This is a guest post by Karin Kirk, crossposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections...
Hundreds of placer mines, which have never undergone environmental assessments, are operating in the Fraser River watershed with minimal government oversight despite mounting evidence that the operations pollute water and harm salmon, a report by the Fair Mining Collaborative has found.
Placer mining involves digging up gravel adjacent to streams and rivers and washing it to extract the gold or other minerals in the sediment. In addition to mines that use excavation equipment, there are thousands of hand-mining operations, many of which do not have permits, the report found.
The report, commissioned by First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining (FNWARM), calls for a moratorium on claim staking and work permits until the process is reformed and adequate safeguards are put in place, with First Nations given a partnership role in coming up with rules and regulations.
“I go around our territory and see all the destruction in the back country. It’s criminal if you ask me,” Bev Sellars, FNWARM chair and former chief of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation, said in an interview.
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.”
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.
“This 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.
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.
But experts say the reality has more to do with a broader economic shift that’s made oilsands uneconomical — for the time being at least.
A little known federal plan to adopt a clean fuel standard could cut Canada’s emissions by as much as Ontario’s coal phase-out (North America’s single largest emissions reduction initiative) — if done right.
The clean fuel standard, announced last November, will require fuel suppliers to decrease the carbon footprint of the fuels they sell in Canada.
But unlike similar regulations in British Columbia and California, which target transportation fuels only, the federal government is considering using the clean fuel standard to also target emissions from fuels used in buildings and industrial processes, such as heating oil and petroleum coke.
“Gas, solids, liquids, whatever. If it is a fossil fuel, it is going to be subject to this standard,” Clare Demerse, policy advisor at Clean Energy Canada, told DeSmog Canada. “That is a really … powerful signal. All fossil fuels in Canada have to improve their carbon performance.”
“This is the biggest challenge as we have at the moment as a company,” Ben van Beurden, chief executive of oil giant Shell, said recently. “The fact that societal acceptance of the energy system as we have it is just disappearing.”
Speaking at the annual CERAWeek energy conference in Houston on March 9, van Beurden described the growing tensions between his industry, which has created our fossil fuel dependent energy system, and the public, which is demanding a switch to clean energy: “I do think trust has been eroded to the point where it starts to become a serious issue for our long-term future.”
The world’s largest oil companies are increasingly faced with public pressure to do something about their impact on climate change. And increasingly we’re seeing their chief executives responding. The question is though, how much is for real and what's just greenwash?
Elections BC will refer its ongoing investigation into potentially illegal political donations made to the BC Liberals to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, British Columbia’s Chief Electoral Officer, Keith Archer announced Friday.
“This investigation has been referred to ensure that it will in no way impede Elections BC’s administration of the provincial general election scheduled for May 9,” an Elections BC bulletin states.
“This referral will also ensure that there is no perception that Elections BC’s ability to administer the general election in a fair, neutral and impartial manner is in any way compromised. The potential scope and timing of this matter make the RCMP the most appropriate agency to continue this investigation.”
Elections B.C. has been asked to investigate political contributions made to the BC Liberals by high-ranking Kinder Morgan staff, including president Ian Anderson.
The democracy advocacy group Dogwood submitted a formal complaint to Elections B.C. this week after discovering a series of political donations from individuals connected to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project that received provincial approval in January 2017.
The complaint comes on the heels of a bombshell investigation by the Globe and Mail that revealed corporate lobbyists were illegally reimbursed for contributions made to the B.C. Liberals.