Carol Linnitt

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Carol Linnitt is Managing Editor and Director of Research for DeSmog Canada. Carol is a writer and researcher focusing on energy development, environmental policy and wildlife. She joined DeSmog in June 2010 as a researcher, focusing much of her time on the natural gas industry and hydraulic fracturing.

Carol is the lead author of DeSmog's original report Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens Our Water, Health & Climate. Her work also led to the DeSmog micro-documentary CRY WOLF: An Unethical Oil Story and the Cry Wolf investigative series.

Carol began her environmental career writing and performing interviews for The Canada Expedition, a non-governmental sustainability initiative, and while working in dispute resolution with communities affected by resource scarcity.

Carol has a Master's in English Literature from York University where she studied political theory, natural resource conflicts and Aboriginal rights. She also has a Master's in Philosophy in the field of phenomenology and environmental ethics and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Victoria in the English and Cultural, Social and Political Thought programs.

Maps Show Tar Sands Sprawl in Caribou Habitat: Could Resolve Problem with 1% of Industry Profits, says Scientist

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

Alberta’s threatened caribou herds will stand a significantly better chance of surviving the province’s development of the Tar Sands, according to a group of scientists, if the oil and gas industry is willing to spare 1 percent of its potential development profits to make it happen.

According to a recent study from the University of Alberta’s Richard Schneider, 50 percent of the caribou habitat threatened by Tar Sands development could be easily preserved if only the industry and government would be more strategic in their land use planning. But ‘strategy’ has had little to do with the way the Tar Sands region has been managed, according to Schneider, who suggests that caribou have become an unintended victim of the government’s thoughtless industrial leasing program.
The effort to recover caribou largely relies on securing critical habitat for the species. But habitat has proven difficult to conserve in an area like Fort McMurray where the government has leased the majority of the land to individual companies without any longterm land use strategy. 
To understand why caribou recovery is so difficult and why industry is so resistant to habitat protection (see our extensive coverage of this problem here), you have to understand the way oil and gas leases are awarded in Alberta, Schneider told DeSmogBlog. 

American Nurses Band Together to Expose Health Risks of Fracking and Fossil Fuel Energy

Nurses from the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA) are proposing they take on a more prominent role in connecting the dots between human health and fossil fuel-based energy. Their public policy proposal, “Nurses Role in Recognizing, Education and Advocating for Healthier Energy Choices,” was passed by the American Nurses Association (ANA) House of Delegates last week. Developed in Pennsylvania, one of North America’s fracking hotspots, the proposal suggests nurses take on an educational role, acting as a conduit between those affected by energy pollution and medical professionals.

“Human and ecological health risks are directly related to the use of coal-fired power plants, mountaintop removal of coal, offshore and onshore oil and natural gas drilling, and hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’” the PSNA writes in a press release. The nurses association proposes nurses use “evidence-based information to educate other health professionals, the public and policy makers about the relationship between energy choices and human health.”
This proposal arises in response to a recent ‘muzzling’ of medical professionals in Pennsylvania where new laws prevent doctors from relaying information to patients affected by fracking chemicals. In Pennsylvania doctors are legally bound to protect the confidentiality of proprietary chemical information protected as a trade secret by fracking companies.

Howarth and Ingraffea: Gas Industry Fracking Study So Biased it is 'Almost Useless'

Two of the largest gas industry lobbying bodies in the US, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and American Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), released a ‘study’ earlier this month claiming methane emissions from natural gas production to be 50 percent lower than the US Environmental Protection Agency’s 2011 estimates.  However, according to a joint statement prepared by professors Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea and released by the Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE) this week, the study is nothing more than industry-purchased propaganda that does not adhere to basic standards for scientific accuracy and consistency.  

The industry report, entitled “Characterizing Pivotal Sources of Methane Emissions from Unconventional Natural Gas Production,” was commissioned by API and ANGA and co-authored by the URS Corporation and The LEVON Group. The report’s findings, pounced upon by gas industry advocates, like the virulent astroturf group Energy In Depth, were based upon API and ANGA survey responses and, according to Howarth, Ingraffea and the PSE, therein lies their downfall.

Here is a brief outline of the study’s ‘fatal flaws’ as outlined in the PSE joint statement:

Greenpeace Clean Energy Billboard Rejected by Pattison

After a Plains Midstream Canada pipeline spilled between 160,000 and 480,000 liters of oil into Jackson Creek near the Red Deer River in Alberta this month, premier Alison Redford called the incident “an exception.”

