In-Depth

Where On Earth Is Manitoba’s Climate Plan?

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister

Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative Premier Brian Pallister initially seemed very serious about confronting greenhouse gas emissions — a position that came as a surprise to many given the history of Canada’s conservative politicians sidestepping the tricky issue of climate change.

The party’s election platform pledged to “work with the federal government and other jurisdictions as we develop a made-in-Manitoba climate action plan.”

After winning a massive majority in April 2016, it hired Canadian climate policy legend and campaign manager David McLaughlin as senior adviser on the file.

An online survey was extended for an additional two weeks in March to allow for more public input.

These were all impressive things from a government led by Pallister, who had previously served as an MP in Stephen Harper’s notoriously anti-climate policy government.

But nearly 16 months later, the plan has never materialized.

After the Mining Rush: A Visit to Faro Mine, One of Canada’s Costliest, Most Contaminated Sites

Faro Mine

The Yukon's giant Faro Mine was once the world’s largest open-pit lead and zinc mine.

In operation from 1969 to 1998, when its last owner declared bankruptcy, the mine once generated more than 30 per cent of the Yukon's economic activity.

Now, Faro Mine is considered the second-worst contaminated site in Canada.

10 Things Albertans Might Actually Like About Their Carbon Tax

Calgary Green Line LRT Carbon Tax

It’s been a full six months since Alberta introduced its economy-wide carbon levy and the sky has not fallen.

In fact, unlike what many politicians and pundits were predicting ahead of the implementation of the $20/tonne carbon levy, the cost of gasoline at the pumps hasn’t spiked — and has in fact been consistently lower than when politicians like Jason Kenney and Derek Fildebrandt made photo ops by filling jerry cans ahead of January 1, the date the carbon tax took effect.

The question now is less about whether the carbon price is going to be implemented, and more about what the revenue — $3.85 billion over three years — is actually going to pay for.

Here are 10 ways carbon levy revenues are being used to create a better quality of life and lower emissions in Alberta.

Industry Sways Feds to Allow Offshore Drilling in Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area

North Atlantic right whales

If an ocean valley becomes federally protected but seismic work and offshore drilling is allowed in more than 80 per cent of the territory, is it really federally protected?

That’s the question facing Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which is currently working on the final regulations for the 11,619 square kilometre Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area off the southwest coast of Newfoundland.

The proposed regulations published on June 24 in the Canada Gazette included significant allowances for offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling, as well a reduction by more than one-third in the actual size of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) from the original area plotted out in 2007.

The government admitted the regulations came about after fossil fuel lobbyists “raised concerns with respect to limitations on potential future activities.”

Why We Need to Clean Up Mining if We Want a Renewable Energy Economy

Solar panels mining

A massive open-pit copper mine might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about solar power.

But the construction of photovoltaic panels actually require a wide range of metals and minerals to build. Nineteen, to be exact, including silica, indium, silver, selenium and lead. Most can be found or produced in Canada.

And as demand for solar panels continues to rapidly increase in coming years — up to a 17-fold global increase between 2015 and 2050, according to the International Energy Agency — significant quantities of these metals and minerals will be required.

What’s the Future of Hydroelectric Power in Canada?

Emosson Reservoir in Switzerland. Photo: Martin Funk

After weeks of delay, the B.C. NDP has finally been asked to form government, thanks to a co-operation agreement with the Green Party.

A key component of that now-famous NDP-Green “confidence and supply agreement” signed in late May is its commitment to “immediately refer the Site C dam construction project to the B.C. Utilities Commission.”

While premier-delegate John Horgan hasn’t confirmed whether he will cancel the $9-billion project — it will take around six weeks for the utility commission to actually provide a preliminary report — previous statements suggest he’s certainly sympathetic to the idea.

Conflicts over hydroelectric dams aren’t confined to British Columbia: think of Labrador’s Muskrat Falls or Manitoba’s Keeyask dam. In fact, alongside oil and gas extraction projects, hydroelectric dams arguably serve as some of the most contentious projects in Canada, largely due to detrimental impacts on Indigenous lands, territories and resources and skyrocketing costs.

