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.

Gas Industry Geologists - Not Doctors - Decide If Water Is "Safe" in Alberta Fracking Contamination Cases

Water contamination is at the heart of the fracking debate. Gas companies and their well-funded industry support groups (still) adamantly contend that ‘there are no proven instances of drinking water contamination due to fracking.’ But as Chris Mooney recently wrote about in the Scientific American, and as DeSmogBlog pointed out in our featured report Fracking the Future – this argument is based more on semantics and sly avoidance tactics than scientific evidence, or personal experience for that matter. But in Alberta the oil and gas industry’s ability to deny responsibility for instances of water contamination may be related to an even greater systemic flaw – one which leaves the final verdict in the hands of industry representatives.

In Alberta, landowners who suspect their water is contaminated by gas drilling activity are directed to contact Alberta Environment (AENV), the provincial body that oversees the Water Act, and has just recently been renamed the Ministry of Environment and Water “to emphasize the importance of protecting one of Alberta’s greatest resources.”

AENV responds to complaints in tandem with the province’s oil and gas regulator, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), previously the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB).  Upon the event of suspected water contamination, ERCB provides AENV with relevant information about the producing well, including which company it belongs to.  AENV then contacts the company who is directed to “conduct an investigation or hydrogeology study, using a qualified professional.”

New Report: CCPA and the Wilderness Committee on BC's "Reckless" Desire to Frack

If British Columbia wants to pursue economic, environmental and human health then the province must slow its furious pace of unconventional gas production, says a new report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Wilderness Committee. The CAPP report, part of their partner Climate Justice Project with the University of British Columbia, concludes that BC’s natural gas sector is putting the industry’s needs before those of British Columbians, and doing so with the government’s help.

Ben Parfitt of the CCPA authored the report and has written extensively on the energy/water nexus surrounding BC’s shale gas boom. According to Parfitt, “BC’s shale gas production is the natural gas equivalent of Alberta’s oilsands oil.” The comparison is due to the tremendous water required to frack deep shale deposits, an extraction process that also releases dangerous amounts of methane, one of the most powerful global warming gasses.
 
As expanded in the report, Fracking Up Our Water, Hydro Power and Climate: BC’s Reckless Pursuit of Shale Gas, the unconventional gas industry enjoys exclusive access to the province’s pristine water resources and the government’s lax greenhouse gas (GHG) policy. Last year, the Pacific Institute for Climate Studies (PICS) announced that if BC wants to meet its climate targets, the regulatory regimes surrounding unconventional gas production must become significantly more strict and forward thinking. But despite such a warning, no meaningful administrative changes have been made to suggest the BC government is listening.

BC Tap Water Alliance Calls for Resignation of Energy Minister Coleman Over Fracking

The B.C. Tap Water Alliance (BCTWA) called today for the resignation of British Columbia’s Energy Minister Rich Coleman. The demand comes on the heels of a Global TV program 16:9 which on Saturday evening aired Untested Science, an investigation into the recent surge of fracking across BC and Alberta.  During the program Minister Coleman is berated by investigators for failing to keep his promise to implement a public consultation process in BC, a province beset by some of the largest fracking operations in the world.

The BC public has been largely kept in the dark regarding the unconventional gas operations spreading throughout the Horn River and Montney Basins. But the rapid and experimental development of the resources caused BC’s two Independent MLAs to call for a province-wide, independent review of the process. So far, their request has been met with silence and, as Minister Coleman demonstrated, hollow gestures.
 
On June 1, 2011, Minister Coleman guaranteed the British Columbian public that “an extensive process of public consultation” would be put into place to allow the public to comment and become a part of the approval process that determines the gas industry’s reign in the province’s northeastern shale gas plays. Despite this promise, the gas industry has been granted numerous water withdrawal permits since then without any consultation of the public.
 
As DeSmogBlog reported at the time, the BC Oil & Gas Commission had already allotted 78 million cubic meters of water to fracking companies each year, free of charge, before adding an additional 3.65 million cubic meters to that total for Talisman Energy in July of this year. The water is pumped from BC’s largest fresh water body, the Williston Reservoir. The company withdrawal permits are valid for 20 years.

Canadian Embassy Coaches Diplomats To Promote Tar Sands, Overstate Environmental Protection Efforts

The Canadian government, on the provincial and federal level, needs to tag team on tar sands public relations, according to an internal Canadian Embassy document reported on by Mike De Souza yesterday in the Financial Post. The newly released document, obtained by Environmental Defense Canada through an access to information request, details the outcome of a 2010 overseas trip taken by Alberta’s former Environment Minister Rob Renner. According to the Embassy staff who prepared the report, international investors and stakeholders feel Canada’s lack of unified tar sands advocacy leaves the world’s dirtiest source of energy vulnerable to attack.

During a week long visit to the United Kingdom, Renner heard the concerns of invested parties who suggested Alberta take the lead in a nationwide and government-directed public relations campaign to “temper negative coverage” of the tar sands. 

According to the internal report “there is a strong need for consistent (Alberta and federal government) messaging and cooperation on this file. The opponents of oilsands will find ways to exploit any lack of coherence and coordination, undermining common objectives shared by (the Canadian government) and (the Alberta government) on this issue.”

