‘It’s always a bit more complicated once you peel back the layers,’ says CBC’s Aaron Wherry
Teck Resources Limited’s zinc and lead smelting and refining complex is pictured in Trail, B.C. Teck withdrew its application to build a massive oilsands project in northern Alberta on Sunday. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
Teck’s now-withdrawn Frontier oilsands mine project was always questionable in viability, but that didn’t stop it from becoming a major talking point in Canada’s tug-of-war between climate change and the economy, says CBC reporter Aaron Wherry.
“It’s hard to say that one project should be a referendum on the future of an entire industry, or that it should be a referendum on the future of Canadian climate policy,” Wherry told Day 6 guest host Saroja Coelho.
“But because there’s so much uncertainty, and because it was such a major project, it was very easy for all sides to say, ‘No, look, this is where you need to draw a line.'”
In a letter explaining the withdrawal, CEO Don Lindsay wrote that his company supports Canada’s action on carbon pricing, but that federal and provincial governments need to reach an agreement when it comes to climate policies.
Wherry explained that the project speaks to two major, unsettled political issues: frustration over the future of the oil and gas industry, and questions over Canada’s 2030 and 2050 goals to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
The withdrawal also happened to coincide with weeks of protests and blockades in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline project in northern British Columbia.
Wherry downplayed suggestions that the heightened political climate may have been the key factor in Teck’s withdrawal.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Opposition Leader Rachel Notley and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson agree that the Frontier oilsands mine would have brought work to Alberta – but have different ideas about why the project failed to go forward. 3:08
“It’s obviously a politically potent idea that the unrest of the last few weeks has contributed to this. … Of course, though, with most political attacks, it’s always a bit more complicated once you peel back the layers.”
While federal and provincial governments cast blame, the business sector is running out of patience
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Chrystia Freeland insists that a climate strategy must make room for a healthy energy sector. But federal-provincial sniping over the Teck mine isn’t leaving much room for consensus. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Chrystia Freeland says there’s nothing inconsistent about the federal government’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while promoting a thriving oil and gas sector on the Prairies.
The deputy prime minister admits there is no national concord yet on how to reconcile the two.
“I do not think that today in Canada that we have yet achieved a true national consensus on how we get to ambitious action on climate and have a strong robust economy,” she said in an interview on The House.
Freeland insists Canadians recognize that the two goals are compatible.
“And I truly believe we can do both.”
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland reflects on how the government is preparing for the possibility of coronavirus becoming a global pandemic, and whether it’s possible to develop oil and gas projects when the government is also promising to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 11:13
The Liberals’ climate plan came under renewed scrutiny earlier in the week when Teck Resources abandoned its plan to build the $20.6-billion Frontier mine in Alberta’s oilsands.
The project faced considerable economic challenges. But many observers focused on another factor raised by company CEO Don Lindsay in his letter announcing the decision.
More than a decade ago we endorsed carbon pricing. We’re not apologetic for it. We’re not reconsidering it. We believe in it.– Goldy Hyder, president of the Business Council of Canada
“Global capital markets are changing rapidly and investors and customers are increasingly looking for jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change, in order to produce the cleanest possible projects,” he wrote. “This does not yet exist here today and, unfortunately, the growing debate over this issue has placed Frontier at the nexus of much broader issues that need to be resolved.”
Lindsay didn’t assign blame. Politicians were more than happy to do it for him.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blamed the federal government. So did Conservartive MPs. Liberals insisted Kenney’s hardline stance in favour of the project — and his dire warnings about the likely effect of a rejection on public sentiment in favour of Alberta’s separation from Canada — were to blame.
Freeland was more nuanced in her interview with The House. She pointed out that companies in this country — including those in the energy sector — are already cutting their emissions, even as governments fight over a carbon tax.
“For Canada to have any hope of achieving our climate targets, we need the oil and gas sector to be involved,” she said. “We need our country’s leading emitters to be part of the solution.”
Canada is committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Teck committed to the same goal.
But there’s no political agreement over the federal price on carbon — the main policy vehicle chosen by Ottawa to reach that goal.
“Let’s just say there’s a hardening taking place on the left and the right,” Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, said in a separate interview with The House.
“Something’s got to give. In the case of the business community, more than a decade ago we endorsed carbon pricing, We’re not apologetic for it. We’re not reconsidering it. We believe in it.”
