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Wed, 2014-04-23 17:40Stephen Leahy
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Critics Concerned Pipelines, Tankers Reason for Downgrading "Threatened" Status of Humpback Whales

humpback whale mike baird

This week the federal government was legally obligated to establish protected habitat for threatened North Pacific humpback whales. Instead the Harper government suddenly moved to take the humpback off the “threatened species” list. That would eliminate the legal requirement under Canada’s Species At Risk Act for protecting habitat along the British Columbia coast.

The government based the downgrade on a recommendation made by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), the independent scientific body that designates which wildlife species are in trouble, in 2011.

Critics have noted the decision eliminates a major obstacle to both the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. After the conditional approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline by the National Energy Board's joint review panel, the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre launched a legal complaint on behalf of B.C. Nature requesting the government's recovery strategy for humpback whales be taken into consideration.

A federal recovery strategy for humpback whales on the B.C. coast released in October cited potential increased oil tanker traffic as a danger to dwindling populations. The recovery strategy, released after a five-year delay, also noted the danger toxic spills posed to critical habitat.

If built, the two pipeline projects would increase oil tanker traffic from eight to 28 per month, increasing the risks of collisions with whales, potential spills in vital habitat and excessive noise.

Wed, 2014-04-23 09:32Cameron Esler
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War in the Words: The Terminology Blocking Hundreds of Citizens from the Trans Mountain Pipeline Review

The National Energy Board (NEB) raised some eyebrows two weeks ago when it rejected 468 citizens — including 27 climate experts and the MP for Burnaby — from weighing in on the Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline proposal, which would triple the amount of oilsands bitumen shipped from Alberta to the B.C. coast.

The ruling — plus the revelation that the oral hearings have been nixed altogether — has raised questions about the legitimacy of the environmental assessment and the rationale for the NEB’s decision. The removal of oral hearings prompted several environmental organizations to formally request an extension of the process while others have hired legal counsel to represent rejected participants.

DeSmog Canada decided to take a closer look at the legal changes that allow the NEB to deny many British Columbians a say over a project that puts hundreds of watersheds and B.C.’s coastline at risk of an oil spill.   

Thu, 2014-04-17 10:30Guest
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This One Change Would Make the Oilsands No Longer Worth Developing

oilsands, carbon emissions

This is a guest post by Andrew Leach, Enbridge Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Alberta. The article originally appeared in Maclean's magazine and is republished here with permission.

It was reported recently that Exxon-Mobil will begin disclosing the degree to which its assets are exposed to future greenhouse gas policies. This risk is at the heart of what has become known as the carbon bubble, a term advanced by UK group Carbon Tracker, which suggests that assets may be over-valued as a result of not accounting for potential future limits on fossil fuel extraction imposed to fight climate change.

The so-called carbon bubble should be a concern to investors in oil sands stocks, and you only need to consider two numbers to understand why: 80 and 320. First, the number 80: oil sands producers and the Alberta government are quick to tell you that up to 80 per cent of the life-cycle emissions from oil sands occur from refining and combustion, not from extraction and upgrading.

That’s comforting, until you consider that this means that most of the carbon policy exposure for these projects comes from emissions-control policies and innovations far beyond the jurisdictions and markets in which oil sands companies operate.

Sat, 2014-04-12 11:01Derek Leahy
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"Our Fate Rests With This Appeal": First Nation Takes National Energy Board to Court Over Line 9 Approval

Joe Miskokomon

The Chippewas of the Thames First Nation have launched a legal challenge against the National Energy Board’s (NEB) decision to approve Enbridge’s Line 9 oil pipeline project in southern Ontario and southern Quebec. The NEB – Canada’s independent energy regulator – approved the project to ship 300,000 barrels a day of oil and oilsands bitumen last month with soft conditions.

This 40-year old pipe is subject to corrosion and heavy crude is going to be shipped through in higher volumes. We feel that this raises the possibility of new impacts beyond the right-of-way and we are concerned about our water resources and the environment,” says Chief Joe Miskokomon of the Chippewas of the Thames or Deshkaan Ziibing* in the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) language.

