Analysis

Canada’s Environmental Fines are Tiny Compared to the U.S.

Mount Polley mine disaster

This week marks the three-year anniversary of the Mount Polley mine disaster, which sent 24 million cubic metres of mining waste into Quesnel Lake, making it one of the worst environmental disasters in Canadian history.

It’ll be a stinging reminder of the tailings pond collapse for local residents, especially considering no charges have been laid against Imperial Metals, owner and operator of Mount Polley.

Come August 5 it will be too late for B.C. to lay charges, given a three-year statute of limitations — however federal charges can be laid for another two years.

But here’s the thing: under the federal Fisheries Act, Mount Polley can receive a maximum of $12 million in fines: $6 million for causing harm to fish and fish habitat and $6 million for dumping deleterious substances without a permit into fish bearing waters.

Five Ways Alberta Can Raise the Bar on Methane Regulations

Flare stacks

Environmental organizations, labour groups and technology companies are calling on Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to take decisive action on methane emissions from oil and gas activities.

Methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas, with 25 times the global warming potential as carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. Methane is a huge component of natural gas, so Alberta generates a lot of the stuff because it gets vented in all sorts of ways once you start digging around beneath the earth’s surface.

In an open letter the groups call on Alberta to go above and beyond the draft federal regulations on methane.

Alberta can lead the country’s methane reduction efforts and keep good job opportunities in the oil and gas sector from going to waste,” the letter reads.

Sounds nice, right?

Pacific NorthWest LNG is Dead: 5 Things You Need to Know

LNG Tanker

Malaysia’s Petronas has cancelled plans to build the Pacific NorthWest LNG plant on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert, B.C., in a move seen as a major setback for B.C.'s LNG dreams and as a major win for those concerned about climate change and salmon habitat.

The project would have involved increased natural gas production in B.C.’s Montney Basin, a new 900-kilometre pipeline and the export terminal itself.

Here’s what you need to know about Tuesday’s announcement.

The Problem With Climate Doomsday Reporting, And How To Move Beyond It

The Banker Sculpture. Photo: University of Sydney

It’s not often that an article about climate change becomes one of the most hotly debated issues on the internet — especially in the midst of a controversial G20 summit.

But that exact thing happened following the publication of a lengthy essay in New York Magazine titled “The Uninhabitable Earth: Famine, Economic Collapse, a Sun that Cooks Us: What Climate Change Could Wreak — Sooner Than You Think.”

In the course of 7,200 words, author David Wallace-Wells chronicled the possible impacts of catastrophic climate change if current emissions trends are maintained, including, but certainly not limited to: mass permafrost melt and methane leaks, mass extinctions, fatal heat waves, drought and food insecurity, diseases and viruses, “rolling death smog,” global conflict and war, economic collapse and ocean acidification.

Slate political writer Jamelle Bouie described the essay on Twitter as “something that will haunt your nightmares.”

It’s a fair assessment. Reading it feels like a series of punches in the gut, triggering emotions like despair, hopelessness and resignation.

But here’s the thing: many climate psychologists and communicators consider those feelings to be the very opposite of what will compel people to action.

What B.C.’s New NDP Minority Government Means for the Environment

Horgan Weaver NDP Green Agreement

Nearly two months have passed since the polls closed in B.C. and at last British Columbians know who will get to form government.

On Thursday, upon the conclusion of a no-confidence vote that ousted former Premier Christy Clark, NDP Leader John Horgan has been offered the opportunity to lead a new B.C. government under a historic partnership between his party and the Greens.

While B.C. awaits the swearing in of a new premier, we thought we’d take the time to tally up some critical promises the NDP and their Green collaborators have made on the environment file.

Half of British Columbians Support Review or Cancellation of Site C Dam

Site C dam construction | Garth Lenz

Almost exactly a year ago, B.C. Hydro touted “broad support” for its controversial Site C dam — a mega hydro dam on the Peace River that would flood 107 kilometres of river valley, forcing farmers and First Nations off their land.

Now, as besieged Premier Christy Clark puts all her spin doctoring powers to work to attempt to save the dam from being canned, new polling from Angus Reid shows that more British Columbians want to review or cancel the project than want to let the project go ahead.

Those numbers are pretty remarkable when you consider that Site C is already almost two years into construction and BC Hydro has put considerable resources into quieting critical media coverage of the project. 

Meet The Unsexy Climate Solution That Cuts Energy Bills, Creates Jobs and Saves Rivers

passive house, energy efficiency

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has long been criticized for lowballing the potential for renewable power and overestimating future demand for oil and gas.

Such forecasts matter. After all, the Paris-based organization is made up of 29 OECD countries — including Canada and the United States — and regularly produces publications that help member countries plan and coordinate energy policies.

That’s why it was particularly shocking when the IEA concluded in its latest Energy Technology Perspectives report that almost 75 per cent of the emissions reductions needed for its “2°C Scenario” will come from energy efficiency and renewables.

The real superstar of the report was energy efficiency, which the authors estimated would account for 34 per cent of reductions, resulting in global net-zero emissions by 2060.

It’s not the sexiest thing,” Pembina Institute analyst Julia-Maria Becker said in an interview. “People aren't aware of its benefits.”

Triple-paned windows and improved insulations isn’t quite as riveting as, say, a wind farm or geothermal plant.

Justin Trudeau May Look Pretty in a Kayak, But He’s No Climate Saint

Justin Trudeau kayak

Last week Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau managed to capture international headlines for a kayak outing on the Niagara River in Ontario.

How, you may ask? Well Trudeau paddled up to a family’s dock and had a brief conversation with them about water levels. According to Elle Magazine, he looked “picture perfect” while doing it. It all very quickly became a Twitter sensation.

Trudeau’s photogenic boat trip coincided with World Environment Day and in a speech afterward, the prime minister vowed to continue to fight climate change.

The American press, still bewildered by their president’s widely criticized decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, went wild.

Christy Clark’s Dangerous Site C Propaganda War

B.C. Premier Christy Clark

Politics and propaganda have never been strangers to one another, but what’s happening to political discourse around the world right now is cause for concern.

While much attention is paid to Donald Trump’s obvious attempts to mislead the public, a more insidious form of propaganda is playing out right here in British Columbia.

Case in point: B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s recent letter on the Site C dam, addressed to NDP Leader John Horgan and Green Leader Andrew Weaver.

The letter follows on the heels of Horgan’s request for BC Hydro to hold off on evictions and signing new contracts until after the B.C. Utilities Commission can review the costs and demand for the most expensive project in B.C.’s history. 

Horgan’s letter wasn’t addressed to Clark, but she found it in herself to reply anyway. 

3 Ways B.C. Could Stop Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline

Christy Clark, Andrew Weaver, John Horgan B.C. leaders debate

The prospect of a new provincial government in B.C. has sparked fresh political debate about Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, which is opposed by B.C.’s NDP and Green Party, despite already receiving provincial and federal approval.

There are no tools available for a province to overturn or otherwise block a federal government decision,” stated Alberta Premier Rachel Notley this week.

But is that really the case?

The short answer is no.

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