassed $140,000.

Tue, 2014-11-04 16:22Carol Linnitt
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Activists Cast New Light On Iconic Alberta Oil Derrick After Surrounding it with Solar Panels, Banners

Clean energy advocates transformed one of Western Canada’s oldest oil derricks Monday by draping it with pro-solar banners and surrounding it with solar panels that powered sun-themed music.

It was a really nice day here,” Greenpeace Canada energy and climate campaigner Melina Laboucan-Massimo told DeSmog Canada, “and so sunny.”

Despite the November chill, Laboucan-Massimo said the day was perfect for capturing solar energy. 

“Even though it’s chilly there’s still sun,” she said. “You actually increase efficiency for solar panels when it’s cold, because they don’t overheat. So when it’s cold it’s still fine to produce energy, as long as you have the sun.”

Laboucan-Massimo and the other campaigners are working to demystify solar energy in Alberta, a province with massive untapped solar potential.

I think a part of what Greenpeace and other organizations and First Nations have been really successful at is pointing out the problem, but I think we need to start pointing to solutions and really articulating what those are and how to implement them,” she said.

Mon, 2014-11-03 15:41Chris Rose
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“Citizen Interventions” Have Cost Canada’s Tar Sands Industry $17B, New Report Shows

Oil companies and fossil fuel investors seeking further developments in the Alberta tar sands have been dealt another setback with the publication of a report showing producers lost $17.1 billion USD between 2010-2013 due to successful public protest campaigns.

Fossil fuel companies lost $30.9 billion overall during the same period partly due to the changing North American oil market but largely because of a fierce grassroots movement against tar sands development, said the report — Material Risks: How Public Accountability Is Slowing Tar Sands Development.

A significant segment of opposition is from First Nations in Canada who are raising sovereignty claims and other environmental challenges, added the report, which was produced by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and Oil Change International (OCI).

Tar sands producers face a new kind of risk from growing public opposition,” Tom Sanzillo, director of finance at IEEFA, and one of the lead authors on the report, said. “This opposition has achieved a permanent presence as public sentiment evolves and as the influence of organizations opposed to tar sands production continues to grow.”

Tue, 2014-10-14 13:35Steve Horn
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Tar Sands Trade: Kuwait Buys Stake in Alberta As It Opens Own Heavy Oil Spigot

Chevron made waves in the business world when it announced its October 6 sale of 30-percent of its holdings in the Alberta-based Duvernay Shale basin to Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company (KUFPEC) for $1.5 billion.

It marked the first North American purchase for the Kuwaiti state-owned oil company and yields KUFPEC 330,000 acres of Duvernay shale gas. Company CEO and the country's Crown Prince, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, called it an “anchor project” that could spawn Kuwait's expansion into North America at-large. 

Kuwait's investment in the Duvernay, at face-value buying into Canada's hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) revolution, was actually also an all-in bet on Alberta's tar sands. As explained in an October 7 article in Platts, the Duvernay serves as a key feedstock for condensate, a petroleum product made from gas used to dilute tar sands, allowing the product to move through pipelines. 

And while Kuwait — the small Gulf state sandwiched between Iraq and Saudi Arabia — has made a wager on Alberta's shale and tar sands, Big Oil may also soon make a big bet on Kuwait's homegrown tar sands resources.

“Kuwait has invited Britain’s BP, France’s Total, Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron, to bid for a so-called enhanced technical service agreement for the northern Ratqa heavy oilfield,” explained an October 2 article in Reuters. “It is the first time KOC will develop such a big heavy oil reservoir and the plan is to produce 60,000 bpd from Ratqa, which lies close to the Iraqi border [in northern Kuwait]…and then ramp it up to 120,000 bpd by 2025.”

In the past, Kuwait has said it hopes to learn how to extract tar sands from Alberta's petroleum engineers.

Wed, 2014-09-24 08:37Carol Linnitt
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Fighting for the Foothills: Albertans Speak Up to Protect Headwaters of North Saskatchewan

Aurum Lodge, Homewaters Campaign, Headwaters North Saskatchewan

Alan Ernst and his wife Madeline were world travellers for most of their adult lives. So when they decided to settle down, they gravitated back to one of the most beautiful places they’d ever seen: the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in southern Alberta.

There, the sharp slopes of one of the world’s most dramatic mountain ranges make a sprawling dive to the foothills, which settle into the continent’s vast prairies.

When the Ernsts saw the eastern slopes for the first time, they knew it was going to be their new home.

We just wanted to do something different,” Alan said. “We had office jobs before and we decided we wanted to live in a more pleasant surrounding than the suburbs of a major city. We wanted to live in the mountains.”

The Ernsts found one of the last undeveloped natural areas in the eastern slopes, in between Jasper and Banff, and built the first eco-tourism lodge in Alberta. The Aurum Lodge was constructed in 1999 and opened to the public in the year 2000.  To this day it is the only dedicated, low-impact eco-tourism lodge in the province.

I sometimes joke and say we are the antidote to Banff,” Alan laughed.

Sun, 2014-08-17 13:50Carol Linnitt
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The Oilsands Cancer Story Part 3: The Spotlight Turns on Fort Chip Doctor

Fort Chipewyan Cemetery. Fort Chip, located downstream of the oilsands, has higher than average cancer rates.

This is the third installment in a three-part series on Dr. John O'Connor, the family physician to first identify higher-than-average cancer rates and rare forms of cancer in communities downstream of the Alberta oilsands.

Part 3: The Spotlight Turns On Fort Chip Doctor

After the story of Fort Chip’s health problems broke, Health Canada sent physicians out to the small, northern community.

Dr. John O’Connor said one of the Health Canada doctors went into the local nursing station and, in front of a reporter, filled a mug with Fort Chip water and drank from it, saying, ‘See, there’s nothing wrong with it.’

That was such a kick in the face for everyone,” O’Connor said. “Just a complete dismissal of their concerns.”

Health Canada eventually requested the charts of the patients who had died. Six weeks later they announced the findings of a report that concluded cancer rates were no higher in Fort Chip than expected.

For O’Connor, however, the numbers “just didn’t match up.”

Mon, 2014-08-04 12:05Carol Linnitt
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The Oilsands Cancer Story Part 2: Deformed Fish, Dying Muskrats Cause Doctor To Sound Alarm

Robert Grandjambe Jr. Shows DeSmog Sick Fish from Lake Athabasca

This is the second installment of a three-part series on Dr. John O'Connor, the family physician to first identify higher-than-average cancer rates and rare forms of cancer in communities downstream of the Alberta oilsands.

Part 2: Deformed Fish, Dying Muskrats Cause Doctor To Sound Alarm

When Dr. John O’Connor arrived in Fort Chipewyan in 2000, it took him a little while to get familiar with the population.

The town was a bit larger than his previous post of Fort MacKay, with a population of around 1,000 at that time. Locals had few options when it came to medical care. Their town was 300 kilometres north of Fort McMurray and accessible only by plane in the summer or by ice road for a few of the colder months.

O’Connor recognized it was a close-knit community and yet hard to get a foothold in.

You had to be trusted to gain their respect, I guess,” he said.

Most doctors hadn’t established a continuous practice up there, O’Connor said, so the community hadn’t received continuous care by the same medical expert for many years.

What they were looking for was one pair of eyes, one pair of hands. Consistency,” he recounts.

That was one of the reasons why I was approached to provide service. So that made it easier to get to know people and for them to get to know me.”

O’Connor immediately began poring over patient files, piecing together what a series of seasonal doctors had left behind. Patients there felt there was no continuity between what rotating doctors would say about their symptoms.

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