oilsands

Sat, 2014-07-26 11:21Carol Linnitt
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The Oilsands Cancer Story Part 1: John O’Connor and the Dawn of a New Oilsands Era

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

This is the first 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 1: The Doctor and the Dawn of a New Oilsands Era: 'It Was Fascinating'

The day John O’Connor landed in Canada from his native Scotland, he had no idea how much he would end up giving to this land, nor how much it would ultimately demand from him.

I had no intention of staying in Canada,” he told DeSmog Canada in a recent interview. “The intention was to go back.”

But I got enchanted with Canada.”

That was back in 1984 when O’Connor first arrived in Canada for a three-month locum.

With a large family practice already well established in Scotland, O’Connor had no real intention of settling in this foreign land where, in a few decades, he would find himself embroiled in a national conflict — a conflict that would pick at so many of our country’s deepest-running wounds involving oil, First Nations and the winners and losers of our resource race.

No, when O’Connor landed in Canada he was just planning to fill a temporary family physician position in Nova Scotia. Soon after his arrival, however, his light curiosity about Canada transformed into a newfound passion. He was hooked.

Mon, 2014-07-21 11:37Carol Linnitt
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Canadians Don’t Share Federal Government Priorities on Energy and Economy, Opinion Research Shows

public opinion research, northern gateway pipeline

The average Canadian doesn’t place the economy above other concerns like education, health care and environment according to a a public-opinion survey analysis performed by the Privy Council Office (PCO), a group of the Prime Minister’s top advisors, in January.

As the Canadian Press reports, the research suggests major federal government policies don’t line up with Canadian priorities.

The analysis followed public opinion research of 3,000 survey respondents and 12 focus groups, conducted by NRG Research Group, on behalf of the Finance Department. The PCO is not obligated to routinely make its research public.

The research showed Canadians have “little enthusiasm” for the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, “even among supporters,” the January 25 PCO report on the findings states. Since then the pipeline was federally approved.

Sat, 2014-07-12 08:00Derek Leahy
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Is Canada Putting All of Its Eggs in the Oilsands Basket?

Eggs in basket

The recent shelving of the Joslyn mine oilsands project in Alberta is a reminder of the fragile economics of the oilsands. No economic formula could be found to make the $11 billion project work and it has been put on hold indefinitely.           

Oil major Total E&P, the biggest partner in the project, said the Joslyn mine project “cannot be (financially) sustainable in the long term.” Interestingly, Total did not blame lack of new pipelines for squeezing profit margins either.

You run the risk in developing fossil fuels that one day will either become fully depleted or too expensive to extract,” Philip Gass, a policy analyst at the International Institute of Sustainable Development, said from Winnipeg.

It would be difficult to deny Canada has economically benefited from developing the oilsands, a particularly difficult and expensive fossil fuel to mine and refine into light fuels — but failing to diversify the Canadian economy beyond an oil and gas ‘energy superpower’ makes for a very uncertain economic future for Canada.

Canada could find itself an energy superpower overspecialized in the ‘old economy’ (resource extraction) in a world rapidly trying to cut carbon emissions and avoid catastrophic climate change,” Andrew Jackson, a senior policy advisor with the Broadbent Institute, told DeSmog Canada.

Fri, 2014-07-11 05:00Derek Leahy
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Ontario Town Accepts Donation from TransCanada On Condition It Won’t Publicly Comment on Pipeline Company’s Business

A small town is northeastern Ontario has become the centre of attention in the Energy East pipeline debate for accepting a $30,000 donation from TransCanada while agreeing not to publicly comment on the pipeline company’s operations for the next five years.

The Town of Mattawa will not comment publicly on TransCanada’s operations or business projects,” states the agreement between TransCanada, Canada’s second largest pipeline company, and the Town of Mattawa. The agreement is valid for five years. 

The clause reads like a gag order,” Sabrina Bowman, climate campaigner for Environmental Defence Canada, says.

It makes me wonder how many donations by pipeline companies to other municipalities across Canada have been given on condition of silence,” Bowman told DeSmog Canada.

Mon, 2014-07-07 13:55Carol Linnitt
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'Alarming' New Study Finds Contaminants in Animals Downstream of Oilsands

Stephane McLachlan

A health study released today by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Manitoba, is the first of its kind to draw associations between environmental contaminants produced in the oilsands and declines in health in Fort Chipewyan, a native community about 300 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

The report, Environmental and Human Health Implications of Athabasca Oil Sands, finds health impacts for communities downstream of the Alberta oilsands are “positively associated” with industrial development and the consumption of traditional foods, including locally caught fish.

Dr. Stéphane McLachlan, lead environmental health researcher for the report, said the study’s results “as they relate to human health, are alarming and should function as a wakeup call to industry, government and communities alike.”

Findings include generally high concentrations of carcinogenic PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and heavy metals arsenic, mercury, cadmium and selenium in kidney and liver samples from moose, ducks, muskrats and beavers harvested by community members. A press release for the study says bitumen extraction and upgrading is a major emitter of all of these contaminants.

Fri, 2014-07-04 15:13Emma Gilchrist
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B.C. Government Calls on NEB to Compel Kinder Morgan to Answer Oil Spill Questions

oil tanker

The province of British Columbia has filed a motion with the National Energy Board (NEB) to compel pipeline company Kinder Morgan to answer the province’s questions on its Trans Mountain expansion project.

In the motion, the province argues the company has failed to supply adequate answers to dozens of questions on issues such as oil spill response. A 41-page chart submitted to the NEB by the province outlines all of the instances in which Kinder Morgan did not adequately answer its questions.

For instance, Kinder Morgan declined to provide a copy of its emergency response program documents to the province — after promising to do so upon request to “any member of the public” in its application — on the basis that they contain information of a confidential and sensitive nature. 

In another instance, the province requested a detailed report on Western Canada Marine Response Corporation’s (WCMRC) ability to respond to a worst-case scenario oil spill. Kinder Morgan responded by telling the province to go ask the marine oil spill responder for that information themselves.

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.

Sat, 2014-06-28 10:04Mike De Souza
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Chief Allan Adam: Oilsands Health Study to “Knock Socks” Off Industry, Government

Chief Allan Adam

This article originally appeared on MikeDeSouza.com.

A new study from the University of Manitoba will soon challenge industry and government claims downplaying environmental health impacts of oilsands development, said the chief of a First Nations community Friday.

When that report comes out, it’s going to blow the socks off industry and government,” Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation told native and non-native supporters gathered at a campsite for an outdoor weekend retreat near major oilsands projects. “We went ahead and did our own independent studies and we found some very stunning results.”

First Nations communities have alleged that toxic pollution from oilsands operators is contaminating their air, water and food. Representatives from industry and the federal and provincial governments have pointed to research suggesting the toxins aren’t yet at unsafe levels.

Environment Canada has sometimes declined requests from journalists asking for interviews with federal scientists doing this research.

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.

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