Displaying items by tag: Alberta Tar Sands
It can hardly come as a surprise to anyone that governments – like corporations – employ spin to portray their actions in the best possible light (and to cast their opponents in the worst possible light). Nor is it news that many corporations – and the PR companies they employ – operate a revolving door for helpful politicians. So, should it come as any surprise to learn, as Joyce Nelson reveals in the current issue of Watershed Sentinel, that Peter Kent was appointed as a senior lobbyist by PR giant Hill & Knowlton while he was running as a Conservative candidate in 2008?
Read this story from The Calgary Herald on Alberta Premier Alison Redford's comments at a recent energy conference in Calgary, vowing to push forward with proposed pipeline projects from he province, regardless of the outcome of Tuesday's provincial election in neighbouring BC. (May 11, 2013)
Just days before British Columbians go to the polls, Premier Alison Redford said Friday that the vote's outcome won't necessarily spell the end of controversial energy projects aimed at transporting Alberta bitumen to the West Coast for export overseas.
But Redford told an energy conference in Calgary that it is imperative for Canadian crude to gain access to the Asian market in the next three to five years.
"We have oceans to cross and we have enormous distances to cover. The need for interprovincial co-operation on market access is more urgent than ever," she told the business crowd assembled at the Western Energy Summit.
Redford touted her Canadian energy strategy - a plan to unite provinces around promoting energy development - saying that "billions of dollars and millions of jobs and the future of public services that Canadian families use every day are at stake over market access."
She acknowledged, however, the quest for market access faces challenges on the provincial level.
There are no greater obstacles than those in British Columbia, where safety and environmental concerns have fostered staunch opposition to oilsands pipelines.
With election day set for Tuesday, the front-running NDP and the long-governing Liberals have opposed to varying degrees Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and Kinder Morgan's plan to expand its existing Trans Mountain oil line.
"Elections are quite unique things and the dialogue that goes on there is something to watch," Redford told reporters following her speech.
"We're looking forward to seeing the results of the election and at that point we'll continue to work ... with whoever is elected to keep building our opportunities."
Redford did not directly answer a question on whether a B.C. government could stand in the way of the Northern Gateway project if the development receives approval from Ottawa after a National Energy Board review.
Experts on energy and environmental policy say a fight between the provincial and federal governments would enter into uncharted territory.
"Could British Columbia stop development of a pipeline project that has been federally approved? Really good question," said Len Coad, director of the Centre for Natural Resource Policy at the Canada West Foundation.
Coad said a dispute over the issue could become a constitutional battle, in that provinces have responsibility for natural resources, the federal government has jurisdiction for interprovincial pipelines and international trade, and the two levels of government share environmental responsibility.
"Things would get very interesting," agreed Kathryn Harrison, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia.
Read this story from CBC.ca on Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver's bold defense of the Alberta Tar Sands on the international stage. (May 11, 2013)
Canada’s natural resources minister continues to hit back against the many critics of Canada’s oilsands, including a European Union proposal to designate its oil as dirty.
In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio’s The House, Joe Oliver said Canada’s first priority when it comes to the EU is to change proposed legislation from the 27-country bloc that would see crude oil from the oilsands fail new standards for greenhouse gas emissions.
“It's discriminatory, it's not based on science and it would potentially hurt Canada's ability to access markets for its resources,” Oliver said in the interview.
“We will act if, as a last resort, there are no changes... we will look at all the alternatives and we may possibly take action before the [World Trade Organization].”
Oliver said the EU proposal has loopholes that would give a “free pass” to countries with higher emissions levels than Canada and he’d like to see it reviewed by a third party.
“Venezuelan heavy crude or oil coming from Russia, Nigeria or Angola has a process where they release gas... into the air or they burn it, and that would bring their numbers up,” he said.
“But under this directive, they're treated as if they have much lower emissions than Canada.”
EU ambassador to Canada Matthias Brinkmann said Thursday whatever measures are adopted will be "non-discriminatory and science based and will stand the test at the WTO."
Tour of Europe ending
Rhetoric has recently been heating up around Oliver and the oilsands as he ends a tour through Israel, France, England and Belgium aimed at promoting the Canadian oil and gas industry.
A group of 12 scientists sent him a letter this week saying Canada is delaying the transition to an economy more reliant on alternative energy.
Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2013/05/10/pol-joe-oliver-oilsands-europe-criticism.html
Read this story from the Ottawa Citizen on respected scientist David Schindler's retort to the Alberta and Harper Governments' attempts to downplay the environmental problems that plague the Tar Sands. (April 12, 2013)
OTTAWA — Claims that Alberta’s oilsands are environmentally harmless are “lies” and won’t convince anyone in Washington, one of this country’s most famous ecologists said Friday.
