TJ Scolnick

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Pew Report Highlights Importance Of Canada’s Boreal Forest For Water Reserves and Climate

A new Pew Environment Group report [PDF] confirms the importance of Canada’s Boreal forest in safeguarding public health and the climate. The report details many benefits the 1.2 billion acre forest delivers to human health and wildlife, including protecting freshwater reserves and animal habitat, as well as preventing the effects of global warming. The decades of research behind this study also reveals that the forest’s health is increasingly at risk due to rapid industrial development, namely mining and gas extraction. 

For those unfamiliar with Canada’s Boreal forest, it is recognized as an ecological marvel, boasting half the world’s lakes larger than a square kilometer in size; 5 of the world’s 50 largest rivers; almost 200 million acres of surface water; and the world’s single largest remaining unpolluted fresh water body, Great Bear Lake.

The forest contains 25 percent of the world’s wetlands, and has more surface water than any other continental-scale landscape. It is the most intact and preserved forest on the planet, safeguarding biodiversity and food supplies, and contributing to the culture and history of many nearby communities.

Although it is less well known for its role as a massive carbon sink, the forest plays a vital role in regulating the climate and diminishing the effects from global warming.

Big Differences In Public Opinion of Climate Change In Canada And The U.S.

A fresh public survey and a new report [PDF] from the The Public Policy Forum and Sustainable Prosperity, confirms that a wide gap exists between Canadian and American perceptions of climate change.

In the fall of 2008, nearly three-quarters of Americans accepted the reality of global warming and for a time, it seemed that American and Canadians views of climate change were quite similar.

What a difference two years makes. Four in five Canadians believe that climate change is occurring and this figure has been relatively stable over time. South of the border, as recently as several months ago, and after incessant attacks on the science of climate change, support fell to barely half and has only just been rising to around 60%.

Québec’s Oil And Gas Industry Responds To BAPE Report On Shale Gas And Fracking Ban

On Monday, Québec’s oil and gas industry responded to the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) report made public last week. Lucien Bouchard, former Québec Premier turned spokesman for the Québec Oil and Gas Association addressed the media for the first time, acknowledging that the industry’s “new” fracking techniques deserve further scrutiny in order to avoid “mishaps” such as the 19 gas wells that have recently leaked pollution into Quebec’s air and water.

The BAPE commission rightly called for an extensive environmental impact assessment of the effects that shale gas drilling has on air and water quality. While the BAPE did not call for a shale drilling moratorium, Pierre Arcand, Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks did, however, ban the use of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) for at least a year and a half, and up to 30 months until this destructive technique can be studied further.

Fracking Banned In New Jersey

On Friday, New Jersey legislators unanimously voted for S-2576, a bill which prohibits hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) for natural gas in the state.

S-2576 is largely symbolic since New Jersey does not use fracking to drill for natural gas. This bill does, however, send a clear message to the industry as well as neighbouring states looking to tap into the Marcellus Shale formation which reaches into New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and northwestern N.J.

Upton’s Upcoming Pipeline Safety Legislation Is Next Favor To Koch Brothers

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) this week revealed that he is preparing legislation and hearings on improving pipeline safety. In reality, he’s just solidifying his support of the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, a boondoggle for the Koch brothers who control nearly 25% of the dirty tar sands oil already entering the U.S. from Canada. Koch Industries is poised to grab an even bigger share of that figure if the Keystone XL pipeline is built, sending more dirty tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries – if it doesn’t leak out along the way, that is.

Although Upton’s House Energy and Commerce Committee “does not have primary jurisdiction over the nation’s 2.3 million miles of hazardous liquids pipelines,” Ed Sackley, Upton’s district representative said that Upton will likely hold hearings anyway and “move something in the 112th Congress.”

