Analysis

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.

Five Reasons Canada’s Environment Commissioner Gave Ottawa a Failing Grade on Climate

BC wildfire

Reading Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand’s report on Canada’s climate action, we’d have to say that the woman sounds … ticked.

Here are five reasons Gelfand is wagging a disappointed finger at Canada’s environment officials.

Five Things You Need to Know About the Cancellation of the Energy East Oilsands Pipeline

Alberta oilsands

TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline is officially dead.

Announced via press release on Thursday, the news confirmed long-held suspicions that the $15.7 billion, 4,500 km oilsands pipeline simply wouldn’t cut it in today’s economic context.

But that hasn’t stopped commentators on all sides from pouncing on the cancellation as proof of their political project. Conservative politicians have lambasted the federal Liberals for introducing carbon pricing and new rules on pipeline applications, while environmentalists have claimed the company’s decision was a direct result of their organizing.

DeSmog Canada is here to help wade through the mess. Here are five things you should know about the cancelled Alberta-to-New Brunswick pipeline.

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.

Pages

Subscribe to Analysis