Study finds federal regulations for methane more effective than Alberta’s, but both can improve

New research compares 2 plans as Alberta and Ottawa negotiate agreement on rules for oil and gas industry

A pumpjack works at a wellhead on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta. Both the federal and Alberta governments have proposed regulations that will reduce methane from oil and gas extraction. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

new study suggests that the federal government’s proposed regulations to reduce methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas emitted by the oil and gas industry, would be more effective than competing regulations proposed by the Alberta government.

But there’s room for improvement for both, and a question mark over whether either set of regulations would meet Canada’s methane reduction targets.

The goal is to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by 40-45 per cent from 2012 levels by 2025. The goal stems from a leaders summit in 2016, when Mexico, the U.S. and Canada agreed to these methane reductions. The goal has now been incorporated into Canada’s official climate plan, the Pan-Canadian Framework.

“Absolutely that kind of methane reduction is achievable,” said Matthew Johnson, an engineering professor at Carleton University who is a leading expert on emissions in Canada’s energy sector.

“We would say that the federal government [proposal] will just meet that target. Are there things in here you could do to improve both regulations? Hundred per cent. Neither regulation is perfect.”

Matthew Johnson, a professor at Carleton University, is a leading expert on emissions from Canada’s energy sector. (Mike Pinder/Carleton University)

 

Alberta and the federal government are currently in equivalency negotiations to decide which methane regulations will go into effect. Under the law, Alberta’s regulations would apply if they are found to be as or more effective than the federal regulations. The negotiations are meant to determine if the provincial regulations are equivalent to the federal ones.

Both have proposed regulations aimed at reducing leaks of methane from conventional oil and gas facilities, through a swath of new requirements that target everything from how the facilities are run, how often they are inspected, the equipment they use and how methane leaks are detected.

There are leaks of methane throughout the extraction of oil and gas, from the wellheads, through pipelines and pumps to delivery to market.

Johnson’s analysis found that the federal government’s regulations would achieve net reductions of 40 per cent — just reaching the lower end of the goal — while Alberta’s regulations would be behind at 35 per cent reduction.

Methane gas is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, and accounts for 15 per cent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). Reducing it is a key part of Canada’s climate change plan, and a major policy directed toward reducing emissions from the oil and gas sector.

But the methane regulations don’t apply to a significant part of that industry — Alberta’s oilsands mines. The oilsands are a completely different mining operation than upstream oil and gas facilities, and account for about 19 per cent of Alberta’s methane emissions. The current regulations are focused on the other sources of emissions, for which a clearer path to reduction exists.

Johnson’s study pointed out that even without any new regulations, methane emissions from sources that are not oilsands mines have fallen from 2012 to 2018.

In contrast, emissions from oilsands mines have gone up. If emissions from the oilsands keep rising, it could cancel out any reductions from the new methane regulations.

“So which trend wins? If that oilsands trend increases faster than any additional non-regulation reductions at the top, then those targets are in jeopardy,” Johnson said.

The Alberta Energy Regulator and the federal ECCC, the departments that crafted the methane regulations, did not comment directly on Johnson’s paper. ECCC said the process of working toward an equivalency agreement requires comparing the “environmental outcomes” between the federal and provincial proposals.

“ECCC is always open to working with interested jurisdictions, including Alberta, toward equivalency agreements,” said an ECCC spokesperson in an emailed statement.

Johnson’s paper suggests several options for Alberta’s regulations to be tweaked to reach, or even exceed, the methane reduction targets. He said he hopes that the analysis in his paper can be used to improve the regulations in the next few years.

“Methane is not a solved problem. Not even close. And these regulations aren’t final, and I think that the regulators will tell you they’re not final,” Johnson said. SOURCE

“To my understanding, there’s an intent for both the federal government and the provincial government to revisit these regulations, and look for opportunities to improve or adjust as things change in the near term.”

The Wet’suwet’en crisis has exposed deep-seated racism in Canada

Native communities do not hurt the economy – they bear the hurt of corporations ruining the land.

Supporters of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs block access to the Port of Vancouver as part of protests against the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline [Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters]

Supporters of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs block access to the Port of Vancouver as part of protests against the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline [Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters]

It is all well and good until the Indian mascots start talking back.

That has been an observation of mine, after years of public advocacy as a Native woman. Society likes us in caricatured form, they sometimes like us in regalia opening events, but once a Native speaks out in a way that challenges North American society, we are regularly, and sometimes violently, silenced.

We need look no further for an example of this than the current Indigenous-led infrastructure shutdowns in Canada, in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who have refused passage of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their territory.

