Alberta

Sun, 2014-08-17 13:50Carol Linnitt
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The Oilsands Cancer Story Part 3: The Spotlight Turns on Fort Chip Doctor

Fort Chipewyan Cemetery. Fort Chip, located downstream of the oilsands, has higher than average cancer rates.

This is the third installment in a three-part series on Dr. John O'Connor, the family physician to first identify higher-than-average cancer rates and rare forms of cancer in communities downstream of the Alberta oilsands.

Part 3: The Spotlight Turns On Fort Chip Doctor

After the story of Fort Chip’s health problems broke, Health Canada sent physicians out to the small, northern community.

Dr. John O’Connor said one of the Health Canada doctors went into the local nursing station and, in front of a reporter, filled a mug with Fort Chip water and drank from it, saying, ‘See, there’s nothing wrong with it.’

That was such a kick in the face for everyone,” O’Connor said. “Just a complete dismissal of their concerns.”

Health Canada eventually requested the charts of the patients who had died. Six weeks later they announced the findings of a report that concluded cancer rates were no higher in Fort Chip than expected.

For O’Connor, however, the numbers “just didn’t match up.”

Mon, 2014-08-04 12:05Carol Linnitt
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The Oilsands Cancer Story Part 2: Deformed Fish, Dying Muskrats Cause Doctor To Sound Alarm

Robert Grandjambe Jr. Shows DeSmog Sick Fish from Lake Athabasca

This is the second installment of a three-part series on Dr. John O'Connor, the family physician to first identify higher-than-average cancer rates and rare forms of cancer in communities downstream of the Alberta oilsands.

Part 2: Deformed Fish, Dying Muskrats Cause Doctor To Sound Alarm

When Dr. John O’Connor arrived in Fort Chipewyan in 2000, it took him a little while to get familiar with the population.

The town was a bit larger than his previous post of Fort MacKay, with a population of around 1,000 at that time. Locals had few options when it came to medical care. Their town was 300 kilometres north of Fort McMurray and accessible only by plane in the summer or by ice road for a few of the colder months.

O’Connor recognized it was a close-knit community and yet hard to get a foothold in.

You had to be trusted to gain their respect, I guess,” he said.

Most doctors hadn’t established a continuous practice up there, O’Connor said, so the community hadn’t received continuous care by the same medical expert for many years.

What they were looking for was one pair of eyes, one pair of hands. Consistency,” he recounts.

That was one of the reasons why I was approached to provide service. So that made it easier to get to know people and for them to get to know me.”

O’Connor immediately began poring over patient files, piecing together what a series of seasonal doctors had left behind. Patients there felt there was no continuity between what rotating doctors would say about their symptoms.

Fri, 2014-07-04 12:15Carol Linnitt
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New Poll: Canadians Overestimate Oilsands Contribution to Economy, Yet Still Want Clean Shift

Alex MacLean, oilsands, keystone xl, tar sands

A new poll released Friday shows the majority of Canadians assume development in the Alberta oilsands has a much larger impact on nation’s economy than it actually does.

According to the poll, conducted by Environics and commissioned by Environmental Defence, 41 per cent of Canadians believe the importance of the oilsands to the economy is six to 24 times higher than it actually is. And a full 57 per cent of Canadians overestimate the value of oilsands to the country’s economy.

The oilsands, according to Statistics Canada, account for only 2 per cent of the national GDP.

Despite the misconception, however, 66 per cent of Canadians still support a transition to a cleaner economy that would limit dependence on the oilsands.

In addition, 76 per cent of Canadians believe that, in light of climate change, the country should shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy.

Wed, 2014-07-02 10:42Carol Linnitt
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PHOTOS: Famed Photographer Alex MacLean’s New Photos of Canada’s Oilsands are Shocking

Alex MacLean, oilsands, keystone xl, tar sands

Alex MacLean is one of America’s most famed and iconic aerial photographers. His perspective on human structures, from bodies sunbathing at the beach to complex, overlapping highway systems, always seems to hint at a larger symbolic meaning hidden in the mundane. By photographing from above, MacLean shows the sequences and patterns of human activity, including the scope of our impact on natural systems. His work reminds us of the law of proximity: the things closest to us are often the hardest to see.

Recently MacLean traveled to the Alberta oilsands in western Canada. There, working with journalist Dan Grossman, MacLean used his unique eye to capture some new and astounding images of one of the world’s largest industrial projects. Their work, funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, will form part of a larger, forthcoming report for GlobalPost.

DeSmog Canada caught up with MacLean to ask him about his experience photographing one of Canada’s most politicized resources and the source of the proposed Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines.

Thu, 2014-06-26 12:19Stephen Leahy
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Experts Call for Moratorium on New Oilsands Development Until Climate, Environmental Impacts Assessed

A moratorium on any new oilsands expansion is imperative given Canada’s failure to properly assess the total environmental and climate impacts Canadian and U.S. experts say in the prestigious science journal Nature.

Even with a moratorium it will be very difficult for Canada to meet its international promise to reduce CO2 emissions that are overheating the planet according to government documents as previously reported by DeSmog.

Continuing to approve pipelines and new projects guarantees Canada will not meet the Harper government’s Copenhagen emissions reduction target,” said Wendy Palen, an ecologist at Simon Fraser University. 

These are the plain facts Canadians need to be aware of,” Palen, a co-author of the Nature commentary, told DeSmog.

Canadians also have no idea of the overall ‘big picture’ of the impacts of oilsands production and transport because each project is assessed in isolation.

