Environment Canada

Wed, 2014-03-12 12:58Carol Linnitt
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More than 1000 Jobs Lost, Climate Program Hit Hard in Coming Environment Canada Cuts

Alberta oilsands tar sands Kris Krug

Last year the Harper government’s decision to gut the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) led to the deft and unceremonious firing of more than 1,000 federal employees, many of them researchers, lab technicians and experts crucial to Canada’s understanding of marine science. Frontline stories of tearful staff meetings, where the devastating news was delivered en masse, convinced many Canadians we were in the midst of what is now popularly known as the ‘War on Science.’

That storyline continues today after a new Environment Canada report outlines the department’s plan to eliminate more than 1,000 jobs, a disproportionate amount of which will come from the climate change division.

The ‘plans and priorities’ report shows the department will reduce spending from more than $1 billion in 2014-2015 to $698.8 million in 2016-2017, reports the Toronto Star.

In addition program spending for Environment Canada’s climate change and clean air program will be reduced from $234.2 million in 2014-2015 to $54.8 million in 2016-2017.

Full-time equivalent jobs will drop from 6,400 this year to 5,348 in 2016-2017.

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

fracking NWT

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.

Mon, 2013-12-30 18:48Carol Linnitt
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Environment Minister Scrapped Public Statement Saying Climate Change is Human-Caused and “Serious,” Internal Documents Show

A proposed public statement that acknowledged humans were “mostly responsible for climate change” and that Environment Canada took this threat “seriously” was dropped by environment minister Leona Aglukkaq in favour of a watered-down partisan message that made no meaningful mention of the issue of climate change, new documents show. The proposed statement, drafted for the release of the 2013 assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was released to Postmedia’s Mike De Souza through access to information legislation.

The internal documents were a part of a larger Environment Canada communications strategy designed to raise awareness about climate change and the link between fossil fuel consumption and global warming, reports De Souza.

Thu, 2013-12-12 12:53Carol Linnitt
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Environment Canada Letter to Federal Scientists Acknowledges 22 per cent of Interviews Denied in 2013

Image from PSICS The Big Chill of muzzling of scientists

An open letter to Environment Canada staff from Deputy Minister Bob Hamilton and Associate Deputy Minister Andrea Lyon says science done at the department has become an “issue…receiv[ing] attention recently,” prompting the letter to provide official “perspective” on the matter.

Throughout 2013 22 per cent of media requests for interviews with scientists were denied while requests in the past five months have increased by 50 per cent, the letter states. In total Environment Canada received just 316 media requests in 2013, of which 246 (78 per cent) were approved.

Climate scientist at the University of Victoria and Green party MLA Andrew Weaver says the fact that Environment Canada is giving such a small amount of interviews is “shameful.”

If a federal organization, comprising thousands of scientists across the country is giving 246 media interview in a year, that’s not too dissimilar to what I was doing as an individual faculty member at the University of Victoria,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. That’s way down from what it used to be.”

Wed, 2013-11-20 10:50Erin Flegg
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Industry Should Cover Social Cost of Oilsands, Experts Say

tar sands kris krug canada unburnable carbon

It was less than six months ago that a handful of energy companies resorted to selling off portions of their stake in the oil patch after failing to garner the kind of investor support they needed to fund major projects.

The costs of development in the oilsands is increasing due to material and labour shortages in Alberta and limited real estate. According to reports by the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada, the industry is effectively innovating itself out of the labour market, expanding beyond what the available pool of skilled labour can support.

Development costs are also escalating as the environmental toll of extracting and upgrading tar-like bitumen from the region has put both policy makers and the public on edge.

Jean-Michel Gires, the former CEO of the Canadian unit of France's Total SA, says crude from the oilsands is “among the most expensive oil” in the world to produce. Yet, development continues, leading some experts to claim that the oilsands costly production still doesn't accurately reflect the true costs associated with the resource.

Fri, 2013-08-30 14:52Carol Linnitt
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1.2 Million Litres and Counting: Feds Launch Investigation into CNRL’s Ongoing Oil Spill

cold lake bitumen tar sand oil spill primrose project CNRL

It has been three months since the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) first reported on the subsurface spills occurring at Canada Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) operations on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, 300 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. Yesterday Environment Canada told Postmedia’s Mike De Souza that the federal department “is currently assessing the situation with respect to federal environmental laws within its jurisdiction, and has opened an investigation.”

