Tue, 2014-04-15 16:36Carol Linnitt
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B.C. Removes Mandatory Environmental Review of Natural Gas, Ski Resort Developments

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Major natural gas projects and ski resort developments now have the option of being built in B.C. without environmental assessment after the Liberal government quietly deposited two Orders in Council Monday.

The Orders – passed without public consultation – include changes to the Reviewable Projects Regulation under the provincial Environmental Assessment Act which eliminate mandatory environmental review of new and/or modified natural gas and ski facilities. As a result, proposed projects like the Jumbo Glacier Resort or new natural gas processing facilities may skirt the approval process without standard environment review which involves public consultation.

These regulatory changes only heighten the crisis of public confidence in B.C.’s environmental assessment process,” said Jessica Clogg, executive director and senior counsel with West Coast Environmental Law Association (WCEL) in a press release.

Tue, 2014-04-01 11:57Carol Linnitt
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All the Positive and Helpful Things in the IPCC Report No One Will Talk About

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If you’ve come across any of the recent headlines on the release of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, you’re probably feeling pretty low. The doom and gloom levels were off the charts. And understandably so. Major nations across the globe – especially Canada – are dragging their heels when it comes to climate change action. Canada, sadly, doesn’t have any climate legislation.

But maybe that’s because Canada was waiting for a group of the world’s most knowledgeable scientists to come up with a report for policy makers — you know, something to outline useful guidelines to keep in mind when looking to get your country out of the climate doghouse.

Well, Canada, you’re in luck. Here are some of the IPCC report’s most useful guidelines for responding to the multiple and growing threats of climate change:

Tue, 2014-03-25 09:50Guest
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Massive Shellfish Die-Off in B.C. Heralds a Future We Can and Must Avoid


This is a guest post by Caitlyn Vernon and Torrance Coste.

The February 25th headline, “10 million scallops are dead; company lays off staff,” hit British Columbians like a punch in the stomach. The shellfish industry has been an economic powerhouse on central Vancouver Island for decades, providing hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue every year – over $30 million in average wholesale value. 

But when we talk about shellfish, we aren’t just talking jobs and economics. We are talking about food. Shellfish harvesting is one of our most robust local food systems, and the prospect of losing this industry makes us all feel, quite frankly, a little hungry.

Of the possible causes of the recent scallop die-off, ocean acidification seems the most likely. Ocean acidification is directly connected to climate change and to our runaway consumption of fossil fuels. In short, acidification occurs when carbon is absorbed into the ocean from the atmosphere, making the water more acidic. Acidification strips the ocean of carbonate ions, which marine species like scallops and oysters need to build their shells, therefore reducing the ability of these species to survive.

Mon, 2014-03-10 14:21Emma Gilchrist
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Sierra Club, Wilderness Committee Taking B.C. Fracking Water Case to Supreme Court Next Week

Two B.C. environmental groups are taking the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission to court next week over practices they argue unlawfully permit oil and gas companies to use water.

Sierra Club B.C. and Western Canada Wilderness Committee — in documents filed with the Supreme Court of B.C.— argue the Oil and Gas Commission has been engaged in a “systemic” practice of issuing back-to-back “short-term” water approvals and call for permits issued to Encana to be quashed.

The case will be heard in the Supreme Court of B.C. in Vancouver on March 17 and 18.

Under the Water Act, if you want long-term access to water, you need a water licence,” says Caitlyn Vernon, campaigns director with Sierra Club B.C.“What the Oil and Gas Commission is doing is granting consecutive short-term approvals to oil and gas companies.”

The case centres around water approvals under Section 8 of B.C.’s Water Act, which governs short-term use and diversion of water for up to 24 months.

By requesting and analyzing Section 8 water approvals going back seven years, Sierra Club B.C. and the Wilderness Committee — represented by lawyers from Ecojustice — determined the approvals were being given to the same companies for consecutive terms.

Thu, 2014-02-27 09:04Derek Leahy
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NWT Residents Demand Environmental Reviews Before Fracking Is Permitted

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Residents of the Northwest Territories are demanding environmental reviews be conducted before companies are permitted to ‘frack’ for oil in the NWT. Despite controversy in Canada and other countries around the effects fracking or hydraulic fracturing has on water and climate change, the NWT’s first fracking project was approved last October without an environmental assessment.

We can’t let another fracking project dodge an environmental assessment,” says Lois Little of the Council of Canadians NWT chapter.

There is a lot of international concern about the environmental and social impacts of fracking,” says Ben McDonald, spokesperson for Alternatives North, a social justice coalition in NWT. “The moratoriums on fracking in the U.S. and eastern Canada are in place for good reasons.”

