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Permit to Pollute: Dodging New Law, Agency Approves Alberta Coal Plant

In Alberta, coal was first mined near Edmonton as early as 1850, and commercial coal operations took off in 1874. After the coal rush where hundreds of mines popped up across the province, the “black rock that burns” fell out of favour by the mid 1950s with the advent of natural gas.

While no new coal plants have been approved in Alberta in over a decade, it seems history is repeating itself. On June 30th, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) approved the Milner Expansion Project, a 500Mw coal-fired generating facility to be built west of Edmonton. The final decision by the AUC to approve the coal plant is a serious black eye for the AUC and its ability to protect the public interest.

The project gives Calgary-based Maxim Power Corp. license to produce some of the filthiest power on the planet for 45 years while emitting 3Mt per year of greenhouse gas emissions. Alberta’s filthy tar sands are already the scourge of the planet, and this approval adds insult to injury.

In The Dog Days of Summer, CFACT Still Barks The Same Tune

Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, or CFACT Campus, the student wing of Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, wrapped up its student climate and energy conference, the Truth 2 Power Conference. The Cable, Wisconsin conference was a direct response to the “dangerous agenda” of PowerShift2011. Apparently, finding solutions to effectively fight climate change and ensure a clean energy future are too much for CFACT’s big polluter interests and they had to fight back. 

Truth 2 Power sought to teach participants about “the lies associated with the “Global Warming” agenda” and about “innovative and realistic solutions for tomorrows environmental challenges”. 

The conference really represents a grab to ensure dirty energy industries stay entrenched.

Could News Corp. Double Agent Neil Wallis Be Behind Climategate Hacking?

As if this week’s Rupert Murdoch Phone-Hacking Scandal wasn’t enough, it now appears that the University of East Anglia CRU email hacking scandal (a.k.a. Climategate) might actually be the work of the same News Corp henchman who helped to feed insider information from a Scotland Yard police investigation directly to Murdoch’s News Corp.

Neil Wallis, one of the key figures in the hacking of the phones, voicemails and electronic communications of anywhere from 4,000 to over 12,000 people, was essentially a double agent working by day as Executive Director of News of the World, and simultaneously as a public relations consultant during the police investigation into the scandal. Wallis conveniently reported back to News Corp on Scotland Yard’s investigation. 

While Murdoch’s henchmen were getting the skinny on the police investigation, the police were convincing other news organizations not to cover the story.

After the November 2009 hacking of the computer server at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, the victimized climate science unit sought public relations guidance to help fight back against allegations of scientific misconduct.  

Guess who they hired - Neil Wallis and his PR firm Outside Organisation.

Creator of the Valdez Catastrophe, ExxonMobil, Tries to Downplay Yellowstone Spill

The ExxonMobil pipeline that runs under the Yellowstone River in Laurel, Montana ruptured late Friday night, leaking 1,000 barrels of oil into the river. ExxonMobil estimates that approximately 160,000 litres of oil seeped into the river, one of the principal tributaries of the upper Missouri River. 

The spill has forced hudreds of evacuations, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said that only a small fraction of the spilled oil is likely to be recovered. Its unclear how far the damage will extend along the river, but fishing and farming are likely to be impacted. 

Record rainfall in the last month has caused widespread flooding, and compromised spill cleanup efforts. While residents wait impatiently for the arrival of Exxon cleanup crews (who are only now arriving on site), Exxon is engaging in image control by trying to convince people that the spill is not as bad as it seems.

Canada Causes Cancer: Government & Industry Collude to Keep Asbestos Off UN Hazardous Chemical List

Last week, the Canadian government successfully and unilaterally stonewalled efforts to list chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous chemical at a United Nations conference in Switzerland. 

According to Michael Stanley-Jones of the UN Environment Program, “[Canada] intervened in the chemicals contact group meeting … and opposed listing”. This is the third time that Canada has derailed efforts to list the deadly mineral under the Rotterdam Convention.

Following Canada’s lead, the only countries that opposed listing asbestos under the convention were Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Vietnam. Even India, one of Canada’s largest asbestos customers and the leader behind efforts at COP 4 against listing, changed its stance.

EPA Again Faults State Department Keystone XL Assessment as "Insufficient"

The controversial Keystone XL project proposed by Canadian dirty oil giant TransCanada was dealt a potentially devastating blow on its quest for federal approval after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPAblasted the State Department’s draft analysis on the pipeline’s environmental impacts. The EPA calls the State Department’s revised draft assessment “insufficient”. 

