Keith Stewart

July 2015 is Officially Hottest Month on Record. Ever.

Raging wildfires and apocalyptic smoke. Huge algal blooms visible from space turn seafood on the Pacific Northwest toxic. California’s drought. Alberta’s drought. Alberta’s floods.

There’s no doubt: it’s hot and weird out.

According to officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) July was the hottest month ever recorded, putting 2015 well on track to beat out 2014 for the hottest year on record. Records date back to 1880.

NOAA climate scientists Jake Crouch said the new data “just affirms what we already know: that the Earth is warming.”

The warming is accelerating and we’re seeing it this year.”

Has Stephen Harper Helped or Hindered The Oil Industry?

At an estimated 2,700 litres, the bunker fuel spill in English Bay was relatively small — yet the stakes of that spill couldn’t be much higher.

With Enbridge and Kinder Morgan both hoping to build oil pipelines to B.C., which would significantly increase oil tanker traffic in the province’s inside coastal waters, a dramatically mishandled marine oil spill raises all sorts of questions — questions the federal government does not appear well-positioned to answer, despite its aggressive push for West Coast oil exports.

Obviously, from the oil industry’s perspective, you couldn’t have picked a worse place to have an oil spill,” Jim Stanford, economist at Unifor and founder of the Progressive Economics Forum, told DeSmog Canada.

While the federal government insisted its response was “world-class,” a former commander of the shuttered Kits Coast Guard station blamed the six-hour delay in even deploying a boom to contain the oil on the closure of that station in 2013 — a move that is reported to have saved the federal government at estimated $700,000 a year.

The English Bay spill, beyond being a systemic failure, has been a total PR disaster.

DeSmogCAST 12: Canada's Anti-Terrorism Bill, Who it Targets and How it Helps Kinder Morgan

Bill C-51, anti-terrorism, RCMP, Kinder Morgan

This weekend thousands of Canadians marched against the Conservative government's proposed anti-terrorism bill C-51. In this episode of DeSmogCAST we take a close look at the proposed legislation and discuss how it relates to the recently-leaked RCMP intelligence report that names pipeline opponents and First Nations “violent anti-petroleum extremists.” Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, discusses the significance of the internal intelligence report and Greenpeace's role in its release.

We also take a look at Kinder Morgan's secretive behaviour in the Trans Mountain pipeline review and how anti-terrorism laws meant to protect 'critical infrastructure' like pipelines may benefit oil, gas and pipeline companies unwilling to disclose information to the public.

DeSmogBlog contributor Farron Cousins hosts this episode and is joined by Greenpeace's Keith Stewart, DeSmog Canada's Emma Gilchrist, and yours truly.

Greenpeace Complaint Against Ethical Oil Brings “Corrosive Effect of Oil on Our Politics” to Light

When Greenpeace Canada’s climate and energy campaigner Keith Stewart filed an official complaint with Elections Canada, he did a lot more than question the implications of the Ethical Oil Institute’s collusion with the Conservative Party of Canada: he called national attention to the corrosive effect oil money has had on Canadian politics in recent years.

At the broadest level,” Stewart told DeSmog Canada via e-mail, “we are trying to rebalance the playing field between money and people power in Canadian politics. You can never eliminate the influence of money on politics, but you can limit it and make it more transparent.”

Greenpeace’s request for an investigation is based on the fact that corporate donations to political parties are banned in federal politics — yet money raised by the Ethical Oil Institute appears to have been spent on advertising and other activities developed and implemented by people directly involved in the Conservative Party of Canada. The institute does not disclose its funding sources, but its website states it does “accept donations from Canadian individuals and companies, including those working to produce Ethical Oil.”

Kalamazoo Spill Anniversary Raises Concerns About Line 9 Pipeline Integrity

Kalamazoo oil spill

Last week marked the third anniversary of the largest inland oil spill in US history. On July 25th, 2010 a 41-year old Enbridge pipeline in Michigan tore open spewing over three million litres of diluted tar sands bitumen or dilbit from Alberta into the Kalamazoo River and the surrounding area. Three years later the spill from the Enbridge pipeline known as Line 6B is still being cleaned up with the cost nearing one billion US dollars.

The Kalamazoo spill drew wide spread attention to the dangers of shipping dilbit through North America's oil pipeline system. Now environmental organizations and residents of Ontario and Quebec fear Enbridge's plan to ship dilbit from Sarnia, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec through the 37-year old Line 9 pipeline. They worry this will put their communities at the centre of the next 'dilbit disaster.'
“What happened at Kalamazoo could happen here with Line 9,” says Sabrina Bowman a climate campaigner with Environmental Defence based in Toronto.
“People in Ontario and Quebec need to know the Line 9 pipeline is very similar in age and design to the ruptured Line 6B in Kalamazoo,” Bowman told DeSmog Canada.

