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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.

Sat, 2014-06-21 13:14Carol Linnitt
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Katie Gibbs: Canada's War on Science is Raising a New Generation of Science Advocates

Katie Gibbs. DeSmog Canada.

There has been a lot of discussion around Canada’s “War on Science” over the last two years, prompted by a major gathering of scientists in Ottawa during the summer of 2012 who announced the “Death of Evidence” in the country. The scientists marched in response to the infamous Budget Bill C-38 that killed funding for numerous federal science positions and research labs coast to coast. The rally’s lead organizer, scientist Katie Gibbs, says the Death of Evidence protest made way for a whole new breed of young Canadian scientists who are eager to stand up and defend their laboratories. It’s about more than just science, says Gibbs, it’s really all about democracy.

Katie Gibbs was known around the lab as the graduate student who cared deeply about the implications of her science. “While I was doing my PhD, I was kind of the rabble-rouser on the floor. You know, I always had volunteers coming to the lab to pick up posters, or storing protest signs under my desk, that sort of thing,” she told DeSmog Canada.

Most of the professors she worked with didn’t participate in any kind of advocacy, she said. “My supervisor, in particular, he wouldn’t even write a letter to the editor.”

In the summer of 2012, however, it wasn’t Gibbs pushing for the Death of Evidence rally, the event that forced Canada’s science crisis into the public eye. Instead a group of professors at the University of Ottawa began organizing a public event and turned to Gibbs when they realized they needed someone brave to be the face of the march.

What was interesting was that it was a group of professors that started thinking around the rally. My supervisor poked his head into my office one day and said a bunch of professors were meeting to talk about doing something in response to the Omnibus Budget Bill. He said, ‘does anybody want to come,’ and I was like ‘hells yeah!’” Gibbs said, adding she became lead organizer after that meeting.

Mon, 2014-06-16 13:48Mike De Souza
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Canadian Government Suggests Oilsands Toxins Similar to 'BBQ'ed Steak'

Suncor Energy oilsands mine

This is a guest post by Mike De Souza. It originally appeared on mikedesouza.com and is republished here with permission. 

Ten days ago, I asked Environment Canada whether any of its scientists would be available for interviews about their research.

The department hasn’t yet answered this question along with others.

The questions arose following the publication of a new study concluding that deposits of toxic mercury were forming a bull’s eye around oilsands operations in Alberta.

The scientists who did the research from Environment Canada were previously discouraged from talking about their work at a science conference in 2011, according to documents released through access to information legislation.

Those documents included a script that suggested they downplay human health impacts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a toxin that can originate from smokestacks in oilsands facilities or other industrial development, by comparing it to food fit for consumption.

If pressed on human health (say that) these (oilsands) substances are also found in BBQ’ed steak,” said the script, which was shared with the offices of former natural resources minister Joe Oliver – now the finance minister – and former environment minister Peter Kent, who is still sitting as a Conservative MP.

Fri, 2013-05-10 16:21Stephen Leahy
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Public Pressure Forces Harper to Agree to Transfer Shuttered ELA Environmental Research Centre

It took a solid year of outrage from Canadian researchers, the international science community and the public to force the Harper government to finally agree to transfer the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) to a non-profit organization.

And then the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans tried to take credit for today's announced signing of a crucial Memorandum of Understanding with the Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).

The Harper government was being hammered on this from every conceivable angle before they finally buckled,” said Diane Orihel, PhD student at University of Alberta and founder of the Coalition to Save ELA.

The ELA is 45 year old freshwater research facility in northern Ontario considered unique in the world. It was there that Canadian scientists discovered the dangers of acid rain as well as mercury and phosphorus pollution. Regulations that protect the health of the environment in Canada many countries are based on the work done at the ELA.

Wed, 2013-02-13 09:14Guest
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There's Something Fishy with New DFO Communications Policy

This article was written by Michael Harris and originally published on iPolitics.

The iPolitics story by Michael Harris published on February 7th, 2013 is untrue. There have been no changes to the Department’s publication policy.”

These words landed on my computer screen like a mortar shell after I wrote a piece outlining disturbing changes to DFO’s publication policy.

The statement, issued by DFO communications staffer Melanie Carkner, went on to list all the ways the department disseminates information — none of which were at issue in my column.

Fri, 2013-02-01 10:59Erika Thorkelson
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Report: It’s Time for Canada to Start Competing in Clean Energy

By focusing on fossil fuels, Canada is missing a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on clean energy technology, according to a new report from the Pembina Institute.

Through both a review of recent literature and one-on-one interviews with 21 of the country’s “clean energy leaders,” the report, entitled Competing in Clean Energy: Capitalizing on Canadian innovation in a $3 trillion economy, exposes the financial cost of the federal government’s overwhelming emphasis on the short-term profits provided by oil, gas and shale.

Interviewees include Nick Parker of Cleantech Group, who admits he finds it “difficult to not be acerbic or negative when it comes to how Canada ranks in the clean energy race.”

Fri, 2013-01-25 05:00Carol Linnitt
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Canadian Scientists Must Speak Out Despite Consequence, Says Andrew Weaver

If people don’t speak out there will never be any change,” says the University of Victoria’s award-winning climate scientist Andrew Weaver. 

And the need for change in Canada, says Weaver, has never been more pressing.

“We have a crisis in Canada. That crisis is in terms of the development of information and the need for science to inform decision-making. We have replaced that with an ideological approach to decision-making, the selective use of whatever can be found to justify [policy decisions], and the suppression of scientific voices and science itself in terms of informing the development of that policy.”
 
Mon, 2013-01-21 08:54Carol Linnitt
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Retreat from Science: Interview with Federal Scientist Peter Ross Part 2 of 2

On April 1, 2013 Canada will lose its sole marine contaminants research program. The loss comes as a part of a massive dismantling of science programs at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced in May of 2012. 

Peter Ross, lead researcher at Vancouver Island’s Institute for Ocean Sciences, is a recent casualty of the sweeping science cuts moving across the country.
 
In this second installment of DeSmog Canada’s interview with Ross, he discusses the importance of the scientific method as a bulwark against bias in policy-making, the danger of industrial pollutants in marine habitats, and what killer whales can tell us about our society.
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