EPA identified a laundry list of omissions in the State Department’s Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS), ranging from lack of adequate consideration for oil spills and impacts on low income and First Nations communities, to lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions and impacts on water and wildlife. They also provided a list of critical areas that need expansion in the Final EIS

The EPA’s analysis raises considerable concerns about the proposed project that would carry 900,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Canada, through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, and across numerous water bodies including the Yellowstone, Missouri, Neches and Red Rivers, as well as the Ogallala aquifer.

The State Department is again in hot water for neglecting a thorough analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline, and now has received a second failing grade from the EPA

Breaking: TransCanada Keystone I Pipeline Shut Down Indefinitely Due to Safety Concerns

Following a string of oil spills, TransCanada’s Keystone I tar sands oil pipeline has been indefinitely shut down, and banned from restarting operations. Today, the Pipelines and Hazerdous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a Corrective Action Order, which stops use of the pipeline until the regulator determines that safety problems have been corrected.

In the order, Jeffrey Wiese, associate administrator for pipeline safety at the Department of Transportation, wrote: 

I find that the continued operation of the pipeline without corrective measures would be hazardous to life, property and the environment. Additionally, after considering the circumstances surrounding the May 7 and May 29, 2011 failures, the proximity of the pipeline to populated areas, water bodies, public roadways and high consequence areas, the hazardous nature of the product the pipeline transports, the ongoing investigation to determine the cause of the failures, and the potential for the conditions causing the failures to be present elsewhere on the pipeline, I find that a failure to issue this Order expeditiously to require immediate corrective action would result in likely serious harm to life, property, and the environment.

The Keystone I pipeline has spilled 12 times since beginning operation less than one year ago. Late last year, TransCanada had to dig up portions of the pipeline when abnormalities were discovered.  

Tar Sands Industry Has Its Eyes On Vancouver For Asian Export Terminal

In recent months, opposition to Enbrige’s Northern Gateway Pipeline has mounted as citizens, environmental groups and First Nations groups have protested the $5.5 billion dollar pipeline that would bring as many as 220 supertankers per year to Kitimat, B.C., to ship dirty tar sands crude to hungry energy markets in Asia.

While opposition to this project has grown, it’s curious that we haven’t heard anything about an alternate project to route tar sands crude through Vancouver. 

The recent application to the National Energy Board (NEB) comes from Trans Mountain Pipeline, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan that operates the 300,000 barrel per day (bpd) pipeline from Alberta to B.C. and Washington State. Their project would vastly expand oil tanker traffic through the waters of Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, and make Vancouver the major conduit of tar sands crude and bitumen to China.

TransCanada says Their Eleventh Leak Proves Keystone is Safe

UPDATE: The 1,600 figure we reported yesterday was an early and apparently erroneous estimate. The most recent figure, from The National Response Center, is closer to 8,000 litres. According to the Montreal Gazette, over 110,000 litres of oil have spilled along TransCanada’s Keystone line in the last year alone.

Today, TransCanada shut down its Keystone oil pipeline following its second pump station leak in less than a month. The most recent spill dumped nearly 1,600 litres of oil at a pumping station in Kansas over the weekend. With two spills in the last month, and ten more over the course of the last year, how can TransCanada convince U.S. authorities to trust the safety of its controversial expansion plans?  

As DeSmogBlog recently reported, spills are far more common than industry would have us realize. A 2007 report by the Alberta Energy Utilities Board recorded a whopping 5,000 pipeline spills between 1990 and 2005 in Alberta alone

The string of spills over the past year have only heightened public worries about the safety of North America’s vast pipeline network, and provide evidence that the proposed Keystone XL and Northern Gateway lines should be blocked.

The Montreal Gazette reports that over 110,000 litres of oil have spilled along TransCanada’s Keystone line in the last year.

To top it all off, TransCanada has somehow managed to spin its treacherous spill record and suggest - and you’re not going to believe this - that it’s doing a great job.

Canada Hides 20 Percent Tar Sands Annual Pollution Increase from UN

The Canadian federal government deliberately excluded data documenting a 20 percent increase in annual pollution from Alberta's tar sands industry in 2009. That detail was missing from a recent 567-page report on climate change that Canada was required to submit to the United Nations.

According to Postmedia News, Canada left the most recent numbers out of the report, a national inventory on Canada’s greenhouse gas pollution. The numbers are used to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions and prevent catastropic climate change. It is certainly not the first time that Canada has dragged its feet on its international climate obligations, but omission of vital information is a new low, even for them.