But Hyder said Canadian industries can’t wait forever for a coherent plan to reach those goals. He said he believes this country has come to a defining moment as it looks to the future of its energy sector — a moment that calls for the same Team Canada approach that Freeland used in mobilizing support for the new NAFTA agreement.
“We need business. We need labour. We need provinces and the federal government to come together to figure out what we are going to do to protect our national interest here,” he said. “I think that exact same moment … has arrived on this question of how you square the circle between the economy and the environment.”
He added that any working climate plan that reduces emissions has to recognize the importance of the Canadian oil and gas sector, and the fact that it’s subject to some of the strictest regulations and standards in the world.
“We’re speaking out much more aggressively today because we’re concerned by what we see, which is a hardening of positions, a use of the courts and other (tactics),” he said. “There’s an urgency here.”
Freeland also compares the current squabbles over climate strategy to the original debates over free trade with the United States — at a time when her mother, Halyna Chomiak Freeland, was running for the NDP in Edmonton-Strathcona in 1988.
“And one of her main issues was opposition to free trade,” she said. “Fast forward to today, and we now have a strong national consensus across the country, and across parties, that trade is the right thing for our country. And it was every bit as divisive an issue.”
For now, Hyder and other business leaders just want politicians to get on with the work — because until they do, there’s little hope that future natural resource projects like Teck’s Frontier will fare any better. SOURCE
Over 170 doctors signed on, asking federal government not to approve project
Dr. Courtney Howard is president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, and is one of over 170 doctors who signed the letter. She is currently working Yellowknife. (The Canadian Medical Association)
More than 170 doctors are calling on the federal government to withhold approval for a huge oilsands project in Alberta, just south of the Northwest Territories border, and requesting that more research be done on its potential impact on human health.
Earlier this month, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment wrote a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, expressing concerns about the project’s potential health impacts.
Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd. is aiming to build the Frontier mine about 100 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.
The fate of the proposed $20.6-billion Teck Frontier oilsands mine is set to be decided by the federal government next week. It is estimated to take up 29,217 hectares of land near Wood Buffalo National Park.
Yellowknife doctor Courtney Howard is president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, and is one of over 170 doctors who signed the letter.
Dr. Howard said there has been local demand for more research on the health impacts of oilsands for years.
“The local communities downstream from the mine have been asking for a comprehensive cumulative assessment of the health impacts of the oilsands for over a decade,” she said.
‘Grave consequences for the future’
Dr. John O’Connor, a physician in Fort McMurray who signed the letter, is one of the voices who has been asking for further research into the environmental health impacts for over a decade.
“I would still like to see an independent health study, a comprehensive health study,” he said. “Unfortunately with all the calls over the years…these recommendations have been ignored.”
In 2006, Dr. O’Connor raised concerns about rates of cancers downstream from major petroleum refineries in Fort Chipewyan, Alta.
At the time, Health Canada physicians filed complaints against O’Connor with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, accusing him of causing undue alarm.
An investigation done by the college found that O’Connor “made a number of inaccurate or untruthful claims with respect to the number of patients with confirmed cancers and the ages of patients dying from cancer.”
But in 2009, O’Connor was cleared of causing undue alarm, and a study the same year from the Alberta Cancer Board found that cancer rates were indeed higher than expected in Fort Chipewyan, by 30 per cent.
Subsequent studies have challenged those findings.
In 2010, the Royal Society of Canada concluded that there was no credible evidence of “environmental contaminant exposures from oilsands reaching Fort Chipewyan at levels expected to cause elevated human cancer rates.”
Dr. O’Connor said he said he would like to see an independent and comprehensive health study of the project, regardless of whether it gets approved.
“The Teck project, if it does go ahead, will have grave consequences for the future — especially in the North,” he said.
Those who signed the letter agree the assessment that was done of the project was not comprehensive in its explanation of what the health effects will be on future generations, and a comprehensive study is still needed.
Those who signed on also assert that the link between climate change and health is conclusive.
“Climate change is a health emergency and we need to treat it like a health emergency,” said Dr. Howard.
The project is expected to generate 4.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, and would operate for 41 years if approved.
Health assessment of project
In July, a joint federal-provincial review panel gave conditional approval to the Frontier mine, finding it was in the national interest.
The review estimates that 7,000 jobs will be created in building the mine, and 2,500 workers will be needed to operate it.
