tar sands

Sea Shepherd & Tar Sands Pollution

A new documentary chronicling the life of Sea Shepherd’s founder has just been released, titled Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson. So for anyone who’s thinking about seeing the film, we thought we’d give you a little background.

The federal government has just released its proposed environmental monitoring plan for the tar sands. The plan may have been developed in less than a year, but for critics of the industry it has been a long time coming. For years, scientists and environmental groups had heaped criticism on the monitoring systems tasked with overseeing the tar sands industry. Last fall the release of two reports by renowned ecologist Dr. David Schindler marked a tipping point. They clearly linked pollution of the Athabasca watershed to tar sands extraction — a claim both industry and the Alberta government had long denied.

Download this week’s show.

Image from the film Eco Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson

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Charges Against StatOil, Green Cremation, and Animal Personalities

This past week saw tar sands developer StatOil in court facing charges related to 19 contraventions of the Water Allocation Act. We caught up with representatives of Greenpeace outside the courthouse to discuss the nature of the infractions and their concerns with the industry. Wildlife researcher Robert Found tells us about work he’s done identifying different personality types amoung elk and the impact it will have on conservation efforts. We learn about two new methods of cremation that are cleaning up the industry’s sooty reputation, and we round out the show with a look at ecosystem markets and how they help economists factor the environment into their work. All that, plus your wrap up of the week’s news headlines.

Elk taking in a game of golf. Photo courtesy of Eric_L.

Mega Loads and Bug Fungus

This week on Terra Informa we go from Mega Loads to mini pesticides, and a round up of the week’s biggest Canadian environmental news stories. Myles Curry talks to Northern Rockies Rising Tide  about the transportation of Tarsands MegaLoads through pristine wilderness on sketchy roads. Rebekah Rooney brings us a science short on the use of a peculiar fungus as an alternative insecticide. And of course we start the show off with our weekly examination of Canada’s environmental news headlines.

 

Community Resistance to the Tarsands Mega Loads

Download this week’s show.

Environmental News

In Alberta an army of 600 workers has been deployed to prevent the spread of the mountain pine beetle. The Alberta Government is spending 15 million dollars on the effort, aims to cut and burn trees already infested in an effort to kill larvae.

Vancouver Sun, Whitecourt Star



Vancouverites will be banned from throwing kitchen scraps in the trash at the end of next year, organic waste will be diverted to composting facilities by way of separate green bins for each household. Most metro Vancouver cities plan to cut garbage collection to once every  two weeks, with organic waste collection every week.

Vancouver Sun, BC Local News


In Toronto, a team of scientists has published compelling evidence for a link between man made global warming and an increase in heavy rainfall. A second study from the UK, also published this week corroborates the Canadian scientist’s findings. They found that recent increases in dramatic deluges cannot be explained by natural fluctuations alone and that the probability of heavy downpours grew by 7 percent in the second half of the twentieth century and the chance of large floods doubled under the human influenced model.

Washington Post, Scientific America, Time blogs



In Quebec, the provincial government has signed a draft accord on investment and development of the mining industry with the Government of India, the accord covers the mining of asbestos. Critics have accused Quebec of exporting a product unacceptable to Canadians for the sake of rejuvenating an old mine and the jobs it brings. A group of investors has asked the Quebec government for a guaranteed loan of 57 million dollars to expand the mine and boost production for export.

AOL News, Rediff



The controversial seal hunt began last week. Animal rights activists have vowed to document and photograph the hunt in detail, and use the photos in their campaign in Europe against Canada’s seal products. A group of European countries has already slapped a ban on such products from Canada, prompting the federal fisheries minister Gail Shea to announce that Ottawa will be seeking intervention against the ban from the World Trade Organisation.

The Globe and Mail, Montreal Gazette, CBC

Local Campaigns: Tarsands Mega Loads

Correspondent Myles Curry brings us another edition of Local campaigns this week, but its local defined in a new way. In this edition Myles talks to a organizer in the American North West who is mobilizing communities against, and bringing media attention to a not so well known extension of the tarsands- the Tar sands Mega Loads. For more on what the mega-loads are, how they connect to the tarsands and what communities are doing in resistance, here is Myles with this weeks edition of Local Campaigns.

Northern Rockies Rising Tide

Science Short: Insect Fungus

You might think an insect is a pretty strange substrate for fungus to grow on, and you might have a pretty hard time imagining what that could have to do with the environment.  Arthropods are the preferred host for the parasitic fungus Beauveria bassiana, and scientists have worked out how to use it as a biocontrol agent on insect pests.  Scientists like Sunil Rajput, a former graduate student from U of Alberta’s Department of Biological Sciences.  His research focused on a fungus’s potential as an alternative to chemical insecticides in pest management in greenhouses.  Correspondent Rebecca Rooney asked him about his research findings and filed this Science Short report.