Across what is now Canada, Native resistance is exposing an underbelly of racism, ignorance and historical denial. Following the Canadian government’s refusal to listen to the hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs’ rejection of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, hundreds of ongoing disruptions to transportation infrastructure have forced a reckoning on every level imaginable. Angry comments proliferate across online comment boards, death threats fill the inboxes of Native front-line resistors posting photos of solidarity actions with #WetsuwetenStrong and #LandBack hashtags.

Angry fossil fuel employees, their families, friends and citizens, concerned with economic security (but apparently not at all concerned with equality) call for violence upon Indigenous youth standing up for their long-suffering people, upon any and all Native peoples disrupting infrastructure trying to be heard, to be seen, to be respected.

“Yes, this is [a] threat,” I read in one Tweet replying to the Twitter feed of the Unist’ot’en (working in conjunction with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs) Camp, along with instructions and an illustration for locating and approaching Indigenous blockades with a mask and baseball bat.

Hostility to Native resistance ranges from physical violence to basic supremacy themes – people who “live off our taxes” have no room to complain about anything. The incalculable contributions Native people made to both non-Native survival then and to the economy as it exists today are summarily disregarded. I suspect a vast majority of North America has little to no understanding of treaties made between fledgeling Western governments and Native Nations, or of what “unceded land” means.

While the US and Canadian constitutions are respected law, the treaties that literally ceded the lands those countries exist on today in exchange for basic services ensuring the survival of the people holding those lands are viewed as old news, as something to “get over”.

The desperate state of far too many Native nations should anger any patriot who believes in country; a glaring failure of the US and Canada to uphold their end of the contracts they signed. Instead, Native communities are a source of shame, of anger towards Native people, or intentionally ignored. The refusal of Native peoples to assimilate is a 500-plus year thorn in the side of colonisation and an affront to American exceptionalism.

The racism on display with regard to Wet’suwet’en is not a new phenomenon. It did not just suddenly appear because of incendiary stories about job layoffs (layoffs that were already in progress before the disruptions).

I recall how a group of men driving by an Anishinaabe woman walking down a pavement in Thunder Bay, Canada, allegedly threw a trailer hitch at her and struck her in the stomach. Barbara Kentner, 34, later died of her injuries. The man charged with her killing faces trial in April. Internet rumours attacking Barbara Kentner grew so malicious that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) ran a piece debunking one claiming Kentner assaulted a child. The celebrations around the killing of Colton Boushie – a young Cree man shot in the head by a white farmer who was subsequently acquitted of his murder and manslaughter – was another moment that should have cued folks to the deep-seated racism towards Native people. So is the literal epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women on both sides of the colonial border.

Throw in extractive industrial projects that hold the boon of hundreds of well-paying jobs, a way to keep food on the table, and that ignorance explodes to the surface. The Native person trying to protect their land, the deepest part of their identity, becomes an obstacle blocking a good job. Such a narrative benefits the company seeking its latest fossil fuel project. Stories of Coastal GasLink pipeline, Enbridge, TransCanada and many others’ failing profit margins, uncertain oil forecasts and lack of demand are buried. It has to be somebody’s fault, we are told, but it never seems to be the companies making these destructive choices.

I was born and raised in North Country; I grew up with loggers and miners, the folks who use their hands and backs for a living, as my family members and neighbours. Distrust and lack of understanding between rural communities and the Native folks nearby are a constant. Exploitation of the lands and waters we call home is also a constant. The jobs that pay well are usually jobs that require taking far, far more than we need, for shipment somewhere else.

When the mine finally gives out, it is our water that sits contaminated, our children that play on the soil with a spreading chemical plume below it. When the old growth timber is gone, it is our ecosystem that is disrupted, the wild game many of us still depend on that disappears. We bear the risk of spills, of explosions, of all the immediate risks of bodily harm associated with extractive industry. When Coastal GasLink bulldozes its way through the unceded territory against the authority of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, it is our communities that bear that hurt and destruction, it is our people, our youth that carry those wounds and further separation between Native and non-Native neighbours.

We are at the point now where the climate crisis has extended serious risks outside of our local communities. The polar ice caps are melting, the Global South has rising seas and burning rainforests, North America’s own western seaboard is on fire for longer and longer periods in these recent times. It is not just our problem and reality any longer; it belongs to the whole of humanity.

In the realm of finger-pointing, it seems to me that blaming the Native taking a stand for our shared and only home might seem like the easiest thing to do, but it makes the least sense. Corporations are made of people, those people make decisions with enormous consequences. Governments are made of people, those people shape economic accountability, public policy and subsidise the future they want to back. Communities are made of people, we can collectively all do a lot better towards understanding one another and ending a vicious cycle of hatred.

It is the 21st century – surely we can do better than unchecked mega-corporations destroying our only home to make a buck. Investment in technology, in people, in education, in the forgotten, still-beautiful places that hold the remaining biodiversity and delicate ecosystems we all need to survive should be a no-brainer, one would think. One would hope.

