Carol Linnitt

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Carol Linnitt is Managing Editor and Director of Research for DeSmog Canada. Carol is a writer and researcher focusing on energy development, environmental policy and wildlife. She joined DeSmog in June 2010 as a researcher, focusing much of her time on the natural gas industry and hydraulic fracturing.

Carol is the lead author of DeSmog's original report Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens Our Water, Health & Climate. Her work also led to the DeSmog micro-documentary CRY WOLF: An Unethical Oil Story and the Cry Wolf investigative series.

Carol began her environmental career writing and performing interviews for The Canada Expedition, a non-governmental sustainability initiative, and while working in dispute resolution with communities affected by resource scarcity.

Carol has a Master's in English Literature from York University where she studied political theory, natural resource conflicts and Aboriginal rights. She also has a Master's in Philosophy in the field of phenomenology and environmental ethics and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Victoria in the English and Cultural, Social and Political Thought programs.

Trans Mountain Oil Pipeline Review ‘Vexed from Outset’

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan

The review of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has been plagued by a critical lack of evidence, members of a National Energy Board panel heard in Burnaby last week.

Chris Tollefson, lawyer from the Environmental Law Centre representing intervenors BC Nature and Nature Canada, said the evidence presented in the hearings is insufficient to prevent the panel from discharging its duty under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Fundamentally we say there is a lack of evidence for you to do your job,” he said.

VIDEO: The Fight for Shawnigan Lake

Earlier this month, we wrote about the escalating conflict over a contaminated waste disposal site in Shawnigan Lake, on Vancouver Island. Now we've released a short video on the controversy. In less than a week, it's been viewed more than 170,000 times. Check it out and let us know what you think! 
 

Federal Scientist Says Worst Part of Being Muzzled Was Not Being Able to Talk About How Awesome His Job Is

Environment Canada scientist Phil Thomas recently texted me a photo of him working in the field. The image shows him gloved, crouched before a strip of bloodied flesh that is hanging from a thin rope. From the top of the creaturely thing protrudes a strange-looking tail.

What IS this?” I texted back.

Lmao,” he replied. “Trappers usually bring me their carcasses to skin … I skin them for them. They keep the hide, I keep the tissues. This is an otter … Or was an otter.”

The profundity of this interaction, while not apparent on its head, can’t be overstated.

Here I am, a journalist, chatting freely and casually via text message with a federal scientist about his work.

Two years ago Thomas and I were having what felt like cloak and dagger conversations, entirely off the record and at his occupational peril.

Back in Canada’s Harper days, before the “Great Unmuzzling,” it was next to impossible to conduct a real-deal interview with a federal scientist. The idea of having casual, on-the-record conversations that were entirely un-chaperoned seemed like a fairy tale.

Trudeau is “Breaking the Promise He Made” By Allowing Trans Mountain Pipeline Review to Continue Under Old Rules

The next round of the National Energy Board’s (NEB) hearings for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline are scheduled to begin January 19 in Vancouver, B.C.

Climate advocates and critics of the National Energy Board are disappointed the review process will continue on under rules established by the previous federal government, especially since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to make the process more credible and evidence-based.

The Liberal party platform promised to immediately review the process, restoring “robust oversight and thorough environmental assessments” as well as restoring “lost protections” eliminated during the former government’s sweeping changes to environmental law. 

At a campaign stop in August 2015, Trudeau told Kai Nagata, energy and democracy director at the Dogwood Initiative, that the NEB overhaul would apply to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

Yes. Yes,” Trudeau said. “It applies to existing projects, existing pipelines as well.”

Could the Fundamental 'Right to a Healthy Environment' Be a Gamechanger for Community-Led Battles like Shawnigan Lake?

Residents of Vancouver Island’s Shawnigan Lake are currently in B.C.’s Supreme Court fighting a waste discharge permit that will allow five million tonnes of contaminated soil to be dumped in their watershed over the next 50 years.

The ongoing case marks the third legal challenge the community has brought against the B.C. Ministry of Environment for granting the hazardous waste disposal permit to company South Island Aggregates.

The feeling of betrayal in the community is palpable, where frustrations with B.C.’s permit granting process and seeming close connection with industry are running at an all time high.

Sonia Furstenau, Cowichan Valley Regional District elected official for Shawnigan Lake, said people in the community have voiced their opposition to the project since day one.

B.C.'s Failure to Consult First Nations Sets Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Back to Square One

The provincial government did not fulfill its legal obligation to consult with First Nations on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The case, brought forward by the Gitga’at and other coastal First Nations, argued the province erred when it handed over decision-making authority for the project to the federal government under a provincial-federal Joint Review Process managed by the federal National Energy Board.

B.C. granted Ottawa authority over the project’s environmental review in a 2010 equivalency agreement. That agreement, however, did not release the province from the legal duty to consult First Nations, the B.C. Supreme Court found.

It’s a very significant ruling,” Elin Sigurdson, lawyer with JFK Law, said. “The coastal First Nations and Gita’at were very successful in the application to quash the equivalency agreement which means the province now has to consult with First Nations that will be affected by matters in the provincial jurisdiction and has to conduct a new environmental assessment for the project.”