Dumpster Diving and New Findings on Tar Sands Pollution

This week Dr. David Schindler speaks about his latest findings which were published just last week. His research team looked at air and water pollution surrounding tar sands mines and found that contrary to the claims of industry and government, mining is having serious impacts on the Athabasca water shed. We also hear from an Edmonton dumpster diver who tours Terra Informa through the offerings of local garbage bins. And as always, we start things off with a wrap up of the news headlines from the past week

Photo by Mike Sheehan

Environmental News Headlines

First up, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is calling for government scientists to sit down with dissident academic David Schindler to review his controversial claims about Albertaís environment.

Environment Canada has completed regulations that will require an average renewable-fuel content of five per cent in gasoline as part of an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A campaign to boycott tarsands-sourced gasoline among several large chain stores has fallen flat after clothiers The Gap, Timberland and Levi Strauss withdrew their commitment from the agreement.

And finally, Edmonton, a city that boasted one of the first municipal composting plants in North America will soon be getting a trash-to-biofuel plant.

Dr. David Schindler on Water Quality in The Athabasca

The controversy over the impact that the oil sands has on the watershed of the Athabasca seems to get muddier and muddier (pun definitely intended). There seems to always be two entirely different sets of data. Whether its cancer rates in the population downstream from the production sites, the amount of birds landing on tailings ponds or the level and source of contamination of the Athabasca water shed; there always seems to be two different and contradicting sources of data. One of these being p ublished in academic journals by University experts and the other held confidentially and jointly by industry and the government. When government scientists disputed David Schindler’s claim that the oil sand mines were increasing water pollution in the Athabasca watershed to potentially lethal levels, Doctor Schindler had to test their claim. The government officials had stated that these increased levels of pollution were due to naturally occurring deposits of tar sand at the surface, not the disruption of the natural land by the mine sites. On Monday August 30th, David Schindler published a new report that tested the claim of the government scientists and held a press conference at the University of Alberta. Terra Informa was there to catch Dr. Schindler’s explanation of his results.

Dr. David Schindler is a University of Alberta professor in Ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry and experimental ecology and holds a number of honorary degrees and awards from across Canada. From 1968 to 1989, he founded and directed the Experimental Lakes Project of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and his work has been widely used in formulating ecologically sound management policy in Canada, the USA and in Europe. David Schindler’s newest report on the Athabasca watershed was released on August 30th, 2010.

Dumpster Diving

Bin-diving, containering, D-mart, dumpstering, tatting, or finding “recycled” food – call it what you will, it’s a trend that’s catching on. Falling under the umbrella of “Freeganism”, dumpster diving is for some not only a necessity, but a political act. It is an anti-consumerist lifestyle whereby people employ alternative living strategies based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. And what better way to minimize your consumption of resources than to eat someone else’s garbage? Terra Informa Correspondent Marcus Peterson ventured out into the field on an expedition to find out what diving is all about.

False Solutions to Climate Change and Cycling Quebec’s Route Verte

Today Brett brings us a review of “Hoodwinked in the Houthouse: False Solutions to Climate Change”, a newly released publication that aims to shed light on climate changes fixes that aren’t all they’re made out to be. Our bicycle traffic reporter, Karly Coleman, is a little further from home than usual. She talks to us from Ottawa about cycling in central Canada and Quebec’s La Route Verte. And Rebekah interviews researcher Christine Robichaud about her work on the importance of caribou in bear diets.

Hoodwinked in the Hothouse Cover

Cover of Rising Tide North America's Publication 'Hoodwinked in the Hothouse'

Environmental News Headlines (with Tasneem Karbani)

Anti-Oilsands Campaign

Campaign targets Alberta tourism

Editing error on Rethink Alberta

Oilsands critics urge boycott of Alberta tourism

“Eco-fascists” in the Flathead Valley?

BC Minister apologizes for ‘eco-fascist’ email (2)

Receding Himalayan Glaciers

Glaciers melting faster than anywhere else in the world

New photos show the receding glaciers

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Update

Spill under control (2)

UK urged to ban North Sea drilling

Engineers concerned about low pressure readings

Review of Rising Tide North America’s Publication ‘Hoodwinked in the Hothouse: False Solutions to Climate Change (Second Edition)’

Only a few years ago, some companies were saying climate change wasn’t a problem. Now, as its impacts become apparent, many of the same corporations are scrambling to present solutions and quick fixes to avoid new environmental regulations. This week, Brett Tegart reviews Rising Tide North America’s newly updated pamphlet Hoodwinked in the Hothouse (download), an environmental inquisition rooting out the climate change solutions that are false, foolhardy and doomed to failure.

