Natural Resources

10 Questions With B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver

Andrew Weaver DeSmog Canada

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver went from being B.C.’s solitary Green MLA in 2013 to holding the balance of power in the province’s current minority government.

While the transition has had its ups and downs for the climate scientist, public scrutiny of Weaver’s position and what he ought to do with his influence in government hit an all-time high recently with government’s decision to forge ahead with the controversial Site C dam.

We caught up with Weaver at his office in the legislature to ask him to reflect on the last seven months of cooperation with the NDP government and what he anticipates 2018 holds for some of B.C.’s most pressing energy and environment concerns.

Six Natural Resource Projects That Got it Right in 2017

 Sandvik DD422iE for underground all electric mine

Being an environmental journalist at this point in history can be a bit, well, depressing. It often means bringing negative stories to light: stories about government failing to balance development with environmental protection, or about companies getting away with harmful practices, or about Indigenous peoples’ rights being set aside in the name of progress.

But it’s not all bad news out there.

And DeSmog Canada wants to celebrate those people and organizations that go out of their way to do development right — those that build their plans around meaningful consultation with Indigenous peoples, minimize environmental harms even at a cost to their business and raise the bar for their industries.

We’ve gathered a list of some of the projects we want to fist-bump this year. We’re not suggesting they’re perfect; any large extractive project comes with an environmental cost. But these are projects that rise above the rest in their efforts to minimize that cost.

Canadian Civil Society: Freeze Chevron Assets, Use To Cover Ecuador Judgement on Amazon Destruction

A court in Toronto will soon begin deliberating over whether or not to seize Chevron's Canadian assets in order to force the company to comply with an $9.5-billion judgement in Ecuador.

The company doesn’t deny that Texaco, which Chevron bought in 2000, deliberately dumped billions of gallons of toxic oil waste in the Ecuadorian Amazon, resulting in massive environmental devastation and a health crisis affecting thousands of people. But the company claims it did its part to clean up the rainforest.

Cortes Island: A Different Vision for Forestry in British Columbia

logging BC wood waste slash piles

In 2012, I took a fateful trip to Cortes Island — a northern gulf island three ferry rides away from Vancouver — to document the Cortes community’s fight to fend off an impending logging operation by coastal timber giant Island Timberlands.

Community members took us deep into the woods privately owned by Island Timberlands and showed us the hidden pockets of old-growth that the company was targeting. I was struck by how passionate and knowledgeable these Cortes residents were about the land, sharing a trove of fascinating information about the fungal networks underlying our footsteps and their relationships with the giant trees that were scattered throughout this complex and ancient ecosystem.

They explained why cutting down this forest and replacing it with young trees was not adequate to protect the values they held dear. A young forest simply could not filter the drinking water, or sustain the wildlife, or generate the tourism interest that they required to continue living on this tiny island. And furthermore, they felt there was something sacred here that simply should not be tampered with.

Court Orders Creation of 50-Metre "Bubble Zone" to Protect Company Logging Old-Growth Forest on Vancouver Island

This is a guest post by filmmaker Daniel J. Pierce.

The Wilderness Committee and other forest activists were in court in Victoria on Monday to limit Teal Jones' latest attempt to obtain a new injunction against logging protesters in the Walbran Valley.

Despite appeals from activists and a packed gallery of Walbran supporters, Teal Jones was awarded the injunction, which expires at the end of March, rather than September as they had requested.

The injunction creates 50-meter “bubble zones” around Teal Jones' machines, vehicles and work crews in the Walbran Valley, prohibiting the public from coming within 50 meters of any logging activities within the company's Tree Farm License 46.

Nova Scotia, Canada Extend Offshore Oil and Gas Moratorium in Ecologically Rich Georges Bank

A moratorium on oil and gas development on a large piece of the continental shelf between Southwest Nova Scotia and Cape Cod called Georges Bank will be extended for seven years, protecting the ecologically diverse waters beloved by fishermen and environmental groups in the region.

The shallow waters of Georges Bank, located about 100 kilometres off the Nova Scotia coast is abundant in haddock, halibut and scallops and is a refuge for endangered turtles and whales that migrate through the nutrient-rich corridor.

