Check out this story and images from npr.com on the overnight oil and gas operation known as the Bakken which is lighting up the night sky in North Dakota, now visible from space. (Jan 24, 2013)
What we have here is an immense and startlingly new oil and gas field — nighttime evidence of an oil boom created by a technology called fracking. Those lights are rigs, hundreds of them, lit at night, or fiery flares of natural gas. One hundred fifty oil companies, big ones, little ones, wildcatters, have flooded this region, drilling up to eight new wells every day on what is called the Bakken formation. Altogether, they are now producing 660,000 barrels a day — double the output two years ago — so that in no time at all, North Dakota is now the second-largest oil producing state in America. Only Texas produces more, and those lights are a sign that this region is now on fire ... to a disturbing degree. Literally.
Six years ago, this region was close to empty. The few ranchers who lived here produced wheat, alfalfa, oats and corn. The U.S. Geological Survey knew there were oil deposits underground, but deep down, 2 miles below the surface. It wasn't till this century that the industry developed a way to pull that oil to the surface at a cost that made it practical. Fracking, as you probably know, means pumping water and chemicals down pipes, fracturing the rock, releasing the oil. The technology is hugely controversial, in part because of those lights.
See images and read story here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2013/01/16/169511949/a-mysterious-patch-of-light-shows-up-in-the-north-dakota-dark
Read this story from theFishSite.com on Cooke Aquaculture of New Brunswick's seeling of 240,000 farmed salmon infected with ISA virus. (Jan. 23, 2013)
CANADA - Cooke Aquaculture is the first company to process fish with infectious salmon anemia (ISA) under a new set of rules set by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Salmon from the farm in Nova Scotia are now being moved to a fish plant in Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick for processing.
According to the CFIA, ISA poses no threat to humans and fish with the virus are safe to consume.
About 240,000 salmon from Cooke Aquaculture's quarantined Coffin Island Farm near Liverpool, N.S. will be transported by tanker truck to New Brunswick in the coming weeks. The first shipments of fish were sent last week, reports CBCNews
There is no treatment for ISA, which is fatal to fish and easily spreads throughout a population. The CFIA has taken steps to prevent contamination.
There has been a heavy presence of CFIA inspectors at stages throughout the transfer process and also at the Blacks Harbour plant. Plant employees have had to wear special suits to avoid spreading contamination.
Nell Halse, a spokesperson for Cooke Aquaculture, said it's a big job.
"The plant has to be completely disinfected," said Halse. "The employees have to change gear and then the ISA fish are brought in and again — this is nothing to do with human health, the fish are perfectly safe to eat."
In fact, Halse said, the company is obligated to process and market the fish if possible because the government has to compensate salmon growers for fish that are culled because of disease.
Cooke has several brand name classifications under which the fish can be marketed.
Janice Harvey, who has been a critic of the industry since 1990, said disease is a byproduct of industrialized fish growing.
"If it's going to continue, then you're going to expect to have diseases and you're going to have to deal with diseased fish," she said.
Read more: http://www.thefishsite.com/fishnews/19285/cooke-aquaculture-allowed-to-process-diseased-salmon
Read this extensive story from the Georgia Straight on the growing threat to farmland and wildlife habitat from massive port, rail and road expansion - under development and planned - in Delta. (Jan. 17, 2012)
From the crest of this obscure bridge over Deltaport Way, the enormity of what’s about to happen here seems impossible to exaggerate. To Harold Steves, 76, one of the founders of the province’s 1973 Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) system, calamity looms. “That’s gone. That’s gone. That’s gone,” he tells me, gesturing first at a colour-coded map, then at the real South Delta farmland around us.
On this stormy late-October day, nothing is gone. Yet. Turbaned men harvest pumpkins on a nearby farm. Thousands of migratory snow geese occupy plowed and puddled fields. But the pumpkins and the fields and the geese are about to disappear as work begins on one of the largest construction projects in Canadian history.
And to the southeast, the ALR lands in that direction will also disappear if the Tsawwassen First Nation’s (TFN) deal with Ivanhoé Cambridge Inc. and Vancouver’s Property Development Group comes to fruition. For over there, the second-largest shopping complex in Canada is about to be built. Exceeded in size only by West Edmonton Mall, the TFN’s gargantuan, Coast Salish–themed Tsawwassen Mills/Tsawwassen Commons megamall will feature hundreds of stores and hectares of parking space. Goodbye, farmland; hello, Toys “R” Us.
