Pipeline

Stranded Assets: Energy East & Undergraduate Research

Crowd marching on the street with signs

There’s a new pipeline in the works that could be bigger news than either Keystone XL or the Northern Gateway. We talk to a member of Climate Justice Montreal to find out why they’re concerned about Energy East. Gasp! Undergraduates contributing to environmental scholarship? The Earth Common Journal proves it can work. Plus, another Eyeopener captured at the recent Peoples Climate March.

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Stories of Oil and Organics

Man with scarf gestures with his hands emphatically. Book cover inset.

Mika Minio-Paluello works his magic at the University of Alberta. Photo credit: Trevor Chow-Fraser

On Terra Informa this week, we will dive into a raw milk story following Richard Griebel and Kathy Charpentier in Castor, Alberta. Next, we will transfer to Bloomfield to listen to Michelle Lutz’s story of her organic farming with a hospital in Michigan! Finally, we will travel with Mika Minio-Paluello to explore a special oil road, along with stories of repressive governments, secret police, Canadian attack helicopters, and more.

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Keystone XL Protest in Ottawa & Alberta’s Industrial Heartland

Last week hundreds of protesters gathered on Parliament Hill to oppose the tar sands and the Keystone XL pipeline. Terra Informa spoke to one of the activists during the protest to get a first hand report and learn why so many people were willing to risk arrest. We take a look at biomonitoring, one of the most popular approaches to ecosystem management and assessment in Canada. And we investigate the rapid development of the oil and gas industry in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland.

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Protesters in front of the Parliament Buildings last Monday. Photo by Greenpeace.

News Headlines

Jim Prentice extols energy projects
Last week CIBC, one of Canada’s largest banks, called on the federal government to use energy mega-projects to stimulate the economy.  Jim Prentice, the former federal environment minister and now vice-chairman of CIBC, made the announcement. He suggested that by providing favourable conditions for large-scale energy projects, government could create jobs without the expense of stimulus programs. Speaking on the CBC’s Power and Politics, Prentice said that environmental assessments and other approvals are taking far too long. [Quote 4:28-4:34] He also stated that environmental reviews don’t always take economic considerations into account, and he recommended that final decisions should be left to politicians. CIBC estimates that up to a million jobs could be created over 20 years, if government creates positive conditions for energy projects. However, one of the frequent criticisms of mega-projects is that they tend to create mostly short term jobs, and that even those, all too often go to skilled outside workers, not local communities. Prentice spoke specifically about the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project in Newfoundland and Labrador, but also mentioned a number of other controversial projects that CIBC has their eye on.
More on this story: Toronto Sun, Chronicle Herald, Globe and Mail, CBC News

Green groups seek ban on new Ontario nuclear reactors
A coalition of environmental groups has gone to court to prevent the approval of two new nuclear reactors. A federal review panel recommended in August that the expansion of the Darlington facility go ahead. But in documents filed with the court, the plaintiffs say that the review could not have adequately assessed the project because no retractor design has yet been specified. They also raised concerns over its failure to consider the long term impacts of nuclear waste or to look into possible alternatives, such as green energy. The Canadian Environmental Law Association, Greenpeace, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, and Northwatch collectively filed the request for a judicial review. If they’re successful, the project would go back to the review panel for further examination.
More on this story: Vancouver Sun, CBC News, Northumberland View, Toronto Star

First nations sue Alcan over water flows
In British Columbia, two first nations have launched a lawsuit against Alcan over water flows in the Nechako River. Alcan operates the Kenny Dam which diverts water from the Nechako to power their aluminum smelter near Kitimat. The Saik’uz and Stellate’en bands say that fish stocks have declined as a result of reduced flows and changes in the river’s temperature. The dam was built in 1952 and the first nations say that after decades of trying to negotiate a solution with the Alcan, the courts are the only option remaining.
More on this story: Vancouver Sun, Globe and Mail

Protest in Ottawa Against the Keystone XL Pipeline

Last week, protestors gathered at Parliament Hill in Ottawa to voice their opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project. The proposed pipeline would transport bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to Texas, where it would be upgraded into petroleum products. The US federal government has so far been supportive of the project with only the president’s signature still required. In Canada, the federal government has also been supportive, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling the project a “no-brainer”. However, several hundred protestors disagree, and they’ve been prepared to get arrested to demonstrate just that. Terra Informa Correspondent David Kaczan spoke to one protester, Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner Melina Laboucan-Massimo by phone from the site of the protest last week.

Mining Accountability, Bike Festivals

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!

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BMX End Table, Bike Art Auction, courtesy Edmonton Bicycle Commuters' Society

 News Headlines

Ontario

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.

Additional Info:

The Council of Canadians

The Mark News

The Toronto Star

CBC News

Alberta

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.

Additional Info:

Sierra Club of Canada

Lethbridge Herald

Calgary Herald

Fast Forward Weekly

Northern Canada

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.

Additional Info:

CBC News

Winnipeg Free Press

The Canadian Press

Western Canada

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.

Additional Info:

The Independent

CBC News

Globe and Mail

Orkin Canada

British Columbia

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.

Additional Info:

Wilderness Committee

News 1130

The Canadian Press

The Vancouver Sun

CBC News

CTV News

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

Vancouver – Bike Month
Vancouver – Bike to Work Week
Edmonton – Bikeology
Calgary – Calgary Bike Festival
Regina – Bike to Work Week
Toronto – Bike Month
Halifax – Bike Week

Northern Gateway Pipeline Special

This weeks show was originally aired in June 2010, however despite efforts from a number of different groups the Enbridge pipeline proposal to build an oil pipeline from the refineries in Edmonton to a new super tanker port in Kitimat on British Columbia’s coastline still remains on the table.

This week we bring you a special edition focusing on this proposal which has become one of the most controversial infrastructure proposals in decades. Later in the show we’ll examine environmental and economic perspectives on this proposal, but firstly we look at the potential effects on the First Nations communities along the route.

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Environmental News

Traditional Food Health Effects

Relaxing of Yukon Caribou Hunting Restrictions

New Federal Budget

First Nations Perspectives

To build their controversial pipeline, Calgary Energy Company Enbridge will have to cross the territories of forty first nations. Unfortunately for Enbridge, these nations for the most part have registered staunch opposition to the development, despite the offer of millions of dollars in compensation. In June of last year, Terra Informa investigated some aboriginal perspectives in an effort to understand why opposition is so strong.

Amnesty International Canada: The Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Endbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline

Nadleh Whut’en First Nation

Pipe Up Against  Enbridge.ca (ad campaign)

Local Campaigns: No Tanks

In a reoccurring segment we call Local Campaigns, Terra Informa correspondent Myles Curry investigated the No Tanks campaign. Based out of Vancouver, this organization is building community opposition to increased oil tanker traffic along Canada’s west coast.

No Tanks

Economics and Politics

There has been a significant push to proceed with the Northern Gateway Project and understanding what the potential economics of the pipeline is crucial to understanding why it is so important to Enbridge to proceed. Next on the show Andy Read is takes a critical look at the economics and politics of Canada’s petroleum market and where the Northern Gateway Pipeline fits in.

Map of North American pipelines

Proposed oil tanker routes

Environmental Concerns

There have been a number of recent incidents with oil pipelines and oil spills in general. With the Northern Gateway proposal, there will of course be some environmental impacts. Terra Informa correspondents Marcus, Brett and Robyn investigated the potential impacts this project and the spin-off effects it will have on the environment.

Pembina Report on the Northern Gateway Pipeline

Dogwood Institute on potential of oil spill

The Headwaters Initiative Project