But hydroelectric projects are also projected to serve as fundamental components in Canada’s transition away from fossil fuels. It’s a tension that only grows by the day.

DeSmog Canada took a deep dive into some of the politics of hydro.

No Sure Plans, Funding for $51 Billion Cleanup and Rehabilitation of Oilsands Tailings Ponds

Alex MacLean Oilsands Suncor Tailings Pond

The future of Alberta’s sprawling tailings ponds is in serious crisis.

As of right now, there is no clear understanding if or how oilsands companies are going to clean up the 1.2 trillion litres of toxic petrochemical waste covering over 220 square kilometres in the province’s northeast.

On Monday, Environmental Defence and the U.S.’s Natural Resources Defense Council published a report that pegged potential costs for cleanup and reclamation at a staggering $51.3 billion: $44.5 billion for cleanup, with an additional $6.8 billion for rehabilitation and monitoring.

That amount exceeds the $41.3 billion in royalties collected by the province of Alberta between 1970 and 2016.

Increasingly, as an Albertan, I am concerned that these will become public liabilities,” Martin Olszynski, law professor at the University of Calgary and expert in environmental law, tells DeSmog Canada.

If Saskatchewan Can Build a Geothermal Power Plant, Why Can’t B.C.?

Geothermal Energy

While news of Saskatchewan’s plan for a small geothermal power plant was met with excitement by renewable energy advocates,  experts say British Columbia is far better situated to capitalize on the technology yet has failed to do so.

It should be a little bit of a shock that a less good resource is being developed in Saskatchewan over a world-class resource in B.C.,” said Alison Thompson, chair and co-founder of the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA).

B.C. is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a geothermal hot zone. Maps produced by CanGEA found B.C. has enough geothermal potential to power the entire province.

There are geothermal projects all up the coast but they stop at the border. There’s nothing in B.C.,” Thompson said.

This is clearly not technical, not economic. This is policy driven.”

How the Death of B.C.’s LNG Dream Could Stoke a B.C. Natural Gas Boom

Compressor station

A race to expand B.C. natural gas pipelines and infrastructure is on, signalling two possible outcomes: the death of our homegrown liquefied natural gas (LNG) export dream, and the dawn of the most ironic resource boom in provincial history.

Consider that B.C. natural gas is finally going to be exported overseas by LNG tanker — not from Pacific tidewater, but through Cheniere's new Sabine River LNG export terminal on the Gulf coast near Louisiana. In February 2017, Bloomberg reported Cheniere had entered into a supply deal that would see gas from the Montney shale formation [which straddles B.C. and Alberta] shipped from the facility.

This is a great potential outlet [for Canada],” Madeline Jowdy, Pira Energy Group’s Senior Director of Global Gas and LNG, told Bloomberg of the Cheniere LNG deal. She added that B.C. LNG projects “look like they are going to be a long time coming, if ever, in my opinion.”

Kinder Morgan Warns Trans Mountain Investors Pipeline May Never Be Built

kinder morgan trans mountain pipeline on shaky ground

This article originally appeared on Dogwoodbc.ca. 

It’s a rare dose of honesty from a company with a history of bending the truth. Kinder Morgan filed a final prospectus last week with securities regulators, setting the stage for a last-ditch attempt to raise enough cash to build its Trans Mountain expansion project.

Now all the Texas pipeline barons can hope is that investors don’t read the fine print.

The company is essentially trying to crowdfund $1.75 billion through an initial public offering. Kinder Morgan executive Ian Anderson sounded confident in a press release announcing the IPO: “Our approvals are in hand and we are now ready to commence construction activities this fall,” he said.

But the approvals are not in hand, and a mandatory risk analysis accompanying the share offering makes clear how difficult it will be to start construction. Provincial politics, lawsuits, blockades by First Nations – any one of these could kill the Trans Mountain pipeline project, the company admits.

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