Analysis

​​​​​​​How B.C. Outsourced Environmental Protection (And What You Can Do About It)

Professional Reliance DeSmog Canada

If you look closely at almost any major environmental controversy in B.C. in the past decade, you’ll find one common denominator: industry-paid “professionals” were trusted with our province’s environmental protection.

This, folks, is what is often called leaving the fox to watch the hen house. But, if you’re the B.C. government, you come up with one of the greatest euphemisms of our age for it: “professional reliance.”

This system, implemented under the BC Liberals in the early 2000s, means “professionals” hired and paid for by mining, logging, natural gas and other industries, have been trusted with B.C.’s environmental protection.

Most people would call that a conflict of interest. But in B.C. this is called business as usual.

Until now … maybe.

Our Commitment To Our Readers in 2018

Sarah Cox, Emma Gilchrist and Carol Linnitt

As a new year gets underway, we've been taking some time to reflect.

2017 was a breakthrough year for DeSmog Canada’s independent journalism and we really mean it when we say: none of this could have happened without our dedicated readers.

In the past year, our people-powered journalism reached four million people and our reporting informed coverage by the New York Times, Globe and Mail and CBC.

Thank you for reading, sharing and donating what you can to make this work possible.

The stories we cover don’t always have happy endings. But as journalists, we have a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on abuses of power and increase public scrutiny of important issues. This can, and often does, change history. 

Canada's North Needs Many Things, But Oil and Gas Drilling Isn't One of Them

The Norman Wells pipeline connects oil fields in the Northwest Territories to Alberta

By Edward Struzik

This article was originally published on The Conversation Canada.

Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod was right when he issued a “red alert” in November and called for an urgent national debate on the future of the Northwest Territories. His peers, the premiers of Nunavut and the Yukon Territory, would be justified in calling for the same thing.

How Canada is Driving Santa’s Reindeer Toward Extinction

Not to be too glum just as the merry season hits its peak, but reindeer have been on my mind in more ways than one this week.

You see, reindeer are known as caribou in North America, and some of Canada’s herds are in serious trouble.

On a global scale, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature classified the reindeer as “vulnerable” in 2015 due to an observed population decline of 40 per cent over the last roughly 25 years.

When we think of caribou, many of us picture massive herds on epic migrations in the north.

But there are actually two main types of caribou: barren-ground caribou, who live on the tundra (these are the ones who migrate) and boreal or woodland caribou who prefer to chill in the forest.

How Legal Is the “Bloodwater” Dump in B.C.?

blood water bc fish farms Tavish Campbell

By Maryann Watson, Marine Scientist and Stephanie Hewson, Staff Counsel at West Coast Environmental Law

Clouds of blood pumped straight from a fish plant in B.C. made worldwide headlines last week after diver Tavish Campbell published a shocking video revealing the practice. Since then, people from all over the province have asked us at West Coast Environmental Law about its legality.

The short answer is that the practice of discharging bloodwater from fish plants is legal for now, even if the blood contains instances of PRV. Currently, the federal government regulates fish farms and animal health, while the province regulates fish processing facilities. This has created two separate systems that are not clearly linked, leaving regulatory gaps that threaten the health and habitat of wild salmon and other marine organisms.

Site C Decision Will be Made Any Day Now — What the Hell is Going On?

John Horgan NDP Site C

An independent review of the Site C hydro dam was pegged as the solution to a long and bitter battle over the fate of the $9 billion project championed by B.C.’s former Liberal government.

The bombshell review gave the new NDP government plenty of new ammunition to terminate Site C, which would flood the traditional homeland of Treaty 8 First Nations in the Peace River Valley and destroy dozens of designated heritage and archeological sites, including indigenous burial grounds.

But at the eleventh hour, with a final Site C decision expected as early as next week, the government seems poised to green light the project in the face of pressure from unlikely bedfellows that include construction trade unions, NDP party insiders, Liberal MLAs and BC Hydro.

What Does The Peel Watershed Ruling Mean for the Yukon – and Canada?

Peel Wateshed Peter Mather

The long-awaited Supreme Court verdict on the Peel Watershed case is finally here.

In a unanimous ruling, the highest court in the country decided that three Yukon First Nations and two environmental organizations were correct in their push for a lengthy land-use planning process to be maintained and only rewound to the point where the government can conduct final consultations.

It’s been a lengthy and complex case. So what does today's decision really mean?

Six Simple Ways Canada Can Make Oil-By-Rail Way Safer

Gogama oil train accident

In recent months, there’s been a re-emergence of one of the oil industry’s most adored tropes: that without new pipelines, companies will ship oil by rail and threaten entire communities with derailments, explosions and spills.

The jury’s still very much out on whether shipments will actually increase by much more than what we’ve seen in the past. Regardless, there’s one thing that strangely never gets mentioned by proponents of the argument.

Transporting oil by rail doesn’t have to be nearly as dangerous as it currently is.

The Problem of Alberta's Growing Oilsands Tailings Ponds is Worse Than Ever

Oilsands tailings ponds Alex MacLean

This article originally appeared on the Pembina Institute website. This is part 2 of a series on the last 50 years of the oilsands industry. Read part 1 here.

The sheer size and scope of Alberta's some 20 oilsands tailings ponds is unprecedented for any industry in the world. 

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, one of these ponds — the Mildred Lake Settling Basin — is the world's largest dam by volume of construction material.

Since oilsands mining operations started in 1967, 1.3 trillion litres of fluid tailings has accumulated in these open ponds on the Northern Alberta landscape. This is enough toxic waste to fill 400,000 Olympic swimming pools.

Alberta Oilsands Most Carbon Intensive Crude in North America: Analysis

Alberta oiilsands Kris Krug

This article originally appeared on the Pembina Institute website.

Over the past 50 years, the development of the oilsands has changed the face of Alberta, driving innovation and technology to make oilsands a reality. The oilsands are the third largest oil reserve on earth, and despite a cycle of boom and busts, contribute to the prosperity of the province. Industry, however, has not addressed many of the largest environmental impacts generated by the oilsands, and much work is still left to be done. This blog is part of a series where we look back at the last 50 years of the oilsands industry and shed light on a number of the remaining challenges.

After 50 years of production, the oilsands remain among the world’s most carbon intensive large-scale crude oil operations. Studies continue to back this up.

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