This week, we bring you a review of the documentary Gasland, which delves into the world of hydraulic fracturing and its legacy across America. We talk to Eric Herbert-Daly, National Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, about increasing the amount of land under protection for environmental heritage. Finally, we bring you all you wanted to know about local car shares. Stay tuned!
Fracking is the process of injecting high pressure water mixed with chemicals into underground rock formations to crack them, allowing oil and gas to be extracted. Concerns over groundwater contamination fueled protests from British Columbia to the Maritimes and Quebec even went so far as to ban the process until further studies could be conducted. Alex Hindle brings you a Green Screen movie review of ‘Gasland’, a documentary which explores the controversial process of natural gas extraction and its legacy across America.
Approximately 10% of the land in Canada is under some form of protection for the sake of environmental heritage. Much of this is due to the advocacy work of conservation organizations. One such organization is the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, who claim they won’t rest until 50% of the land in Canada is under some form of protection. David Kaczan speaks with Eric Herbert-Daly, National Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, to find out more.
For a lot of people, cars are an everyday part of life. But, despite their high cost, they tend to spend a lot of time just sitting. Sitting in the garage at home. Sitting in a parking stall at work. Just sitting. Well, what if you could have a car whenever you wanted one, but you only had to pay for it when it was in use? What if your car could become a pickup truck when you needed to make a run to the lumber yard? And then a minivan when your friends wanted a ride to the hockey game? Well…then you’re probably a member of your local car share. Correspondent Steve Anderson explains more on this growing trend.
Saskatoon First Nations and the transit system: In Saskatoon, First Nations students now have unlimited access to the transit system. the Universal Bus Pass in Saskatoon has been extended to students at the First Nations University of Canada and the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies. The Universal Bus Pass or U-Pass gives students unlimited access to bus services, in exchange for a mandatory fee of $96.62 per semester (or $289.86 for a full year).
Chevron defeated in court…twice: The American oil giant was defeated in court in both Ecuador and the United States last week. In Ecuador, an appeals court upheld a ruling that Chevron should pay $18 billion in damages to 30,000 plaintiffs. Plaintiffs who accused Texaco, which was bought by Chevron in 2001, of polluting the Amazon rainforest and damaging the health of farmers and indigenous communities. Days later, a Manhattan federal court judge denied a bid from Chevron to prevent Ecuadorean plaintiffs from collecting the $18 billion damages award.
Ottawa backtracking on coal emissions strategy: After complaints from provinces, “the federal government is willing to cede regulation of power-sector emissions to the provinces – as long as they have rules in place that would achieve equivalent reductions. The new approach would allow provinces to set overall emissions targets, rather than adhere to strict targets for each individual power facility as set out by the government’s original approach” (Globe and Mail).
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!
BMX End Table, Bike Art Auction, courtesy Edmonton Bicycle Commuters' Society
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.
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.
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.