Emma Gilchrist

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Emma Gilchrist is Executive Director of DeSmog Canada. She is a writer, editor and citizen engagement specialist based in Victoria, B.C.

Emma grew up in a small town in northwestern Alberta where she saw firsthand how oil and gas development plays an important role in Canadian communities. She went on to earn a journalism degree from Mount Royal University in Calgary. In 2015, Emma was the recipient of the Horizon Award from Mount Royal for outstanding achievements in the first 10 years after graduation.

Emma has worked as a reporter and editor in Canada and the U.K., including stints at the Calgary Sun, Calgary Herald, Cambridge Evening News and BBC Essex. While at the Calgary Herald, Emma created a weekly environmental column and website called The Green Guide, which won an Alberta Emerald Award, a Canadian Newspaper Association Great Ideas Award and was featured by the Online Journalism Review.

Most recently, Emma served as the Communications Director for the Dogwood Initiative, a citizen’s advocacy group that helps British Columbians have more say in decisions about their air, land and water. In 2012, Dogwood was nominated for a Katerva Award, described by Reuters as the “Nobel of sustainability.”

Emma’s writing on travel, health, fitness and the environment has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Financial Post, Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, Edmonton Journal, Vancouver Province, The Tyee, Up! Magazine and the Huffington Post.

You can contact Emma via e-mail at emma [at] desmog [dot] ca

5 Reasons to Give a Shit About the B.C. Election

Provincial politics. There, I said them — two of the most boring words in the English language.

There’s no denying it. Provincial elections fail to capture the imaginations of citizens the way national or even international elections do.

Case in point: in the last B.C. provincial election, just 55 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot — 13 per cent fewer than voted in the last federal election.

Fact Checking Christy Clark’s LNG Claims

Christy Clark LNG

For years, the B.C. government has touted the benefits of developing a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export industry — and while some of those benefits may be legit, one of them almost certainly isn’t.

That’s the claim that exporting natural gas from B.C. will somehow result in emissions reductions in China.

Let’s back up for a second.

Exporting LNG involves first fracking for gas in B.C.’s northeast, a process which causes earthquakes, uses epic amounts of fresh water and leaks the potent greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere at a rate 2.5 times higher than what the B.C. government has been admitting.

87% of B.C. Grizzly Deaths Due to Trophy Hunting, Records Reveal

Grizzly bear trophy hunt

Eighty-seven per cent of known, human-caused grizzly bear deaths in B.C. are attributable to trophy hunters, who have killed 12,026 grizzly bears since the government began keeping records in 1975, according to data obtained by David Suzuki Foundation.*

In 2016, 274 grizzlies were killed by humans — the vast majority of which (235) were killed by trophy hunters.

B.C. currently sanctions a legal trophy hunt by both resident and foreign hunters. Non-resident hunters killed almost 30 per cent of the grizzlies in the 2016 hunt.

The trophy hunt has become a hot election issue with the NDP and Green Party vowing to end the hunt if elected. An Insights West survey conducted in the fall of 2016 found 91 percent of British Columbians are opposed to trophy hunting.

Meantime, Tweet: The @BCLiberals are the party of choice for international #trophyhunters http://bit.ly/2p7i3c2 #bcpoli #bcelxn17 #grizzlyhunt #BanBigMoneythe B.C. Liberals are the party of choice for international trophy hunters — who donated $60,000 to the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. to help prevent an NDP win.

6 Charts That Show Trump Isn’t Stopping the Renewable Energy Revolution Any Time Soon

solar power

The solar industry was responsible for creating one out of every 50 new jobs in the U.S. last year and the country’s fastest-growing occupation is wind turbine technician — so no matter one’s feelings on climate change, the renewable energy train has left the station, according to a new report. 

Tweet: “It’s at the point of great return. It’s irreversible. There's no stopping this train. Even Trump can’t kill it.” http://bit.ly/2nQcJJ8It’s at the point of great return. It’s irreversible. There is no stopping this train,” said Merran Smith, author of Tracking the Energy Revolution 2017 by Clean Energy Canada. “Even Donald Trump can’t kill it.”

More than 260,000 Americans are now employed in the solar industry, more than double 2010 figures. Meantime, the top five wind-energy producing congressional districts are represented by Republicans.

