James Wilt

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James Wilt is a freelance journalist based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a journalism degree from Mount Royal University in Calgary. He regularly contributes to DeSmog Canada, and has also written for VICE Canada, CBC Calgary, Alberta Oil, Fast Forward Weekly and Geez magazine.

The Myth of The Asian Market for Alberta’s Oil

The Myth of The Asian Market for Alberta’s Oil

For years, we’ve been told again and again (and again) that Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline is desperately needed for producers to export oil to Asian countries and get much higher returns.

The way it’s been framed makes it seem like it’s the only thing standing between Alberta and fields of gold.

Small problem: Canadian producers already have the ability to ship their heavy oil to Asia via the existing 300,000 barrel per day Trans Mountain pipeline — but they’re not using it.

How Kinder Morgan Could Sue Canada In a Secretive NAFTA Tribunal

Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline

All hell is breaking loose over the Trans Mountain pipeline.

On Sunday, Kinder Morgan announced it was putting all “non-essential spending” on hold until it could be guaranteed “clarity on the path forward.” That sent both the Alberta and federal governments into a near-frenzy — Premier Rachel Notley pledged to buy the entire pipeline if needed, while the federal cabinet held an “emergency meeting” (ministers literally ran from the media afterward).

It’s also come to light that Kinder Morgan could actually sue the government of Canada if it can’t build the pipeline. In a call with investors, Kinder Morgan chair and CEO Steven Kean said that it’s far too premature to consider.

But it certainly wouldn’t be unusual: between 1995 and 2015, Canada has been sued 35 times by investors and paid out at least $170 million.

It is extraordinarily easy for a deep-pocketed company like Kinder Morgan to sue Canada using NAFTA,” said Gus Van Harten, an associate professor at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School and expert in international investment law and arbitration, in an interview with DeSmog Canada.

BP Offshore Rig Moves to Nova Scotia Coast Before Drill Permits Granted

BP offshore drilling nova scotia

Despite not yet receiving a final approval for drilling, BP Canada is in the process of moving an offshore drilling rig to the southeast coast of Nova Scotia for a project that local environmental and fishery groups have condemned for its potentially catastrophic impacts if a blowout occurs.

BP plans to drill seven exploration wells in four adjacent leases on the Scotian Shelf, with the deepest drilling occurring at depths of over 3,000 metres — twice the depth of the well that BP was conducting exploratory drilling on when the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe happened.

Canada Moving to Exempt Majority of New Oilsands Projects From Federal Assessments

AOSTRA SAGD facility

After more than a year of public hearings, the federal government unveiled its new and improved environmental assessment legislation in February 2018 with much ado.

But the new rules — designed to restore public trust in Canada’s process for reviewing major projects — didn’t contain any details on what kinds of projects would trigger a review under the new legislation.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna skirted the issue, saying her ministry was still evaluating what kinds of activities would show up on a yet-to-be-released “project list” that was pending further consultation with Canadians.

But when pressed on the issue, McKenna told reporters she didn’t believe oilsands projects developed via in-situ methods should be included. McKenna reasoned that because Alberta already has a hard cap on emissions, future oilsands projects would be exempt from federal environmental review.

Why Don’t Governments Limit Oil Production to Meet Climate Targets?

supply side environmentalism

The climate change component of Canada’s oil pipeline debate largely revolves around two big questions: should our country restrict the production of fossil fuels? And, if it does, does that mean other jurisdictions will just produce more and fill the gap?

This argument to restrict production is often called “supply side environmentalism” and it’s been pretty unpopular with economists and pundits who warn against restrictive supply-side policies as inefficient and overly moralistic.

But climate policy experts Fergus Green (of the London School of Economics) and Richard Denniss (of the Australia Institute) are questioning that.

Canada’s Commitment of $220 Million to Transition Remote Communities Off Diesel a Mere ‘Drop in the Bucket’

There have been delays, exemptions, backtracking and threats of lawsuits — but the Pan-Canadian Framework is ever so slowly inching the country towards a low-carbon future.

Unfortunately, the same can’t exactly be said about the country’s 292 off-grid communities, most of which are Indigenous. Roughly 86 per cent of off-grid communities are primarily dependent on diesel for generating electricity.

The federal government recently allocated $220 million over six years to help such communities transition to renewables, a marked increase from the $9 million doled out over the past decade. But calculations indicate that it’s not nearly enough to deal with the 450 megawatts of installed diesel in Canada.

‘By That Logic, We All Go to Hell Together’: Mark Jaccard on Trudeau’s Pipeline Talking Points

Justin Trudeau and Rachel Notley

Mark Jaccard has seen it all before.

Over the decades, the leading energy economist from Simon Fraser University has watched as government after goverment pledge lofty climate targets and proceed to totally overshoot them: Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, Stephen Harper. But he certainly hasn’t been silent. In that time, Jaccard has authored dozens of books and papers based on modelling that points out the political hypocrisies and maps how to get back on track.

Now, his sights have turned to the federal and Alberta governments, which are loudly proclaiming that the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline can be reconciled with Canada’s international climate commitments.

New Legislation Shows Cracks in Trudeau's First Nations Promises

Justin Trudeau environment and First Nations

When it comes to the rights of Indigenous peoples, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks a really good talk. A close look at new laws that will dictate how major resource projects are reviewed, however, suggest he wants to leave himself a lot of wiggle room when it comes to walking the walk.

The week before Trudeau was lauded for a speech in the House of Commons that promised of a new legal framework for Indigenous people, his government released two long-awaited pieces of environmental legislation.

Initial reactions were cautiously optimistic. But now that the dust has settled,  it’s clear that matching words to action is often an exercise in optimistic romanticism.

Canada Is Replacing Coal With Natural Gas — And That’s A Huge Problem

Enmax Shepard Energy Centre

On Friday, the federal government released its long-awaited draft regulations for the phase-out of coal-fired power in Canada. It was a huge move — the first step to fulfilling a central piece of the government’s pledge to “transition to a low-carbon economy” via the Pan-Canadian Framework.

But another draft regulation was also released on Friday, albeit with a lot less fanfare: performance standards for natural gas electricity generation. Basically, it proposes establishing maximum carbon intensities for different kinds of gas plants. Importantly, it won’t apply to facilities that already exist, converted from burning coal or those operating as “peaker” plants.

Doesn’t sound awful, right? Except one big catch: the regulation effectively gives the go-ahead for provinces transitioning away from coal — Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia — to replace a lot of their lost generation capacity with natural gas. And that seriously undermines the country’s ability to decarbonize its electricity system anytime soon.

New Fisheries Act Reverses Harper-era ‘Gutting’

New Fisheries Act Reverses Harper-era ‘Gutting’

Canada’s fishery laws are back — well, on the first step to being back, at least. On Tuesday morning, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Dominic LeBlanc officially announced the introduction of an heavily amended Fisheries Act, the key piece of legislation that was gutted in 2012 by the federal Conservatives. And fishery law experts are thrilled.

The government’s made good on its promises,” said Linda Nowlan, staff lawyer and head of the West Coast Environmental Law’s marine program. “They’ve not only restored lost protections, especially for fish habitat, but they’ve also introduced a number of modernizations that were long overdue.”

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