Tuesday, March 28, 2017 - 18:36 • Judith Lavoie
Mount Polley Mine Disaster

British Columbian taxpayers will be on the hook for $40 million to clean up the worst mining spill in Canadian history and the company responsible has once again escaped criminal charges after a private prosecution was dismissed this week. 

In August 2014 the 40-metre-high tailings dam at the Mount Polley mine near Williams Lake collapsed, sending 25-million cubic metres of contaminated sludge and mine waste sweeping into lakes and rivers — but no charges have been laid and no fines have been levied against Imperial Metals, the parent company of Mount Polley Mining Corp.

Since 2005, Mount Polley Mining Corp and Imperial Metals Corp have donated $195,010 to British Columbia’s ruling B.C. Liberal party.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 - 09:37 • Dave Quinn
SunMine in Kimberley, BC
SunMine in Kimberley, BC

For over a century, the landscape north of Kimberley, B.C., was used for intensive industrial hard-rock mining — but now it’s home to the largest solar farm in all of British Columbia. 

Over the decades, the site of Teck’s (formerly Cominco’s) Sullivan Mine hosted a steel mill, fertilizer plant and tailings ponds, rendering the area tree-less for the forseeable future.

What to do with an elevated, south-facing slope that could never again see natural shade? Ecosmart, a Vancouver-based nonprofit, had a brilliant idea in 2008. Why not mine the sun?

Solar energy is one of the fastest growing industries in North America and its potential in B.C. is exceptional,” explains Ecosmart president and CEO Michel de Spot, one of the main visionaries behind the project.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017 - 09:27 • Matt Jacques
Solar panels in Old Crow, Yukon
Solar panels in Old Crow, Yukon

Across Canada’s north, diesel has long been the primary mode of providing year-round electricity to remote communities — but with the advent of small-scale renewables, that’s about to change.

Northern communities were already making strides toward a renewable energy future, but with $400 million committed in this year’s federal budget to establish an 11-year Arctic Energy Fund, energy security in the north has moved firmly into the spotlight.

This level of support shows positive commitment from the Canadian government on ending fossil fuel dependency in Indigenous communities and transitioning these communities to clean energy systems,” said Dave Lovekin, a senior advisor at the Pembina Institute.

Monday, March 27, 2017 - 08:50 • Emma Gilchrist
Christy Clark and Petronas CEO Tan Sri Dato’ Sahmsul Azhar Abbas
Christy Clark and Petronas CEO Tan Sri Dato’ Sahmsul Azhar Abbas

The B.C. government is subsidizing the LNG industry to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars — and British Columbians are going to pay the price, according to a new report by Sierra Club B.C.

The report, Hydro Bill Madness: The BC Government Goes For Broke With Your Money, lays out the impact of tax breaks, subsidies and reduced electricity rates negotiated by industry.

Power subsidies to even just two or three of the proposed LNG plants could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars per year,” reads a press release accompanying the report.

Two LNG export terminals have been approved in B.C. — Petronas’ Pacific Northwest LNG on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert and the Woodfibre LNG plant in Howe Sound near Squamish. Another 18 are proposed.

Both companies have been major donors to the B.C. Liberal party, which has ruled the province for 16 years and faces an election on May 9.

Malaysian-owned Pacific Northwest LNG donated more than $18,000 to the B.C. Liberals since 2014, while Indonesian-based Woodfibre has found itself in the midst of a growing scandal over illegal donations.

Thursday, March 23, 2017 - 14:07 • James Wilt
Oil pipeline
Oil pipeline

The Alberta Energy Regulator — responsible for regulating more than 430,000 kilometres of pipelines in the province — has finally started to try to clean up its image.

In the last two weeks of February, the agency launched a “pipeline performance report” that graphs recent pipeline incidents, it levelled a $172,500 fine against Murphy Oil for a 2015 spill that went undetected for 45 days and it shut down all operations by the notoriously uncooperative Lexin Resources, including 201 pipelines.*

But critics suggest there are major systemic flaws in the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) that still need to be addressed if pipeline safety is to be taken seriously.

It’s absolutely ridiculous,” says Mike Hudema, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Canada. “You’re talking about a spill that went undetected for 45 days. And the company was fined an amount that they could likely make in less than an hour. That doesn’t send any message to the company. It definitely doesn’t send any message to the industry. And it doesn’t reform company behaviour.”

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - 15:26 • James Wilt
Ahousaht Resource Stewardship Guardians
Ahousaht Resource Stewardship Guardians

The federal government has committed $25 million over five years to funding Indigenous guardian programs.

The news, announced on Wednesday in the federal budget, marks the first time the government has ever financially supported the community-run programs, which work to monitor ancestral territories, enforce Indigenous laws, conduct scientific research and increase cultural knowledge. There are currently about 30 existing Indigenous Guardians programs across Canada.

However, the $25 million commitment represents only five per cent of what was requested by the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, which has been leading the charge to attain federal funding for 1,600 guardians and associated costs.

Tweet: “This budget commitment acknowledges the leadership of #Indigenous Peoples in determining the future of our lands.” http://bit.ly/2o6hgEnThis budget commitment acknowledges the leadership of Indigenous Peoples in determining the future of our lands,”said Ovide Mercredi, a senior advisor with the Indigenous Leadership Initiative.

While the investment will not enable new guardian programs to be established immediately, the seed funding will help develop a national network and prepare indigenous nations and communities to launch their own indigenous guardians programs, according to a press release from the Indigenous Leadership Initiative.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - 09:51 • James Wilt
Oilsands trucks
Oilsands trucks

The last few months have been marked by some massive shifts in the oilsands.

In December, there was the $830 million Statoil sale to Athabasca Oil, followed in January and February by the writing down of billions of barrels of reserves by Imperial Oil, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil.

On March 9, Shell sold a majority of its oilsands assets to Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) in a huge $7.25 billion sale, while Marathon Oil split its Canadian subsidiary between Shell and CNRL for a total of $2.5 billion.

The question is: why are all of these companies selling their oilsands assets? While some celebrate the moves as successes for the climate movement, others blame the Alberta NDP for the exodus of internationals.

Tweet: Experts say #oilsands sell-off has more to do w/ a broader shift that’s made oilsands uneconomical http://bit.ly/2nK3zyQ #ableg #cdnpoliBut experts say the reality has more to do with a broader economic shift that’s made oilsands uneconomical — for the time being at least.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - 09:05 • Ian Gill
Christy Clark LNG
Christy Clark LNG

This article originally appeared on The Tyee.

Imagine if you lived in a nice quiet community of about 30 people, and the Chinese government got permission to plunk a $20-billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on your doorstep.

Holy snapping duck shit! Chances are you’d want a pretty strong say in whether that could or should happen, under what conditions, with whose permission — and you’d want a very clear, objective analysis of the costs and benefits, and the risks, to you, your family, your neighbours, not to mention the physical place that would be so massively disrupted by such a project — you know, the place you currently call home.

Most of us don’t live in nice quiet communities of 30 people — or maybe we do. On my residential block in East Vancouver, I’d say that (based on the census’s estimated average of 2.6 people per household in Vancouver) there are 30 people on my side of the street alone. Maybe you live in an old apartment building with 30 people in it total; maybe a condo with 30 people on your floor. Anyway, 30 people isn’t a lot, but $20 billion is, and right now, on Digby Island — right across the harbour from Prince Rupert in northern B.C. — the tiny community of Dodge Cove is staring down a project that would pretty much destroy it.

It’s become a “sacrifice zone” — yet another bucolic corner of the world at risk of being flattened on the anvil of progress.

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