Judith Lavoie

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Judith Lavoie is an award-winning journalist based in Victoria, British Columbia. Lavoie covered environment and First Nations stories for the Victoria Times Colonist for more than 20 years and is now working as a freelancer. She previously worked on newspapers in New Brunswick, Cyprus, England and the Middle East. Lavoie has won four Webster awards and has been nominated for a National Newspaper Award and a Michener Award.

Key Arctic Research Station Set to Close Because of Liberal Government’s Funding Cuts

PEARL research centre. Photo: Dan Weaver

Essential information on Arctic climate change, ozone depletion and pollution reaching the Arctic from B.C.’s recent forest fires will be lost unless the federal government comes through with funding to save Canada’s unique high Arctic research station.

After years of funding cuts to scientific and climate change programs under the Conservatives, the Liberal government’s emphasis on making science-based decisions in response to climate change was a welcome relief to researchers, but some are now shocked that crucial projects are about to be lost because the 2017 budget did not renew the five-year Climate Change and Atmospheric Research (CCAR) funding which expires this year.

Unless the Trudeau government comes up with approximately $7-million a year, six projects, including the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) on Ellesmere Island, will close down next year. A seventh — Canadian Sea Ice and Snow Evolution Network — will shut down the following year.

Terminating Site C Dam, Building Alternatives Could Save B.C. Over $1B: Economist

Site c construction 2016

Karen Goodings avoids the Site C dam area on the Peace River because she finds it too heart-wrenching to look at the havoc caused by construction work, but, for the first time in years, she is now holding out hope that the $8.8-billion project will be scrapped.

I want to see it permanently stopped and now I think there is enough information out there to talk about alternate sources of power that are more economical and less devastating,” said Goodings, a Peace River Regional District director.

Her optimism has been boosted by reports underlining financial uncertainties with Site C and emphasizing that B.C.’s power needs can be met by wind, geothermal and solar projects.

Falling Costs of Renewable Power Make Site C Dam Obsolete, Says Energy Economist

Site C dam

The cost of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, has dropped dramatically since the previous B.C. government decided to build the Site C dam and the B.C. Utilities Commission must look at updated figures when considering the megaproject’s future, says a prominent energy consultant.

Robert McCullough, who is recognized as a North American expert on hydroelectric issues, was asked by the Peace Valley Landowner Association and Peace Valley Environment Association to make a submission to the BCUC, using up-to-date figures and research.

His conclusion is that BC Hydro could meet the province’s power needs at a much lower cost than the projected $8.8-billion Site C price-tag, without supply risks.

New B.C. Government Inherits Toxic Legacy as Tulsequah Chief Buyer Backs Away from Abandoned, Leaky Mine

Tulsequah Chief Mine Acid Leak, photo Chris Miller

The Tulsequah Chief mine, a zinc and copper mine close to the Alaska border, has been leaking acid mine drainage into the Tulsequah River since it was first shut down in 1957 and attempts to re-open the mine have failed, along with a multitude of promises to clean up the site.

Two companies have gone bankrupt during their ownership of the Tulsequah Chief, with the current owner, Chieftain Metals, declaring bankruptcy last September and there are now reports that Black Loon Metals has backed away from a potential deal to take over the site.

Black Loon chairman, Gordon Bogden, would not say whether the company remains interested in buying the Tulsequah Chief.

The Fight Over Taseko Mine Permits Issued During Forest Fire Evacuation Just Levelled Up

Tsilhqot'in Fish Lake. Photo by Garth Lenz

Representatives from the Tsilhqot’in National Government were in the B.C. Supreme Court this week asking for an immediate injunction to stop Taseko’s exploratory drilling for the controversial open-pit New Prosperity Mine from beginning August 7.

To the dismay of the Tsilhqot’in, B.C. issued Taseko exploratory permits in the dying days of the former BC Liberal government while the Tsilhqot’in were under a wildfire evacuation order — even though the $1.5 billion gold and copper mine project itself has been twice rejected by the federal government in 2010 and again in 2014.

A court decision on the injunction is expected this week.

But the fight both for and against the permits doesn’t stop there.

Forestry Consultant Who Warned of Timber Overcutting Continues Court Battle

Clearcutting in B.C.

Despite a legal setback, Martin Watts is vowing to continue his crusade against what he believes are inaccuracies in provincial data used to determine the annual cut allowed each year in B.C. forests.

Watts, owner of FORCOMP Forestry Consulting Ltd., claims he was blacklisted by the provincial government after he went public with concerns that corrupted data and unvalidated computer models were being used in the Timber Supply Review Process, which is used by the Chief Forester to set the Annual Allowable Cut.

Problems became apparent after budget and staff cuts started in 2002, the year the former Liberal government was elected, according to critics.

How to Defend Science From Political Interference: New Study

Scientist

Politically inconvenient findings can be revealed by scientific research and, as concerns grow in the U.S about a clampdown on the ability of scientists to speak freely, it is up to the international scientific community, media and the public to fight for scientific integrity, says a new study.

Kamloops Council, First Nations Ask B.C. Government to Suspend Controversial Ajax Mine Proposal

Ajax mine location

One of the first controversies likely to land on the desk of newly minted Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall is what to do about the proposed massive Ajax gold and copper mine on the outskirts of Kamloops that is opposed by Kamloops city council and the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation.

I think this will be one of their first tests and it will be interesting to see how a new government will handle it,” said Councillor Denis Walsh, a vocal opponent of the proposed mine.

Fort Nelson First Nation Files Legal Challenge to Gas Pipeline Claiming It Will Threaten Caribou Habitat

Woodland caribou

A First Nation in northeastern B.C. is challenging the province’s approval of a proposed gas pipeline that would cut across critical habitat of threatened boreal woodland caribou.

Fort Nelson First Nation (FNFN) has filed for a judicial review of B.C. Oil and Gas Commission’s approval last month of a pipeline, proposed by Rockyview Resources Inc. and Shanghai Energy Corp., that would run through FNFN territory, resulting in 78 hectares of disturbance to caribou habitat.

The 39-kilometre proposed gas pipeline cuts right through core caribou habitat in our territory, in an area with the most concentrated and highest-known use by boreal caribou for forage, calving, rearing and protection from predators,” said Lana Lowe, FNFN land and resources director.

Mining Company Gets Federal Approval to Use B.C. Fish-Bearing Streams to Dump Tailings

KSM mine location. Mike Fay. Rivers Without Borders

Two fish-bearing creeks will be used for 2.3 billion tonnes of toxic tailings from the proposed Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM) mine in northwest B.C., wiping out habitat for several populations of small Dolly Varden fish.

Seabridge Gold Inc. has been given federal government approval to use upper tributaries of the North Treaty and South Teigen Creeks, which flow into the Nass and Bell-Irving rivers, for tailings from the planned gold, copper and molybdenum mine 65 kilometres northwest of Stewart and 30 kilometres from the Alaska border.

Once in operation, KSM is set to become the largest open pit mine in North America. Construction is set to begin in 2017.

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