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.

Shell Pipeline Spill Is Fourth Disaster In Bad Week for Keystone XL Promoters

Last Friday, as national attention turned to the massive Exxon Pegasus tar sands pipeline spill in Mayflower, Arkansas, another oil spill was occurring near Houston, Texas. Operators of a Royal Dutch Shell subsidiary's West Columbia pipeline, a 15 mile long, 16 inch diameter line, received warnings from the US National Response Center of a potential 700 barrel release (nearly 30,000 gallons) of crude oil on Friday, March 29.

Yesterday, representatives from the US Coast Guard acknowledged at least 50 barrels of oil had entered Vince Bayou, a waterway connected to the Gulf of Mexico.

On Monday, April 1, Shell spokeswoman Kimberly Windon told Reuters “no evidence” of a crude oil leak had been found. “Right now, we haven't seen anything,” she said at the time. Investigators have since determined at least 60 barrels of the spilled oil had entered the Bayou. It is unclear at this time what kind of crude oil the pipeline carried.

DeSmog contacted Shell Pipelines US media relations department to inquire about the type and size of the spill but did not receive a reply by the time of publication.

Steven Lehman, Coast Guard Petty Officer told Dow Jones, “That's a very early estimate - things can change.”

Tar Sands Tax Loophole Cost US Oil Spill Fund $48 Million in 2012, Will Cost $400 Million by 2017

A tax loophole exempting tar sands pipeline operators from paying an eight-cent tax per barrel of oil they transport in the US is costing the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund millions of dollars every year. With expected increases in tar sands oil production over the next five years, this loophole may have deprived US citizens of $400-million dollars worth of critical oil-spill protection funds come 2017.

According to a report by the US Natural Resources Committee the federal government pays for immediate oil-spill response from the Liability Trust Fund which is supported by an excise tax on all crude oil and gas products in the US.

But in 2011 the Internal Revenue Service exempted tar sands oil from the tax, saying the substance did not fit the characterization of crude oil.

This exemption has come under scrutiny this week after Exxon Mobil's Pegasus pipeline ruptured in Mayflower, Arkansas, releasing 300,000 litres of tar sands oil and water into a residential neighbourhood and surrounding wetlands. Because the line carried tar sands-derived oil from Alberta, Exxon was exempt from paying into the spill liability fund for the corrosive fuel's potential cleanup.

Because 'Bitumen is not Oil,' Pipelines Carrying Tar Sands Crude Don't Pay into US Oil Spill Fund

As Think Progress has just reported, a bizarre technicality allowed Exxon Mobil to avoid paying into the federal oil spill fund responsible for cleanup after the company's Pegasus pipeline released 12,000 barrels of tar sands oil and water into the town of Mayflower, Arkansas.

According to a thirty-year-old law in the US, diluted bitumen coming from the Alberta tar sands is not classified as oil, meaning pipeline operators planning to transport the corrosive substance across the US - with proposed pipelines like the Keystone XL - are exempt from paying into the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

News that Exxon was spared from contributing the 8-cents-per-barrel fee to the clean-up fund added insult to injury this week as cleanup crews discovered oil-soaked ducks covered in “low-quality Wabasca Heavy Crude from Alberta.” Yesterday officials said 10 live ducks were found covered in oil, as well as a number of oiled ducks already deceased.

Indigenous Rights are...Hey Look! A Panda!

Yesterday hundreds of indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians stood on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to greet the Nishiyuu walkers - a group of First Nations marchers who have gathered along the 1500 kilometre route between Whapmagoostui in Quebec's James Bay Treaty area and the nation's capital.

The youngest walker to speak on behalf of the group was an 11-year old girl who said she was marching on behalf of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper chose to dismiss the event, traveling instead to Toronto's Pearson Airport where he, along with his wife, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and a high-school band, welcomed two panda bears on loan to Canadian zoos from China.

What's in a Number?: Media and Government Downplay Keystone XL Climate Rally Attendance

A Sunday report from the Globe and Mail gives a rather undersized account of what prominent environmental organizations are calling the largest climate rally in American history, suggesting Canadian media might be trying to downplay the extent of public opposition to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline planned to cut across the U.S. to reach refineries and export markets.

In the wake of the massively successful display of North American opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington DC on Sunday, February 17th, perhaps some Canadians are refusing to receive the message, or admit the significance of Canada's contentious, bituminous role in the whole ordeal.

Organizers for the event estimate 35,000 or more individuals attended Sunday's event, with some accounts citing figures as high as 50,000.