BREAKING: Quebec BAPE Shale Gas Study Verdict Is In: Drill Baby Drill, But No Fracking For Now

After keeping Québec’s much anticipated Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) shale gas development study under wraps for more than a week, Pierre Arcand, Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks just released the BAPE’s findings to the public. Regrettably, shale gas in the province is receiving a green light or in French “un feu vert” (a green fire translated literally). Ironically, this is exactly what the BAPE’s recommendation will lead to as shale gas expansion means that many of the province’s environmental goals will go up in smoke. For now, the controversial drilling method of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) will be halted until a strategic  environmental impact assessment can be conducted.

All in all, the BAPE’s recommendation to proceed is a major blow to environmental and health advocates calling on the Québec Liberal government to heed the many public safety and environmental risks which surround shale gas drilling and fracking.

Liquefied Natural Gas Exports From Shale Drilling in British Columbia, Nearly A Reality

Last week, the proposed Kitimat liquefied natural gas (LNG) development project on British Columbia’s west coast, run by KM LNG Operating General Partnership, awarded the global engineering and construction firm KBR, a former Halliburton subsidiary, an engineering and design contract for an LNG export facility at Bish Cove, some 15 km’s southeast of Kitimat on land owned by the Haisla First Nation.

Although KM LNG is waiting for final approval from Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) for a 20-year export license to transport of up to 13,300,000 103m3/year or 468 billion cubic feet/year of LNG, KM LNG is now a step closer to becoming Canada’s first exporter of liquid natural gas.

The majority of the gas will be sourced from shale deposits located in the northeast of the province, where hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) is widely used. From Bish, the LNG will transit on large tankers destined for markets in Asia beginning in 2015.

New Scientific Community Will Hold Québec Government Accountable On Shale Gas

While Québecers anxiously wait for Pierre Arcand, Quebec’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks to publicly release the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) study on the future of shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) in the province, a group of more than 100 researchers and scientists known as the Collectif scientifique sur la question du gaz de schiste au Québec has declared that they will serve a permanent watchdog function over the shale industry. Additionally, they will promote accountability and transparency by government on its shale gas policies and will intensively study and communicate any shortfalls in the BAPE’s findings to the public.

The Collectif scientifique correctly insists that not enough is known about shale gas drilling and fracking, and describes the shale industry’s tactics as “invasive.” Given the controversies surrounding shale gas and fracking, this newly formed scientific community is calling for an immediate moratorium on drilling until Premier Jean Charest and his Liberal government produce a credible and realistic energy policy focusing on energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy and not dirty fossil fuels like gas.

Pennsylvania Governor Ends Moratorium On Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling In Sensitive State Forests

Pennsylvania’s new Republican Governor Tom Corbett fulfilled a campaign promise to rescind his predecessor’s wise executive order and de-facto ban on the leasing of sensitive state forest land for Marcellus shale gas development. This short-sighted decision removes the requirement for environmental  impact assessments prior to the granting of natural gas drilling permits, and strips other critical oversight of gas drilling on publicly-owned forest lands.

Last October, former Democratic Governor Ed Rendell barred gas drilling in state forests to protect “the most significant tracts of undisturbed forest remaining in the state.” The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) determined that leasing new drilling sites would damage the ecological integrity of the state’s forest system. The Rendell moratorium provided significant checks on run-away shale gas development on public lands since it required the state parks and forests agency to thoroughly review drilling permit applications for some public lands “even where the state doesn’t own the below-ground natural gas rights.” Specifically in instances “where the state doesn’t own the mineral rights to 80 percent of state park land and 15 percent of state forest land.”

Shale Gas and Fracking In Québec Under Intense Scrutiny

Late last summer, Québec’s Liberal government announced a provincial study and a series of public hearings on hydraulic fracturing, the controversial natural gas industry practice under increasingly intense review following a bombshell New York Times investigation into fracking threats to drinking water and public health.

This week, the commission that the Quebec government set up to review fracking and shale development, called the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE), submitted its far-reaching report on the future of shale gas development in Québec, but it won’t be available for public review until Pierre Arcand, Quebec’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks, releases it, which could be anytime within the next 60 days.