But that is, to Steves’s mind, the least of it. For directly below and to the west of Delta’s 41B Street overpass is the real story: the proposed $10-billion Terminal 2 expansion at the Roberts Bank Superport, which now consists of two terminals, the Westshore coal facility and the Deltaport container operation.
With little opportunity to increase industrial capacity along the prohibitively expensive Burrard Inlet waterfront, Port Metro Vancouver—which is the name of both Canada’s largest and busiest port and a federally established corporation—is set to quadruple its container import-export capacity at Deltaport in the coming years. After all, China beckons. Politicians genuflect before the god of perpetual economic growth. Unions see jobs. Developers see real-estate possibilities. Tsawwassen Natives see dollar signs. Profits—despite sanctimonious statements otherwise—trump environmental policy. Farms are expendable; ditto snow geese.
In fact, for the prime agricultural land below the bridge where Steves stands, a 135-hectare industrial park is slated. Below, too, will be six to eight new sets of train tracks to serve the enlarged port. And the mysterious series of bridges now under construction over Highway 99 and Highway 17 just south of the Massey Tunnel is part of the new 40-kilometre-long South Fraser Perimeter truck route, built specifically to service the new terminal.
All told, more than 400 hectares of Class 1 agricultural land in Delta will be lost to port expansion. Another 100 hectares will succumb to residential units slated to be built on TFN land adjacent to the megamall. “That’s the best soil in Canada,” says Steves, incensed by the shortsightedness of corporate capitalism. “You’re looking at the Richmondization of Delta.”
Steves says that when he protested in 2011 to Robin Silvester, president of Port Metro Vancouver, that Terminal 2 would harm the province’s agricultural future, Silvester told him: “You don’t have to worry about food security for B.C. Give us the land in Delta and we’ll use it to import food.”
Here, then, is the crux of the impending conflict, both for Delta and for the planet. Two contradictory views of the future are about to collide. Worldwide, deltas of great rivers like the Nile, the Mekong, the Fraser—in all, the source of much of Earth’s food—are under assault as inexpensive agricultural land succumbs to industrialization, suburban sprawl, and relentlessly rising ocean levels.
What happens in Delta will, for better or worse, provide a preview of how the 21st century will unfold. Will it be increasingly globalized, processed-food production and distribution or more locally grown food? Will it be sprawl, malls, and highways or urban densification, neighbourhood shopping, and public transit? Will it be estuaries for port and industrial development or estuaries for agriculture, migratory birds, and fish habitat?
Read more: http://www.straight.com/news/343311/delta-expansion-projects-threaten-farms-and-wildlife
Read this story from MacLeans.com revealing that expenses for Canadian CEOs who joined Prime Minister Stephen Harper on a trade mission to China were covered by taxpayers. (Jan. 21, 2012)
OTTAWA – The Conservative government covered expenses for some of the country’s top executives as they accompanied the prime minister around China a year ago, a move business leaders and officials defend as a good investment.
The trip signalled a change of approach for Stephen Harper, who for years eschewed the idea of leading big trade offensives abroad.
The Public Accounts of Canada show that between 2006 and 2011, his wife Laureen Harper — and for many years his personal stylist Michelle Muntean — were the most common add-ons to the government tab.
Then came the China trip last February.
The delegation to three Chinese cities included 30 executives from major oil, agricultural and manufacturing companies as well as roughly two dozen members of the Chinese-Canadian cultural community.
Compare that with a 2009 trip to China — Harper’s first — when he brought along eight people, including Laureen, his stylist and four Chinese-Canadian businesspeople.
The Foreign Affairs Department says local transportation, accommodation, meals and “miscellaneous expenses” incurred by an official delegation is covered by the government. For the 2012 non-governmental participants, that meant an average of $1,200 a person.
Read more: http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/01/21/ottawa-covers-expenses-for-top-ceos-travelling-with-harper-on-china-tour/
Read this story from The Guardian on Norway's decision to raise its carbon tax on Nort Sea oil. (Oct. 11, 2012)
Norway is to double carbon tax on its North Sea oil industry and set up a £1bn fund to help combat the damaging impacts of climate change in the developing world.