Deshkaan Ziibing is one of fourteen Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee (Six Nations), and Lenape (Delaware) First Nations living along or near the 38-year old Line 9 pipeline. DeSmog Canada reported last November that the federal government’s failure to fulfill its legal duty to consult with all of these First Nations could land the federal government and the Line 9 project in court.

The legal challenge was filed last Monday with the Federal Court of Appeal on the grounds the NEB approved Line 9 without the federal government “conducting any meaningful consultation” with Deshkaan Ziibing.

Wed, 2014-04-09 16:20Derek Leahy
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Benefits from Canada's Energy Boom Remain in Energy Sector and Largely in Alberta, Reports IMF

prime minister stephen harper

The message the federal government has been pushing through its ‘responsible resource development’ ad blitz in recent years is one of all Canadians benefiting from developing our energy sources (particularly the oilsands). This is why export pipelines must be built through our communities and LNG plants for natural gas constructed on our coasts. Canadian oil and gas must reach international markets for the economy to thrive, argues Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the infamous global finances referee, took a closer look at Canada’s energy sector – oil and gas primarily – earlier this year and finds the benefits from Canada’s energy boom still remain largely within the energy sector.

There appears to be an important scope to increase inter-industry linkages across Canada that would lead to wider sharing of benefits from the energy sector,” concludes the IMF report released last January.

The IMF finds every dollar invested in the energy sector in Alberta grows Canadian GDP – an economic vitality indicator – by 90 cents. Of this growth, 82 cents remains in Alberta, mostly in the energy sector (67 cents). The leftover GDP growth is split between Ontario (four cents), the rest of Canada (three cents) and the U.S.(two cents).

Fri, 2014-04-04 09:17Derek Leahy
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Ontario Launches Provincial Public Forum on Energy East Pipeline, Everyone Welcome to Speak

Energy East export pipeline

The government of Ontario is holding community discussions in northern Ontario to hear opinions on TransCanada’s proposed Energy East oil pipeline project. Part of the $12 billion pipeline project involves converting 1,900 kilometres of pipeline from natural gas to oil in northern Ontario and constructing one hundred kilometers of new pipeline in southeastern Ontario.

Ontario’s public forum on Energy East may be the first of its kind in the country. Provinces do not usually hold community meetings on oil pipelines that cross provincial boundaries such as Energy East. The National Energy Board (NEB) – Canada’s energy regulator – has jurisdiction over interprovincial pipelines, not the provinces.  

The forum appears to be the result of public outcry in Ontario over Enbridge’s Line 9 oil pipeline project and restrictions the National Energy Board (NEB) placed on public participation in the project's review process. Last March, the NEB approved Line 9 despite public safety concerns about transporting oilsands bitumen through the pipeline.

The erosion of the National Energy Board process, in both accessibility and scope, has left a void in need of being filled. That is why the Ontario government stepping in is so commendable and needed. The Ontario Energy Board process is much more inclusive to the broad range of concerns the public has,” says Yan Roberts of North Bay, Ontario. North Bay’s community discussion took place on April 2nd.   

Sat, 2014-03-22 10:41Derek Leahy
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TransCanada’s Proposed Energy East Pipeline Is Clearly An Export Pipeline Says Report

Energy East export pipeline

TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline is more likely to be an export pipeline than supplier of western Canadian oil to eastern Canadian refineries. A new report released this week revealed as much as 90 per cent of Energy East’s oil and bitumen from the Alberta oilsands will be shipped out of Canada.

Publicly available information from TransCanada, as well as sources from industry, government reports and legal documents show that most of the pipeline’s oil would be exported unrefined, with little benefit to Canadians,” reads the report, released by Environmental Defence, the Council of Canadians, Ecology Action Centre, and Equiterre.

The report finds eastern Canadian refineries – two in Quebec and one in New Brunswick – will be nearly fully supplied with oil from Atlantic Canada, rail and tanker shipments from the United States and the recently approved Line 9 pipeline by the time Energy East begins pumping in 2018. Eastern Canada can refine 672,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd). TransCanada wants to ship 1.1 million barrels via Energy East every day.