The report completed a human health risk assessment of the project, and found that “the project is not likely to result in an increase in cancer risk.”
“Although we find that there will be significant adverse project and cumulative effects on certain environmental components and Indigenous communities … we consider these effects to be justified.” MORE
Australian governments have denied or downplayed the existence and risks of human-caused climate disruption. There, coal is king. In our outdated economic systems, short-term jobs and financial indicators mean more to politicians than keeping the planet habitable for human life!
The worst bushfires in Australia’s history have consumed more than 11 million hectares, killing dozens of people and more than a billion animals, displacing many more, and destroying thousands of homes. While the fires rage on, smoke chokes the air and coral reefs bleach and die, Australia’s leaders are touting development of yet another huge coal mine, the Adani Carmichael mega-mine in Queensland, designed to produce 2.3 billion tonnes over 60 years of mostly low-quality, high-ash coal.
Australia’s fires cover an area 15 times larger than those in the Amazon, which are also bad. More than 30 years ago, my wife Tara and I, along with others, worked with the Kayapo in Brazil to help protect their traditional territory in the rainforest from development. Together, we convinced the World Bank to pull funding for a massive dam system, which put the project on hold.
As Brazil’s economy improved and World Bank money was no longer needed, the project went ahead under a new name. Flooding is just one threat to this precious forest. Clearing and burning to make way for agriculture and industrial development are also fuelling rapid destruction.
Some call the Amazon the “lungs of the world,” because the rainforest breathes in carbon and exhales oxygen. Canada is home to what some call the “northern lungs” — the boreal forest.
Some call the Amazon the “lungs of the world,” because the rainforest breathes in carbon and exhales oxygen. Canada is home to what some call the “northern lungs” — the boreal forest stretching from Yukon to Newfoundland and Labrador, covering 55 per cent of Canada’s land mass. The amount of oxygen forests produce is difficult to calculate and often exaggerated, but there’s no doubt forests are important for human survival.
The boreal is also under threat from rapid development and global heating. As with recent massive wildfires elsewhere, climate change is increasing the boreal fire season and fuelling intense burning over larger areas than ever — regardless of whether fires are set by lightning, arsonists or sparks from machinery or a train wheel. Warmer winters have also facilitated the spread of tree-destroying insects like mountain pine beetles that cold winters once kept in check.
Intact forests produce oxygen and provide many other services beneficial to humans. They sequester carbon, which helps regulate global temperatures. They prevent runoff, slides and flooding. They maintain and filter water. They provide food and other necessities for people, and habitat for plants and animals.
In the midst of its fires, Australia has been hit by extreme weather events, including terrifying massive dust storms, battering hail and flood-producing torrential rains. Smoke from the fires is also a potent greenhouse gas. So, as a heating planet causes more forests to burn, the fires release even more carbon into the atmosphere, creating feedback loops that accelerate warming.
Our economic systems still run on endless growth and consumerism, creating unconscionable waste and devastation.
What will it take for politicians and others to listen? As Greta Thunberg warns, our home is on fire. It will get worse if we fail to change our ways, quickly. But politicians and industry keep expanding fossil fuel development, trying to cash in before markets fall in the face of better alternatives and climate chaos. Our economic systems still run on endless growth and consumerism, creating unconscionable waste and devastation. We judge how well the economy is performing in part by how quickly we are tearing up the world.
It makes no sense.
Why is Australia going ahead with a massive coal mine? Why is Canada considering approving a 24,000-hectare open-pit oilsands mine, the Teck Frontier project in Northern Alberta? Why is the U.S. reversing environmental protections and facilitating fossil fuel expansion? Haven’t they heard we’re facing a global crisis the likes of which we’ve never experienced? Or do they ju st not care? Are money and power really more important to them than the health and well-being of citizens and the future of our children and grandchildren?
We’re not being held back by a lack of solutions — there are plenty existing and more being developed. We’re hostage to a lack of political will and imagination. Wake up humanity! All that money and power won’t mean anything if we destroy our only home.
A territory that has 0.5% of the Earth’s population plans to use up nearly a third of the planet’s remaining carbon budget
‘If an alcoholic assured you he was taking his condition very seriously, but also laying in a 40-year store of bourbon, you’d be entitled to doubt his sincerity.’ Photograph: Andrej Ivanov/Reuters
Americans elected Donald Trump, who insisted climate change was a hoax – so it’s no surprise that since taking office he’s been all-in for the fossil fuel industry. There’s no sense despairing; the energy is better spent fighting to remove him from office.