Letter Reveals Harper Government Granted Oil and Gas Industry Requests

According to a document obtained by Greenpeace Canada through an Access to Information request, the current overhaul of Canada's environmental protections doesn't just look like a gift to the oil and gas industry.

A letter dated December 12, 2011 reveals the oil and gas industry made an appeal to Environment Minister Peter Kent and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver requesting they reconsider certain environmental laws in light of “both economic growth and environmental performance.”

A letter written by the Energy Framework Initiative (EFI) pointed to several pieces of legislation that, within 10 months time, were axed or significantly altered to favour industrial development. The EFI is an industry group comprised of the country's most powerful oil and gas lobby groups including the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, the Canadian Petroleum Production Institute - renamed the Canadian Fuels Association, and the Canadian Gas Association. Members of these participating organizations include Enbridge, Suncor, TransCanada, BP Canada, Kinder Morgan, Cenovus, ConocoPhillips, and EnCana.
The letter states the “purpose of our letter is to express our shared views on the near-term opportunities before the government to address regulatory reform for major energy industries in Canada.”
Six pieces of legislation were mentioned as “outdated” or prohibitive to “shovel ready projects” across Canada including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Species-At-Risk Act, the National Energy Board Act, the Fisheries Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, and the Navigable Water Protection Act.
As the CBC reports, “within 10 months of the request, the industry had almost everything it wanted.”

Documents Reveal Alberta Colludes with Industry in Pipeline Safety Review

A pipeline safety review conducted by the Alberta government last summer was done with the oil and gas industry's interests in mind, according to recent documents released to Greenpeace through Freedom of Information legislation. The documents (PDF) show the review, commissioned after a series of back-to-back pipeline incidents across Alberta raised public concern, was coordinated internally between government and industry, and appears to have required industry consent.

Greenpeace campaigner Keith Stewart told the Canadian Press “there's a difference between talking to industry and asking for their approval.”

Private communications suggest government officials worked behind the scenes to develop a review plan that would please industry.
“It looks like industry got to write the terms for this review,” said Stewart.
The review was commissioned by the Alberta government after a collective of more than 50 prominent environmental, land rights, First Nations and union representatives called upon Premier Alison Redford to initiate an independent review of the province's pipeline safety. The groups, including the Alberta Surface Rights Group, The Council of Canadians, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace Canada also launched an anonymous oil spill tipline, urging individuals to make rupture and spill information public. The Alberta government does not make such information available on a public database.
Between May and June the pipeline industry suffered three major incidents in Alberta. The first saw 3.5 million liters of oil leaked into muskeg near Rainbow Lake. In June, a tributary of Red Deer River, which provides drinking water to many Albertan communities, was flooded with 475,000 liters of oil from an unused pipeline. Not two weeks later, more than 230,000 liters were spilled from a leaking line near Elk Lake

Heavy is the Head That Wears the Crown: Tar Sands Expansion May Violate Crown's Legal Obligation to First Nations

Today the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) will argue in the Alberta Court of Appeal that Shell Canada’s proposed Jackpine Mine expansion is in violation of their Constitutional rights and represents a failure on behalf of the federal government to uphold their legal duty to consult (DTC). The First Nation, which originally made this argument in a joint federal/provincial hearing on October 1, was told the panel did not have jurisdiction to hear constitutional questions.

When the ACFN applied for an adjournment, in that case, their request was denied. In response the First Nation is claiming they have “no other option but to file legal arguments for the protection of their constitutionally protected rights through the Alberta Court of Appeal.” 
The government’s refusal to consider the ACFN’s best defense against the megaproject, which will increase Shell’s tar sands bitumen mining capacity in this one project alone by 100,000 barrels per day, appears out of step with the federal government’s own admission that they must accommodate the rights of First Nations when considering industrial projects that entail irreversible impacts.
First Nations rights, especially as defined in the 1982 Constitution and subsequent court decisions, must be accommodated, according to an internal federal discussion paper, released to Greenpeace Canada’s climate and energy campaigner Keith Stewart through access to information legislation.

Conference Board of Canada: Economic Benefits of Tar Sands Hinge On Climate Inaction

By 2035 operators in Alberta's tar sands expect to produce 5 million barrels of the world's most environmentally dirty and energy intensive oil per day. Current daily production hovers around 2 million barrels. According to a recent Conference Board of Canada report, projected expansion of the tar sands will require roughly $364 billion in investment over the next 25 years and will create significant economic benefits for both Canada and the US.

However, the report, commissioned by the Canadian federal and Alberta provincial governments, acknowledges that the economic benefits of oil production in the tar sands hinges on continued global climate inaction.
Based on the 'New Policies Scenario' from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Conference Board report, “Fuel for Thought: The Economic Benefits of Oil Sands Investment for Canada's Regions,” anticipates Canada and other participating countries will not achieve their 2009 Copenhagen Accord goal to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Projected growth in the tar sands is consistent with at least 3.5 degrees of warming.
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