This is a guest post by Karin Kirk, crossposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections...
Hundreds of placer mines, which have never undergone environmental assessments, are operating in the Fraser River watershed with minimal government oversight despite mounting evidence that the operations pollute water and harm salmon, a report by the Fair Mining Collaborative has found.
Placer mining involves digging up gravel adjacent to streams and rivers and washing it to extract the gold or other minerals in the sediment. In addition to mines that use excavation equipment, there are thousands of hand-mining operations, many of which do not have permits, the report found.
The report, commissioned by First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining (FNWARM), calls for a moratorium on claim staking and work permits until the process is reformed and adequate safeguards are put in place, with First Nations given a partnership role in coming up with rules and regulations.
“I go around our territory and see all the destruction in the back country. It’s criminal if you ask me,” Bev Sellars, FNWARM chair and former chief of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation, said in an interview.
New, groundbreaking research from a group of scientists shows B.C.’s estimates of methane pollution from oil and gas activity in the province’s Peace region are wildly underestimated.
Using infrared cameras and gas detection instruments at over a thousand oil and gas sites during a three-year period, scientists from the David Suzuki Foundation in partnership with St. Francis Xavier University recorded fugitive methane emissions being released from facilities directly into the atmosphere on a perpetual basis.
The study estimates methane pollution from industry in B.C. is at least 2.5 times higher than the B.C. government reports. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with the warming potential 84 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20 year period.
Only two weeks remain until Election Day in British Columbia and one of the biggest questions to be answered between now and then is how many millennials — voters between the ages of 18 and 34 — are going to get out to vote.
“In the past, we’ve had a really low youth voter turnout,” Raaj Chatterjee, a third-year engineering student at Simon Fraser University and organizer with Young Climate Voters B.C., told DeSmog Canada.
“I think that’s starting to change,” Chatterjee said.
“Especially with events in the States… a lot of people are waking up to being more involved or at least know what’s going on in politics.”
This article originally appeared on The Tyee.
There are places one can sit and consider the past and future with equal clarity. On this October day, Harold Steves, 79, an outspoken environmentalist and Richmond city councillor, looks from the riverbank at the end of Richmond’s Rice Mill Road.
Directly in front of him is the Fraser River, and directly below his feet lies Highway 99’s George Massey Tunnel. Given a $22-million seismic upgrade a decade ago, it was said by then-B.C. transportation minister Kevin Falcon that the tunnel was safe and a future twinning would eliminate the twice-daily commuter bottleneck.
But if today’s B.C. government has its way, work will start late this year on a massive $3.5-billion bridge, financed through a Public-Private Partnership (P3), to be completed by 2022.
Which means a stiff toll to pay off private creditors in the years ahead. Which will also mean that the perfectly safe, perfectly good tunnel will be removed.
For years, Alberta’s government has reassured the public that it has a plan to ensure the oilsands’ 1.2 trillion litres of hazardous tailings are permanently dealt with after mines shut down.
That assertion is becoming less convincing by the day.
Industry still hasn’t decided on a viable long-term storage technology to begin testing. The fund to cover tailings liabilities in case of bankruptcy is arguably extremely underfunded. And there are concerns from the likes of the Pembina Institute that the future costs for tailings treatment will be far greater than anticipated.
Martin Olszynski, assistant professor in law at University of Calgary, told DeSmog Canada such questions simply can’t be left unanswered.
“It would the height of unfairness if at the end of all this massive profit and wealth generation, Albertans were left on the hook for what will be landscape-sized disturbances that are potentially very harmful and hazardous to humans and wildlife,” he said.
Way back in the good ole days of 2010, B.C. released the Clean Energy Act, a plan that required the province to conserve massive amounts of energy.
And, all in all, B.C. has been pretty good at that. But that all changed in 2013 when the B.C. government approved the Site C dam.
According to a new report released this week by the University of British Columbia’s Program on Water Governance, since 2013 B.C. has “moderated” energy conservation measures even though those measures would have reduced B.C.’s power demand, at a significantly cheaper cost than building Site C.
These measures include codes and standards for building efficiency, stepped rate structures to reduce energy consumption, and programs like low interests loans and tax breaks designed to encourage the adoption of more energy efficient technologies and practices.
The Site C dam no longer makes economic sense and construction on the project should be halted immediately, according to researchers from the University of British Columbia.
That recommendation comes on the heels of a major new study that examines the business case for Site C given major changes in economic and energy market conditions since the project was first proposed in the 1980s.
“We brought together a team of experts in energy and engineering and took a look at the business case for Site C as it stands today,” Karen Bakker, professor at the University of British Columbia and co-author of the report, told DeSmog Canada.
“In fact it’s so weak, we’re arguing the project should be paused.”
Hope may finally be in sight for fixing Canada’s environmental assessment process, after a four-member expert panel released a promising report on the heels of consultations in 21 cities across the country.
Historically, the focus of Canada’s environmental assessment has been on “avoiding harm” and “significant adverse impacts” associated with new projects, but the new approach recommended by the panel would shift the focus to a “net contribution to sustainability,” said Anna Johnston, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law.
“The recommendations that the panel has made address a number of the concerns that were raised by the scientific community,” said Aerin Jacob, conservation scientist for the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. “I was pleasantly surprised.”