Fri, 2014-05-23 10:20Carol Linnitt
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Albertans are Ready for Stronger Emissions Regulations. Will They Get Them?

Alberta oilsands development kris krug

A new Ipsos Reid poll released today shows 76 per cent of Albertans are in favour of stronger greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions regulations for industrial facilities.

The federal government has faced scrutiny for failing to release GHG performance regulations for the oil and gas sector for several years. Alberta’s existing rules, the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER), are set to expire on September 1, 2014.

Facing the release of a new climate plan and potential new carbon tax arrangement, Alberta premier Dave Hancock said his government is in talks with industry.

There are some producers – there are lots of producers – who would say: ‘Don’t do anything, this is already a cost to us, and we can’t afford to pay more because we don’t have any room to innovate, so it’s just a cost to us.’ The more progressive operators would say: ‘If incented appropriately, we can look harder,’” Hancock said.

How do you actually create a process where big emitters can find a way to meet standards? It’s not a tax, it’s an alternative way of meeting the outcome,” he said.

A Progressive Conservative Party leadership vote is scheduled for September 6, leading some to speculate new emissions regulations will be left off the table until a later date.

Waiting for consensus means waiting indefinitely,” Simon Dyer, the Pembina Institute’s regional director for Alberta and the North, said. “Albertans clearly want their government to make a decision and move forward with stronger greenhouse gas rules for industry.”

Thu, 2014-05-08 12:54Indra Das
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Alberta Government Bans Environmental Groups From Oilsands Hearing, Again

The Alberta government has barred the Oilsands Environmental Coalition from hearings on a proposed new oilsands development by Southern Pacific Resource Corp., even after a similar decision last fall was overturned by a judge.

Conservationists say the decision only makes clearer the Alberta government's tendency to shut down public dialogue on resource development. “The government hasn't learned its lesson from last time,” said Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute, one of the groups in the coalition.

Dyer said the coalition will be appealing the second ruling, reports the Canadian Press.

Alberta Environment first denied the coalition standing to participate in hearings about a development on the MacKay River in northern Alberta in 2012, which would expand an existing steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) project. The expansion would result in the extraction of an additional 24,000 barrels per day (bpd) of bitumen.

Thu, 2014-04-24 13:21Raphael Lopoukhine
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Alberta Ramps Up “Responsible Energy Development” Sales Pitch in Wake of New Keystone XL Delay

Alberta oilsands tar sands julia kilpatrick

Days after another delay by the Obama administration on TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, members of the Alberta government are hitting the U.S. circuit to promote the oilsands and boost their “green” credentials.

Three government officials are heading to key regions in the U.S. to push for continued market access and advertise what Albertan energy minister Diana McQueen calls “our commitment to clean energy development.”

Alberta hopes to showcase investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as part of a successful emissions reduction plan.

Critics say the Alberta government’s talk about “sustainability” and “clean energy” is not in line with reality.

If you’ve been following the Canadian government’s sales pitch for the Keystone XL pipeline, you’ve probably heard this claim before: ‘Emissions per barrel have been reduced by 26 per cent between 1990 and 2011,’” writes P.J. Partington, senior federal policy analyst with the Pembina Institute.

However, the reality, Partington writes, is that “since 1990, oilsands production has quintupled, while GHG emissions from production and upgrading have quadrupled.”

Fri, 2014-04-11 10:56Carol Linnitt
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27 B.C. Climate Experts Rejected From Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Hearings

Kinder Morgan trans mountain Pipeline

This week a group of climate experts published a letter detailing the climate impacts of the proposed tripling of the Trans Mountain pipeline which carries oilsands diluted bitumen and other fuels from Alberta to the Port of Vancouver. The group represents 27 climate experts – a mix of economists, scientists and political and social scientists – from major British Columbian universities who were recently rejected from the pipeline hearing process because they proposed to discuss the project’s significance for global climate change.

According to Simon Donner, associate professor from the University of British Columbia and climate variability expert, “the government is ignoring the expertise of not just scientists, but policy analysts and economists.”

You'd have an easier time finding a seat at Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals than an expert who thinks the energy policy is consistent with Canada meeting this government's own promised emissions target,” he told DeSmog Canada.

For Donner, the exclusion of climate experts from National Energy Board (NEB) pipeline hearings throws the legitimacy of the environmental assessment process into question.

The NEB and the federal government want to make a decision about the environmental and social impact of the pipeline expansion without considering one of the biggest long-term threats to the environment and society – climate change,” he said.

Wed, 2014-04-09 13:06Carol Linnitt
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Greenpeace Complaint Against Ethical Oil Brings “Corrosive Effect of Oil on Our Politics” to Light

When Greenpeace Canada’s climate and energy campaigner Keith Stewart filed an official complaint with Elections Canada, he did a lot more than question the implications of the Ethical Oil Institute’s collusion with the Conservative Party of Canada: he called national attention to the corrosive effect oil money has had on Canadian politics in recent years.

At the broadest level,” Stewart told DeSmog Canada via e-mail, “we are trying to rebalance the playing field between money and people power in Canadian politics. You can never eliminate the influence of money on politics, but you can limit it and make it more transparent.”

Greenpeace’s request for an investigation is based on the fact that corporate donations to political parties are banned in federal politics — yet money raised by the Ethical Oil Institute appears to have been spent on advertising and other activities developed and implemented by people directly involved in the Conservative Party of Canada. The institute does not disclose its funding sources, but its website states it does “accept donations from Canadian individuals and companies, including those working to produce Ethical Oil.”

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