The Council of Canadians, Alternatives North along with Ecology North have launched a petition calling on the NWT government to refer fracking projects to environmental assessments that include public hearings from now on. Signatures will be collected until March 7th when the petition will be delivered to the NWT legislative assembly. Two hundred and fifty NWT residents have signed the petition.

Thu, 2014-02-20 11:46Carol Linnitt
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CNRL Releases New, Lower Cold Lake Oil Spill Estimates

bitumen emulsion oil spill at CNRL Primrose CSS site in the Alberta oilsands

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has released new figures tallying the total volume of bitumen emulsion recovered at the Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) Primrose site in Cold Lake, Alta. The new total — 1,177 cubic metres or 1.1 million litres — is more than a third lower than previously reported amounts.

An earlier incident report from November 14, 2013, states more than 1,878 cubic metres of emulsion was recovered at the four separate release sites, where the mixture of bitumen and water had been leaking uncontrollably into the surrounding environment for several months without explanation. That's enough liquid to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool three-quarters of the way full.

CNRL's July 31, 2013, statement (pdf), released to investors just over one month after the leaks were reported to the AER, said that within the first month of cleanup, 1,000 cubic metres of bitumen emulsion had been collected.

Scientist Kevin Timoney, who's authored several reports on the CNRL leaks, said the reported figures just don't add up.

The bottom line is, how do you go from essentially 1,900 cubic metres, which is what you get if you listen to the president of CNRL when he was talking in January, down to 1,177 cubic metres. How does that happen?” Timoney said. “And nobody has answered that.”

Tue, 2014-02-11 11:57Derek Leahy
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Ontario Approves Importing U.S. Fracked Gas

The Ontario Energy Board’s approval of three natural gas projects last week puts the province’s plans to significantly reduce Ontario’s carbon footprint in jeopardy.

The ruling also gives Ontario the green light to import controversial shale gas from the U.S. This type of gas is trapped in rock-like shale and is extracted using a process called hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, which involves pumping a chemical mix underground at high temperatures to break apart the rock and free the gas. The practice has caused controversy worldwide due to fracking chemicals and methane contaminating drinking water.

So often we see approvals given to pipeline and fossil fuel projects without a real understanding of the broader and long-term impacts on climate, water and public health,” says Emma Lui, a water campaigner with the Council of Canadians.

Fri, 2014-01-17 13:05Stephen Leahy
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DeSmog Investigation into Faulty Natural Gas Emissions Reporting Prompts Response from B.C. Government

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The B.C. Ministry of Environment stands by its “implausibly low” estimate of methane leaks from the natural gas sector according to an official “information note” triggered by DeSmog's two-part article series last May.

The DeSmog investigation revealed methane leaks were likely 7 times greater than the B.C. government is reporting based on data from US studies. The real climate impacts of those leaks would be like adding at least three million cars to B.C. roads.

DeSmog's findings were subsequently confirmed by international energy experts in June. “Canada appears to have vastly underestimated fugitive emissions (leaks) from gas exploration in British Colombia [sic],” possibly because of “inadequate accounting methodology” they reported.

Their report documents studies and data from other countries showing methane leaks range between 2 and 9% of total production compared to B.C.'s reported 0.3%. This difference is “substantial” they said.

Wed, 2014-01-08 13:19Kai Nagata
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Christy Clark and the Great False Choice of 2014

Christy Clark Tokyo Luncheon

Our premier capped off 2013 — the most impressive year of her political career — with a trade mission to Asia, where she hopes to sell fracked-in-B.C. natural gas. Speaking in Tokyo on December 2, Clark offered a startling glimpse into her vision for our province’s economy.

It could be that Clark was simply telling some overseas businessmen what they wanted to hear. Or perhaps her new messaging reflects her true economic beliefs. Either way, British Columbians are about to be offered a false choice.

Here’s what Clark said in a speech at a natural resources conference, according to the Globe and Mail’s Justine Hunter:

The fundamental challenge for B.C.– and in fact, all developed economies in the world – goes beyond the recent global downturn and a fragile recovery. We need the courage to take a broader and deeper look, and admit the truth about most of the developed economies around the world.”

Amen, Premier. You’re absolutely right. Please continue.

Mon, 2014-01-06 17:38Carol Linnitt
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Feds Held Public Comment Period on Proposed Squamish LNG Plant Over Holiday Period

If you were busy enjoying the holiday season with your family, you might have missed a request for public opinion made by the federal government on December 17, 2013.  

The Government of Canada was seeking comments from the public on the proposed Woodfibre Natural Gas Ltd. export terminal that, if approved, will operate for 25 years in Howe Sound, producing between 1.5 and 2.1 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) annually.

The public comment period closed Monday, January 6, 2014.

In addition to comments on the potential environmental effects of the project, the federal government was also seeking the public’s opinion on B.C.’s request to perform a provincial environmental assessment of the project, instead of a federal review done under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) 2012.


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