Bicycle Traffic Report: Vacation Edition

Terra Informa’s bicycle traffic reporter Karly Coleman is away on vacation at the moment. But even when she’s on holidays she’s never far from a bicycle. Today Steve talks to her about cycling while away from home and some of the facilities that are available in central Canada.

La Route Verte

Best of Terra Informa

Originally aired in February 2009, in this science short  Rebbekah Rooney interviews Christine Robichaud to gain an understanding of the importance of caribou in bear diets.

Terra Informa is always looking for more volunteers. If you feel like joining the team or giving us a suggestion for a news story, drop us a line at terra@cjsr.com or phone us at the Terra Informa listener line at 780-492-2577, extension 236. That’s, 780-492-2577, extension 236.

Total Upgrader Hearing, Tailings Defined, & Underground Coal Fires

This week’s show includes an Ecobabble segment defining “tailings,” a piece on fires in underground coal mines and how difficult it is to snuff them out, and the first part in our coverage of the ongoing hearing about French oil giant Total’s application to build an upgrader in Alberta and the media circus that accompanies it.

A Current Construction Project in Alberta's Industrial Heartland, Similar to the Proposed Total Upgrader

Environmental News Headlines

Oil spill update

US appeals court opens doors to new drilling

Abandoned oil wells in Gulf of Mexico

BP aims to fix leak by 27 July

Oilsands

Federal politicians cancel oilsands pollution probe

Climategate

Climategate’ scientists honest

Scientists cleared of manipulating data on global warming

Solar Plane

Solar Impulse completes first solar-powered flight

Solar plane lands after 26-hour flight

Underground Coal Fires

When the very ground beneath your feet catches fire, how can you extinguish the blaze?

This week, Brett Tegart looks at underground coal fires- how they start, how they affect the environment and how they can be snuffed- or if they can.

Total Upgrader Hearing

A couple weeks back, Terra Informa brought you a story about a group of concerned citizens on a tour through Alberta’s former agricultural heartland, an area now known as the industrial heartland. The region is home to numerous petrochemical facilities and residents are upset about the vast swaths of prime agricultural land that have been lost to industry, the pollution that it creates, and its impact on their way of life. To top things off, the Alberta Cancer board has found elevated rates of cancer in the region.

Well, many of the people who went on that tour were shocked at what they saw. They decided to pack an upcoming government hearing into a proposal by French oil giant Total to build another bitumen upgrader in the heartland. Terra Informa correspondent Marcus Peterson was there for the two-week long hearing process, including the dramatics of its first day

Cancer alley: Citizens call attention to tar sands impacts north of the city

Extended Look Into the Total Upgrader

Ecobable

We often cover stories about mining here on Terra Informa and you may have heard us mention tailings. But what exactly are they? Here’s Rebekah with another installment in our recurring series, Eco Babble, where we cut through the jargon and explain just what’s meant by some the terms that pop up in environmental news.

Louis Helbig’s Birds Eye View of the Tar Sands

Photo By Louis Helbig, Part of his Beautiful Destruction Exhibition & Titled ‘Tailings Ponds & Upgrader’

Environmental News Headlines

House of Commons Passes Motion to Review All Laws and Regulations Pertaining to Unconventional Energy Development

Linda Duncan Calls For Immediate Review of Oil and Gas Rules

Stelmach Welcomes Review of All Laws on Energy Development  (By Archie McLean, Edmonton Journal)

Nunuvat Government Changes Position on Polar Bears Protection Status

Downgrade Polar Bear Protection Status, Says Nunavut Government

Approval Gained for Seismic Testing in Proposed Arctic Conservation Area

Inuit, Nunavut Government, and the federal government agree to launch a feasibility study towards establishing a Parks Canada National Marine Conservation Area in Lancaster Sound(CPAWS News Release)

Arctic Seismic Testing Useful: Nunavut Minister (CBC News)

Arctic Bay Opposes Seismic Testing in Lancaster Sound (Nunatsiaq Online)

Government report Admits Climate  Change Policies will be 1/10 as Effective

Greenhouse-gas targets way off mark: Ottawa (By Mike De Souza, Canwest News Service)

New federal climate plan admits minimal action on emissions (By Matthew Bramley, Pembina Institute)

A Climate Change Plan for the Purposes of the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act

 

Bicycle Traffic Report with Carly Coleman

Cycling is often considered a solo sport: Lance Armstrong leading the pack up the Alps… but one of the best things about cycling is the community that develops around it.  This week Terra Informa’s bicycle traffic reporter Karly Coleman talks to Steve Andersen about summertime cycling events and how they draw together a community of wonder and delight.