Canada, on the other hand, elected a government that believes the climate crisis is real and dangerous – and with good reason, since the nation’s Arctic territories give it a front-row seat to the fastest warming on Earth. Yet the country’s leaders seem likely in the next few weeks to approve a vast new tar sands mine which will pour carbon into the atmosphere through the 2060s. They know – yet they can’t bring themselves to act on the knowledge. Now that is cause for despair.
The Teck mine would be the biggest tar sands mine yet: 113 square miles of petroleum mining, located just 16 miles from the border of Wood Buffalo national park. A federal panel approved the mine despite conceding that it would likely be harmful to the environment and to the land culture of Indigenous people. These giant tar sands mines (easily visible on Google Earth) are already among the biggest scars humans have ever carved on the planet’s surface. But Canadian authorities ruled that the mine was nonetheless in the “public interest”.
This is painfully hard to watch because it comes as the planet has supposedly reached a turning point. A series of remarkable young people (including Canadians such as Autumn Peltier) have captured the imagination of people around the world; scientists have issued ever sterner warnings; and the images of climate destruction show up in every newspaper. Canadians can see the Australian blazes on television; they should bring back memories of the devastating forest fires that forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray, in the heart of the tar sands complex, less than four years ago.
The only rational response would be to immediately stop the expansion of new fossil fuel projects. It’s true that we can’t get off oil and gas immediately; for the moment, oil wells continue to pump. But the Teck Frontier proposal is predicated on the idea that we’ll still need vast quantities of oil in 2066, when Greta Thunberg is about to hit retirement age. If an alcoholic assured you he was taking his condition very seriously, but also laying in a 40-year store of bourbon, you’d be entitled to doubt his sincerity, or at least to note his confusion. Oil has addled the Canadian ability to do basic math: more does not equal less, and 2066 is not any time soon. An emergency means you act now.
In fairness, Canada has company here. For every territory making a sincere effort to kick fossil fuels (California, Scotland) there are other capitals just as paralyzed as Ottawa. Australia’s fires creep ever closer to the seat of government in Canberra, yet the prime minister, Scott Morrison, can’t seem to imagine any future for his nation other than mining more coal. Australia and Canada are both rich nations, their people highly educated, but they seem unable to control the zombie momentum of fossil fuels.
There’s obviously something hideous about watching the Trumps and the Putins of the world gleefully shred our future. But it’s disturbing in a different way to watch leaders pretend to care – a kind of gaslighting that can reduce you to numb nihilism. Trudeau, for all his charms, doesn’t get to have it both ways: if you can’t bring yourself to stop a brand-new tar sands mine then you’re not a climate leader. SOURCE
One of the largest oil sands projects you’ve never heard of could break ground in the New Year.
It’s called Teck Frontier Mine, and it will destroy old-growth forest, pollute precious watersheds and make it impossible to meet our climate targets.
Sounds terrible. So why haven’t you heard about it? Because the oil executives want it that way so they can continue to make billions while offering precarious employment and destroying the environment.
Paul Manly, Green MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, is hard at work to stop this mine before it’s too late. The Environment Minister will make his decision in February. Can you send your own letter to to convince the Liberals to Reject Teck?
Not only will this project destroy precious ecosystems vital to endangered caribou and bison, but it will release massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and make it impossible for Canada to meet our greenhouse gas emissions targets.
Climate leaders don’t expand the oil sands in the middle of a climate crisis. Send your letter to the Environment Minister today and deliver a clear message that Canadians expect bold climate action. If enough of us raise our voices, we can get the Liberals to block this reckless proposal.
Send this letter to
Dear Jonathan Wilkinson,
I’m writing to you today to ask you to reject Teck Frontier Mine.
This oil sands mega-mine will push Canada’s carbon emissions to a point of no return. It will release six megatons of C02 per year and prop up a dying fossil fuel industry.
If built, it will violate Indigenous rights, destroy old-growth forest, pollute precious watersheds and destroy the habitats of endangered caribou and bison.
In this year’s election, an overwhelming majority of Canadians voted for climate action. Yet Canada continues to expand the oil sands.
We cannot be climate leaders and build the Teck Frontier mine.