SOURCE

UN climate negotiations end in ‘demoralizing, enraging’ failure

U.N. security try to clear protesters during a protest at COP25 to draw attention to the climate emergency.. Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. AP Photograph / Paul White

The United Nations climate talks went into record overtime and then ended in failure on Sunday. The countries gathered in Madrid for COP25 were unable to agree on the main objectives of the negotiations and kicked the most important decisions down the road to next year’s meeting in Glasgow, Scotland.

A coalition of countries seeking higher ambition were blocked by a group of big polluters insisting on accounting tricks such as “hot air” credits, opposing help for nations suffering the impacts of climate change, and demanding that human rights protections get removed from the main sections of the agreement that COP25 was intended to resolve. One of the main breakdowns centred on Article 6 which covers international accounting for climate pollution and credits between countries. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers along with politicians like Jason Kenney and Andrew Scheer, had been making misleading suggestions that Article 6 could be used to give Canada credit for exports of LNG and other fossil fuels.

The “High Ambition Coalition” includes island countries like the Marshall Islands which are threatened by rising sea levels as well as European countries which, just this week, dramatically strengthened their own climate plans.

Simon Stiell, a minister from Grenada who spoke for the coalition, put blame for COP’s failure squarely on the United States, Brazil and Australia. “Lives are at risk here,” Stiell told National Observer. “We know what actions need to be taken but there are a few voices dictating the agenda of the many.”

The European Union’s lead negotiator said “there is no way we could accept a compromise that jeopardizes environmental integrity. We need to be ambitious and get to net-zero emissions by 2050, and we can only get there if we start now.”

Youth climate advocates have galvanized a worldwide surge in climate concern in 2019. “Our future is literally at stake. We don’t have any other choice than trying through all possible means,” said Catherine Gauthier, Executive Director, of ENvironnement JEUnesse. Gauthier is leading a class action lawsuit by Canadian youth against the federal government and was in Madrid as an accredited observer of COP25.

The 2019 UN climate negotiations were widely expected to be little more than a stopover on the way to 2020 where countries agreed to announce new, more ambitious plans to limit climate pollution.

Despite those low expectations, there was some hope that the world’s governments would feel compelled to respond to the explosion of public concern in 2019 and frightening new scientific findings. In the end, they did not even live up to the meager expectations.

Catherine Abreu, the lead Canadian watchdogging the UN process, also laid blame for the failure on big polluting countries which “have been able to ruthlessly advance the fossil fuel industry’s profit agenda over our collective futures.”

“While Canadian negotiators were largely constructive on the ground, Canada has a lot of work to do at home to address the gap between its climate goals and its ongoing commitment to expand the fossil fuel industry, which got a lot of international attention here in Madrid,” said Abreu. She called on Canada’s environment minister to “increase Canada’s climate finance contributions and deliver on his government’s election promise to bring a new, more ambitious Paris pledge to COP26 in 2020.”

.@Cat_Abreu, the lead Canadian watchdogging the UN process, laid blame for failure on big polluting countries which “have been able to ruthlessly advance the fossil fuel industry’s profit agenda over our collective futures,” @zerocarbon

The United States, Brazil and Australia were the main obstructionists. The United States’ role was particularly galling because Donald Trump had already pulled out of the Paris agreement.

Brazil’s Bolsonaro, the “Trump of the Tropics,” turned his arsonism onto the international stage, a brief detour from torching the Amazon rainforest.

Australia’s delegation blatantly did the bidding of its coal industry. They return home to a country ablaze in bushfires and a population choking in smoke.

But even outside that triad of obstructionists, the negotiations were poorly handled. Much of the blame goes to Chile who held this year’s COP presidency. Shockingly little work had been done to line up the issues and troubleshoot predictable sticking points in advance. Even once the negotiations were underway, it was virtually impossible to track the goings-on. “The most opaque COP I have ever seen,” said Elizabeth May.

May said there was an upside in punting Article 6. “No decision at all is preferable to a bad decision here. We did not end up with … rules that would have damaged the whole Paris effort to hold global average temperature increase to no more than 1.5 degrees.”

Representatives from Indigenous and climate groups said the failure of world governments to respond to the climate crisis means that citizens will have to step up action.

It’s been made clear that there is no room for ethics in these international negotiations. The people need to carry the work that negotiators can’t,” said Deputy Grand Chief Jordan Peterson of the Gwich’in Tribal Council and Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.

“It wasn’t just that the COP25 outcome was a disaster. It was also demoralizing and enraging to see countries erase human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples… It will be up to people in Canada and around the world to continue to mobilize,” said Environmental Defence’s Dale Marshall.

