We’d like to welcome two new volunteers to the Terra Informa crew this week, Nimo Bille and Ashlet Smart.
This week on Terra Informa, our correspondent David Kaczan investigates corporate responsibility in respect to Canadian corporations overseas mining operations. Our in-house bicycle expert, Karly Coleman, tells us about the upcoming bicycle festivals across Canada so you can get your bike on. And of course, we have our weekly news headlines brought to you by Rebecca Rooney and Nimo Bille. Ashley Smart is this weeks brand-new host!
Last week the nuclear industry was back in the news in Ontario, where the Ontario Power Generation company released a controversial proposal to bury low- and mid-level radioactive waste at the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant near Kincardine, on the eastern shores of Lake Huron.
The plan is to bore more than 650 m into the limestone bedrock and construct a deep geologic repository, really just a network of tunnels and storage caverns able to store more than 200,000 cubic meters of nuclear waste.
Executive Vice President Albert Sweetnam assured the media that the bedrock in question is water tight and so the project would be safe
For years the Bruce Power Nuclear Plant has stored low and medium level radioactive waste at the surface, and some feel it would be safer to store it deep below ground.
However, greenpeace spokesman Shawn-Patrick Stencil claims there is no safe way to store nuclear waste.
NDP environment critic Peter Tabuns agreed, and referenced the recent Japanese nuclear problems as an example demonstrating that it is impossible to plan for every contingency.
According to OPG’s estimates it would take close to 100,000 years for some of the mid-level waste to decay to the same level of radioactivity found in the surrounding bedrock.
The plan has been in the works for the past 6 years, but leaped to public attention last week as the recently released environmental impact assessment for the project drew fire from concerned American neighbours.
A joint panel of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will likely hold hearings on the plan next year.
This week “the international conservation community warns that Alberta’s population of grizzly bears is in increasingly dire straits in the Castle wilderness just north of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. As a result, clear-cut logging slated for the Castle this summer is receiving international scrutiny.
Biologists have warned for years that grizzly bears are on a steep decline in Alberta, as a result of the destruction of wilderness habitat by roads and industrial development.
A recent survey of the adjacent Alberta communities found 75 percent of residents opposed the logging and support fully protecting the Castle for water and wildlife as a legislated Wildland Park. More than 50,000 people from across North America recently sent letters to the Alberta government supporting the designation of a Wildland Park in the Castle.
In the United States, grizzly bears are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. Whereas here in Alberta the grizzly bears are listed as threatened. The Alberta government declared the Castle a protected area “on paper” in 1998, but recently OK’d large-scale commercial logging there.
According to the Senior Wildlife Advocate for the Natural Resources Defence Council Louisa Willcox, clear-cutting further degrades grizzly habitat in the Castle. Instead she would like the US and Alberta to work together to ensure a healthy future for the grizzly population.
Oil spills from pipelines seem to be increasingly common, and last week the Northwest Territories saw yet another. Enbridge filed a preliminary spill report with the National Energy Board after its Norman Wells pipeline near spilled about four barrels of oil near Willowlake River, north of Fort Simpson. This is a small spill compared with Alberta’s Plains Midstream Canada pipeline leak, which spilled about 28,000 barrels of crude oil near Peace River a week earlier.
But regardless of its size, Enbridge is treating it as a top priority and are currently improving access to the site in order to bring in larger clean up equipment.
Given the amount of opposition Enbridge is facing with regards to its proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, it is no wonder they would want to clean up this most recent pipeline spill quickly. According to a statement released by the environmental group Forest Ethics, at a rally in Prince Rupert, B.C., last week half of the 500 demonstrators raised their hands when asked if they would use civil disobedience to stop Northern Gateway pipeline.
Enbridge has a history of leaks and spills. Last summer, an Enbridge pipeline spilled millions of litres of crude into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. Its U.S. affiliate said Thursday that it will spend US$286 million to replace portions of the ruptured line, called Line 6B.
According to provincial forestry experts in Manitoba and Ontario, it’s no longer a matter of if, but when the destructive mountain pine beetle will spread east of Alberta through Canada’s northern boreal forest.
University of Alberta biologists and geneticists said the beetle has been found in jack pine north of Edmonton after jumping species from the lodgepoll pine of westernmost Canada.
Jack pines are the main tree in Canada’s boreal forest, which stretches from the Yukon territory to the island province of Newfoundland.
Last week a study published in the journal of Molecular Ecology states that researchers fear there is nothing stopping the infestation from reaching the Atlantic coast.
According to research team leader Janice Cooke, “Jack pine is the dominant pine species in Canada’s boreal forest and its range extends east from Alberta all the way to the Maritime provinces.”
The bug, which is about the size of a grain of rice, attacked more than 155,000 square kilometers (60,000 square miles) of forests in British Columbia and killed 675 million cubic meters (23.8 billion cubic feet) of timber.
The hard-shelled insects spread by flying and with the aid of wind currents. Researchers currently have no estimate for the speed at which the insect might continue to spread eastward.
This year may mark the 100th anniversary of the creation of the B.C. Parks system, but according to The Wilderness Committee, the parks have seen better days.
The Wilderness Committee topped the headlines last week when they released scores of government documents obtained through a freedom of information request that detail the decay of provincial parks following severe cuts to funding in 2009. The documents reveal chronic shortages of rangers and other key resources.
Gwenn Barlee of the Wilderness Committee made the request.
Chronic underfunding is even leading to potentially dangerous situations in parks. For example, in some documents, park staff plead for the resources install an avalanche warning sign and to buy $100 worth of bolts needed to repair a potentially dangerous bridge.
B.C. Premier Clark announced the removal of unpopular parking meters in BC Parks and the restoration of $650,000 in Parks funding after an earlier release of documents by the Wilderness Committee revealed that the parking meters had driven away hundreds of thousands of visitors from BC Parks and were in fact losing money.
The Wilderness Committee states, however, that it will take more to undo the damage and decay caused by a decade of underfunding to B.C.’s provincial parks. Current park budgets are 25% below those of 2001 and the number of rangers had been cut by 60%. The Wilderness Committee is calling on the province to restore funding and staffing to 2001 levels.
But According to B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake, that’s not likely to happen in these tough economic times.
Mining Overseas Responsibilities
Canada is the mining capital of the world. But our miners don’t just dig up minerals here, they head overseas in search of bigger finds and bigger profits. However, the environmental, human rights and labour laws in many countries are deficient by Canadian standards, and at the moment, Canadian companies can get away with acting in ways that would not be acceptable back home. Environmental and human rights groups aren’t impressed, and they’re pushing for change.
Bicycle Traffic Report
From coast to coast cyclists are celebrating the return of sunny weather with their very own festivals. Today Terra Informa’s bicycle traffic reporter, Karly Coleman, stops by to tell us about what goes on at bike festivals and give us a bit of a run down of the various events being held across the country.
Bicycle Festivals Across Canada