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Emma Pullman

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Emma is a freelance researcher and journalist. You can find her writing in the Toronto Star, Huffington Post, Canada.com, Vancouver Observer and Rabble.

Documents Reveal Canada's Secret 'Oil Sands Team' in Europe

DeSmog has helped to document the Canadian government’s extensive efforts in Europe to kill climate change legislation targeting the Alberta tar sands. In a major development today, official documents obtained though an Access to Information request by the Dominion newspaper exposed a nefarious “pan-European oil sands advocacy strategy” that is much more coordinated than previously understood. 

According to Martin Lukacs at the Dominion Paper, the Canadian government has carried out a secret plan to boost investment and keep world markets open for Alberta’s filthy tar sands oil. Their strategies include collaboration with major oily allies to aggressively undermine European environmental measures.

Alleged Coverup Of Yellowknife Gold Mine Arsenic Leaks

A naturally forming ice dam caused water to leak into and overflow a toxic gold tailings pond in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories on May 14. The water is now draining back into the creek, which feeds to Back Bay on Great Slave Lake a few kilometres downstream. Great Slave Lake is the second largest lake in the Northwest Territories, the deepest in North America, and the 9th largest in the world. 

Originally one of the most pristine bodies of water in the world, the lake water was rendered undrinkable by pollution from the mining industry. The people of Yellowknife have sourced their water elsewhere, until now. City officials have tabled a proposal to source Yellowknife’s drinking water from Yellowknife Bay, which encompasses Back Bay, connected to the recent leak.

The Giant tailings hold the toxic byproducts of decades of gold mining, including tonnes of dangerous arsenic trioxideThe gold roasting process that produced seven million ounces of gold began in the 1940s at the city’s Giant gold mine, and was discontinued in 2004. The gold deposits were contained in arsenopyrite mineral formations, necessitating the separation of gold from arsenic, leaving 237,000-260,000 tonnes of highly toxic, water soluble arsenic trioxide dust, stored in 15 underground chambers a few hundred metres from Great Slave Lake.

Spill Baby Spill? The 5,000 Alberta Oil Spills Industry Would Prefer You Did Not Know About

Right now, the oil and gas industry is holding its breath as the approval of two major tar sands pipelines hang in the balance. The $13 billion Keystone XL pipeline would significantly increase the Canadian export of of dirty tar sands bitumen to the U.S. by as much as 510,000 barrels a day. And, on this side of the border, the ferociously debated $5.5 billion, 1,170 kilometre Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline would carry dirty tar sands bitumen to Kitimat, B.C., where it would be loaded onto supertankers bound for growing energy markets in Asia. 

As the decisions near, a series of major oil spills in the last year have highlighted the dangers these two pipelines pose, particularly given the major expansion of tar sands production they would enable. 

This week, a pump-station equipment failure at a TransCanada pipeline caused 80,000 litres of oil to spill in North Dakota. The Keystone system has suffered 12 leaks since it opened last June, all of them related to equipment failures at pump stations. Despite the frequent spill record, the pipeline is due to resume operations on Saturday

Facing Four More Years of Harper Inaction, Canadians Must Rally Their Own Climate Leadership

Earlier this week, Canadians flocked to the polls for the fourth time in 7 years. This time around, the election was triggered when the minority government led by Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper was found in contempt of parliament in March for failing to release information related to the costs of proposed crime legislation and the purchase of stealth fighter jets.

From the moment the election was announced, Harper derided it as ‘unnecessary’, and ‘unwanted’ even though public polling clearly indicated widespread displeasure with his handling of the economy, public programming including programs for women, the environment, and for proroguing parliament twice. After the 2008 election, when voter turnout was the lowest in Canadian history (59% overall, and a dismal youth turnout of 37%), people wondered if this so-called ‘unwanted’ election would fail to motivate voters to the polls.

While pundits and pollsters made their best guesses leading up to election day, no one correctly anticipated the outcome. With just under 40% of the vote, the Conservatives finally won the majority they have coveted since ascending in 2006. The New Democratic Party (NDP) won 102 seats and formed the official opposition for the first time in history. The Liberal Party was reduced to a mere 34 seats, and the Bloc Quebecois lost 90% of its seats to end up with 4. On the positive side, Green Party candidate Elizabeth May won her party’s first seat in North American history.

Of the 14 closest ridings that Conservatives won seats, the combined margin of victory in all those ridings was 6,201 votes. That means the real difference between a Harper minority and majority was just over 6,000 votes. While 5.8 million people voted for Stephen Harper, another 9 million – the ‘real majority’ – voted for change. But, with his new majority, Harper no longer has to worry about impediments to his extreme ideology; he can ram his anti-science, pro-polluter agenda down the throats of the Canadian public. That spells trouble for Canada’s environment, and it’s especially bad news for the global climate.