In one of the most radical climate programmes yet by an oil-producing nation, the Norwegian government has proposed increasing its carbon tax on offshore oil companies by £21 to £45 (Nkr410) per tonne of CO2 and a £5.50 (Nkr50) per tonne CO2 tax on its fishing industry.
Norway will also plough an extra £1bn (Nkr10bn) into its funds for climate change mitigation, renewable energy, food security in developing countries and conversion to low-carbon energy sources, Environmental Finance reported.
It will step up spending on new projects to combat deforestation in developing countries to £44m, taking up its spending overall on forestry programmes to £327m. Previous forestry projects have involved Brazil, Indonesia and Ethiopia.
The Oslo government is also to spend £69m on buying carbon credits in 2013, to help offset its emissions, force through new building regulations to make all new homes carbon-neutral by 2015 and increase efforts to heavily cut emissions from cars, switching to electric vehicles.
Read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/oct/11/norway-carbon-tax-oil?newsfeed=true
Check out this story and slide show from The Huffington Post Canada's Zi-Ann Lum on the film-in-production Fractured Land, its main subject - First Nations law student Caleb Behn - and the controversial practice of natural gas "fracking" in his territories, which lies at the centre of the documentary. (Jan 18, 2013)
Far from the province's coastal cities, there's a remote part of northeastern British Columbia that most city dwellers don't know is responsible for generating all of Metro Vancouver's power. It's where Caleb Behn lives and what he's willing to fight for.
Behn, a young indigenous man from Eh Cho Dene territory in Fort Nelson, B.C., is featured in "Fractured Land," an upcoming B.C. documentary that explores the practice of fracking and the strain it has put on the province's First Nations communities and industry-government relations...
"Fractured Land" focuses on Behn, the grandson of chiefs, the son of a residential school survivor and a law school graduate. He's smart and speaks with strong determination. Behn can transition seamlessly from hunting and traditionally preparing a moose head in Fort Nelson to slipping into a three-piece suit to article at a Vancouver law firm.
"It's really interesting to see the change in Caleb; like a big exhale expelling all the tension, stress from the contemporary world; reconnecting with his land, his people," Gillis described of filming Behn home in his ancestral territory.
"My whole world and existence is tied to the land," Behn said.
The filmmakers and subject want to shake the audience awake. They're daring Canadians to not shy away from soaking in a portrait of a Canada trying to move forward with strained First Nations relations while precariously balancing the economic benefits of energy development, damning environmental reports and mounting domestic and international criticism.
"The biggest issue for me is water," Gillis explained. "The volumes of water contaminated with chemicals, taking that water out of the ecosystem is an exercise of insanity."
And the volume is staggering. According to 2010 government documents, a volume equivalent to the size of 800 Olympic swimming pools was pulled from the Horn River Basin alone solely for fracking.
What's been happening in northeastern B.C. has been described as "some of the largest fracking operations anywhere on earth," reports ProPublica.
Behn and the and the elders in his community have noticed the difference. Receding water levels have affected Dene fisherman and hunters and of the habits of the region's animals. The Dene's land is changing as is their existence in relation to it.
"We live in an interesting time. It feels like there are changes afoot. We should do right for Mother Earth because the destructive potential is significant and global," Behn urged.
Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/18/fractured-land-bc-fracking-documentary_n_2501118.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-british-columbia#slide=2000297
Read this story from the Globe and Mail on internal discussions within the Assembly of First Nations to push out National Chief Shawn Atleo - rumours which are being denied by AFN chiefs for now. (Jan 18, 2013)
Regional chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations were preparing to discuss the process for holding a non-confidence vote against National Chief Shawn Atleo during a conference call Thursday but a spokesman for the native organization said topic did not end up being raised.
Some chiefs are fuming about his decision to hold talks last week with Prime Minister Stephen Harper as the AFN executive continues to meet under the chairmanship of Roger Augustine, the regional chief for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. One of the subjects that was supposed to be on the agenda of the teleconference among executive committee members was the method for holding a no-confidence vote as spelled out in the AFN charter.
Mr. Atleo is taking time off work to recuperate from a severe bout of stomach flu and exhaustion.
The issue of his removal has been brewing since Mr. Atleo opted to attend last Friday's meeting over the objections of chiefs who said it was being conducted on Mr. Harper's terms and not those set by the first nations.