A Best Practice a Day Keeps the Feds Away: API Workshop on Fracking "Excellence"

The ongoing American Petroleum Institute (API) workshop “Commitment to Excellence in Hydraulic Fracturing” could be more simply titled “Commitment to Hydraulic Fracturing.” The API poses as an industry leader, working to develop best practices and strengthen operating procedures. But these days the sheep’s-clothing is starting to wear thin. After all, the “Commitment to Excellence” workshop has little to do with improving industry standards and everything to do with keeping the feds at bay.

The gas industry enjoys a number of exemptions from environmental statutes at the federal level. These exemptions, from laws like the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, mean that oversight of the industry occurs at the state level, an arrangement that some feel facilitates rather than regulates gas drilling. So understandably, federal involvement is something the industry wants to avoid – and keynote speaker and former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan was at the workshop to tell them just how to do that.

Senate Hearing on Obama's Fracking Panel Excludes External Testimony, Glosses Over Threats

When President Obama decided to include unconventional gas as a central pillar in his “Blueprint for a Clean Energy Future” he must have had an idea that this was going to create controversy. Some would say that a clean energy future and fracked gas are, to put it lightly, at odds with one another.  Perhaps that is why the President directed his Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to form a special advisory board to investigate the growing number of scientists, doctors, independent experts, environmental NGOs, and media outlets - DeSmogBlog included - concerned that fracking for unconventional gas threatens public health, the environment and the global climate.

Secretary Chu’s panel is officially known as the Natural Gas Subcommittee and is a project of the U.S. Energy Advisory Board. This panel, now often referred to as Obama’s Fracking Panel, has been formally discredited by a coalition of leading scientists and also by a collective of leading citizen and environmental groups. Most notoriously, the panel was called out for its strong financial ties to the gas industry.   
 
The panel was given 90 days to document their preliminary findings, which they released in a report on August 18th. Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing to examine those early findings.   
 
From the outset, the hearing looked like the perfect opportunity for the subcommittee to congratulate itself for its own work. 

Dogwood Initiative Exposes BC's Dirty Coal Export Secret

British Columbia plays a special role in the pollution and warming of the atmosphere, according a new report from the Dogwood Initiative on BC’s rapidly expanding coal industry and its implications for the province’s contributions to climate disruption. 

The BC government plans to reduce emissions by 33 percent from 2007 levels by 2020. Yet BC is preparing to emit more than its fair share of climate threatening pollution due to the province’s steady increase in coal production and export.

As the Dogwood Initiative report shows, BC is outsourcing more than just dirty energy: the province’s carbon emissions are nearly doubled when you factor in BC coal burnt in other countries.

World's Biggest Fracking Operations: CBC Covers the Shale Gas Boom in BC

Yesterday the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) announced their investigative series on fracking in British Columbia. The feature report will cover the rise of the shale boom in the province’s remote northeast corner. The CBC radio report, called Cornering Gas, presents an opportunity for people to voice their concerns about the controversial fracking process and take part in the growing debate over BC’s role in the country’s energy future.

As the CBC reports, shale gas in BC has ballooned into a multi-billion-dollar industry and is expected to transform the province’s remote regions into bustling boom towns. CBC host Robert Boane and reporter Betsy Trumpener traveled to Fort Nelson to conduct interviews within a 'boom no bust' atmosphere. Fort Nelson, a town of 4000, is expected to triple in size. 

Two of Canada’s most plentiful shale gas deposits are in the area where some of the largest fracking operations in the world are taking place. Kerry Guy, speaking on behalf of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), told the CBC they currently estimate more than a century’s worth of shale gas in the region.

But the shale gas boom in BC has brought a lot more in its wake than just short-term economic opportunity.

"It Can't All Be True": Canadian Government Launches New Fracking Studies

According to Environmental Minister Peter Kent, the Canadian government is entering into the shale gas debate by launching two simultaneous studies of fracking and its impacts on the environment.  Environment Canada is pursuing an in-house review of the controversial fracking process, while the Council of Canadian Academies will lead an independent investigation to provide an expert assessment of the science and environmental impacts associated with fracking.

Both federal and provincial governments have traditionally supported the development of the country’s rich unconventional gas deposits. Yet growing opposition has led to civil discontent in some areas like Quebec, where concern over fracking’s environmental impact resulted in a moratorium while a more thorough scientific review is conducted.
 
Quebec’s cautionary approach has prompted others to ask why provinces like British Columbia, Alberta, and New Brunswick, where there is equal cause for concern, are not taking a similar science-based approach. But the federal government has met calls for independent investigations and environmental evaluation with silence.

Counterpoint on Shale Gas and the Future of Fracking

Recently the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature published a ‘pros vs. cons’ piece on the production of unconventional gas from shale. The tête-à-tête, led by Terry Engelder on the pro side and Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea on the con side, weighs the risks and benefits of gas production as it relates to the economy and human and environmental health.

Howarth and Ingraffea, authors of the first peer-reviewed study on lifecycle emissions from unconventional gas production, are solemn in their assessment: “shale gas isn’t clean, and shouldn’t be used as a bridge fuel” to a clean energy future. Their recommendation is based on the risks involved with high-volume slick-water hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as it exists in its present form.
 
Although the industry claims to have performed over one million fracking operations since the 1940s, Howarth and Ingraffea counter that the current technology is still relatively new and has only been in operation for a decade. Modern fracking bears little resemblance to its historic counterpart and requires greater amounts of water and chemicals, deeper drilling and higher pressures. All these differences combine to make fracking an unavoidably dangerous process. Howarth and Ingraffea also claim that a switch to unconventional gas will not substantially alleviate global warming in the near future.

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