BC Liberals Locked In Huge Subsidies to Oil and Gas Donors: Report

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.

The Startling Similarities Between Newfoundland's Muskrat Falls Boondoggle and B.C.'s Site C Dam

Ken Boon, Site C dam construction

Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador are preparing for electricity rates to double in the next five years, adding an estimated $150 per month in power costs for the average homeowner, as a consequence of building the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam — and experts warn it could be a cautionary tale for British Columbia.

“Muskrat Falls was not the right choice for the power needs of this province,” public power company CEO Stan Marshall told the press last year, confirming the project is a “boondoggle.”

“It was a gamble and it's gone against us.”

Meantime in British Columbia, debate continues over whether to continue building the 1,100 megawatt Site C hydro dam on the Peace River, estimated to cost $9 billion, at a time that power demand has been essentially flat for 10 years, despite population growth.

There are a lot of parallels between British Columbia and Newfoundland,” David Vardy, former CEO of the Newfoundland Public Utilities Board, told DeSmog Canada. “There’s the same fixation with the megaproject.”

Site C Dam Ruling Says a Lot About Canada’s Relationship with First Nations

Caleb Behn

The Site C hydro dam in northeastern B.C. may be more than a year into construction, but the federal government still hasn’t determined whether the mega dam infringes on treaty rights — and, according to a Federal Court of Appeal ruling this week, the government isn’t obligated to answer that question.

The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations filed a judicial review in November 2014, arguing the federal government should have determined if the Site C dam infringes on treaty rights prior to issuing permits for the dam, which would flood more than 100 kilometres of river valley.

Seems like a bit of a no-brainer, right? Turns out it’s not.

This week, the Court of Appeal upheld an earlier decision, which stated that the federal cabinet wasn’t required to determine if there was any  infringement of treaty rights, which are protected under the Canadian constitution.

How can they authorize a project of this magnitude and not even turn their minds to whether it’s infringement given the history of this file?” Allisun Rana, legal counsel for the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations, told DeSmog Canada.

FYI: ‘World Leading’ Oil Spill Response Means Nothing

Governments love buzzwords — probably because they roll off the tongue so nicely that people often overlook the fact they’re meaningless.

Take one of the B.C. government’s favourite expressions of late: “world leading” oil spill response.

It’s included not once, but twice, in B.C.’s five conditions for approval of oil pipelines — used to give the green light to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

But what does “world leading” oil spill response actually mean?

I see a lot of gaps in this wording of ‘world class’ response,” says Riki Ott, a marine toxicologist who was working as a commercial fisher in Cordova, Alaska, when the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in March 1989, spilling more than 41 million litres of oil into Prince William Sound.

Trudeau’s New Pipeline Talking Point — Straight From the Oil Industry

Justin Trudeau live interview with Vancouver Sun

In a Facebook Live interview with the Vancouver Sun this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau trotted out a favourite talking point of the oil industry.

 “Where we have to recognize that we’re not going to find common ground is in the people who say the only thing we can do to save the planet is to shut down the oilsands tomorrow and stop using fossil fuels altogether within a week,” Trudeau said.

There are a few things wrong with this statement.

1) Who’s campaigning to shut down the oilsands tomorrow? I’ve been writing about energy and environment for nearly 10 years and I can’t name a single credible group that’s ever campaigned to shut down the oilsands. Heck, I can’t even think of one that’s campaigning to decrease production. They almost all campaign to limit expansion.

A Surprisingly Simple Solution to Canada’s Stalled Energy Debate

If you feel exhausted by Canada’s fevered debates about oil pipelines, liquefied natural gas terminals, renewable energy projects and mines, there just might be relief in sight.

Right now, the federal government is reviewing its environmental assessment (EA) process. Yes, it’s reviewing its reviews. And while that might sound kinda boring, it could actually revolutionize the way Canada makes decisions about energy projects.

My highest hope is that Canada will take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity … and take a really visionary approach to environmental assessment,” said Anna Johnston, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law.

That could include implementing something called “strategic environmental assessment,” which creates a forum for the larger discussions about things like oil exports, LNG development or all mining in an area.

So instead of the current environmental assessment process, in which pipeline reviews have become proxy battles for issues such as climate change and cumulative effects, there’d actually be a higher-level review designed specifically to examine those big-picture questions. 

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