But as Paul Koring and his co-authors present the rally in the Globe and Mail, organizers only claimed 35,000 participants attended the protest, but “turnout seemed significantly smaller.”

Some protesters even “voiced disappointment at the numbers” after traveling across the country to be in Washington for the monumental day. An unofficial policeman's estimate, the article states, said the turnout amounted to perhaps 10,000, a meagre total evidenced by the unused portable toilets and protesters who skipped out early to leave nothing but a “straggling column” to march on the White House a mere two hours into the rally.

Sounds rather unimpressive. I suppose Canadians can rest easy, knowing rumours of growing tar sands opposition south of the boarder are exaggerated. Right?

Tar Sands Tailings Contaminate Alberta Groundwater

The massive tailings ponds holding billions of litres of tar sands waste are leaking into Alberta's groundwater, according to internal documents obtained by Postmedia's Mike De Souza.

An internal memorandum prepared for Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver and obtained through Access to Information legislation says evidence confirms groundwater toxins related to bitumen mining and upgrading are migrating from tailings ponds and are not naturally occurring as government and industry have previously stated.

“The studies have, for the first time, detected potentially harmful, mining-related organic acid contaminants in groundwater outside a long-established out-of-pit tailings pond,” the memo reads. “This finding is consistent with publicly available technical reports of seepage (both projected in theory, and detected in practice).”

This newly released document shows the federal government has been aware of the problem since June 2012 without publicly addressing the information. The study, made available online by Natural Resources Canada in December 2012, was still “pending release” at the time Minister Oliver was briefed of its contents in June.

Science Silenced: US Scientist Caught in Canadian Muzzle

What a difference a decade makes - especially when it comes to government-directed communications policies regarding science, and especially when you're in Canada. 

In 2003 a Canadian-American research collaboration, involving scientists from US universities and Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), began in the Eastern Arctic to track oceanic conditions and ice flow in the Nares Strait.

Enbridge "Integrity Dig" Reveals Two Potential Pipeline Leaks in NWT

A scheduled 'integrity dig' on Enbridge's Line 21 or Norman Wells Pipeline has alerted the company to contaminated soil in two locations along the line, according to an Enbridge news release, raising concerns the aging line may be leaking along its 870 kilometre route.

“The pipeline was shut down as a precautionary measure until repair sleeves were installed,” the release reads. “Further investigate is being conducted at each site.”

At kilometre post 457 along the line, near Fort Simpson, roughly 30 cubic metres of hydrocarbon tainted soil were removed from the area. At kilometre post 391, near Wrigley, between 60 and 70 cubic metres of soil were quarantined, the approximate equivalent of 6 or 7 dump truck loads. Enbridge has not indicated the cause of the leaks at this point.

BC's Fracking Problem: Northern Gateway Not Only Concern for BC Residents

The British Columbia government has plans to double or even triple the amount of natural gas produced in the province in order to meet growing international demand. Although the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is a key issue of concern to British Columbians, widespread fracking for unconventional gas presents another significant challenge that should be on the public's radar, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

As the CCPA reports, BC's gas production targets all but ensure the province will fail to meet its own 2007 emission reductions targets as laid out in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act. Exported gas from BC is expected to contribute the emissions equivalent of putting 24 million new cars on the road, and all for a 0.1 percent projected increase in provincial jobs.

You can watch this animated video here for an overview:

Is TransCanada Laying Defective Keystone XL Pipe in Texas?

TransCanada, the company currently constructing the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, claims to use “top quality steel and welding techniques” throughout its pipeline network. 

Last week, however, activists fighting the construction of the pipeline released images of what they claim are improperly welded pipeline seams. The photos were released by Keystone XL blockader Ramsey Sprague at the Pipe Tech Americas 2013 conference in Texas and were taken by blockader Isabel Brooks.

Brooks took the photographs from inside a pipe segment on December 3, 2012 to document what they say was daylight pouring through weld seams between segments. “All of us looked at it,” Brooks told DeSmog, speaking of the defective seam, “and it was clear light was coming in from the outside…It was definitely clear what it was.”

An hour after the protesters were extracted from the pipe segment, says Brooks, it was in the ground. “[Other protestors] told me that it was in the ground that day and buried. So they didn't test it again,” she said. “I know exactly the piece of pipe that it's at, so if we were to dig it up I know it would be right there and as clear as that day.”

These two images from inside the pipe were released by Sprague last week:

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