It is particularly unfair to Spain that the Madrid talks will be remembered as a failure. Spain valiantly offered to host the negotiations after riots against austerity measures forced Chile to abandon the COP in Santiago. Chile maintained its role managing the negotiating process but the talks themselves moved to Madrid. The Spanish capital had just a month’s preparation before welcoming every country in the world — less time to prep than the average office holiday party.

When the heads of state arrived along with federal and subnational ministers, thousands of negotiators, experts and observers, the entire city was ready. Madrid’s elegant buildings and avenues were festooned with creative artwork highlighting the climate challenge. Enormous LED signs lit the Gran Via. Delegates were given passes to an impressive metro system, its subway cars decked out in climate wraps and stations covered with billboards. The massive conference centre was highly organized as if plans and preparations had been underway for many months if not years.

When Canada’s negotiators return, exhausted, to Ottawa, they will soon have to decide whether or not to approve Teck Resources Limited’s mega mine in the Alberta oil sands. That will be the next big test of whether our federal government’s commitment to climate action leaves us energized or enraged. SOURCE

RELATED:

COP25 derailed as polluters prioritized over people and planet
With the exclusion of science COP25 was designed to fail
Europe has unveiled a plan to eliminate climate emissions by 2050

Wind Farm Coming? Here’s What To Expect & How To Help Your Community

Image result for windfarm ontario

Wind farms remain the most environmentally benign form of electrical generation we have ever managed to create, with solar farms a close second. They have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per MWh, full life cycle. They mix boundary layers of air over fields, drawing moisture and warmth at night down to growing plants, reducing the likelihood of frost and increasing yields. They shade livestock. They take up about 1% of agricultural land in the areas that they spread across, usually the less arable corners, and perhaps 2% when placed on ridgelines. Their few downsides, such as the low bird and bat mortality figures, pale in comparison to the toll of fossil fuels both directly and through global warming.

But that doesn’t mean that they are universally accepted by communities where they are being established. It’s important to provide care and feeding to those communities, to provide them the immunization that they often require from those irrationally or ideologically opposed to wind energy and to assist them in healing breaches that occur. Wind farms bring change, and change is often difficult.

A few years ago I toiled as a volunteer in the trenches of global wind energy social acceptance. I ran a blog used by wind energy advocates globally, Barnard on Wind. I was Senior Fellow – Wind for the Washington-based Energy and Policy Institute think tank, authoring a still-referenced report on global court cases related to wind energy and health (tl;dr: judges almost universally agreed that there are no health impacts). I assisted local groups in Ontario, the United States, Australia and elsewhere to counter disinformation and to find ways to communicate the benefits of wind energy to their communities. I worked to counter the virulence of anti-wind documentaries made in the USA and Canada. I remain connected to the American Wind Energy AssociationGlobal Wind Energy Council, and the Canadian Wind Energy Association by ties of social networks and respect.

This has given me a global perspective on the challenges communities face as wind farms enter their areas. There are real, if slight impacts, but it’s the psychology of your neighbors that is critical to understand. For the purposes of this assessment, let’s break the process into phases: pre-construction, construction, and operation.


Pre-construction

In the run up to a wind farm being constructed in a region, there may be some divisiveness and acrimony in the community. Some of it will be for more rational reasons, some for less. Some people will need to be brought on board, some will be opposed.

First, representatives of the company building the wind farm will be going door to door to the properties that their modeling shows are suitable for a wind turbine. They’ll be offering leases for the use of about a quarter acre of land per turbine for from $6,000 to $18,000 per year in the USA, with an average of around $8,000. Just as rural dwellers want cell towers and microwave repeaters on their properties for the revenue, they want wind turbines. And often the people who have the best land for wind generation are the people who had marginal agricultural land. A few wind turbines on a property can invert long-standing have/have-not status ratios in a neighborhood. That can lead to some acrimony, and it can lead to the former ‘haves’ who don’t get a wind turbine for their property leading the fight against all wind turbines.

Depending on the community and the company, they may negotiate a community investment as well. That might be a new town hall, a new baseball diamond, or an annual stipend into community coffers. The community should negotiate for that kind of investment. Wind farms have a capital cost of about $2 million per MW of capacity, and annual revenue streams in the tens or hundreds of millions for reasonably sized ones so there’s a lot of money to be negotiated for. Don’t be afraid to work hard to get it for your community in general. As always with negotiations, you don’t get what you don’t ask for.

People who live in rural areas where wind farms can exist tend to be more conservative than urban dwellers, and a wind farm is a visible addition to an area. Some people will be opposed solely on the basis that something is changing, much of which can be explained by the same NIMBYism that sees urban neighborhoods oppose condo buildings which will ‘change the character’ of their street.

But the conservatism plays out another way. It’s become fairly common for conservative parties to use renewable energy and global warming as wedges with their base. As a result, there’s been a partisan shift away from acceptance of the reality of global warming and our causing it, and with it a disdain for wind and solar as forms of generation. This is diminishing somewhat as time marches on, global warming becomes even more evident and wind farms spread around the world, but it’s still there.

