Water pollution law meant to assist oilsands: Liberal MP

Published by Postmedia News on Thursday July 5, 2012

OTTAWA – New laws offering the government more tools to “authorize” water pollution appear to be designed to remove obstacles for expansion of Canada`s oilpatch, says a Liberal MP from Montreal who spearheaded a parliamentary investigation into the environmental footprint of the oilsands.

“I just found it curious that they’re trying to hide their motive,” said Francis Scarpaleggia, the Liberal water critic. “This is all being done for the oilsands. It’s not being done for the pulp and paper industry. They have their house in order.”

Scarpaleggia made the comments in response to recent Postmedia News reports about a letter signed by Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield that explained the government was amending the Canada`s Fisheries Act, previously considered to be the country’s strongest environmental protection law, in order to make it easier to “authorize” water pollution.

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Environment Canada confused by cuts, union letter says

Published by Postmedia News on Thursday Jun 21, 2012

OTTAWA – Senior management at Environment Canada offered “blank looks” and expressed confusion after being told that cuts to a team of pollution-monitoring scientists would compromise the department’s enforcement capabilities and the credibility of its international reports, says the president of the union that represents environment employees.

Environment Minister Peter Kent, who was in Rio de Janeiro Thursday for the United Nations conference on sustainable development, was not available for comment but indicated through a spokesman that his department is still taking a scientific approach to monitoring pollution.

Kent’s office did not address specific concerns raised in the letter sent by the Union of Environment Workers. The letter said that a soon-to-be-dismantled team of scientists had audited and validated data used in recent government inventory reports on greenhouse gas emissions and indicators of environmental sustainability in Canada.

“Again it seems that your government is not concerned with obtaining the facts and is ignoring the environmental impacts in lieu of paving the way for industry to self-regulate and manage its environmental affairs,” wrote Todd Panas, president of the union, in the letter sent to Kent on May 22.

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Peter Kent says budget bill to eliminate thousands of environmental assessments

Published by Postmedia News on Friday Jun 15 2012

OTTAWA – Up to 5,000 federal environmental assessments of economic projects are conducted every year under existing laws, but the Harper government`s proposal to repeal the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act could eliminate “most” of those reviews, said Environment Minister Peter Kent in a statement tabled in Parliament before it began a marathon voting session earlier this week on legislation tied to the federal budget.

Kent also said he didn’t know how provincial governments would be able to match Canada’s national standards under proposed rules that would allow them to substitute for federal assessments with their own reviews.

“Under the current act, approximately 4,000-5,000 EAs (environmental assessments) are conducted by federal authorities every year, 99 per cent of which are for small projects with little or no risk to the environment,” said the statement, signed by Kent, in response to questions raised by Liberal environment critic Kirsty Duncan.

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Budget cuts threaten federal green plan for oilsands and coal: scientist

Published by Postmedia News on Tuesday Jun 12 2012

OTTAWA – Budget cuts to a team of smokestack pollution specialists at Environment Canada could jeopardize the Harper government’s efforts to crack down on pollution from industries such as the oilsands and coal-fired electricity generation, warns a University of Guelph professor, who worked with the special unit of federal scientists.

Environment Minister Peter Kent has suggested, through a spokesman, the government could replace his department’s expertise by relying on outside sources such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

But Bill Van Heyst, an associate professor in environmental engineering who specializes in air quality, said the Environment Canada scientists provide a level of independence as well as unique expertise on Canadian industrial practices that the government would have trouble finding elsewhere as it attempts to boost environmental monitoring efforts in the oilsands region.

“If you don`t have a legitimate background in air quality or air quality testing then it`s really easy to make mistakes, and those mistakes are going to make everybody look, in the long run, really bad,” Van Heyst said in an interview with Postmedia News.

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Stephen Harper’s ministers counter green groups’ “black out” with PR campaign

Published by Postmedia News on Monday June 4, 2012

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet ministers fanned out across the country Monday to counter a “black out” campaign launched by charities that are accusing the government of using budgetary measures to weaken federal environmental oversight and intimidate critics.

Led by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, the cabinet ministers used their campaign to tout the government’s budget plan and its supporting legislation, which would rewrite several environmental laws and significantly reduce the number of federal scientists monitoring Canada’s air, wildlife, waterways and oceans.

More than 500 groups, including some south of the border in the United States, symbolically blacked out their websites to protest the measures in the budget and its supporting legislation, Bill C-38. They claim the plan is the result of intensive lobby efforts from the oil and gas industry.

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Feds suggest U.S. EPA could replace Canadian pollution team

Published by Postmedia News on Sunday Jun 3 2012

OTTAWA – The federal government has suggested it could replace a team of smokestack pollution specialists by turning to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, appearing to contradict its own description of the scientists and their work on Environment Canada’s website.

The apparent contradiction comes as hundreds of charities and organizations across Canada will stage what they are calling a “Black out, Speak out” event on Parliament Hill on Monday, denouncing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government for adopting policies they describe as anti-environment and anti-democratic.

The government has projected savings of about $718,000 by eliminating its internal research capabilities on industrial emissions measurements. It also estimated it would need to spend about $115,000 to obtain and analyze data from other external sources, such as the EPA.

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Feds to cut air-pollution monitoring team

Published by Postmedia News on Friday May 25, 2012

OTTAWA – The federal government plans to break up a team of Environment Canada smokestack specialists that played a key role working with enforcement officers and industry to crack down on toxic pollution, a Postmedia News investigation has revealed.

Details of the cuts emerged through a series of leaked documents and interviews that revealed members of the Ottawa-based group of scientists were told their current roles would be eliminated over the next year.

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