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Sat, 2012-10-06 11:56Carol Linnitt
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Oil Industry Looks to Create "Lake District" from Open-Pit Mines and Toxic Tar Sands Waste

This week, the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA), an industry-funded consultancy group in Alberta, released the End Pit Lakes Guidance Document to the Government of Alberta for review. The 434-page document outlines a 100-year plan to integrate open-pit mines and tar sands tailings into Northern Alberta's local ecosystem, introducing what they call a 'reclaimed lake district' as a long-term alternative to the temporary tailings ponds that currently hold the billions of gallons of water, sand, clay, hydrocarbons, naphthenic acids, salt and other byproducts of the bitumen extraction and upgrading process.

The 30 proposed end-pit lakes (EPLs) will take up more than 100 square kilometers, spread out over an area of 2,500 square kilometers. Toronto, for comparison, covers an area of 630 square kilometers. 
 
Industry envisions the artificial lake district as a future recreation site, although there is no indication yet that filling empty open-pit mines with freshwater will give way to the clean natural environments necessary to promote recreational uses of the area. In fact, The Globe and Mail reports the document “highlights the scale of the ecological gamble underway in the province” and suggests the technique is being considered as a remediation option because “it's less costly to fill a mine with water than dirt.”
 
Wed, 2012-10-03 11:00Carol Linnitt
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Shell Not Arctic Ready, Spoofed By Honest Ad Campaign

The news of Royal-Dutch Shell's recent decision to hold off on Arctic drilling until next season offers some relief to those keeping track of the company's shoddy performance in Alaska to date. Shell advertised their position as “Arctic Ready,” suggesting their out of date drill rigs, their non-existent disaster spill response, and their technical know-how were 'ready' to take on the temperamental Arctic.  

But within the first few months of establishing their northern operations, Shell suffered several embarrassing mishaps, demonstrating just how unfit they were to take on some of the most dangerous drilling conditions in the world.
 
The company's aging fleet got a late start in the short drilling season when the Noble Discoverer was occupied by Xena, The Warrior Princess, delaying its voyage to Alaska from New Zealand. Peter Velez, Shell's head of Arctic Emergency Response admitted the company had not considered the cost of spills or other disasters like a well blow out, saying the chances of something like that occurring are “very, very small.” Shell's Arctic Challenger was deemed unsafe by the US Coast Guard, while it sat leaking hydraulic fluid into a Washington state port, just before the Noble Discoverer nearly ran aground in an Alaskan bay
Tue, 2012-10-02 17:43Carol Linnitt
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First Nation Challenges Shell Canada's Jackpine Mine Expansion, Citing Constitutional Treaty Rights

Yesterday the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) announced their plans to constitutionally challenge Shell Oil Canada's expansion of the Jackpine Mine tar sands project. The project expansion would threaten the resources needed to sustain rights protected under Treaty 8, which the ACFN signed in 1899 at Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca. A joint federal-provincial review panel will hear the challenge - the first of its kind to appear before such a group - on October 23rd, 6 days before the Jackpine Mine expansion application will make its own appearance before the panel on October 29.

The Jackpine Mine expansion would disturb 12,719 hectares of land and destroy 21 kilometers of the culturally significant Muskeg River, according to ACFN's press release issued yesterday
 
In addition, greenhouse gas emissions from the project would total 2.36 megatons of CO2 equivalent each year - an increase of 5.2 per cent in tar sands emissions from 2009, or roughly 281,000 cars on the road. Since Shell proposed the expansion in 2007, 11 additional projects have been proposed in the tar sands region.
Mon, 2012-10-01 13:47Carol Linnitt
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USGS Fracking Study Confirms Methane Contamination of Drinking Water in Pavillion, Wyoming

For those concerned about the future of shale gas development in the U.S., water contamination present in a monitoring well in Wyoming is about to become the lynchpin in the debate over unconventional gas production and the threat fracking poses to drinking water.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) just released a report confirming the EPA's December 2011 findings that water in Pavillion, Wyoming contains contaminants related to fracking
 
After residents in the region complained of poor water odor and taste, the EPA established two deep water monitoring wells to determine if water quality concerns were related to fracking in the area. 
 
EPA’s analysis of samples taken from the Agency’s deep monitoring wells in the aquifer indicates detection of synthetic chemicals, like glycols and alcohols consistent with gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluids, benzene concentrations well above Safe Drinking Water Act standards and high methane levels. Given the area’s complex geology and the proximity of drinking water wells to ground water contamination, EPA is concerned about the movement of contaminants within the aquifer and the safety of drinking water wells over time.
 
Sat, 2012-09-29 15:15Carol Linnitt
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Death in the Woods: Canadian Federal Government Delays Release of Caribou Recovery Strategy - Again

This post is a part of DeSmog's investigative series: Cry Wolf.

Yesterday, the Canadian government told the nation's federal court that it will not release its long-awaited Woodland Caribou Recovery Strategy. The Recovery Strategy, already 5 years overdue, represents conservationists' strongest measure of defense for dwindling caribou populations in Alberta that suffer increasing habitat loss from industrial development and intensive tar sands expansion.
 
The outlook for caribou in Alberta is grim, especially as they find themselves in a stand off against industrial giants backed by a federal government in favor of increasing tar sands and other industrial activity. Habitat disruption is a crucial issue for caribou who need large buffered areas of old growth forest to survive. The majority of Alberta's 12 caribou herds currently struggle with low calf survival - an issue directly related to disturbed habitat.
 
The Canadian and Albertan governments have historically hesitated to take meaningful measures to protect Alberta's caribou herds because such measures would not only advertise the deleterious effects of tar sands development on local wildlife and their habitat, but would require setting aside protected areas made unavailable for oil and gas development.
Tue, 2012-09-25 07:00Carol Linnitt
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Exporting Canada's Oil Means Exporting Canada's Jobs: Why the Enbridge Pipeline Threatens Canadian Economic Security

The arguments in favor of the Enbridge-proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline often stress the economic benefits the pipeline will bring to Canada. Economists and trade organizations emphasize the advantages of increased production in the tar sands for Albertans and the jobs produced during pipeline construction for British Columbians. Another supposed economic bonus is to come from strengthened trade relations with China, the largest foreign investor currently involved in Canada's tar sands.

Yet as the current National Energy Board hearing takes place, a new message is surfacing, and it's not of the 'economic boon' ilk. According to a number of analysts, energy experts and even industry players the pipeline will export more than just Canadian crude: it will also be shipping off Canadian jobs. And that, they say, coupled with China's growing stake in the tar sands, is by no means in Canada's long term economic interest.
 

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