Then there’s the completely flaky stuff people will believe. There are a few anti-wind organizations and individuals who have spread complete nonsense around the world. Your more credulous neighbors who have a bias against wind farms will find it very easy to get a lot of material full of fear, uncertainty and doubt. As a supporter, you’ll end up seeing lists of mind-bogglingly silly things that are attributed to wind turbines, and some people will believe it. Some will watch one of the three or four anti-wind turbine propaganda documentaries that are out there, or start following one of the two or three common online gathering grounds for anti-wind types. Some will get hysterical. A lot of time will be spent pushing back on the nonsense, slowly and painfully. And a lot of respect will be lost for some members of your community.

Making sure that you have a list of the common anti-wind talking points that are spread with clear and simple debunkings of them helps. The site Wind Power Rocks took the content of the Barnard on Wind blog a few years ago and created a cleaner, simpler and more effective set of material to help with that. Cutting and pasting the rebuttals into social media when the disinformation pops up is a good way to neutrally communicate reality without being confrontational. Similarly, AWEA has an excellent blog, Into the Wind, so checking in there for information is a good idea.

Social media is place where a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt will be spread, and there are people who spend all day every day spreading it. Making sure you’ve set up a positive community social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will really help. Unfortunately, as Tigercomm found through a study of US wind farm operators, the companies have mostly ceded this ground to opponents for the past several years, at least in the USA. Spend some time with the company to divide up some responsibilities so that you both can be contributing to social license for wind farm.

Another type of vaccination your community may need is to keep traveling anti-wind propagandists out, or to counter their messages if those in your community who are opposed invite them in. When I was assessing court cases related to the non-issues of wind energy and health, it became apparent that court cases followed anti-wind propagandists such as Sarah Laurie, Carmen Krogh, and Nina Pierpont into areas that they visited. Baseless health fears followed these people, and in some cases led to legal challenges which virtually all failed, at great expense to the community and the legal system.

If those opposed in your community invite someone to speak about wind energy and its impacts, investigate them thoroughly. If they are associated with groups such as Wind Concerns Ontario, The Society for Wind Vigilance, the Waubra Foundation, Stop These Things, or Save the Eagles International, they will be spreading baseless lies that can make it much more difficult for a community to remain intact. As always with this type of fake news, there are two primary strategies. First, make sure that the reality is out there before the propagandists show up. Communicate early and often. Second, ensure that there is at least equal representation at any event to make sure that someone can counter the propagandists. Third, ongoing follow-up with reality-based statements to the disinformation that they spread will be required.

Finally, consider getting professional help. Time and again I’ve seen professional anti-wind PR campaigns from part-time residents of rural areas who have retirement or vacation properties there. They made their money in resource extraction, tobacco, or something with equal challenges, and are used to hiring professional PR flacks for campaigns. A tiny island south of Australia, King Island (great cheese, many lovely people), was considered for a large wind farm and the people who wanted golf courses instead hired the same PR company that was used by very conservative politicians to try to sell coal exports. A wealthy Australian created an entire anti-wind organization just to prevent wind turbines from being barely visible at the end of the valley from his occasional country home. The people opposed to wind are often amoral. They have theirs and are very willing to fight to keep others from getting some too. Suggested North American companies include TigercommRenewCommDavies Public Affairs. (Full disclosure: I am acquainted with the principals of all three companies and have professional relationships with one.)

It’s work, but it’s worth it for your community, your neighbors and your friends. It will pay dividends over the coming years.


Construction

One of the many advantages of wind generation, and one it shares with solar farms, is that it doesn’t take long to build. The entire construction period for an average wind farm will be under two years, and in many cases some turbines will be generating electricity long before the farm itself is finished. Some wind farms are built in stages, but each stage doesn’t take that long and there are usually gaps of a year or two between those stages as we’ve seen with the 4,000 MW wind farm on the St. Laurent River in Quebec or the 20,000 MW Gansu Wind Farm in China reaching completion in 2020.

During construction itself, there will be some short-term impacts. Some new roads will be cut, possibly to get to ridgeline turbine locations. It’s possible some trees will be removed, which will be unfortunate. Ensuring replacement reforestation is a good idea. There might be some temporary turbidity in streams and rivers as the relatively small areas cleared for roads and pads erode a bit until they stabilize.

There will be some big trucks moving through your community with concrete and rebar for the bases. There will be other big trucks moving in the masts, blades, and nacelles. Large crane trucks will show up to assemble turbines. Other trucks will bring the substantial electrical equipment necessary to bridge from turbines to transmission grid. In some cases this will damage local roads and in some cases the equipment might pass across someone’s field or lawn. Repairs will be made, and of course the wind farm firm should be on the hook for these based on prior negotiation with the community so that there is no conflict in rapid resolution and payment.