Political leaders in Alberta and Ottawa “seem to think that Americans believe in magic fairies — just shut your eyes and say the oilsands are clean four times and it happens,” said David Schindler of the University of Alberta.
He said this reflects the current federal ideology — not anti-science, but “anti-some kinds of science. Anything with ‘environmental’ in it seems to be anathema.”
Schindler, a freshwater scientist, was speaking at Carleton University. He has been a leading researcher on pollutants ranging from phosphates to acid rain to toxic waste, and in 2001 won the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal, a national award given to the country’s top scientist.
Showing his audience an aerial photo of a scarred landscape in oilsands country, he said environmental assessments commissioned by oil companies show there is no impact and those same companies claim the damage is later remediated.
“Why are people allowed to lie to the public like this? I just don’t understand this. We have to challenge them,” he said. “Obviously the people who used to challenge them, the civil servants, are no longer allowed to.
“If you got towns around the world to nominate the village idiot from every town and flew them over the oilsands, and asked them: ‘Yes or no, is this a significant impact?’ I think I know what the answer would be.
“It gives you an indication of how stupid this must seem to people in Washington. They must think we’ve all just fallen off a turnip truck ... We’ve had premiers and prime ministers and ministers of the environment spouting this stuff.”
He said tailings ponds in the region total 170 square kilometres, forming “a toxic Great Lake.”
A few years ago, Schindler decided it was time to test claims that the oilsands industry is benign. He joined toxicologist Peter Hodson of Queen’s University and Jeff Short, a pollution chemist with experience from the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill.
They took snow samples up and down the Athabasca River valley to see what airborne pollutants were falling, in an echo of old acid rain research. Melted down, the snow showed more toxins near the oilsands and downstream than in clean snow upstream. They published results in the journals Nature and PNAS.
“The (samples) near the oilsands actually had an oil scum floating on top of the melted snow,” said Schindler, showing a photo of oily droplets on water. Also, “when it starts to melt in the spring the snow turns black.”
Yet federal and Alberta politicians branded opposition the work of “radicals,” he said.
Schindler was incensed, and still is. “Suddenly if you want to protect the environment you’re an enemy of the state,” he said. He was educated as the Joe McCarthy era was ending and said today’s political climate is similar. “This just makes my spine crawl.”
Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/Believing+clean+oilsands+like+believing+magic+fairies/8234297/story.html
Read this story from MacLean's on the Supreme Court of Canada's refusal to hear a case brought by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation to halt Shell's planned Jackpine Tar Sands project. (April 12, 2013)
OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s bid to block a ruling on Shell’s Jackpine oilsands mine expansion in northern Alberta.
Legal advisers for the band said Thursday its options to force the company to take its concerns into account aren’t over.
The First Nation wanted a regulatory board to rule on whether the band had been adequately consulted before the board decided if the Shell (NYSE:RDS) project could go ahead.
The board said governments should determine how much consultation is adequate. The Alberta Court of Appeal agreed and the high court has refused to hear an appeal of that decision.
“We are truly disappointed with this decision as we have diligently proceeded through legal avenues to have our rights upheld,” Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam said in a statement.
“We understand that this joint review panel was supposed to uphold everyone’s constitutional rights. Why has there been an exception with regards to First Nations’ consultation rights? Government must be held accountable to their treaty obligations.”
The First Nation also says the decision means the board will make a Jackpine decision without anyone considering whether the band’s right to adequate consultation has been fulfilled.
It hinted it may mount another bid to block the ruling.
“We do not know the reasons why the Supreme Court did not grant (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation) a hearing. It is clear that we will not find access to justice within Alberta,” Adam said.
“We will have to decide if we move ahead with different legal strategies to uphold our rights.”
Band lawyer Eamon Murphy said from Vancouver that the First Nation still has legal options.
Once the review panel issues its recommendation, permits for specific aspects of the project must still be issued by federal and provincial authorities. Murphy said the band is considering legal challenges at those levels.
“On those approvals, we would have to look at them and see if there’s any possibility of reviewing those in court,” he said. “It becomes more difficult, frankly.”
The issue of aboriginal consultation is heating up in Alberta.
Read more: http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/04/11/supreme-court-refuses-to-hear-appeal-over-jackpine-oilsands-expansion-in-alberta/#.UWdZBtJh8i4.email
Check out this blog from Greenpeace, providing some post-speech analysis from Alberta Premier Alison Redford's recent lobbying in Washington for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline proposal. (April 10, 2013)
Yesterday Alberta Premier Alison Redford was in Washington to lobby for the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. While in Washington, she gave a speech at the Brookings Institute. We decided to fact check some of her comments. Here’s the Premier's top 10 lies, mistruths and deceptions.
“The truth is that Alberta is home to some of the most environmentally friendly, progressive legislation in the world.”
Alberta has been widely criticized for their wide lack of environmental protection. Corporate Knights, ranked Alberta dead last in it’s recent provincial environmental stewardship report card.