Aerial Photography of the Alberta Tar Sands

Louis Helbig is an Ottawa-based artist/photographer specializing in aerials. He is a commercial pilot and a self-taught photographer whose work has been exhibited and published in Canada and internationally. For his latest exhibition, he has taken on the monumental task of documenting the Tar Sands from the air in northern Alberta. Drawing nation-wide and international praise and admonishment for his latest and biggest project titled Beautiful Destruction – Alberta Tar Sands Aerial Photographs, Louis intends to stimulate largely absent Canadian public debate on the world’s largest industrial development located in our own backyard. Louis Helbig recently took some time off to talk about his project with Terra Informa correspondent Marcus Peterson.

Louis’ exhibition Beautiful Destruction is currently being shown at the Rivoli (334 Queen St. West, Toronto) until July 8, 2010. It is also being showcased this weekend at the New Art Festival, Central Park (Glebe), Ottawa on Saturday & Sunday June 5th & 6th from 10AM-5P. In addition, it will be shown at the Ottawa City Hall Art Gallery, Ottawa, for the 2010 Exhibition Season, from July 23 to Sept 26, 2010. Some of his Tar Sands photos will also be part of a feature in the July issue of Readers’ Digest, which reaches about 1 million people.

Alberta Tar Sands Aerial Photographs (YOU NEED TO CHECK THESE OUT!!!)

EcoBabble: Eutrophication

Maybe you’ve seen the phosphate free symbol on dish detergent or laundry soap and wondered why phosphates are bad?  Maybe you’ve heard about lakes turning green and filling up with slimey algae and wondered what’s responsible?  Terra Informa correspondent Rebecca Rooney enlightens us this week with an ecobabble on a major environmental issue around the world: eutrophication.

Download This Weeks Show Here

Terra Informa March 14, 2010

Terra Informa March 14, 2010 (Listen /Download)

This week on Terra Informa Dave Kaczan and Steve Smiley look into whether Canada is getting good value for its petroleum resources and what effect resourse dollars are having on our democracy. Matt Israelson has a review of Andrew Nikiforuk’s book “Tar Sands”. And Rebekah Rooney brings us another of her Science Shorts, this time looking at effects of urban habitat on amphibians.

Here is this week’s selection of environmental new stories, brought to us by Eric.

A proposed plan to preserve, protect and restore Alberta’s wetlands has been scrapped by the Alberta government, according to a lobby group representing oil and other resource companies. Conservationists are alarmed by a statement released by the Alberta Chamber of resources which says that it has convinced the government to reverse a plan to require oilsands and mining companies to fully restore the wetlands they mine. Alberta currently has no regulations for how companies use wetlands after they mine it. The proposed “no net loss” policy was supposed to go in effect last April. Environment Minister Rob Renner says he hasn’t made a decision yet on the subject. (article by John Cotter [CP])

The Alberta government is cutting royalty rates for conventional oil and gas. Premier Ed Stelmach announced on Thursday that rates for oil and gas will be cut as much as 20%. Oilsands projects are not included in the change. The move has had mixed reactions from the opposition. NDP Leader Brian Mason suggested that Stelmach is reacting to pressure from the oil and gas sector, but Wild Rose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith argued that Stelmach owed Albertans an apology for increasing the rates in the first place. The reduction in royalties will cost the government $828 million over the next three years. (Edmonton Journal article)

The judge preciding over Syncrude’s trial for the infamous duck incident has ordered that statements made by Syncrude be examined for legal admissibility before they are allowed as evidence. Calling a Voir Dire, Judge Ken Tjosvold decided that statements made by more than 20 employees during the weeks after the April 28th incident must be examined by the court. Syncrude has pleaded not guilty to charges under the Alberta Environmental Protection Act, and the Federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. It could face up to $800,000 in fines and its executives could spend up to six months in jail if the company is found guilty. (Edmonton Journal article)

Related to the trial, on Wednesday, Greenpeace activists presented Premier Ed Stelmach’s Spokesman with two blown up photos of ducks from the tailings pond incident. The photos have been entered as evidence at the trial against Syncrude. During a press conference on Monday, Stelmach said he had not seen the pictures. NDP Leader Brian Mason also tabled photos of the Ducks “mostly for the benefit of the premier” in the legislature. (Edmonton Sun article)