During construction, there will be jobs for some members of the community. Some will be skilled labor, others will include unskilled labor. There will be multiple, spread-out construction sites for the individual turbines, so there will be lots of work for night security guards for the duration. There will be an uptick in use of local accommodations and local dining and drinking establishments. A fair amount of money will flow into the community during construction.

There will be complaints about the roads, the trees, the noise, any turbidity and the like, but that’s low grade usually, especially if you’ve discussed this with the wind farm company up front and ensured that they will take care of it rapidly and at their expense.

Nonsense opinions and disinformation will continue to fly, and a small subset of your community are likely to work themselves up into a full froth. You’ll get sick of hearing from them. But you’ll need to stay positive and continue to provide factual, neutral information to counter them both in person and on social media.


Operation

After the turbines are in and the wind farm is in operation, a lot of the hue and cry will die down. Almost everyone will discover that the turbines aren’t particularly noisy or visible most of the time, that they are widely spread out, that they are far from homes, and that almost every concern was overstated.

Property values won’t decline. Properties with wind turbine leases often will appreciate in value faster than the average, and that may again cause some resentment about the fiscal benefits. All the credible studies using standard mechanisms for assessing property values statistically find this.

A couple of people with bedrooms closer to a wind turbine might complain. Typically the wind farm company will work with them to find a suitable compromise, which has included companies paying for a row of trees, water features which make a little noise, and soundproofing blinds for bedrooms. Shrewd neighbors of yours will find a way to take advantage of this and get free upgrades to their homes. Companies budget for this. And of course this round of upgrades comes with local economic benefits as mostly it’s local people doing the work and getting the money.

If someone gets sick, it will be because they are making themselves sick. They’ll blame pre-existing conditions on the wind farm. They’ll worry themselves into high blood pressure, and then blame the wind farms for the high-blood pressure. They’ll realize that they have tinnitus, and blame that on the wind farm. Some will have read too much of the nonsense and they’ll make themselves mildly sick through the power of suggestion, something called the nocebo effect, which is the opposite of the placebo effect.

But no one will be being made sick by wind turbines placidly turning in the breeze, just by their own minds. How do I know this? Well, I spent years on the subject, reading all of the peer-reviewed health literature, talking with acousticians and public health professionals and writing about it in material such as the court cases study I published. My writing on the subject has ended up in the journal Noise and Health and in books such as Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Communicated Disease by my colleagues and friends Simon Chapman AO Ph.D. FASSA HonFFPH (UK), Emeritus Professor Public Health, School of Public Health, Sydney University and Fiona Crichton, LLB, MSC Hons, Ph.D. Candidate,University of Auckland. Very bright people have been trying to figure out since the mid-2000s why people are blaming wind farms for health issues that they just aren’t causing, and it’s pretty clear that it’s health scares spread by anti-wind groups creating psychosomatic illnesses.

And the money will be flowing into your community. A 115 MW wind farm with 50 turbines means that leases will be bringing $300,000 to $900,000 into the pockets of people in the community that wasn’t there before. A bunch of that money will trickle into the rest of the community. Any community benefits you negotiated for will still be paying dividends.

The wind turbines in operation mostly just sit there, but they need a minimum amount of security, even if it’s just a weekly security inspection by someone to make sure kids haven’t tried to jimmy the locks on the turbine bases.

There will be operational inspection teams through moderately regularly, often with drones these days to inspect the blades and masts. They’ll need to eat and stay somewhere, so more money into the community.

Every year there will be roughly a week of maintenance on the turbines, and that will mean more skilled maintenance people in eating and drinking at the local water holes and staying in the local accommodations.

Some bright sort will probably figure out that a wind farm actually attracts some tourists, and start a sideline bed-and-breakfast aimed at wind farm tours or the like. Once again, the studies show zero negative impact on tourism, so agritourism opportunities just tick up a notch.


The vast majority of opposition to wind farms occurs before they are built. The majority of NIMBYs give up at a certain point. The majority of people who were worried stop worrying once the turbines are just a feature of the neighborhood. There might be a tiny percentage who remain freaked out.

And some mending of fences will need to occur in the community. Wind farms are often somewhat divisive and harsh words are spoken. Some reconciliation and grudge burying will occur. Some will fester, but if it wasn’t the wind farm, it likely would have been something else. Some people just like holding grudges.

After a few years, no one will remember the region without the wind farm. It will be like the old barn on your neighbor’s property or the duck pond, just a part of the scenery. But all the money will keep flowing into your community regardless. And you’ll be part of the solution to our global warming problem.

Canada election puts spotlight on the oil-climate divide

Image result for digital journal: Canada election puts spotlight on the oil-climate divide

On the eve of Canada’s federal elections, Conservatives and Liberals are neck-and-neck in the polls. But in the prairie province of Saskatchewan support for the Tories is steadfast, centered around the fate of the oil and gas industry.

