Friday, November 17, 2017 - 14:55 • James Wilt

There’s no telling if the 220 square-kilometres of unlined tailings ponds in the Alberta oilsands are leaking contaminated waste into nearby water sources, according to the government of Canada.

That claim was made in an official response to NAFTA’s Commission for Environmental Cooperation despite strong scientific evidence suggesting a clear linkage between the oilsands’ 1.3 trillion litres of fluid tailings and the contamination of local waterways.

The response comes after a June 2017 submission by two environmental organizations and a Dene man alleging the federal government was failing to enforce a section of the Fisheries Act that prohibits the release of a “deleterious substance” into fish-frequented waters.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 10:38 • James Wilt
Automakers could be next in line for climate lawsuits

It’s been a busy year of municipalities suing fossil fuel companies.

In July, three Californian communities filed a lawsuit against 37 oil and gas companies for their contribution to climate change. Only two months later, San Francisco and Oakland launched their own against five majors, including Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell. A handful of Vancouver Island municipalities have also sent letters to 20 oil and gas companies demanding compensation for climate damages.

Could car companies be next?

Friday, October 27, 2017 - 09:40 • James Wilt
Oilsands tailings pond

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has approved a tailings management plan from oilsands giant Suncor, despite the plan relying on “newly patented, unproven technology” that will require decades of monitoring.

Wednesday’s decision came only six months after the AER rejected Suncor’s proposed plan for the same project because it relied on unproven technology and a 70-year timeline for reclamation. The regulator only later agreed to re-review the plan.

So what changed? Uh, nothing.

Suncor really hasn’t budged an inch in terms of actually changing anything,” said Jodi McNeill, policy analyst at the Pembina Institute, in an interview with DeSmog Canada.

Friday, October 27, 2017 - 08:58 • Judith Lavoie
Mount Polley mine spill

Canada has more mine tailings spills than most other countries in the world, according to a report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which urges governments and the mining industry to improve safety, accountability and oversight.

During the last decade there have been seven known mine tailings spills in Canada, only one less than reported in China, which tops the list, says the report.

The UNEP assessment “Mine Tailings Storage: Safety Is No Accident” looks at 40 tailings accidents, including the 2014 Mount Polley disaster that saw 24 million cubic metres of sludge and mine waste flooding into nearby waterways.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 - 13:27 • David Suzuki

October 5 came and went, and Canada’s boreal woodland caribou are still in trouble. That was the deadline the federal government gave provinces and territories five years ago to come up with caribou range plans for the iconic animals. Not one met the deadline.

Why should we care about caribou? Beyond the fact that we should care about all animals that play important roles in the ecological makeup of this “super natural” country, caribou are indicators of forest health. When caribou are healthy, it’s a sign the forests they live in are healthy. Forests provide numerous ecological services, such as preventing floods, storing carbon and regulating climate, as well as habitat for animals and plants and livelihoods and resources for people.

Failing to protect caribou habitat affects many Indigenous Peoples' rights, cultures and traditional livelihoods, and risks tarnishing Canada's reputation in the global marketplace. U.S. and international customers buy our products on the understanding that we’ll protect wildlife and honour commitments to Indigenous peoples.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 16:49 • Judith Lavoie
Grizzly bear

A muddled mess of plans that were never implemented, unclear accountability, lack of organized monitoring and spotty oversight has been at the root of the provincial government’s management of grizzly bear populations for more than two decades, Auditor General Carol Bellringer found in a highly critical report released Tuesday.

The report confirms many of the concerns frequently raised by conservation groups.  A lack of firm population numbers. Resource extraction in grizzly bear habitat. Lax regulation of the grizzly bear trophy hunt.

This is a scathing indictment of the poor management of grizzly bears by successive B.C. governments, going back decades,” said Faisal Moola, director of the David Suzuki Foundation, which requested an audit in 2014 along with University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 15:08 • James Wilt
Justin Trudeau Light Rail Public Transit Montreal

There’s nothing else like it in Canada.

Since the early 1970s, Manitoba’s provincial government has covered a full 50 per cent of the operating costs for Winnipeg’s public transit system. That means that half of the money required to make transit actually run — salaries and benefits, maintenance, fuel, bus parts — is guaranteed by the province.

It actually gets at what transit really is,” Joseph Kornelsen, chair of Function Transit Winnipeg, told DeSmog Canada about the arrangement. “Emphasizing that kind of funding is actually how other jurisdictions should be doing it.”

But the setup is almost certainly about to end with the passage of Bill 36 by Manitoba's Progressive Conservative government.

To be sure, Winnipeg will continue to receive funding from the province. But none of it will be specifically earmarked for transit, leading some transit advocates to express concern that routes and frequency of service could diminish significantly.

In short: Manitoba is about to join the rest of Canada with uneven, ad-hoc and underwhelming transit funding.

Monday, October 23, 2017 - 14:17 • Jodi McNeill
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.