James Wilt's blog

Alberta’s Pipeline Regulation a ‘Facade’: Experts

Oil pipeline

The Alberta Energy Regulator — responsible for regulating more than 430,000 kilometres of pipelines in the province — has finally started to try to clean up its image.

In the last two weeks of February, the agency launched a “compliance dashboard” that reports recent pipeline incidents, it levelled a $172,500 fine against Murphy Oil for a 2015 spill that went undetected for 45 days and it shut down all operations by the notoriously uncooperative Lexin Resources, including 201 pipelines.

But critics suggest there are major systemic flaws in the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) that still need to be addressed if pipeline safety is to be taken seriously.

It’s absolutely ridiculous,” says Mike Hudema, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Canada. “You’re talking about a spill that went undetected for 45 days. And the company was fined an amount that they could likely make in less than an hour. That doesn’t send any message to the company. It definitely doesn’t send any message to the industry. And it doesn’t reform company behaviour.”

Indigenous Guardian Program Awarded First Ever Federal Funding

Ahousaht Resource Stewardship Guardians

The federal government has committed $25 million over five years to funding Indigenous guardian programs.

The news, announced on Wednesday in the federal budget, marks the first time the government has ever financially supported the community-run programs, which work to monitor ancestral territories, enforce Indigenous laws, conduct scientific research and increase cultural knowledge. There are currently about 30 existing Indigenous Guardians programs across Canada.

However, the $25 million commitment represents only five per cent of what was requested by the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, which has been leading the charge to attain federal funding for 1,600 guardians and associated costs.

Tweet: “This budget commitment acknowledges the leadership of #Indigenous Peoples in determining the future of our lands.” http://bit.ly/2o6hgEnThis budget commitment acknowledges the leadership of Indigenous Peoples in determining the future of our lands,”said Ovide Mercredi, a senior advisor with the Indigenous Leadership Initiative.

While the investment will not enable new guardian programs to be established immediately, the seed funding will help develop a national network and prepare indigenous nations and communities to launch their own indigenous guardians programs, according to a press release from the Indigenous Leadership Initiative.

What The Oilsands Sell-Off Actually Means

Oilsands trucks

The last few months have been marked by some massive shifts in the oilsands.

In December, there was the $830 million Statoil sale to Athabasca Oil, followed in January and February by the writing down of billions of barrels of reserves by Imperial Oil, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil.

On March 9, Shell sold a majority of its oilsands assets to Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) in a huge $7.25 billion sale, while Marathon Oil split its Canadian subsidiary between Shell and CNRL for a total of $2.5 billion.

The question is: why are all of these companies selling their oilsands assets? While some celebrate the moves as successes for the climate movement, others blame the Alberta NDP for the exodus of internationals.

Tweet: Experts say #oilsands sell-off has more to do w/ a broader shift that’s made oilsands uneconomical http://bit.ly/2nK3zyQ #ableg #cdnpoliBut experts say the reality has more to do with a broader economic shift that’s made oilsands uneconomical — for the time being at least.

Three Reasons Why Keystone XL May Never Get Built

Keystone XL pipeline

Almost a full decade since first applying for a presidential permit, TransCanada looks set to finally receive go-ahead in the U.S. for its massive $8-billion Keystone XL pipeline.

But here’s the thing: U.S. approval, while a great leap forward for TransCanada, doesn’t guarantee the Keystone XL pipeline will ever be built.

New U.S. President Donald Trump was elected with the explicit promise to get the 830,000 barrel per day pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska built, under the conditions that the U.S. would receive a “big, big chunk of the profits, or even ownership rights” and it would be built with American steel; his administration has already flip-flopped on the latter pledge.

On January 24, 2017, Trump signed an executive order, inviting TransCanada to reapply for a presidential permit, which the company did two days later. It’s now in the hands of the State Department, which has to issue a verdict by the end of March.

Sounds like a slam dunk, right? Not so fast. Here are three key reasons why.

Canada’s Buildings Will Finally Be Built With Climate Change In Mind

Calgary Flood 2013

There’s just no way around it: building codes are deeply boring documents.

The most recent National Building Code of Canada clocks in at 1,400 jargon-filled pages.

Despite being a snore fest, it’s on its way to becoming an incredibly important tool in preparing new buildings for the worst impacts of escalating climate change and extreme weather events, such as flooding, hail and rain.

That’s thanks to a brand-new $40 million federal government investment in the National Research Council, which is responsible for updating the building code every five years; the last one was released in 2015, meaning the next version will be released in 2020.

Tweet: “It’s the first time the government has talked about building code and #climatechange in one breath.” http://bit.ly/2mkzTWP @ICLRCanadaIt’s the first time that the government has talked about building code and climate change in one breath,” says Glenn McGillivray, managing director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction. “It’s very important.”

The Alberta Advantage: Solar Rebates Give Homeowners a Boost

Alberta’s residential solar industry has chugged along for decades without government support.

That dry spell finally drew to a close on Monday, when the provincial NDP government announced a two-year, $36 million rebate program to help bring down the costs for residents, business and nonprofits who want to install solar projects.

By 2020, the number of solar installations on rooftops is expected to increase from 1,800 to 10,000 systems, which will create about 900 jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a half million tonnes (or the same as taking 100,000 cars off the road). The program is funded through the province's carbon tax revenue.

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