tar sands

Thu, 2014-12-18 12:00Carol Linnitt
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Harper Government’s Economic Development Ignores Human, Indigenous Rights: New Report

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Responsible Resource Development.”

World-Class Environmental Monitoring.”

Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity.”

These are just some of the titles to emerge from the Harper government in recent years to pleasantly describe what is otherwise seen as a myopic and undemocratic program of increased resource extraction across the country. Yet, according to a new report released by the human rights watch group Amnesty International, Canada’s pursuit of energy superstardom has sidelined the nation’s human rights issues.

Sat, 2014-12-13 09:02Carol Linnitt
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10 Things Canada Would Be Doing if We Were Serious About Climate Change

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Right now Canada is participating in the final day of the 20th annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Lima, Peru. The country already caught flack for thinking a progressive stance on hydrofluorocarbons will convince the international community Canada is doing its due diligence when it comes to the world’s problem of growing greenhouse gas emissions. To make matters worse, this week Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in the House of Commons that it would be “crazy” to regulate emissions in Canada’s oil and gas sector, signaling the long-overdue rules are no longer on the table.

Meanwhile in Peru, Canadian delegates are working hard to keep Canada’s oil and gas sector off the climate-negotiating table, despite the genuine efforts from nations across the planet to come to a meaningful agreement for addressing the globe’s growing carbon emissions problem. As a result, Canadian NGOs are saying the country is losing its international credibility. As the disappointing climate talks close today in Lima many countries are saying wealthy nations like Canada are creating an atmosphere of distrust and vulnerability by delaying meaningful, collaborative climate action.

So looking ahead to COP21 in Paris, Canada will have to do more than delay and obscure its climate problems with miniscule good deeds if it wants to show the world we deserve a big kid chair at the negotiations table.

Here are 10 things Canada would be doing if we were actually serious about addressing climate change at COP20 in Lima and beyond.

Wed, 2014-12-10 21:01Heather Libby
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The Reality of Stephen Harper vs. The Reality of Carbon Taxes

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Last night Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his house band, the Van Cats, took to the stage at a Conservative Christmas Party in Ottawa. Seated at the keyboard, the Prime Minister warbled through a performance of the Guns n’Roses classic ‘Sweet Child of Mine.’

Less than 24 hour earlier that the Prime Minister was singing a different tune.

Earlier in the day, the Harper railed against the concept of carbon taxes and regulation of the fossil fuel industry during Question Period in the House of Commons. In response to questions from NDP environment critic Megan Leslie about the Conservative’s 2007 pledge to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, he replied:

Under the current circumstances of the oil and gas sector, it would be crazy — it would be crazy economic policy to do unilateral penalties on that sector; we're clearly not going to do that. …In fact, Mr. Speaker, nobody in the world is regulating their oil and gas sector. I would be delighted if they did. Canada would be there with them.”

All of the above are indeed words, but when used by the Prime Minister in this combination they give a result that’s completely and egregiously incorrect.

Wed, 2014-12-10 16:17Carol Linnitt
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Canada ‘Flies Under Radar,’ Skirts Oilsands Issue At COP20 Climate Talks

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Canada is “flying under the radar” at this year’s UNFCCC COP20 climate talks in Lima, Peru according to Canada Youth Delegation member Brenna Owen.

Canada’s negotiators are working hard to sidestep the issue of the country’s growing greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector according to Owen, while simultaneously keeping quiet about the oilsands as nations come up with their “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) in the global climate agreement.

They’re not going to be able to do that much longer,” she added. “And they’re not going to be able to avoid talking about the tar sands.”

Aleah Loney, another member of the 10-person youth delegation, said the group is eager to push Canada’s ministers and negotiators to address the issue of oil and gas emissions rather than employing evasive tactics to avoid the concerns outright.

Tue, 2014-12-09 21:20Steve Horn
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Like Canada's Harper Government, Obama Administration Muzzling Its Scientists

In recent years, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come under fire for disallowing scientists working for the Canadian government to speak directly to the press

An article published in August by The New Republic said “Harper's antagonism toward climate-change experts in his government may sound familiar to Americans,” pointing to similar deeds done by the George W. Bush Administration. That article also said that “Bush's replacement,” President Barack Obama, “has reversed course” in this area.