The David Suzuki Foundation also ranked Alberta last when it comes to climate policy.
Finally having legislation is good but if you don’t enforce it, it doesn’t matter much (like with respect to toxic tailings ponds). Adding insult to injury, the guy the Alberta government just put in charge of environmental enforcement is Gerry Protti, founding President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (conflict of interest much?).
“Since 1990, Alberta’s energy industry has reduced greenhouse gas emissions per barrel of oil produced by an average of 29 percent. Some facilities have achieved reductions as high as 50 percent.”
While the above statement is almost true (latest figure is 26% between 1990 and 2010) what the Premier knows and didn’t tell her U.S. audience is that overall emissions in Alberta have sky rocketed and will increase by over 500% from 1990 – 2020. Furthermore, while the tar sands industry did reduce its overall greenhouse gas intensity by 29 per cent from 1990 to 2009, more recently the trend for intensity reductions plateaued and then reversed. Between 2009 and 2010, the emissions intensity of the tar sands rose two per cent and this trend is likely to continue (See page 5 & Figure 3 of this report).
“We are bringing all our emissions down as far as possible.”
The Alberta government admits that it isn’t even meeting it’s own emission reduction target, a target which is well below scientifically based international standards. In fact Alberta is not even close to meeting it.
The target is 50 MT reduction per year below business as usual (BAU) by 2020.
Over the past 6-years Alberta has reduced emissions by an average of 5 megatonnes (MT) per year below BAU. By 2020, annual reductions are expected to be 14 MT per year below BAU.
Right now Alberta has a 45 MT gap per year below BAU, by 2020 they will still have a 36 MT gap from THEIR OWN TARGET.
In addition to not meeting their own target overall emissions in Alberta are expected just to go up. The tar sands are the largest and fastest growing source of emissions in Canada. As Alberta adds more and more projects, overall emissions from the tar sands are projected to double between 2010 and 2020.
If Alberta were a country, its per capita greenhouse gas emissions would be higher than any other country in the world.
“We are also pushing ahead with plans to capture and store as much of our carbon as possible.”
Alberta’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) plans have been a major boondoggle as project after project has been cancelled.
Three companies (TransAlta Corp., Enbridge Inc. and Capital Power Corp.) cancelled their $1.4-billion CCS efforts in April 2012.
The Alberta government also cancelled its $285-million funding of the CCS project associated with the proposed Swan Hills Synfuels LP synthetic gas plant north of Edmonton in February of this year.
CCS is more of a pipe dream then a reality and the fact that the Alberta still trumpets it shows just how weak the Province is on the climate front.
“We’ve put a price on carbon. Who else in North America has done that?”
BC has put a price on carbon (a much larger one that Alberta). Quebec has put a price on carbon. California and the U.S. Northeast have done it as well.
Yes Alberta put a price on carbon, and they were the first in North America, but Alberta’s carbon tax has so many holes you can build a tar sands industry through it.
First, the true test of a carbon tax is does it actually help to reduce emissions. In Alberta emissions have gone only up and are expected to more than double over the next decade.
Second, Alberta’s tax isn’t on all emissions (in contrast, BC’s carbon tax covers all emissions from fuel combustion) but instead is only on emissions intensity above a certain level. The average cost (per tonne) to companies to meet emissions targets in Alberta equates not to $15 but a paltry $1.80. That’s a long way from BC’s $30 per tonne on all emissions.
Even Alberta’s new 40/40 proposal would only net an average cost (per tonne) to companies to meet emissions targets of $16, still well below BC and far less than countries like Norway.
Read more: http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/Blog/fact-checking-premier-redfords-speech-in-wash/blog/44695/
Last week I published a story titled "Five Oil Spills in One Week: 'Accidents' or Business as Usual". Within an hour of publication came the news of a sixth spill from a CP derailment in nothern Ontario. As the story made the rounds on social media in the ensuing days, readers provided updates as new spills continued to unfold. One week later, the tally stands at 10. We've now seen spills in BC, Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Ontario, Newfoundland, Minnesota, Michigan, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. News of the latest - a biodiesel spill from Suncor's plant in Port Moody, BC - came in this morning.
Listen to this informative program from CBC's The Current on pipeline politics and Alberta Premier Alison Redford's fourth trip to Washington, DC to lobby for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run from Alberta to refineries on the US Gulf Coast. (April 8, 2013)
Featuring Nathan Vanderklippe of The Globe and Mail, Clare Demerse of the Pembina Institute and Michal Moore of the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy.
Read this story from The Vancouver Sun on Alberta scientist David Schindler's comparison between fish deformities being witnessed downstream from Alberta Tar Sands operations to similar observations following the Exxon Valdez and BP Gulf of Mexico oil spills. (April 4, 2013)
There appear to be "remarkable similarities" between fish deformities found downstream from Alberta's oilsands and those observed after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and after Florida's Deepwater Horizon disaster, says a renowned ecologist.
