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U.S. Looks to Crack Down on Pollution of Montana River from B.C. Coal Mines

Elk Valley Teck Coal mines Garth Lenz

The continuous flow of dangerous pollution from B.C.’s Elk Valley coal mines into a Montana watershed is a top discussion item for Canadian and U.S. delegates convening at a bilateral meeting in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

Selenium from five metallurgical coal mines owned and operated by Teck Resources has been leaching into B.C.’s Elk River and flowing southeast into Montana’s Kootenai River watershed for decades. Contamination levels measured in U.S. waters exceeds maximum concentration limits outlined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Selenium is released from waste rock piled at Teck’s large-scale open-pit coal mines, where rainfall and snowmelt draw it into the Elk and Fording Rivers. Selenium can be harmful to biological organisms at even small amounts and causes deformities in fish and birds.

More Ducks, Hungrier Bears: Climate Change is Altering Arctic Arithmetic

The effects of climate change can be complex and unpredictable. For one species of Arctic duck, the result is a tense standoff between population growth and decline.

Eiders are a species best known for their light, fluffy down. Each spring the birds return to their coastal tundra colonies and build nests on the ground, protected only by a low profile.

Time For a Fix: B.C. Looks at Overhaul of Reviews for Mines, Dams and Pipelines

Tailings facility at Imperial Metals' Red Chris mine

As pipeline politics dominate headlines, British Columbia is poised to overhaul the process that guides how major resource and development projects proceed.

The review now underway of the environmental assessment process has the potential to restore public confidence in the system that evaluates large developments — from open-pit coal mines to pipelines to hydro dams — by considering the combined effects of multiple projects in a single region and instituting other sweeping changes that critics say are long overdue.

We had this ridiculous situation in northern B.C. where we had 18 LNG projects, five different pipelines and an oil export project all proposed at the same time here,” said Greg Knox, executive director of the SkeenaWild Conservation Trust.

Gwich’in Call on Canadians to Speak Out Against Trump’s Arctic Drilling Push

Porcupine caribou

Canadians are being urged to fight against a push by U.S. President Donald Trump to fast-track drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in the calving grounds of Porcupine caribou herd.

The Trump administration, which last fall slipped a provision allowing drilling in the Arctic Refuge into an unrelated tax bill, is forging ahead with plans to prepare for a mandatory environmental review of the decision and the Bureau of Land Management will be accepting comments from Americans and Canadians for the next 60 days to map out the scope of the review.

‘Slow-Motion Disaster’: As Canada’s New Hydro Dams Spiral Out of Control, Who’s Overseeing Site C?

Site C construction February 2018

Peace River Valley farmers Ken and Arlene Boon were at a lookout on a neighbour’s property on Sunday when they spotted a fresh landslide at the Site C dam construction site.

Arlene snapped some photos of the latest geotechnical issue to dog the troubled project and posted one on Facebook, with the caption: “just more of the north hill sliding down to the bottom.”

Given that the slide is on the same hill where recent attempts to stabilize the riverbank are encroaching on infrastructure for the $470 million Site C dam workers’ camp, including its water line and parking lot, the couple was not surprised to see the latest slump.

But they are astounded that the NDP government is keeping the public in the dark when it comes to details about geotechnical problems, rising contract costs and other major issues plaguing the largest publicly funded infrastructure project in B.C.’s history.

Caribou on the Brink: B.C. Herd Reduced to Three Females Points to Failure to Protect Endangered Species

Selkirk mountain caribou are nearing extirpation

The much-studied South Selkirk mountain caribou herd is teetering on the brink of extinction.

That discovery this month has focused international attention on the disaster faced by the only herd that roams between the U.S. and Canada, but biologists are warning that the crisis extends to other herds in the south of the province.

The southern mountain caribou population has dropped to about 3,800 animals this year, down from about 4,500 last year, according to the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), which is calling for emergency action to protect critical habitat.

B.C. Is Taking the Kinder Morgan Question to Court. Here’s What you Need to Know.

Horgan BC reference case Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline.png

With the announcement on Wednesday that the B.C. government will file its reference case on the ability of the province to regulate the transport of diluted bitumen in the Court of Appeal by April 30th, it’s finally official: the much-debated constitutional question will be put to the test.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has repeatedly said that B.C.’s intention to regulate the transport of diluted bitumen will “break the rules of Confederation,” but provinces have strong jurisdiction over the environment according to Jocelyn Stacey, an assistant professor specializing in environmental law at UBC’s Peter A. Allard School of Law.

Pipeline Spills 290,000 Litres of Crude Oil Emulsion in Northern Alberta

zama city oil spill

A pipeline owned by Paramount Resources Ltd. released an estimated 100,000 litres of crude oil and 190,000 litres of produced water near Zama City, in northwest Alberta, according to an April 11 incident report filed with the Alberta Energy Regulator.

The release was discovered after company personnel looked into a low-pressure alarm from the company’s leak detection system, the incident report states. The emergency status of the spill ended April 16.

The report says that although “the release was initially believed to be minor” further investigation shows the spill to be around 290,000 litres and has impacted an area of 200 metres by 200 metres.

The pipeline was isolated and depressurized, and clean-up is underway,” the incident report states. “No reported impacts to wildlife.”

The cause of the spill is still under investigation, Paul Wykes, spokesperson with Paramount Resources, told DeSmog Canada.

‘It’s An Environmental Law-Free Zone’: B.C. Auditor General Asked to Investigate Unregulated Placer Mining

Prospector inspects mining equipment.

Placer mining kills fish, damages streams, poses a risk to drinking water and jeopardizes Indigenous rights, but the activity is virtually unregulated and brings little money into government coffers, says a report urging B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer to conduct an audit of the province’s failure to adequately regulate placer operations.

Placer mining — the practice of mining for gold in and near streams and riverbeds — is expanding across B.C.,” the report states. “The province allows prospectors to stake claims in private property, salmon watersheds and Indigenous lands, leaving local communities to cope with potential mercury contamination and other hazards.”

The report, written by the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre on behalf of the Fair Mining Collaborative, concludes that B.C.’s current regulations cannot prevent or mitigate harm caused by unregulated miners.

Placer mining offers little in economic return to offset the environmental damage,” the report says.

Canada’s Upcoming Fish Farm Rules Likely to Prop Up Industry, Critics Warn

Opponents to B.C. salmon faming worry that regulations will benefit industry

As the federal government considers bringing in new laws to govern fish farms, there is widespread skepticism that the government will act in the public interest.

Tensions surrounding salmon farming are running particularly high in British Columbia where more than 100 operations dot the south and central coast. Many of the farms are located in the territory of First Nations who oppose open-net fish pens along wild salmon migratory routes.

Namgis First Nation Hereditary Chief Ernest Alfred says he finds the federal government’s consultation on potential new fish farming rules “a little suspect.”

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