A pair of protests were held this week at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid that saw Indigenous activists speak out in opposition to a massive oilsands mine proposed for northern Alberta.
One of the protests was held Monday outside the Canadian embassy in Spain’s capital and another took place inside the COP 25 UN Climate negotiations, according to a news release issued by Indigenous Climate Action, which describes itself as “Canada’s premier Indigenous-led climate justice organization.”
Action at #COP25 from Canadian Indigenous peoples opposing the Teck Frontier oil sands project. #GPC Canadian Greens agree: Trudeau must reject application for giant new oil sands mine. #climate#cdnpoli
The protests target the Frontier oilsands project, a $20.6-billion mine proposed by Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd., for an area that is about a one-hour drive north of Fort McMurray. Those proposing the project have said its ultimate production capacity would be about 260,000 barrels per day of bitumen, if approved.
Earlier this fall, the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada invited members of the public to comment on the Frontier project proposal. The window for offering comment closed late last month.
“A report released last week by 17 research and campaigning organizations, used oil and gas industry projections to show that Canada will be one of the worst violators of the Paris Agreement if it expands its oil and gas extraction as planned, second only to the United States,” read the statement issued by Indigenous Climate Action on Tuesday.
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“Rejecting the Teck Frontier mine is an important first step the federal government can take to ensure a safe climate future.”
Canada to work towards net-zero economy by 2050: Environment minister Canada to work towards net-zero economy by 2050: Environment minister
Elder Francois Paulette said all 33 First Nations of the Dene Nation, which he represents, are opposed to the proposed Frontier mine as well as expansion of the oilsands in general.
“My First Nation is the Smith Landing First Nation in Alberta [and] we outright opposed the Teck project,” he said.
“It’s 30 kilometres south of Wood Buffalo National Park. This project did not consult with us [and] their report did not include Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge.”
Over the summer, a federal-provincial panel ruled that the oilsands project was in the public interest even though it could fundamentally cause harm to both the environment and to Indigenous people. The panel offered recommendations for mitigating harm to wildlife, tracking pollutants and for consulting with nearby First Nations.
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Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson is now tasked with weighing the findings and recommendations of the panel report with public comment before making an environmental assessment decision on the Frontier mine.
“We must force Canada to reject Teck,” Eriel Deranger, the executive director for Indigenous Climate Action, said in Tuesday’s news release.
“The largest tar sands mine on the planet is being proposed in my peoples territory right now [and] it will impact the woodland buffalo — the last remaining wild whooping cranes on the planet — and many of the animals my people rely on for food,” Deranger said.
“Aside from the detrimental impacts it will have on my people’s food security, treaty rights and water, It will add 6.1-million megatonnes of carbon annually to the atmosphere.”
Teck Resources has said it projects the mine will emit 4.1 megatonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
The Green Party of Canada tweeted a photo on Monday of its leader, Elizabeth May, joining protesters in Madrid to voice concerns about the proposed oilsands mine.
“We need to respect Indigenous rights and end this climate-killing project,” the tweet said. MORE
Now is our chance to let the federal government know that this project is a serious danger to our boreal forest and poses risks that cannot be ignored.
Photo by Pembina Institute Teck Resources’ proposed Frontier mine – a 293-square-kilometre, open-pit mine on the edge of Wood Buffalo National Park – could produce 260,000 barrels of heavy crude per day
In the northeast corner of Alberta lies Wood Buffalo National Park. Known for its sheer size and biodiversity, it is Canada’s largest national park and World Heritage Site. Its size and remote location have led many to believe it is untouched by human impacts, but it has sadly been affected by upstream industrial development outside of the Park. It is now additionally threatened by a proposed open-pit oil sands mine just 30-km south of its borders.
If approved, the Teck Frontier oil sands mine would be the largest open-pit mine in North America, with a massive 290 sq-km footprint. This mine would pose serious environmental risks to the approximately 1 million migratory birds that fly over the region, species at risk that depend on the intact boreal habitat, and negatively influence downstream waters on the Athabasca River.
The federal government has a public comment period open until November 24, 2019 to hear what people think of the proposed environmental assessment conditions that Teck would need to meet.
How strong are these conditions? The proposed mitigation measures do very little to address the startling list of impacts from the mine. It is clear that the conditions are inconsistent with a healthy future for our boreal and the communities that depend on the biodiversity of the region.