Yet, as Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema reports, this spill comes as no surprise given Alberta’s aging pipeline infrastructure and when considering that, in 2010 alone, pipelines across the country experienced 687 ‘failures’ resulting in 3,416 cubic meters of spilled toxic pollutants.

That’s why Greenpeace decided to send Premier Redford a strong message “about the need to invest in green jobs and stop the growing number of toxic oil spills,” Hudema wrote yesterday. 
But this plan was stopped in its tracks when Pattison Outdoor Advertising, an advertising arm of the Vancouver–based Jim Pattison Group, rejected Greenpeace’s billboard design destined for a busy Edmonton intersection. Without ceremony and without explanation, the agency refused to host the proposed billboard sign pictured below, simply announcing to Greenpeace, “the artwork has been rejected.”

Terror is in the Eye of the Beholder: Alberta’s Counterterrorism Unit to Protect Oil and Gas Industry

In January, during the week before Canada’s federal hearing on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, the Harper government and Ethical Oil Institute launched an unprecedented attack on environmental organizations opposed to the pipeline and accelerated expansion of the tar sands. Resurrecting Cold War-style ‘terrorist’ rhetoric, conservative politicians like Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver referred to prominent environmental organizations as “radical groups” threatening “to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda” while using “funding from foreign special interests groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.”

The government and Ethical Oil singled out environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, ForestEthics, and the Pembina Institute, in an orchestrated effort to undermine the credibility of pipeline opponents and to cast doubt on their intentions for the Enbridge Pipeline hearings. 
The rhetorical campaign against these alleged ‘environmental extremists’ moved from propaganda to policy last week when the RCMP announced the creation of a new counterterrorism unit in Alberta, designed to protect Canada’s energy infrastructure from so-called ‘security threats.’

EPA Shale Gas Emissions Standards: "Too Little, Too Late"

The gas industry received a blow yesterday when the nonprofit group Physicians, Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE) released a joint statement by Professors Anthony Ingraffea and Robert Howarth of Cornell University. According to the release the EPA’s new emissions standards for methane and volatile organics from shale gas development “must be considered to little, too late” given the urgent need to reduce global levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

The gas industry is set to remain the single largest methane polluter in the United States, according to the release, with an overall GHG footprint surpassing emissions from coal. 
The EPA’s new national emissions standards, finalized in mid-April, rely on new air quality measures, the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Pollutants (NESHAPS), that target pollutants discharged during gas extraction activities. New procedures, such as a methane capture technique known as “green completion,” are expected to play a significant role in achieving the new standards.
Howarth and Ingraffea agree these standards are significant and if strongly-enforced could amount to a reduction in methane emissions of about one-third. But despite this achievement, they write, methane emissions remain a serious problem.
“Despite the new regulations, shale gas methane emissions will remain significant, with the estimates of EPA (2011) and Howarth et al. (2011) indicating a likely leakage of 2.5 – 3.9 percent of the amount of methane produced over the lifetime of a shale-gas well, and possibly as high as 6 percent,” the statement reads.
Despite the EPA’s efforts, which have caught positive attention from prominent environmental groups, Howarth and Ingraffea remain very matter-of-fact about the real issue, which hinges on a nation-wide spread of poor practice. Gas production is plagued with ‘ongoing emission’ problems and the EPA’s emissions standards – while a step in the right direction – just aren’t enough to make the concerns associated with poor practice go away.

Comparing Territories: Tar Sands Blanket Caribou Habitat

As the controversy surrounding Canada’s proposed wolf cull in Alberta grows, the provincial government is attempting to limit criticism directed at the country’s polluting Tar Sands – the prime driver behind the region’s rapid decline in caribou populations.  Alberta’s Ministry of Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) is the government body responsible for, not surprisingly, sustainable management of the province’s natural resources, but interestingly SRD lumps disparate things - like caribou and bitumen - together.  

As public concern increases over the SRD’s mismanagement of Alberta’s caribou herds (10 of the 13 monitored herds are experiencing decline), government spokespeople have had to work overtime to conceal the role the Tar Sands have to play in this enduring resource debacle.

