In-Depth

We Exposed Sockeye Salmon to Diluted Bitumen. Here's What We Found.

David Seibold Sockeye Salmon Contamination Illustration

Amid continued controversy, Kinder Morgan is poised to break ground on its $7.4 billion Trans Mountain Expansion Project. When the pipeline is complete, it will triple the volume of diluted bitumen, or Dilbit, that reaches Canada’s Pacific shoreline to 890,000 barrels per day.

The Trans Mountain pipeline has been in operation since 1953. It crosses numerous waterways as it snakes its way from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., including the lower portions of the Fraser River — North America’s primary salmon-producing river system. The pipeline expansion has raised concerns about how its failure might have an impact on these fish.

How Oil Lobbyists Pressured Canada to Allow Drilling in a Marine Park

Oil Lobbyists CAPP Offshore Drilling DeSmog Canada

Sharks, sea turtles, corals, wolffish — the 1,200 kilometre Laurentian Channel off the southwest coast of Newfoundland is home to tremendous biodiversity.

And that’s the reason it’s set to become Canada’s newest Marine Protected Area, a designation designed to conserve and protect vulnerable species and ecosystems.

There’s just one catch: draft regulations for the proposed 11,619 square-kilometre protected area allow oil and gas exploration and drilling for much of the year. In addition, the government has reduced the size of the protected area by more than one-third from what was originally planned.

Fort McKay First Nation Fights for ‘Last Refuge’ Amidst Oilsands Development

Moose Lake

Nobody could ever accuse Chief Jim Boucher of being anti-oilsands.

First elected to lead Fort McKay First Nation in northeast Alberta more than three decades ago, Boucher has made a name for his cooperative relationship with industry, which includes launching a sizable oilsands service conglomerate, denouncing environmentalists and purchasing a 34 per cent stake in a $1 billion Suncor bitumen storage terminal.

But now, a proposed 10,000 barrel per day oilsands project is threatening to infringe on a nearby sacred region called Moose Lake that serves as the First Nation’s “key cultural heartland” and is shared with the local Métis community for traditional activities. And Boucher is speaking out against the project — specifically targeting the provincial NDP for failing to finalize a management plan that would restrict development in the area prior to the regulatory hearings.

This government does not want to do an agreement with Fort McKay,” said Boucher in an interview with DeSmog Canada, during a break in the Alberta Energy Regulator hearings. “We’ve had discussions with them. As a result of these discussions, we have gone nowhere in terms of trying to resolve our issues with respect to the integrity of Moose Lake.”

Is Canada Fudging the Numbers on its Marine Protection Progress?

Canada's Marine Protected Areas DeSmog Canada

Canada has made significant progress in the last year toward meeting its international commitment to protect 10 per cent of its oceans by 2020 — at least on paper. 

The government now claims to have set aside 7.75 per cent of Canada’s oceans for protection, up from under one per cent in 2016.

But a closer look at the numbers that make up the total shows that, far from establishing sprawling new protected areas, new accounting is responsible for much of the growth — and whether all of the areas will ultimately be eligible to count toward Canada’s international target is still up in the air.

Dams for Dilbit: How Canada’s New Hydro Dams Will Power Oil Pipelines

Dams for Dilbit: How Canada’s New Hydro Dams Will Power Oil Pipelines

The cancellation of TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline in early October had major consequences for a rather unexpected player: Manitoba Hydro.

The company had been counting on the energy demand from the pipeline, and now the cancellation is putting extra strain on a company already plagued by debt and in the middle of building an $8.7 billion dam.

Back in 2014, the provincial utility company anticipated that almost 40 per cent of electricity generated by its proposed 695-megawatt Keeyask dam in northern Manitoba would be allocated to “pipeline load” for the Alberta Clipper, Line 3 and Energy East pipelines.

Specifically, the electricity would be used to run pumping stations, which force crude oil through pipelines via a series of pumps and motors. Among those pumping stations were those that would move bitumen from the oilsands to New Brunswick through the Energy East pipeline.

But Energy East is now officially dead.

How Solar Power Is Helping Redefine This Alberta First Nation

Beaver Lake Cree First Nation Solar Project

In 2015, seven young people died in Beaver Lake Cree Nation — a tiny community in northeast Alberta with an on-reserve population of only 345 people.

We started to lose young people,” recalled Crystal Lameman, treaty coordinator and member of the First Nation, in an interview with DeSmog Canada. “People my age, in my generation.”

A rise of drug use, alcohol consumption and violence in 2015 coincided with a downturn in the price of oil and job losses, creating a “time of crisis in the community,” she said.

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.

B.C. Finds Gas Industry Built Numerous Unauthorized Fracking Dams Without Engineering Plans

Progress Energy Unauthorized Fracking Dam

Originally published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

More than half of nearly 50 dams that fossil fuel companies built in recent years without first obtaining the proper permits had serious structural problems that could have caused many of them to fail.

And now, B.C.’s Oil and Gas Commission (OGC), which appeared to be asleep at the switch in allowing the unlicensed dams to be built in the first place, is frantically trying to figure out what to do about them after the fact.

Information about the unprecedented, unregulated dam-building spree is contained in a raft of documents that the OGC released in response to Freedom of Information requests filed by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Implementing UNDRIP is a Big Deal for Canada. Here’s What You Need to Know.

Justin Trudeau UNDRIP Canada

First opposed, then endorsed. It’s now pledged, but called “unworkable.”

In Canada the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is not ratified, nor from a legal perspective even really understood.

The history of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous rights has been a sordid one. But all that was supposed to change with the nation’s latecomer adoption of the declaration. After years of federal Conservative inaction on the file, Justin Trudeau took to the campaign trail with a promise to restore Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples.

How Alberta’s Clean Energy Transition May Actually Benefit Big Coal and Oil Players Over Small Renewables

Alberta Clean Energy Transition Renewable Energy

Alberta’s plan for the replacement of coal energy with natural gas and renewables was announced in 2015, but still questions as to who will provide the new power remain unanswered.

Walter Hossli, who has been working with solar panel manufacturers, potential investors, and green energy groups to promote community energy projects, says they want the government to move much more quickly on that sector than it has.

Everyone is sitting on their hands not knowing what the rules will be…maybe the government just doesn’t know what it’s doing on this file,” said Hossli. “There’s this go big or go home mentality because the system has been geared to larger scale electricity producers.”

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