Society for Professional Journalists, the largest trade association for professional journalists in the U.S., disagrees with this conclusion. 

In a December 1 letter written to Gina McCarthy, administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the society chided the Obama administration for its methods of responding to journalists' queries to speak to EPA-associated scientists. 

“We write to urge you again to clarify that members of the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the twenty other EPA science advisory committees have the right and are encouraged to speak to the public and the press about any scientific issues, including those before these committees, in a personal capacity without prior authorization from the agency,” said the letter.

“We urge you…to ensure that EPA advisory committee members are encouraged share their expertise and opinions with those who would benefit from it.”

Sat, 2014-12-06 08:05Carol Linnitt
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DeSmogCAST 5: Canada's Clean Energy Revolution, Oilsands Tailings Pollution and COP20 Expectations

DeSmogCAST

In this week's episode of DeSmogCAST we cover a new report in Canada that shows the clean energy sector making huge gains in investment and job-creation, despite a lack of strong support at the federal level. We also discuss a new study from Environment Canada that shows toxic pollutants from the Alberta oilsands' tailings ponds are being emitted into the atmosphere at much higher rates than previous estimated. Finally we turn our attention to the UNFCCC COP20 underway in Lima, Peru and ask what we can expect to see in the next week's top level, international climate negotiations.

Hosted by DeSmogBlog contributor Farron Cousins, this episode features DeSmog Canada's executive director Emma Gilchrist, DeSmogUK's new deputy editor Kyla Mandel and yours truly.

Tue, 2014-12-02 14:58Chris Rose
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Clean Energy Provided More Jobs Last Year Than Oilsands: Report

Tracking the Energy Revolution

Canada’s rapidly developing green energy industry has seen investments of more than $24 billion in the past five years while employment in the sector increased by 37 per cent during the same period, according to a report released Tuesday by Clean Energy Canada.

According to the report, impressive growth in the emerging sector has been achieved despite frustratingly inadequate federal support on things such as tax incentives and research promotion.

Surging employment growth last year in the clean energy sector — encompassing manufacturing, power production, energy efficiency and biofuels — accounted for more direct Canadian jobs than in the oilsands, the report added.

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.

Fri, 2014-11-28 11:18Raphael Lopoukhine
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Oilsands are "Canada’s Elephant in the Atmosphere" Warns Carbon Bubble Expert

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If oil prices continue their slide downward, the cancellation of high-cost oilsands projects are likely, but just because prices rebounded in the past and investment returned, does not mean that is a guide for the future, warns James Leaton, research director of the Carbon Tracker Initiative.

Thursday night at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Leaton told the crowd of over 170 people the Alberta oilsands are a big target for investors looking to reduce risk because of the high capital expenditure (capex) costs.

The oilsands are Canada’s elephant in the atmosphere,” said Leaton, an originator of the “carbon bubble” theory. “We see investors moving away from high-cost, high-carbon projects, so there is a challenge that capital is not going to automatically flow to Alberta anymore.”

Thu, 2014-11-27 11:32Guest
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Pipelines and the Erosion of the National Energy Board’s Credibility

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This is a guest post by Karen Campbell, Ecojustice staff lawyer.

The dramatic events unfolding on Burnaby Mountain — where more than 100 protestors have been arrested and charged with civil contempt — has turned a white-hot spotlight on Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and the National Energy Board (NEB). And both parties are looking a little worse for wear.

Between injunctions and arrests, the furor over Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project has suddenly surpassed that other pipeline, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, in terms of controversy. You will recall that despite vociferous opposition from most First Nations and northern B.C. communities, the federal government approved Northern Gateway in June 2014. That approval is now the subject of dozens of legal challenges, including three applications filed by Ecojustice lawyers on behalf of our clients.

We are just one-third of the way through the Kinder Morgan project review, and frustration with the NEB’s stripped-down process — a product of federal environmental law rollbacks tucked into the 2012 budget bill — is steadily mounting, and may have serious implications for other projects, namely TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline.

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