A study lead by the University of Calgary has concluded that Carbon Capture Technology is indeed possible. But in a strange twist of fate the only way it will be economically feasible is if the government imposes a large carbon tax. Managers of the study concluded that they could safely inject Carbon dioxide into rock formations on a large scale. But the cost of doing so means it would only happen if there was a significant price on carbon. Authors of the study listed prices ranging from $50-$100 per tonne. The current price on carbon is a $15 per tonne, which is not enough to warrant the expense of CCS, say the study’s authors. (Calgary Herald Article)

Youtube videos (above) launched by the satirical lobby group “No more grizzlies”, which depicts grizzly bears destroying cities with laser vision, among other things. The campaign was launched by the Alberta Wilderness Association as a way to spread the message that Alberta’s grizzlies are in trouble.The campaign was launched after sustainable resources minister Mel Knight suggested he was open to allowing a limited grizzly bear hunt in the future. No grizzly bear hunts will be permitted in 2010.

Energy and resources, especially oil, drive the Western Canadian Economy. We hear a lot about the environmental damage that results from this, but today we investigate the possible political and economic implications of such dependency. What does Canada have to show for its fossil fuel wealth compared to other oil rich countries? And is there a danger that oil wealth is distorting sectors of our economy, not to mention our democracy? To answer these questions, Terra Informa’s David Kaczan spoke to Dr. Gordon Laxer, director of the progressive think tank the Parkland Institute, based in Edmonton.  Gordon Laxer is a Political Economist and has written extensively on such topics for both an academic and broader audience.

Check out the Events featured on the show here.

Terra Informa March 14, 2010 (Listen /Download)

A proposed plan to preserve, protect and restore Alberta’s wetlands has been scrapped by the Alberta government, according to a lobby group representing oil and other resource companies. Conservationists are alarmed by a statement released by the Alberta Chamber of resources which says that it has convinced the government to reverse a plan to require oilsands and mining companies to fully restore the wetlands they mine. Alberta currently has no regulations for how companies use wetlands after they mine it. The proposed “no net loss” policy was supposed to go in effect last April. Environment Minister Rob Renner says he hasn’t made a decision yet on the subject. (article by John Cotter [CP])

The Alberta government is cutting royalty rates for conventional oil and gas. Premier Ed Stelmach announced on Thursday that rates for oil and gas will be cut as much as 20%. Oilsands projects are not included in the change. The move has had mixed reactions from the opposition. NDP Leader Brian Mason suggested that Stelmach is reacting to pressure from the oil and gas sector, but Wild Rose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith argued that Stelmach owed Albertans an apology for increasing the rates in the first place. The reduction in royalties will cost the government $828 million over the next three years. (Edmonton Journal article)

The judge preciding over Syncrude’s trial for the infamous duck incident has ordered that statements made by Syncrude be examined for legal admissibility before they are allowed as evidence. Calling a Voir Dire, Judge Ken Tjosvold decided that statements made by more than 20 employees during the weeks after the April 28th incident must be examined by the court. Syncrude has pleaded not guilty to charges under the Alberta Environmental Protection Act, and the Federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. It could face up to $800,000 in fines and its executives could spend up to six months in jail if the company is found guilty. (Edmonton Journal article)

Related to the trial, on Wednesday, Greenpeace activists presented Premier Ed Stelmach’s Spokesman with two blown up photos of ducks from the tailings pond incident. The photos have been entered as evidence at the trial against Syncrude. During a press conference on Monday, Stelmach said he had not seen the pictures. NDP Leader Brian Mason also tabled photos of the Ducks “mostly for the benefit of the premier” in the legislature. (Edmonton Sun article)

A study lead by the University of Calgary has concluded that Carbon Capture Technology is indeed possible. But in a strange twist of fate the only way it will be economically feasible is if the government imposes a large carbon tax. Managers of the study concluded that they could safely inject Carbon dioxide into rock formations on a large scale. But the cost of doing so means it would only happen if there was a significant price on carbon. Authors of the study listed prices ranging from $50-$100 per tonne. The current price on carbon is a $15 per tonne, which is not enough to warrant the expense of CCS, say the study’s authors. (Calgary Herald Article)

Youtube videos (above) launched by the satirical lobby group “No more grizzlies”, which depicts grizzly bears destroying cities with laser vision, among other things. The campaign was launched by the Alberta Wilderness Association as a way to spread the message that Alberta’s grizzlies are in trouble.The campaign was launched after sustainable resources minister Mel Knight suggested he was open to allowing a limited grizzly bear hunt in the future. No grizzly bear hunts will be permitted in 2010.