Mr.. Augustine said Thursday that the chiefs would be talking about “procedure, what it will take to do something like that ... We are going to be asking our lawyers what are the legalities, what are the procedures if it comes to play."
Asked which of the regional chiefs sought to have the matter discussed, Mr. Augustine replied: "Nobody. It's just another day at the office."
But a spokesman for the AFN said Friday that the discussion did not go ahead.
Mr. Harper limited the AFN delegation to between 30 and 35 people, even though hundreds of chiefs wanted to attend. And he refused to allow Governor-General David Johnston to be present as demanded by Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat, now into her fifth week of a hunger strike.
The regional chiefs of Manitoba, Ontario, the Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan ended up boycotting the meeting. But Mr. Augustine did not. "We requested the meeting and the Prime Minister's Office responded," he said. "And it's only proper protocol and respect to attend the meeting that you have asked for."
Supporters of Mr. Atleo say the no-confidence motion is being pushed by those whose candidates lost the election last July in which Mr. Atleo returned as AFN leader with more than 60 per cent of the vote. To be successful, a no-confidence motion would also have to garner 60 per cent of the vote at a special assembly.
Despite the executive committee's decision to explore the rules around a no-confidence vote, Mr. Augustine said he does not believe there is much appetite to hold one. "I think a lot of the chiefs are saying now, 'OK, so he met with the Prime Minister even though we didn't support it, but we are going to take advantage of it.' "
Mr. Atleo came out of the meeting with Mr. Harper saying he had secured the Prime Minister's commitment to take a direct hand in dealing with first-nations issues.
But many of the chiefs who did not want the meeting to proceed dismissed its outcome as inconsequential.
Read more: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/afn-chiefs-explore-options-for-no-confidence-motion-against-atleo/article7507139/
Read this story from Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun on manufacturing giant Toshiba's development of a small nuclear reactor to power bitumen extraction in the Alberta Tar Sands. (Jan 16, 2012)
Toshiba Corp. has been developing a small nuclear reactor for mining oil sands at the request of a firm engaged in such mining projects in Alberta Province, Canada, and aims to begin operating the reactor by 2020, it has been learned.
As the situation regarding the construction of new nuclear power plants and reactors in Japan remains unclear, Toshiba's move will likely attract attention as an effort toward utilizing the nation's nuclear technology in fields other than power generation.
Oil sands are sandstone deposits which contain a viscous form of petroleum, and can be used as petroleum-based fuel. Compared with oil fields, it has so far been difficult to develop oil sands. However, technological advances have led to the promotion of oil sands development in Venezuela and Canada. Canada is said to have about 100 oil sands deposits totaling about 170 billion barrels--the equivalent of about 100 years' worth of petroleum consumption in Japan.
The output of Toshiba's new small reactor will be 10,000 kilowatts to 50,000 kilowatts, about 1 percent-5 percent that of a regular nuclear reactor, according to the sources.
Steam generated in the reactor will be sent to strata located at a depth of about 300 meters, where oil sands are found, to turn the sand into slurry. The slurry will then be extracted from the strata using a separate pipe.
To ensure the reactor's safety, Toshiba reportedly plans to construct a nuclear reactor building underground, while the building itself will be equipped with an earthquake-absorbing structure.
The firm has completed a basic design for the reactor and has already started approval procedures for construction in the United States. After getting the official go-ahead from the U.S. government, Toshiba will then undergo safety checks in Canada.
Currently, oil sands are mined using boiler-generated steam. However, as this method requires natural gas to fuel the boilers, it is necessary to transport the gas as needed. Also, carbon dioxide emissions from burning natural gas is seen to be a problem.
By contrast, the planned small reactor would not require refueling for up to 30 years after construction or release any carbon dioxide. Furthermore, nuclear reactors would also be cheaper should the general price of natural gas increase.
Read more: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/business/T130115004424.htm
Read this story from the Globe and Mail on a spat between leading Tar Sands producer Suncor and US pipeline titan Kinder Morgan over the latter's proposed tolling scheme to ship bitumen to its terminal in the Vancouver Harbour. (Jan 16, 2013)
A corporate spat has erupted in the race to carry oil to the British Columbia coast, as energy producers accuse a U.S. pipeline company of trying to charge exorbitant prices to ship crude. (Jan 16, 2013)
The attack is being led by Suncor Energy Inc., the country’s largest oil company, and is aimed at the Canadian unit of Houston-based Kinder Morgan Inc., which is seeking approval for a $5.4-billion expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline. The Kinder project would allow for the shipment of another 890,000 barrels a day between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C., where it connects to a dock that stands to be an important outlet for Canadian oil to find new buyers in California and Asia.