DeSmogBlog has covered the extensive government-industry collusion behind Alberta’s botched caribou recovery strategies, demonstrating the extent to which the entire process is dominated by a single economic imperative – oil and gas development in, most notably, the Tar Sands. The government, however, has downplayed the role the Tar Sands have to play in the mass disappearance of Alberta’s caribou, choosing instead to place the blame squarely on the wolf.  

SRD spokesman Dave Ealey has been working the defensive for months, telling sources like the LA Times that wolf control in Alberta is unrelated to the Tar Sands. And while this argument may hold when addressing the wolf cull near Hinton, Alberta in the Little Smoky caribou range (where caribou are affected by conventional oil and gas production), it does not accurately portray the overall situation in Alberta. 
To get a feel for the overlap between caribou habitat and Tar Sands development, compare the maps (sourced from here and here) below:

Unethicull Oil: What Alberta's Wolf Cull Plan Tells Us About Canada's Oil Addiction

DeSmog recently sent a team to the tar sands region of Alberta to investigate the proposed government plan to systematically kill off the province’s wild wolf population in a supposed effort to recover dwindling caribou herds. The proposed cull has been widely criticized internationally for placing the interests of industry above the interests of the public and the public’s stake in the responsible management of Alberta’s resources, environment and wildlife.

Along our journey we discovered the proposed wolf cull bears a striking resemblance to another ploy designed to protect the interests of the oil and gas industry: the “ethical oil” campaign. 

Here are 3 basic points of resemblance between the two:

1. The Bait-and-Switch: Both the wolf cull and the ethical oil campaign share a deceptive bait-and-switch strategy.

The Wolves:

For the wolf cull the bait comes in the form of the euphemistic catchall term, ‘wildlife management,’ used to discuss caribou recovery in Alberta. Sure, most people want caribou to survive and will favor a wildlife management plan designed to save the province’s caribou. Nobody likes wild species going extinct, right?

And the switch: in order for this management plan to work, we’ll have to sacrifice another of the province’s wild species, the wolf. And, as a hidden cost, we’ll be choosing to ignore more effective alternative remedies to caribou declines, like habitat protection, for instance.

Oil and Gas Industry Refused to Protect Caribou Habitat, Pushed for Wolf Cull Instead

There’s something really wrong about the Canadian government’s recent proposal to spend millions of dollars to scapegoat Alberta's wild wolf population for the impact on caribou populations that is in fact due to industrial development wrecking wildlife habitat. (See our earlier coverage of this issue here.)

It’s not just the impractical costs of the proposal and it’s not just the needless killing of wolves. It’s the bold-faced dishonesty of this anti-science proposal in a time when industry and government are already facing a credibility crisis

The government, on both the provincial and federal level, is using numerous talking points to demonstrate the “regrettable but necessary” character of the proposed wolf cull that will claim thousands of Alberta’s wolves in coming years.

These oil-friendly politicians falsely claim that the wolf is responsible for declining caribou populations; they falsely claim that the wolf cull is designed to recover caribou; and they falsely claim that the wolf cull is temporary. 

But these strategic talking points are not coming from the province’s scientists, biologists or conservation specialists. These real experts are describing the government’s storyline as a bunch of public relations hogwash.

The truth is that caribou populations are plummeting due to rapid industrialization of their habitat, chiefly the timber, oil and gas industries profiting off the Alberta Tar Sands boom. 

Cry Wolf: An Unethical Oil Story

Over the last several years, Alberta has killed more than 500 wolves using aerial sharpshooters and poisoned bait in order to conceal the impact of rapid industrial development on Canada’s iconic woodland caribou. 

Independent scientists say that declining caribou health stems chiefly from habitat destruction caused by the encroachment of the tar sands and timber industries. But in a perverse attempt to cover industry’s tracks, the Alberta government is ignoring the science and shifting the blame to a hapless scapegoat: the wolf. 

As DeSmogBlog reported earlier this year, the Alberta Caribou Committee, tasked with the recovery of the province’s dwindling caribou populations, is dominated by timber, oil and gas industry interests. Participating scientists have been silenced – their reports rewritten and their recommendations overlooked.
The prospect of the expansion of this unscientific wolf cull, projected to claim the lives of roughly 6,000 wolves over the next five years, has outraged conservationists and wildlife experts. While the wolves dodge bullets and poison, this scandal is flying largely under the public radar. 
A team of DeSmogBlog researchers traveled to the Tar Sands region to investigate the dirty oil politics behind this fool’s errand. Here is our first report: Cry Wolf: An Unethical Oil Story.