Energy East oil terminal threatens belugas: federal scientists

Federal scientists have expressed concerns about the Energy East's projects impacts on threatened beluga whales. Photo courtesy of GREMM.

Federal scientists have expressed concerns about the Energy East’s projects impacts on threatened beluga whales. Fisheries and Oceans Canada said one of its top scientists, Véronique Lesage, was not available for an interview. Photo courtesy of GREMM.

A stunning Quebec Superior Court injunction that temporarily halted exploratory work on a major cross-Canada oilsands pipeline project is raising fresh questions about whether the Canadian government muzzled a top scientist while reviewing the industry proposal.

At least two federal departments, Transport Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, gave a green light for the exploratory work, including major drilling and seismic testing in the port of Cacouna, Quebec, in the heart of the critical habitat of threatened St. Lawrence beluga whales.

Alberta-based TransCanada needs to complete the exploratory work as part of plans for an oil terminal on the St. Lawrence River for its proposed multibillion dollar Energy East pipeline.

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Stephen Harper’s climate change timeline

Parks Canada says the Athabasca Glacier, a major source of water to communities and industry in Western North America, has been shrinking for 125 years and "may almost disappear within three generations." Strong scientific evidence points to human activity as the cause of climate change, says the federal agency.

Parks Canada says the Athabasca Glacier, a major source of water to communities and industry in Western North America, has been shrinking for 125 years and “may almost disappear within three generations.” Strong scientific evidence points to human activity as the cause of climate change, says the federal agency.

On the eve of an international climate change summit of government leaders in New York, Canada is being challenged about its own domestic record in addressing the heat-trapping pollution that contributes to global warming.

Here’s a historical timeline of some of the major climate change policies, statements and related decisions made by Canada since 2006 when Prime Minister Stephen Harper was first elected to form a government.

From a pledge to introduce a carbon tax in 2007 to internal debates about climate change science, this timeline covers the promises and the action by the Canadian government in recent years.

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Stephen Harper’s government changes topic after NDP asks about climate rules

Environment Canada estimates carbon pollution from the oilsands increased 307 per cent between 1990 and 2012.

Environment Canada estimates carbon pollution from the oilsands increased 307 per cent between 1990 and 2012. It also estimates a further 61 per cent increase in emissions by 2020.

You may have seen this report in the Toronto Star about a mysterious end to a secretive group that was created to draft new rules to reduce carbon pollution from oil and gas companies.

Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq was asked about the long-delayed rules for oil companies on Tuesday in the House of Commons by NDP environment critic Megan Leslie.

Aglukkaq responded by changing the topic. Continue reading

Four strange details about Keystone XL pipeline debate

A scarecrow stands guard to prevent birds from landing on an oilsands tailings pond.

A scarecrow stands guard to prevent birds from landing on an oilsands tailings pond near Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Here are four unusual details about the debate surrounding TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline proposal:

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Canadian government declines interviews on oilsands health impacts

Participants in a June 2014 "healing walk" around oilsands facilities stop near a pond filled with toxic tailings waste.

Participants in a June 2014 “healing walk” around oilsands facilities, close to Fort McMurray, Alberta, stop near a pond filled with toxic tailings waste.

Who are Health Canada’s experts assessing human health impacts of oilsands development? And why has the federal government never done a comprehensive study of health impacts in the region after more than half a century of industrial development?

These are among the questions I asked Health Canada in early July as part of my research for this oilsands story published this week.

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KXL PR, spin doctors & ALEC

TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline proposal linking the oilsands and Texas remained in the news in July and August 2014

TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline proposal linking the oilsands and Texas remained in the news in July and August 2014

I’ve just concluded a six-week stint at the Ottawa bureau of the Toronto Star.

Here are some of the stories we published over the course of this contract:

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Chief Allan Adam: Oilsands health study to “knock socks” off industry, government (with video)

Dr. John O'Connor (centre) speaks about health impacts of oilsands development on a panel with Mikisew Cree member George Poitras (left) and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam (right)

Dr. John O’Connor (centre) speaks about health impacts of oilsands development on a panel with Mikisew Cree member George Poitras (left) and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam (right)

FORT McMURRAY, AB – A new study from the University of Manitoba will soon challenge industry and government claims downplaying environmental health impacts of oilsands development, said the chief of a First Nations community Friday.

“When that report comes out, it’s going to blow the socks off industry and government,” Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation told native and non-native supporters gathered at a campsite for an outdoor weekend retreat near major oilsands projects. “We went ahead and did our own independent studies and we found some very stunning results.”

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Stephen Harper’s government: Oilsands toxins like BBQ steak

Calgary author Chris Turner has written a book based on evidence that the federal government is allegedly muzzling its scientists.

Calgary author Chris Turner has written a book based on evidence that the federal government is allegedly muzzling its scientists.

Ten days ago, I asked Environment Canada whether any of its scientists would be available for interviews about their research.

The department hasn’t yet answered this question along with others.

The questions arose following the publication of a new study concluding that deposits of toxic mercury were forming a bull’s eye around oilsands operations in Alberta.

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National Energy Board spends $21 million on Calgary move

The NEB is spending about $21 million over two years on its office move.

The NEB is spending about $21 million over two years on its office move.

Canada’s national energy regulator estimates it will spend about $21 million over two years – more than new funding announced to improve its existing oversight of pipeline companies – to move into its new Calgary offices.

The total moving costs add up to $20.7 million, say National Energy Board records tabled in Parliament. Those include about $12.4 million in 2013-2014 and about $8.3 million in 2014-2015 to relocate within Calgary into a building on a site that was previously affected by a large sinkhole.

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Stephen Harper says Canada and Australia not avoiding climate change action

Twitter photo of PM Stephen Harper and PM Tony Abbott in Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Twitter photo of PM Stephen Harper and PM Tony Abbott in Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

OTTAWA-Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott took turns Monday criticizing efforts by governments to make polluters pay for greenhouse gas emissions.

Abbott, who is visiting North America, and Harper, both said their respective governments weren’t trying to avoid dealing with the problem, but suggested they were trying to avoid damaging the economy.

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