Thursday, January 19, 2017 - 14:59 • Carol Linnitt

Canada’s great, white north seems to be getting a little less white as the years go by thanks to above-average increases in Arctic temperatures and increasing levels of industrial development.

Still, the north remains great, and there’s nothing more emblematic of that greatness than the astounding 1,000-kilometre seasonal migration of the region’s barren-ground caribou herds.

Named for their habitat — sprawling Arctic tundra which extends beyond the northern tree line — barren-ground caribou have experienced alarming population declines for years, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), and those declines are occurring alongside unprecedented levels of climate change and habitat disturbance.

Friday, January 20, 2017 - 12:10 • Andrew Nikiforuk

This article originally appeared on The Tyee.

Two University of Calgary law professors have demanded Alberta’s energy regulator withdraw its “inaccurate and misleading” statement on a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that a landowner couldn’t sue it for alleged rights violations.

The court ruled Friday, in a split decision, that Jessica Ernst couldn’t sue the oil and gas regulator for allegedly violating her Charter rights.

The Alberta Energy Regulator posted a statement on its website in response to the highly technical ruling.

The Court did not find there was a breach of Ms. Ernst’s Charter rights, and made no findings of negligence on the part of the AER or its predecessor the ERCB,” declared the statement.

But law professors Shaun Fluker and Sharon Mascher have written in a popular legal blog that the regulator’s claim isn’t true.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 - 10:19 • James Wilt

Alberta’s decision to phase out coal-fired power by 2030 represents a big shift (coal currently generates just over half of Alberta’s electricity), so it’s not exactly surprising that the phase-out has led to a fair bit of debate.

Throw in a complex lawsuit, threats of increasing power prices and a resurgence of the “clean coal” myth, and it becomes nearly impossible to figure out what’s actually going on.

Often missed in the conversation is the fact that 12 of the 18 coal-fired power plants in Alberta would have had to shut down by 2030 anyway under federal regulations introduced by former prime minister Stephen Harper.

Quite a lot of other facts are getting lost in the noise as well, so DeSmog Canada delved into the research to come up with these six handy facts.

Monday, January 16, 2017 - 13:10 • Sarah Cox

BC Hydro officials and members of Premier Christy Clark and Energy Minister Bill Bennett’s offices were all involved in a coordinated attempt to discredit DeSmog Canada’s reporting on the $8.8 billion Site C hydroelectric dam, according to documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

The documents detail a flurry of e-mails following a DeSmog Canada story that quoted former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen saying that Site C was proceeding without due diligence, would lead to escalating hydro rate increases and was “scheduled to become a big white elephant,” a story later referenced by the New York Times.

BC Hydro officials were concerned that major B.C. media would pick up on the DeSmog Canada story, based largely on a BC Hydro progress report to the B.C. Utilities Commission. That report noted that Site C had fallen behind on four out of seven key milestones and outlined project risks and reasons why Site C had spent more money than anticipated by the end of last March, while saying that the project’s overall forecast still remained on track.

Saturday, January 14, 2017 - 10:46 • Andrew Nikiforuk
Jessica Ernst. Photo by Colin Smith
Jessica Ernst. Photo by Colin Smith

This article originally appeared on The Tyee.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled Jessica Ernst can’t sue the powerful and controversial Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) over alleged violations of her Charter rights.

The split ruling Friday — five justices rejected her claim, with four supporting it — is a setback for the protection of groundwater and the rights of landowners dealing with provincial energy regulators, often funded or captured by industry interests, say many critics and lawyers.

The majority, led by Justice Thomas Cromwell, upheld an immunity clause passed by the legislature that protects the Alberta Energy Regulator from any Charter claims or lawsuits.

In 2007, Ernst, an oil patch environmental consultant, sued the Alberta government, Encana and the regulator for negligence over the contamination of local aquifers near her Rosebud home allegedly caused by the hydraulic fracturing of shallow gas wells in 2004.

Friday, January 13, 2017 - 15:44 • Carol Linnitt

The federal government is seeking to stay a private lawsuit brought against Mount Polley Mining Corporation and the B.C. government in October 2016, nearly 30 months after the collapse of the Mount Polley tailings pond spilled 25-million cubic metres of contaminated mining waste into Quesnel Lake, a source of drinking water for residents of Likely, B.C.

Now the federal government is seeking a withdrawal of the criminal charges before MiningWatch Canada — the organization that first brought the charges, which claim the company and the province violated the federal Fisheries Act — has been given the opportunity to present evidence.

We were stunned that the federal Crown does not even want us to show the court that there was enough evidence to justify proceeding with a prosecution against both the B.C. government and [the Mount Polley Mining Corporation] for the worst mining spill in Canadian history,” Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch, said.

Thursday, January 12, 2017 - 16:50 • Carol Linnitt

On Wednesday the province of B.C. granted final approval for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline. Exactly one year earlier B.C. announced its official opposition to the pipeline in a final submission to the National Energy Board.

In that final submission B.C. said the pipeline posed unacceptable oil spill risks to the province’s land and water.

Since 2013 B.C. has upheld five conditions that must be met for a pipeline project to receive provincial support. Marine and oil spill response capabilties are two of those conditions.

We have not at this time seen evidence in the NEB process that those conditions have been met,” B.C. environment minister Mary Polak told the press last year.

Now, one year later, B.C. has reversed its position and thrown its support behind the oil pipeline project.

Thursday, January 12, 2017 - 06:38 • Mat Hope
Alberta tar sands
Alberta tar sands

EU lawmakers today voted for the European Parliament to push ahead with a trade deal that could encourage Canadian tar sand oil imports and make it easier for energy companies to sue governments when environmental policies threaten their profits.

The UK’s international trade minister, Liam Fox, last year circumvented parliament to approve the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada. The deal now has to be approved by European policymakers.

MEPs in the committee charged with overseeing environmental regulation today voted 40 to 24 for the European Parliament to back the deal, Reuters reports. A final decision is expected in February.

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