What Alberta’s new UCP majority government means for the environment

Oilsands emissions cap? What oilsands emissions cap? Kenney has promised he will “absolutely” scrap the cap. Canada’s climate commitments include an 80 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2050. This means cutting total emissions to 150 megatonnes — across the entire country — in three decades. Projects that have already received approvals add up to 131 megatonnes, according to the Pembina Institute. 

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Incoming Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and federal Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer greet one another at the UCP convention in Red Deer, Alta. Photo: Andrew Scheer / Flickr

Regulations and renewables are on the outs and battles with environmental groups are in, as Kenney promises to accelerate approvals of energy projects, scrap efficiency measures and fund an ‘energy war room’ to fight anyone who criticizes the province’s energy sector

Welcome to a new world — a world of “war rooms,” red-tape reductions and some rapid-fire repeals of existing programs and legislation.

1. Regulation? Let’s cut it.

Kenney has made it clear that a UCP government will be all about “streamlining” and “efficiencies.”

As part of that plan, the UCP government will ramp up approvals for new energy projects. Kenney described his plan as a “rapid acceleration of approvals.”

At the same time, his “red tape reduction action plan” will “cut red tape by a third.” There will be a new so-called “one-in, one-out” rule that will require that every new regulation created is offset by the elimination of an existing regulation.

He’ll even appoint a “Minister for Red Tape Reduction.”

Red tape, according to the UCP, is a “costly and growing burden” that “kills jobs.”

2. Parks: privatized services and more booze!

Given the heated backlash over the province’s Bighorn Country proposal earlier this year, it won’t come as a surprise if the UCP doesn’t pursue the planned parks and recreation areas.

Kenney had previously described the NDP’s Bighorn land-use plans as “an extreme approach to land use which cuts out local residents and legitimate economical and recreational use.”

The UCP has, however, pledged to provide $10 million to support the creation of a new urban provincial park within Edmonton city limits.

It has also pledged that “major environmental protection proposals” will be subject to a review of their economic impacts to ensure they are not harmful to the economy — a “balance,” the party says, to current environmental impact assessments of industrial projects.

The party’s platform outlines an increased emphasis of partnerships with park societies, and suggests the UCP will support increased volunteer activities to maintain parks.

An initial pilot project will determine if nearly all park services could be privatized, by examining “whether park societies could effectively be contracted to assume all park management responsibilities from [Alberta Environment and Parks], with the exception of enforcement.”

But, hey — soon we’ll be able to relax with a glass of wine after a long day of trail maintenance. The UCP has pledged to “relax liquor constraints in a number of provincial parks” as well as loosening liquor laws in municipal parks MORE

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Canada’s Tar Sands Province Elects a Combative New Leader Promising Oil & Pipeline Revival
 

Who cleans up? No requirements to fix environmental impacts from mining, auditor says

Bill McKibben likens climate change to Second World War

Environmentalist and author Bill McKibben calls climate change the most important issue facing the world today and likens the struggle against it to the Second World War.

McKibben told a packed house at the University of British Columbia’s Chan Centre for the Performing Arts that they should consider it an honour and a privilege to be part of the battle.

“Not very many people in any given moment of history get to say they are doing the most important thing they could be doing right now in the world,” said McKibben, who is the author of 12 books including 1989’s The End of Nature. He’s also the founder of 350.org, an organization that campaigns against new coal, oil and gas projects and supports building 100 per cent clean energy solutions. His newest book, Falter, will be released on April 16.

McKibben appeared with Canadian Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who is also Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf-Islands.

May said if people get depressed about climate change, they should “shake it off and keep working. If the people who understand the problem start to despair, it’s just as bad as apathy,” May said.

McKibben encouraged everyone in the audience to get involved, specifically mentioning protests against the Trans Mountain pipeline as one way to change the world by keeping millions of barrels of oil in the ground.

“It has been so powerful and beautiful to watch people fight against the Trans Mountain pipeline coming across British Columbia,” McKibben said. “That pipeline, like everything else coming out of the tar sands is a global warming machine.” MORE

Major Pipeline Delays Leave Canada’s Tar Sands Struggling

Keystone XL’s construction has been delayed by the courts, tar sands forecasts are down and investors are worried.

Credit: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty
Credit: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty

March has brought a string of setbacks for Canada’s struggling tar sands oil industry, including the further delay of two proposed pipelines, a poor forecast for growth and signs that investors may be growing wary.

On Friday, a federal appeals court in California refused to lift a lower court order that blocks construction of the Keystone XL pipeline until a thorough new environmental assessment is completed. The decision likely pushed back by a year the start of major work by TransCanada, Keystone XL’s owner, to complete the project.

The same day,  ExxonMobil affiliate Imperial Oil said it was delaying a new tar sands project in Alberta, likely by a year.