Koch Industries Coached Own Employees On How To Vote In November Election

The Nation magazine has revealed that Koch Industries sent a letter to most of its 50,000 employees before the U.S. midterm elections in November 2010 advising them on whom to vote for. In “Big Brothers: Thought Control at Koch,” Mark Ames and Mike Elk expose the urgent “election packet” [PDF] sent to tens of thousands of Koch employees complete with ample libertarian reading materials instructions and a list of eligible vote-worthy (conservative) candidates. 

As if this isn’t disturbing enough, the letter warns employees them
of the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise. 

This story raises alarming concerns about corporations’ ability to influece the ways in which their employees vote. According to Amy Goodman at Democracy Now!, Koch is entirely within its legal right to pressure people in this manner because of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

BREAKING: Pennsylvania Fracking Spill A Haunting Reminder on BP Anniversary

On the anniversary of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the fossil fuel industry has another out of control leak happening right now. Does this sound familiar? An oil and gas company is “attempting to kill the well” and working to contain a major spill.

According to WNEP-TV, a fracked gas well in rural northern Pennsylvania has blown, causing a major spill of fracking fluid into the environment. Bradford County emergency officials say thousands of gallons of tainted water have spilled from the Chesapeake Energy Corp. well site in LeRoy Township near Canton since early this morning.

Crews were fracking when the well blew out near the surface. A massive operation is underway in Bradford County to deal with the spill. Seven families have been evacuated so far.

Don't Be Fooled: Fossil Fools Fund Latest Climate Skeptic Petition

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) recently published a flashy headline that reads, 900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism Of “Man-Made” Global Warming (AGW) Alarm’. The article links to a blog post on Populartechnology.net listing more than 900 papers which, according to the GWPF, refute “concern relating to a negative environmental or socio-economic effect of AGW, usually exaggerated as catastrophic.”

The “900+ papers” list is supposed to somehow prove that a score of scientists reject the scientific consensus on climate change. One might be persuaded by the big numbers. We’re not.

Leaked Talking Points Show Oil Companies Dont Give A Frack About The Truth

An industry executive accidentally dropped a talking points memo [PDF] in an Ohio woman’s driveway after coming to her home to talk about leasing her land for hydraulic fracturing. The memo reveals the extreme lengths that oil and gas companies will go to in order to ensure that people lease their land for hydraulic fracturing.

Called “Talking Points for Selling Oil and Gas Lease Rights,” it is designed for Field Agents to outline how to respond to commonly asked questions, and more importantly, how to avoid answering the hard ones.

What it amounts is essentially trickery on the part of oil and gas companies. The memo suggests that companies are well aware of the dangers of hydraulic fracking, and have found ways to spin the facts around people’s concerns in the name of profit. It also implies that these companies are perfectly willing to intentionally misinform, deliberately omit facts, and categorically deceive people on issues that effect their homes, their families and their health.

By using these tactics, oil and gas companies can sign 5 year leases on land that can legally be extended for up to 40 years if the well continues to produce. As people begin to clue in to the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, oil and gas companies understand the immediacy by which they must sign leases.

Bonuses After Blowouts: Transocean Rewards Executives for Shoddy Safety

Nearly a year has passed since the Deepwater Horizon explosion killed eleven workers and caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history. A presidential commission blamed Transocean, the owner of the rig, and both BP and Halliburton for cost-cutting that caused the blowout. The BP blowout’s ravages continue, and it may be many years before we understand the full impacts of the oil disaster including the health implications of Corexit, the dispersant that was used to break apart the oil to minimize the (visible) damage. 

Transocean leased the Deepwater Horizon rig to BP, and 9 of the workers killed in the blowout were employees of the offshore drilling giant.  Given that, it seems curious that the company awarded its executives $400,000 in “safety” bonuses for 2010. According to the company, 2010 was “the best year in safety performance in our company’s history”. Yes, we’re talking about the same company that helped cause the industry’s highest-profile accident since the 1989 ExxonMobil Valdez spill in Alaska.

According to the company, executive bonuses are calcuated based on two satefy critera: the rate of incidents per 200,000 hours that employees work, and the potential severity of those incidents. By their estimations, in 2010, the rate of incidents dropped by 4% from 2009.

The company argued that they had an “exemplary safety record”. Perhaps they have a different understanding of “severity”, and of “safety” for that matter. 

Are Right Wingers Seriously Using Craigslist To Recruit Trolls For Canadian Election?

Today a campaign on behalf of a public relations firm to skew online debate about the Canadian election was caught using Craigslist to recruit new writers to their cause.

The series of job postings appeared in major cities across the country, and invited prospective writers to apply for jobs to post on newspaper comment sections, media forums, facebook pages, and other online outlets. The goal? To “help balance the left-wing bias of the major media outlets”.

Though the ads were promptly flagged and removed from Craigslist, we scored a screen cap

With Canada early on into an election campaign, one can only wonder on just what scale this type of organized astroturf online trolling exists.

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