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Canadian Scientists Must Speak Out Despite Consequence, Says Andrew Weaver

If people don’t speak out there will never be any change,” says the University of Victoria’s award-winning climate scientist Andrew Weaver. 

And the need for change in Canada, says Weaver, has never been more pressing.

“We have a crisis in Canada. That crisis is in terms of the development of information and the need for science to inform decision-making. We have replaced that with an ideological approach to decision-making, the selective use of whatever can be found to justify [policy decisions], and the suppression of scientific voices and science itself in terms of informing the development of that policy.”
 

Approaching the Point of No Return: The World's Dirtiest Megaprojects We Must Avoid

Canada's tar sands are one of 14 energy megaprojects that are “in direct conflict with a livable climate.”

According to a new report released today by Greenpeace, the fossil fuel industry has plans for 14 new coal, oil and gas projects that will dangerously increase global warming emissions at a time when massive widespread reductions are necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change. In conjunction these projects make it very likely global temperature rise will increase beyond the 2 degrees Celsius threshold established by the international community to levels as high as 4 or even 6 degrees.

Oil Change International: The Coal Hiding in the Tar Sands

Thanks to Alberta's tar sands, coal-powered energy production just got cheaper, and dirtier.

That is largely due to an often overlooked byproduct of bitumen upgrading: petroleum coke. The byproduct, commonly referred to as petcoke, is derived from the excess heavy hydrocarbons necessarily processed out of bitumen in the production of lighter liquid fuels like gasoline and diesel. The leftover condensed byproduct, petcoke, bears a striking resemblance to coal, and is being integrated into coal power plants across the US and internationally, contributing a tremendous amount of carbon emissions to the tar sands price tag that has been previously unaccounted for.

That is, until the research group Oil Change International released a research report that calculates the use of petcoke in American energy generation increases the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline's emissions by a staggering 13 percent. 

Retreat from Science: Interview with Federal Scientist Peter Ross Part 2 of 2

On April 1, 2013 Canada will lose its sole marine contaminants research program. The loss comes as a part of a massive dismantling of science programs at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced in May of 2012. 

Peter Ross, lead researcher at Vancouver Island’s Institute for Ocean Sciences, is a recent casualty of the sweeping science cuts moving across the country.
 
In this second installment of DeSmog Canada’s interview with Ross, he discusses the importance of the scientific method as a bulwark against bias in policy-making, the danger of industrial pollutants in marine habitats, and what killer whales can tell us about our society.

4000 Reasons Not to Build the Northern Gateway Pipeline

The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Community Hearings are nearly complete, with two remaining sessions scheduled in Kelowna and Vancouver at the end of this month. Come February, the Joint Review Panel will move into the “Questioning Phase” of the final hearing, scheduled to end in May of this year. 

The hearings have provided an opportunity for the pipeline's opposition to state their concerns with the $6 billion project. Thousands of individuals applied to participate in the hearings as official 'intervenors,' to the chagrin of the federal ministries appointed to carry the process out. At this time last year federal Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, accused 'radical' environmentalists and 'extremists' of intentionally over-burdening the hearings. 

Yet many of those who live along the proposed pipeline route feel their concerns are legitimate and deserve to be heard, whether inside or outside the scheduled sessions. 

Some of the creative opposition British Columbians have expressed is captured in the short video 4000 Reasons, featured below. Created by the conservation group, Driftwood Foundation, 4000 Reasons shows that for every intervenor, you'll find another reason not to build the pipeline. 

4000 Reasons from Incite Media on Vimeo.

DeSmog asked Driftwood Foundation director, Wes Giesbrecht, to explain the inspiration behind the film and the festival it highlights.

Retreat from Science: Interview with Federal Scientist Peter Ross Part 1 of 2

When the Harper government announced deep funding cuts to science programs across the country, the Institute of Ocean Sciences, one of Canada's largest marine institutes located in Sidney, B.C., was among those research outfits hurt as a result. Lead research scientist Peter Ross is one of more than one thousand Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) employees who discovered their position had been terminated.

Federal Study Reignites Pollution Concern in Expanding Tar Sands Region

Dr. David Schindler, the scientist who sounded the alarm on tar sands contamination back in 2010, has suddenly found his research backed by an Environment Canada study recently published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The federal study, which confirmed Schindler’s hotly-contested research, has reignited concerns over the pace and scale of development in the Athabasca region, an area now beset with a host of ecological and human health concerns. 

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.”

DNA Tracers Could Put End to Fracking Guessing Game On Water Contamination

The oil and gas industry has just been handed an opportunity to walk the walk when it comes to 'best practices' for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking for unconventional gas. BaseTrace is a cutting-edge technology that uses resiliant DNA tracers to give a unique fingerprint to fracturing fluid blends. Conflicts over water contamination often boil down to one point: was the contamination pre-existing or naturally occurring as drilling companies on the defense often claim? Or was it the industry's fault?

A technology like BaseTrace would give a definitive answer to regulators, communities, industry and policymakers alike. 

The question is, will companies like EnCana, Anadarko, Chief, BP, Chesapeake, Devon, EOGXTO (EXXON) and others actually take on the challenge? Will they walk the 'best practices' talk?

Alberta Finds Mismanagement of Errors Causes Fracking Water Contamination

“There is no amount of regulation that can overcome human error,” said Alberta's Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) spokesman Darin BarterERCB released an investigation report that cites inadequate management of risks as one of the main causes of a September 2011 accident that contaminated groundwater with toxic hydraulic fracturing chemicals, including the cancer causing agent known as BTEX (benzene, toulene, ethylbenzene, and xylene).

The incident occurred near Grande Prairie in northern Alberta when Crew Energy and GasFrac Energy Services workers failed to “recognize and properly assess a number of issues that led to the perforation and fracturing above the base of groundwater protection,” according to the report.

Workers accidentally fracked directly into an underground water table after a series of mishandled errors resulted in a massively bungled frack job that injected 42 cubic metres of unrecoverable propane gel into an aquifer some 136 metres below ground. 
 
Personnel from Crew Energy told the Calgary Herald the company is “embarrassed” about the accident. Rob Morgan, chief operating officer for Crew said, “there's no question of our appreciation of the severity of this,” adding, “pretty much all of the personnel who were involved in this particular circumstance are no longer with the company.”

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