250,000 bpd of eastern Canada’s capacity will be served by Line 9. Take away another 100,000 bpd of Canadian offshore crude from Newfoundland, and 200,000 bpd of US crude and you're left with a pretty small gap to fill, of 122,000 bpd,” says Shelley Kath, energy consultant and lead researcher of the report.

That means the rest, some 978,000 bpd is likely export bound,” Kath told DeSmog Canada.

Mon, 2014-03-17 14:21Emma Gilchrist
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Enbridge Blitzes Northern B.C. With Ads Before Kitimat Plebiscite On Northern Gateway Oil Pipeline

Enbridge website

Enbridge Northern Gateway is covering northern B.C. with ads in the run up to the Kitimat plebiscite, urging citizens to vote in favour of the company’s proposal to ship oil across B.C. and on to Asia on oil tankers.  

During a provincial election or initiative vote, Elections BC restricts how much companies and other third-party advertisers can spend — but no such rules apply to the Kitimat plebiscite, being held on April 12.

Full-page colour ads have appeared in community newspapers in Kitimat, Prince Rupert, Terrace, Smithers, Burns Lake and Fort St. James — a town nearly 600 kilometres away from Kitimat. The estimated cost of those ads is about $8,250.

Enbridge has also launched a website, “Vote Yes for Kitimat,” urging citizens to vote in favour of their project. A conservative price tag on the website would be about $2,000, bringing Enbridge’s ad spend so far to more than $10,000 — with four weeks left until the vote.

Mon, 2014-03-17 10:04Derek Leahy
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Public Requests for Basic Line 9 Safety Test Denied in NEB Pipeline Approval

Enbridge Line 9

Last week’s approval of the Line 9 pipeline project by the National Energy Board (NEB) hinges on thirty conditions being met by the pipeline’s operator, Enbridge. The conditions are meant to enhance the safety of the project that involves shipping 300,000 barrels of crude oil and oilsands bitumen everyday from Sarnia to Montreal. Critics of the project say the requirements are not “meaningful conditions” and do not protect communities living along the 38-year old pipeline.

“By giving the green light without actually imposing conditions, the NEB is complacent towards the oilsands industry and demonstrates its inability to protect [our] health, public safety and our environment,” Sidney Ribaux, executive director of Équiterre, says of Line 9’s approval in a statement from Montreal.

The NEB may pretend to have put adequate safeguards in place but it has only safeguarded the profits of pipeline companies and externalized the risks associated with pipelines onto landowners as the Board always does,” says Dave Core, president of the Canadian Association of Energy Pipeline Landowners Associations (CAEPLA).

The conditions largely require Enbridge to provide the NEB – Canada’s independent energy regulator – with the most recent information about the Line 9 project. This includes information regarding the current state of the pipeline, revised emergency response plans and the pipeline company’s updated pipeline leak detection system manual.

Sat, 2014-03-15 14:37Indra Das
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Debunked: Eight Things the U.S. State Keystone XL Report Got Wrong About the Alberta Oilsands

kris krug oilsands tar sands

Last week the Alberta government responded to the U.S. State Department's final supplemental environmental impact statement (FSEIS) on the Keystone XL project by emphasizing the province's responsibility, transparency, and confidence that the pipeline is in the “national interest” of both Canada and the U.S.

In a statement, Alberta Premier Alison Redford appealed to the relationship between the U.S. and Canada. Premier Redford pointed out that the FSEIS had “recognized the work we're doing to protect the environment,” saying that “the approval of Keystone XL will build upon the deep relationship between our countries and enable further progress toward a stronger, cleaner and more stable North American economy.”

Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Robin Campbell also issued a statement, mentioning Alberta's “strong regulatory system” and “stringent environmental monitoring, regulation and protection legislation.”

Campbell's reminder that the natural resource sector “provides jobs and opportunities for families and communities across the country” was similar to Premier Redford's assurance that “our government is investing in families and communities,” with no mention made of corporate interests.

In order to provide a more specific and sciene-based response to the FSEIS report on Keystone XL, Pembina Institute policy analyst Andrew Read provided counterpoints to several of its central claims.

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