Though Saskatchewan isn’t the country’s top oil-producing province — it accounts for roughly 12 percent of Canadian oil output, compared to neighboring Alberta’s nearly 80 percent — the industry is crucial to the region’s economy.

And many voters here feel the last four years of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, with the stricter environmental policies it has rolled out, has hurt them.

“I’d like to see the oil and gas back up, because Trudeau’s trying to shut it all down,” said 71-year-old Sarah Wall. “He’s tearing our country apart; West and East are fighting against each other.”

Wall, a retired cleaner, lives in the electoral district of Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, in the provincial capital of Regina.

Her neighbors, Peter and Daisy Popkie, were also quick to name oil as a top reason they support Scheer and the Conservatives.

“It just seems like he’s more geared to the oil industry out west here,” said Peter Popkie.

Their son is studying geology as he prepares for a career in the petroleum industry, a future the Popkies said they are “hoping will look better” under a new government.

“We want him to have a job when he’s done,” said Daisy Popkie. “Living out west, this is a big push we need: jobs for our people.”

Prime Minister and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau (L) and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer faced off...Heated climate debate: Prime Minister and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau (L) and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer faced off during a debate in Gatineau, Quebec, on October 10, 2019; the two differ sharply on questions of energy and the environment Adrian Wyld, POOL/AFP/File

 

Andrew Spagrud, who says he “didn’t really get involved in politics” in his student days, is now 33 and the CEO of Villanova Energy. When it comes to the elections, he says the choice is “obvious.”

“We’ve been in a four-year cycle of getting beat up — like the industry’s just in a state of disrepair,” said Spagrud. “Regulatory issues are just causing our industry to really suffer versus our peer countries.”

Canada’s economy is relatively strong and the jobless rate is near a historic low, but its oil patch has been hit by a global oil price slump and a flight of foreign investment.

In April, Trudeau’s government rolled out a starting carbon tax of Can$20 ($15 US) per ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted, affecting four provinces that had not fallen in line with the prime minister’s emissions reduction strategy.

That tax is scheduled to increase incrementally to Can$50 over the coming years to discourage the use of large amounts of fossil fuels.

Six other provinces were initially exempt because each had come up with a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system to help Canada meet its Paris Agreement target of reducing CO2 emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna seen here at a July 18 2019 event in Montreal has...

Security for one official.  Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, seen here at a July 18, 2019 event in Montreal, has been disparaged by critics as “Climate Barbie” and had to be assigned a security detail Sebastien St-Jean, AFP/File

 

The ideological divide over the tax is playing out in courtrooms and legislatures across the country — with Saskatchewan taking the lead in fighting it to the Supreme Court — and it figures, unsurprisingly, in election party platforms.

Scheer has said that as prime minister he would repeal the carbon tax and other environmental protections.

In the leadup to the election, oil industry proponents have waged angry protests. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna — disparaged by critics as “Climate Barbie” and an enemy of the people — was assigned a security detail.

And former foreign minister Maxime Bernier, who split from the Tories to form his own party, went so far as to call the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg “clearly mentally unstable,” before walking back his comments.

In contrast, Trudeau last month marched with Thunberg at a massive rally in Montreal, and on Friday she led a protest in Edmonton, Alberta, where she was met by a counter-demonstration featuring big rigs honking their horns.

“It’s very difficult for us to have conversations with people on the other side of the spectrum, because things are so personal, because it’s impacting our way of life, it’s impacting our finances really, our economies out here, and obviously that’s a big deal,” said Spagrud.

“When I go to bed at night, I think about providing for my family, what things are going to look like in one year, five years, 15 years, and right now all of that, it looks kind of scary.”

Jim Farney, who heads the political science department at the University of Regina, noted that the Conservatives “have put a great deal of emphasis this election on opposing the carbon tax, and while they’re not a greenhouse-gas-denying, climate-change-denying party, they’re also not in a hurry to do much about it.

“So that’s a big part of their appeal.” SOURCE

Canada opposes ban on ‘indefensible’ practice of shipping hazardous waste to developing countries

“This is what we can only call dysfunctional. And three words come to mind: Shame on us.”

VANCOUVER—A Seattle-based environmental organization is shaming Canada for refusing to support a ban on the dumping of hazardous waste in developing countries.

The proposed amendment would strengthen an international treaty called the Basel Convention, which governs the global movement of hazardous waste. Canada, a signatory since 1989, has come under fire in recent years for allegedly violating the treaty.