“We’re a Community in Unrest": Shawnigan Lake Asks B.C. to Halt Contaminated Waste Disposal While Judicial Review Underway

Shawnigan Lake protest Photo: Jayce Hawkins/DeSmog Canada

As 2015 drew to a close and families across the country planned for New Year festivities, Sonia Furstenau was busy trying to figure out how many officials, journalists and photographers she could get up in a helicopter on January 6 if she divided the day into 30-minute departure times.

Furstenau, an elected representative for the Cowichan Valley Regional District, is a resident of Shawnigan Lake where a protracted battle to keep contaminated waste out of a local watershed is gaining new momentum.

Along with other members of the Shawnigan community and the Save Shawnigan Water campaign, Furstenau arranged to get elected representatives and media up in the air above Shawnigan Lake and, a mere five kilometres uphill, above a nearby contaminated waste site.

If it was going to take a day’s worth of helicopter rides to generate media attention for her community’s plight, then, well, “get to the choppa.”

Four years ago, Furstenau agreed to fill a one-year teaching position at Dwight School Canada, a prestigious international boarding school located on a sprawling 23-acre campus on Shawnigan Lake. The alpine lake setting and small, friendly community won her family over immediately.

We moved here by accident,” Furstenau said with a laugh, adding her family agreed to give the school one year before returning to Victoria. During that first year in Shawnigan, however, her blended family of seven began to put down permanent roots.

We fell in love with the lake, with the community and the Cowichan Valley.”

But as Furstenau was eyeing Shawnigan as the perfect place to settle down and raise her children, the B.C. government and waste disposal company South Island Aggregates (SIA) had identified the area for something entirely different.

B.C. Formally Opposes Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Due to Marine and Land-based Oil Spill Risks

Kinder Morgan’s proposal to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline has failed to meet British Columbia’s standards when it comes to marine and land spill response plans, according to the province’s submission provided to the National Energy Board (NEB) Monday.

Environment Minister Mary Polak told reporters the province outlined five conditions that must be met to receive the province's support for any oil pipeline in its submission to the National Energy Board. She said two of those conditions, pertaining to marine and land spill response, have not been met.

Today we are putting forward our final submission to the National Energy Board hearings on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion,” Polak said.

You will see once again our five conditions outlined. We see those as our basis for defending British Columbia’s interests in terms of environment, but also First Nations and benefits to British Columbia.”

We have not at this time seen evidence in the NEB process that those conditions have been met,” she said.

Rio Tinto Alcan Allowed to Increase Sulphur Dioxide Pollution 56 Per Cent in Kitimat: Environmental Appeal Board Ruling

The Environmental Appeal Board recently ruled B.C. was in its right to grant Rio Tinto Alcan a permit to increase sulphur dioxide emissions (SO2) from its 60-year old Alcan aluminum smelter in Kitimat.

The permit, granted in 2013, allowed Rio Tinto to increase sulphur dioxide emission as part of the company’s modernization of the aging Kitimat aluminum smelter. The modernization project, which nearly doubles the plant’s production, decreases the release of greenhouse gas emissions but raises sulphur dioxide emissions by 56 per cent.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment granted Rio Tinto permission to modernize the smelter but did not require the company to install scrubbers, commonly used in smelters to remove airborne pollutants from emissions.

Two Kitimat elementary teachers, Lis Stannus and Emily Toews, challenged the permit through the B.C. Environmental Appeal Board, saying the increased pollution would negatively and unnecessarily impact Kitimat residents.

Sulphur dioxide is a pungent pollutant released from the combustion of fossil fuels, such as the petroleum coke used to smelt aluminum. It is known to irritate skin, mucous membranes and lungs. Exposure to sulphur dioxide is also known to aggravate the respiratory systems of asthmatics, children and the elderly.

Stannus said she is disappointed in the December 23 ruling.

Being a teacher of young children I see a lot of respiratory illness as it is,” Stannus told DeSmog Canada. “I will also now question whether any respiratory problems are a result of these increased emissions.”

No Fines, No Charges Laid for Mount Polley Mine Disaster

No charges will be laid against the Mount Polley Mine Corporation, owned by Imperial Metals, for the collapse of a tailings impoundment on August 4, 2014, that sent an estimated 24 million cubic metres of mining waste into the pristine waters of Quesnel Lake.

The incident, considered one of the worst mining disasters in Canadian history, was simply the result of “poor practices,” according to B.C. chief inspector of mines, Al Hoffman, and not due to “non-compliances.”

Hoffman released the results of a yearlong investigation into the tailing pond’s failure Thursday and did not recommend charges be brought against the mine or its parent company.

The Mount Polley mine was operating within existing regulation, Hoffman found, but failed to use best available practices. Hoffman made 19 recommendations to the B.C. government and the mining industry to prevent a similar event from occurring in the future. The recommendations include introducing a “designated mine dam safety manager” to monitor tailings facilities as well as improving records management and transparency around design, construction and operation of mining facilities.

B.C.’s Ministry of Mines currently has no rule in place for levying administrative penalties against mining operators. Upon release of the report, B.C. Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett said he hopes to introduce new legislation this spring that will give his ministry the power to impose fines to encourage compliance.

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