Those setbacks followed an earlier announcement by Enbridge, another pipeline operator, that it would delay the completion of its Line 3 expansion through northern Minnesota by a year, to late 2020. That project is one of two other major pipelines planned to carry oil out of Canada’s tar sands, also called oil sands. MORE

‘Making this up’: Study says oilsands assessments marred by weak science

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EDMONTON — Dozens of oilsands environmental impact studies are marred by inconsistent science that’s rarely subjected to independent checks, says a university study.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” says University of British Columbia biology professor Adam Ford, who published his findings in the journal Environmental Reviews.

“You would have to go out of your way to make it this bad”

“You would have to go out of your way to make it this bad. It’s just a symptom of the state of the industry and it’s definitely a signal that we can do better.”

In 30 different assessments filed between 2004 and 2017, Ford found each study considered different factors in different ways. Few independently checked their conclusions. And those who did were notably less confident about the industry’s ability to restore what it had disturbed.

HOW POLICE, PRIVATE SECURITY, AND ENERGY COMPANIES ARE PREPARING FOR A NEW PIPELINE STANDOFF

Activists protest the Line 3 decision, Thursday, June 28, 2018, in St. Paul, Minn. Minnesota regulators approved Enbridge Energy's proposal to replace its aging Line 3 oil pipeline, angering opponents who say the project threatens pristine areas and have vowed Standing Rock-style protests, if needed to block it. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP)
Activists protest the approval of Enbridge’s proposal to replace its aging Line 3 pipeline on June 28, 2018, in St. Paul, Minn. Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune/AP

MINNESOTA POLICE HAVE spent 18 months preparing for a major standoff over Enbridge Line 3, a tar sands oil pipeline that has yet to receive the green light to build in the state. Records obtained by The Intercept show that law enforcement has engaged in a coordinated effort to identify potential anti-pipeline camps and monitor individual protesters, repeatedly turning for guidance to the North Dakota officials responsible for the militarized response at Standing Rock in 2016.

Enbridge, a Canada-based energy company that claims to own the world’s longest fossil fuel transportation network, has labeled Line 3 the largest project in its history. If completed, it would replace 1,031 miles of a corroded existing pipeline that spans from Alberta’s tar sands region to refineries and a major shipping terminal in Wisconsin, expanding the pipeline’s capacity by hundreds of thousands of barrels per day.

The expanded Line 3 would pass through the territories of several Ojibwe bands in northern Minnesota, home to sensitive wild rice lakes central to the Native communities’ spiritual and physical sustenance. Given that tar sands are among the world’s most carbon-intensive fuel sources, Line 3 opponents underline that the pipeline is exactly the kind of infrastructure that must be rapidly phased out to meet scientists’ prescriptions for mitigating climate disasters. MORE

Diverse group of North American scientists call for moratorium on tar sands development

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More than 100 scientists from Canada and the US are renewing the call for a moratorium on all new oil sands development, a move they say is necessary in order to combat the climate crisis.

No new oil sands or related infrastructure projects should proceed unless consistent with an implemented plan to rapidly reduce carbon pollution, safeguard biodiversity, protect human health, and respect treaty rights.

The following ten reasons, each grounded in science, support our call for a moratorium. We believe they should be at the center of the public debate about further development of the oil sands, a carbon-intensive source of non-renewable energy. MORE

 

Drawing a line in the oilsands

Why the leaders of First Nations that have been on the front lines opposing oilsands expansion now support a project to develop the industry’s biggest mine in their own backyard

Search “Chief Allan Adam” online and photos pop up of the Indigenous leader with celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Fonda and Daryl Hannah. When Hollywood stars travel to northern Alberta to voice their disgust with the oilsands, the chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) is usually their tour guide.

Adam and his people are based in Fort Chipewyan, an isolated community that is a 40-minute flight north of Fort McMurray, Alta., and downstream from the region’s massive oilsands developments. MORE

 

 

Canada won’t perform an environmental review of most new oilsands projects. Here’s why.

The future of development in Alberta’s oilsands lies in underground, steam-assisted operations that represent some of the country’s fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions. These projects have never been subject to federal environmental reviews and that’s not expected to change with Ottawa’s new-and-improved assessment rules. MORE

 

The Tar Sands: It devours our land

A historically willing participant in oilsands operations, the Fort McKay First Nation is taking the Alberta government to court over its failure to protect Moose Lake, a sacred site, from rampant industrial development

Surrounded on three sides by oilsands operations, the Fort McKay First Nation has benefited tremendously from industrial development — while also experiencing firsthand its environmental consequences.

While the nation has historically supported nearby operations, when Prosper Petroleum proposed a 10,000 barrel per day oilsands project near Moose Lake, an area of sacred cultural value for the people of Fort McKay, the community reached a tipping point. MORE