Major oil companies are eager to ship to the coast to take advantage of higher prices on world markets than they can get by shipping to refineries in the U.S. Midwest and Southeast. But some of them are balking at the price – known in the industry as tolls – which they argue would allow Kinder Morgan to earn returns on the project that are far above its historical 7 to 12 per cent.
“The average projected [return on equity] would be approximately 28.3 per cent,” wrote Greg Matwichuk, an Alberta chartered accountant who provided evidence on behalf of Suncor to the National Energy Board. That, he added, “is significantly greater than returns earned by other pipelines in Canada.”
The dispute about tolls, which is set to burst into greater view when a public hearing begins Feb. 13, is a window into the high-stakes game under way for Canadian companies fighting to get oil to Pacific Coast as quickly as possible.
Building new outlets has taken on major new importance in recent months, with existing export pipelines effectively full and Canadian heavy oil selling at a discount as high as $42 (U.S.) a barrel to the North American benchmark, West Texas intermediate.
But oil companies’ pain stands to be a gain for pipeline companies. Once boring utilities, pipeline firms in Canada have in recent years moved farther away from a model that largely assured them returns, albeit modest ones, irrespective of operating costs or how much oil they pump. Today, they are seeking higher returns while at the same time accepting more risk, in the belief that the fast-rising oil sands will provide plenty of crude for years to come.
Kinder Morgan says that it is not looking for anything like a 28.3 per cent return on Trans Mountain – and that it is taking additional risk to build the pipeline.
Instead of passing along the cost of power or some construction overruns to customers, for example, Kinder Morgan is proposing to largely shoulder any rise in those costs – save several exceptions, including changes in the cost of steel or large first nations financial considerations.
Read more: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/suncor-leads-attack-over-kinder-morgan-pipeline-prices/article7379616/
Read this story from the Guardian on a new report which finds a popular insecticide manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Bayer poses an 'unacceptable' risk to bees. (Jan 16, 2013)
The world's most widely used insecticide has for the first time been officially labelled an "unacceptable" danger to bees feeding on flowering crops. Environmental campaigners say the conclusion, by Europe's leading food safety authority, sounds the "death knell" for the insect nerve agent.
The chemical's manufacturer, Bayer, claimed the report, released on Wednesday, did not alter existing risk assessments and warned against "over-interpretation of the precautionary principle".
The report comes just months after the UK government dismissed a fast-growing body of evidence of harm to bees as insufficient to justify banning the chemicals.
Bees and other pollinators are critical to one-third of all food, but two major studies in March 2012, and others since, have implicated neonicotinoid pesticides in the decline in the insects, alongside habitat loss and disease. In April, the European commission demanded a re-examination of the risks posed by the chemicals, including Bayer's widely used imidacloprid and two others.
Scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), together with experts from across Europe, concluded on Wednesday that for imidacloprid "only uses on crops not attractive to honeybees were considered acceptable" because of exposure through nectar and pollen. Crops that attract honeybees include oil seed rape, corn and sunflowers. EFSA was asked to consider the acute and chronic effects on bee larvae, bee behaviour and the colony as a whole, and the risks posed by sub-lethal doses. But it found a widespread lack of information in many areas and had stated previously that current "simplistic" regulations contained "major weaknesses".
"This is a major turning point in the battle to save our bees," said Friends of the Earth's Andrew Pendleton: "EFSA have sounded the death knell for one of the chemicals most frequently linked to bee decline and cast serious doubt over the safety of the whole neonicotinoid family. Ministers must wake up to the fact that these chemicals come with an enormous sting in the tail by immediately suspending the use of these pesticides."
Prof David Goulson, at the University of Stirling and who led one of the key 2012 studies, said: "It is very pleasing that EFSA now acknowledge there are significant environmental risks associated with these chemicals. It begs the question of what was going on when these chemicals were first approved. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was 50 years ago but we have not learned the lessons."
Read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/16/insecticide-unacceptable-danger-bees