People collect plastic materials at a garbage dump in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, on March 23. The Basel Convention requires its signatories to seek permission from other countries before exporting hazardous and household waste.
People collect plastic materials at a garbage dump in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, on March 23. The Basel Convention requires its signatories to seek permission from other countries before exporting hazardous and household waste.  (CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

In 2013 and 2014, a private Canadian company shipped 103 containers to the Philippines, labelling them as plastics for recycling even though they also contained waste like diapers. For years, the Philippine government has been asking Canada to take back its trash, rotting at a port near Manilla.

“The people and environment of the Philippines were failed by two governments and an intergovernmental body designed to prevent and mitigate just such acts,” said Jim Puckett, the executive director of the Basel Action Network, a Seattle-based environmental organization focused on waste.

“This is what we can only call dysfunctional. And three words come to mind: Shame on us.”

Puckett made the comments in Geneva this week during a meeting between the parties to the Basel Convention. SOURCE

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Canada will cover costs of bringing trash-filled containers home from the Philippines

Sordid SNC-Lavalin affair exposes Canada as a plutocracy, not a democracy

SNC Lavalin Headquarters in Montreal. Photo: Jeangagnon/Wikimedia Commons

With all the political commentators pontificating on the SNC-Lavalin affair and former attorney general Wilson-Raybould’s explosive testimony to the House of Commons justice committee, I wouldn’t dare venture to offer my own modest opinion on the imbroglio if I didn’t think I had something original to say.

To put it bluntly, I’m convinced that the eruption of this political scandal occurred because we live in a plutocracy rather than a democracy.

The Oxford dictionary defines plutocracy as “government by a wealthy elite.”

For a plutocracy to function as intended, however, all of a government’s cabinet members have to be “team players.” They have to share the same perverted priorities — and the same willingness, if necessary, to put expedience ahead of principle in the service of corporate overlords.

U.S. president Abraham Lincoln once defined democracy as “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” But, since women and people of colour were denied voting rights at that time, he was careful not to say “government of, by, and for all the people.”

Indeed, more than 80 years were to pass before women and people of colour were grudgingly permitted to cast their ballots — a long delay that lasted in Canada as well as the U.S.

The freedom to vote, however, even when ostensibly extended to all citizens of a country, does not automatically make that country a democracy. If the governments thus elected still give priority to policies and laws that favour the upper-class elite, while neglecting the needs of middle- and lower-class citizens, the latter’s right to vote is effectively nullified. MORE

‘Silent majority’ of Canadians wants more government action on climate change

(Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

“There is a large silent majority with pent-up demand for government action on climate change,” said Bill Ratcliffe, a 30-year marketing veteran and member of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby Canada.

A recent Ipsos-Reid survey seems to bear this out — 75 per cent of respondents said Canada needs to do more to address climate change.

Ratcliffe, who teaches green marketing at the University of Waterloo, also pointed to a little-known 2018 report done by Ikea (yes, the Swedish furniture retailer) and Toronto-based consultancy GlobeScan. The international study included in-person focus groups and online surveys and found almost 90 per cent of people said they are “willing to change their behaviour to help fight climate change” — but that the biggest hurdle was government action. MORE

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Special Report Canada’s Clean Economy

Image result for canada's clean economyBuilding a high-performance, low carbon national economy is a major economic opportunity and a vital environmental responsibility for Canada. CHARLIE RIEDEL / AP

There are success stories and emerging giants in Canada’s clean technologies sector, spinning benefits for both large urban centres and small rural towns.

Produced in collaboration with the Ivey Foundation and I-SEA, this special report tracks Canada’s progress to a low carbon future. National Observer retains full and final editorial control over the reporting. HERE

Alberta Has Spent $23 Million Calling BC an Enemy of Canada

Tyee FOI reveals pro-pipeline PR strategy, spiraling costs.

so_close.pngImage of a full page ad paid for by Albertans as part of a national campaign with the underlying theme: ‘This is not B.C. vs. Alberta, this is B.C. vs. Canada.’ The ad copy accuses, in bold face type, that the B.C. government’s “disregard for the rule of law puts our national economy in danger” and urges British Columbians accept the Transmountain expansion to “bring this country back together.” Source: KeepCanadaWorking website.

The Alberta government has spent more than $23 million — twice as much as previously revealed — in a campaign designed to turn the rest of Canada against B.C., The Tyee has learned.

The “KeepCanadaWorking” ad and PR campaign’s top “principle” states, “This is not B.C. vs. Alberta, this is B.C. vs. Canada,” according to documents obtained under a Freedom of Information request.

Having pegged their effort on driving a wedge between one province and the rest of the country, the CPE team lists two more principles: “It’s senseless to pit the environment against the economy,” and, “This is a good thing.”

582px version of Alberta-campaign-slide.png
Slide from an Alberta government internal presentation on how messages would be framed for its $23 million campaign in support of expanding an oilsands pipeline to B.C., obtained by The Tyee via a Freedom of Information request.

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