The shelf is also thought to be home to large quantities of natural gas.

Nova Scotia recently announced it will renew legislation, Bill C-64, this fall that maintains the moratorium, following a similar decision announced by the federal government before parliament broke for summer.

According to Mark Butler, policy director at the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, the provincial decision to extend the moratorium “passed at the very last minute.”

It’s quite amazing, really, but nonetheless it passed.”

‘This is a Watershed Moment’: Chief Vows to Be Arrested As Fight Against Site C Dam Ramps Up

Caleb Behn at Paddle for the Peace

On the banks of the Peace River on Saturday, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip told hundreds of opponents to the Site C dam that he will be handcuffed if necessary to stop BC Hydro’s mega project from moving ahead. 

From this point forward we have to really focus our efforts on how we’re going to physically stop this project from happening,” Phillip said during a speech at the 10th annual Paddle for the Peace. “The provincial cabinet recently approved permits to allow construction to begin. That’s where the rubber is going to hit the road.”

An emotional Phillip said B.C. is on the eve of an uprising after the government has repeatedly dealt in “bad faith” with First Nations.

Rio Tinto Alcan Externalizing Air Pollution onto Kitimat Households, Says Expert Witness

Increased sulphur dioxide (SO2) pollution from the expanded Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) aluminum smelter in Kitimat, B.C. will result in increased health costs for local households, an expert witness told an Environmental Appeals Board panel in Victoria, Monday.

Dr. Brian Scarfe, an economist and cost-benefit analyst from the University of Victoria, testified before the tribunal that the externalized health costs placed on residents living near the Kitimat smelter will outstrip the cost of introducing scrubbers — which remove SO2 pollution from effluent — to the RTA plant.

In 2013 the B.C. government approved RTA’s permit to increase production of the smelter. The ‘modernization’ project will limit the release of other aluminum-associated emissions including greenhouse gases, but will result in a 56 per cent increase of sulphur dioxide being pumped into the airshed.

B.C. ruled RTA was not required to install scrubbers to prevent the SO2 increase from 27 to 42 tonnes per day.

Tribunal Hears Regulatory Capture Behind B.C.’s Decision to Increase Rio Tinto Alcan Pollution in Kitimat Airshed

The B.C. Ministry of Environment was too concerned with the interests of Rio Tinto Alcan when it granted the company a permit to dramatically increase the release of sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions in the Kitimat airshed, attendants of a tribunal heard in Victoria on Monday.

This case raises the specter, in a very real way, of regulatory capture,” Chris Tollefson, lawyer for the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, argued in his opening statement.

Tollefson said the B.C. Ministry of Environment put senior official Frazer McKenzie in a conflicted position when it allowed Rio Tinto Alcan to pay his salary between 2007 and 2013 — during which time McKenzie was tasked with reviewing an upgrading application for the company’s Kitimat smelter.

In 2013, the province, acting through Ian Sharpe, environmental manager for the Ministry of Environment,  granted Rio Tinto Alcan permission to proceed with a $3.3 billion modernization project that would increase production and the amount of sulphur dioxide emissions released into the Kitimat airshed.

The Movement For Environmental Rights Is Building

David Suzuki Blue Dot Tour

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

The idea of a right to a healthy environment is getting traction at Canada’s highest political levels. Federal Opposition MP Linda Duncan recently introduced “An Act to Establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights” in Parliament. If it’s passed, our federal government will have a legal duty to protect Canadians’ right to live in a healthy environment.

I’m travelling across Canada with the David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot Tour to encourage people to work for recognition of such a right — locally, regionally and nationally. At the local level, the idea of recognizing citizens’ right to live in a healthy environment is already taking hold. Richmond and Vancouver, B.C., The Pas, Manitoba, and the Montreal borough of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie all recently passed municipal declarations recognizing this basic right.

Our ultimate goal is to have the right to a healthy environment recognized in the Constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and a federal environmental bill of rights is a logical precursor. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms itself was preceded by a federal statute, the Bill of Rights, enacted under Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservative government in 1960.

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