David Schindler of the University of Alberta has written an open letter to two federal cabinet ministers pointing out the recent research findings from scientists as far afield as the Gulf of Mexico.
"Given the parallels in the cases from various locations, it seems likely that some chemical or suite of chemicals in crude oil is causing the malformations," Schindler wrote.
He's proposing that Canada take the lead in researching the issue by isolating the various chemical compounds and introducing them to fish stocks in a controlled setting.
And Schindler says the federal Experimental Lakes Area - which has been shut down by Ottawa for a savings of about $2 million annually - is the ideal natural laboratory for the work.
In a letter Wednesday to Fisheries Minister Keith Ash-field and Environment Minister Peter Kent - copied to a number of U.S. scientists and some news media - Schindler praised the monitoring work of government scientists in the Athabasca River.
But he said such monitoring can't possibly determine which chemicals may be affecting aquatic life due to the "complex chemical soup" found downstream from industrial oilsands development.
What's required, the scientist said, "would be whole ecosystem experiments where small amounts of selected chemicals are applied to whole lakes, and the effects determined on several key species in the food chain."
It's tailor-made for the federal Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario, a remote region of 58 pristine lakes that have been used since 1968 for groundbreaking freshwater studies on everything from nutrient-loading and mercury exposure to acid rain.
The Harper government announced last year it was closing the world-renowned facility as a cost-saving measure - although insiders say the operating cost of the facility is only $600,000 annually, of which a third comes back in user fees.
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Canadian+scientist+links+fish+deformities+oilsands+American+spills/8193479/story.html#ixzz2PVUqrnjY
Read this story from the LA Times on a coalition of environmental groups taking on the health and environmental impacts of processing low-grade Canadian bitumen at local refineries. (Apr. 2, 2013)
A coalition of environmental groups says it has discovered that large-scale shipments of low-quality heavy crude oil from Canada's tar sands are being delivered by rail for processing by Southern California refineries.
The groups on Tuesday called for an investigation by air-quality officials to evaluate the effects on health, air quality, safety and the climate of processing the heavy Canadian crude, which requires intensive processing to remove higher levels of sulfur to meet U.S. standards.
The Natural Resources Defense Council and Communities for a Better Environment say they worry that refineries now processing the semi-solid form of oil have increased their noxious emissions and raised risks of accidental spills and accidents. The process of refining tar sands oil is more corrosive on refinery equipment and produces more greenhouse gases than liquid crude, environmentalists said.
"Tar sands crude is a whole new level of bad," said Julia May, senior scientist at the Communities for a Better Environment, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing and reducing pollution in California's low-income communities. "Bringing it into the Los Angeles area by rail has taken everyone by surprise."
Of particular concern is the low-income community of Wilmington, a Los Angeles harbor town surrounded by five oil refineries and long decried by social justice groups as a "sacrifice zone" of commerce and toxic pollution. Three of the Wilmington refineries — Valero Energy Corp., Phillips 66 Co. and Tesoro Corp — recently announced plans to use rail cars to bring in more of the heavy Canadian crude.
Joe Gorder, president and chief executive of Valero Energy Corp., told shareholders recently that his company plans to import an additional 30,000 barrels a day of the Canadian crude to its Wilmington refinery. Deliveries of the heavy crude totaled about 29,000 barrels a day last year for the entire Los Angeles area, NRDC scientists said.
Valero also wants to build a rail terminal to supply its refinery in the Bay Area community of Benicia with 70,000 barrels a day of petroleum products, including dirtier crudes such as tar sands.
Oil company officials say they are operating within state and federal regulations. As cleaner, liquid crude oil from California declines, they say they must rely on a variety of sources, including heavy Canadian crude, to remain profitable and ensure the future of their operations.
In an interview, Valero spokesman Bill Day said, "Valero follows the law. If we add more Canadian crude it will mean no net increase in emissions."
The request for an investigation, submitted to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, argues that "the highly corrosive nature of tar sands will increase the likelihood for spills and accidents, posing direct safety risks and increased toxic emissions for both plant workers and the surrounding community."
May said the sulfur found in heavy crude speeds corrosion in equipment and could lead to explosions like the one last summer at Chevron's refinery in Richmond. A Cal/OSHA investigation into the Aug. 6 explosion at the Bay Area refinery found that the company did not follow safety recommendations made by its inspectors to replace a pipe corroded by sulfur. The pipe ruptured and fueled the fire.
Environmentalists also worry that increases in carbon pollution will make it harder to meet requirements of the state's global warming law, AB 32, which created a market that puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions. Owners of power plants and factories buy and sell permits to release the gases into the atmosphere.
Read more: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0403-dirty-oil-20130403,0,7952694.story