The underground leaks, discovered on four separate well pads, have been releasing a mixture of bitumen emulsion – a mixture of oil and water – uncontrollably since at least May, although AER reports suggest the spill has been ongoing for much longer. The regulator forced CNRL to suspend its high pressure cyclic steam stimulation (HPCSS) operations in one project area “earlier this year,” according to an AER incident report released in July.

Fri, 2013-08-23 18:40Carol Linnitt
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Natural Resources Canada Makes Huge Fuss to Suppress Release of Emissions Story - For One Hour

mike de souza silenced by natural resources canada
Today Postmedia News journalist Mike De Souza released an article on Environment Canada's missing annual emissions report
 
He writes “the federal government ins't answering questions about what's holding up the release of an annual report on Canada's progress in fighting climate change - an analysis normally released in mid-summer.” 
 
The annual inventory of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions is the definitive measure of the nation's carbon footprint and emissions trajectory based on previously reported years.
 
Environment Canada, the federal body responsible for the report, told De Souza “no release date had been set.” 
 
De Souza's article, published on www.canada.com this afternoon was forced offline by Natural Resources Canada, however, because it was reportedly published too early. The debacle, made public on twitter by David Provencher, Press Secretary to Canada's Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver, was resolved when the article resurfaced online around 2:20pm EST.
Fri, 2013-07-05 09:24Indra Das
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Harper Government 'Extrapolated' Public Reaction Before Cutting Millions From Environment Canada Budget

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Instead of consulting with the Canadian public before cutting millions in green spending at Environment Canada, the Harper government consulted with communications strategists who helped gauge potential public reactions to the budget cuts.

Mike De Souza writes for Postmedia News, that according to “internal briefing documents” released through access to information legislation, the “Harper government included communications strategists in closed-door discussions that led to an estimated $60 million in cuts at Environment Canada in the 2012 federal budget.”

“Strategists from the communication branch were involved in Environment Canada's deliberations on its contribution to the deficit action reduction plan from the beginning,” said the records, which were labelled “secret advice to the minister.” The briefing documents, containing up to 500 pages, were prepared for Environment Canada Deputy Minister Bob Hamilton, after he replaced Paul Boothe in summer 2012.

Tue, 2013-04-23 08:56Erika Thorkelson
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Canada-Alberta Oilsands Monitoring Portal Online, Environmental Groups Skeptical

Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Portal

After several months of delay, the federal and Alberta governments have finally followed through on their promise to release tar sands monitoring data to the general public. The Canada-Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Monitoring Information Portal came online Monday in time for Earth Day.

The portal aims to provide information on air, water, wildlife contaminants and biodiversity. It includes an interactive map with links to monitoring activities all over the province. The site will use satellite measurements to estimate emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide but it will not provide data on carbon emissions. 

Environment Minister Peter Kent touted the website’s launch as evidence that Canada is contributing and doing its part to protect the environment.

With this portal, our respective governments are actively encouraging informed discussions and analysis on the impacts of oil sands development based on high-quality scientific information.”

Tue, 2013-02-26 08:00Erika Thorkelson
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Mixed Messages: Harper Government Misrepresents Policy Reform in Meeting with First Nations

Documents obtained by Postmedia News under the Access to Information Act indicate that Environment Canada was telling the Assembly of First Nations one story and industry groups another in the run-up to the introduction of last year’s controversial Bill C-38, purposefully working to dispel First Nations’ fears regarding changes to the environmental reviews, even as it was seeking support from industry to make huge revisions to that process. 

A brief for a January 24th meeting with National Chief Shaun Atleo and a delegation of chiefs from across Canada encouraged the ministers in attendance, including Minister of Environment Peter Kent, to play up the government’s willingness to work with First Nations on environmental concerns and downplay fears of sweeping changes to legislation.

It stated, “Any changes to the government’s environmental assessment or project approvals regime that you may have heard of through the media are (i) speculative at this point as legislation has not been introduced to the House of Commons; (ii) will respect our duties toward Aboriginal peoples.”

This message is a stark contrast to the scenario brief for a February 2nd meeting between Environment Canada representative Michelle Rempel and Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) VP Bill Clapperton, which indicated the Ministry of Environment was already working toward the sweeping changes to the environmental assessment process.

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