James Wilt

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James Wilt is a freelance journalist based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a journalism degree from Mount Royal University in Calgary. He regularly contributes to DeSmog Canada, and has also written for VICE Canada, CBC Calgary, Alberta Oil, Fast Forward Weekly and Geez magazine.

What The Oilsands Sell-Off Actually Means

Oilsands trucks

The last few months have been marked by some massive shifts in the oilsands.

In December, there was the $830 million Statoil sale to Athabasca Oil, followed in January and February by the writing down of billions of barrels of reserves by Imperial Oil, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil.

On March 9, Shell sold a majority of its oilsands assets to Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) in a huge $7.25 billion sale, while Marathon Oil split its Canadian subsidiary between Shell and CNRL for a total of $2.5 billion.

The question is: why are all of these companies selling their oilsands assets? While some celebrate the moves as successes for the climate movement, others blame the Alberta NDP for the exodus of internationals.

Tweet: Experts say #oilsands sell-off has more to do w/ a broader shift that’s made oilsands uneconomical http://bit.ly/2nK3zyQ #ableg #cdnpoliBut experts say the reality has more to do with a broader economic shift that’s made oilsands uneconomical — for the time being at least.

Three Reasons Why Keystone XL May Never Get Built

Keystone XL pipeline

Almost a full decade since first applying for a presidential permit, TransCanada looks set to finally receive go-ahead in the U.S. for its massive $8-billion Keystone XL pipeline.

But here’s the thing: U.S. approval, while a great leap forward for TransCanada, doesn’t guarantee the Keystone XL pipeline will ever be built.

U.S. President Donald Trump was elected with the explicit promise to get the 830,000 barrel per day pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska built, under the conditions that the U.S. would receive a “big, big chunk of the profits, or even ownership rights” and it would be built with American steel; his administration has already flip-flopped on the latter pledge.

*Update: On March 24, 2017, Trump granted Trans Canada the presidential permit required to build Keystone XL, saying: “It’s going to be an incredible pipeline, the greatest technology known to man, or woman.”

So is Keystone XL going to be built? Not so fast. Here are three key reasons why it may never become a reality.

Fracking Fluid Caused Months-Long Earthquake Events In Alberta: New Study

Fracking

Fracking has induced earthquakes in northwest Alberta, Tweet: Proof is in the pudding: #fracking causing huge, long-lasting earthquakes in NW Alberta http://bit.ly/2g6F0rn #ableg #cdnpoli #oilandgassome of which have lasted for months due to residual fracking fluid, according to a new study published in Science today.

Earthquakes induced by fracking have been noticed in Western Canada for about four years, but this is one of the first studies to specifically identify the causes that resulted in “activation.”

Sinking Tarballs, Whale Collisions: Potential Impacts of Energy East on the U.S. Coast Detailed in New Report

You know you’ve got the attention of the fossil fuel industry when the Financial Post’s Claudia Cattaneo pens a dismissive column about your efforts.

On Tuesday, Cattaneo — recently dubbed “everyone’s favorite oil and gas shill” by American Energy News — bestowed the honour on a new report about TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline, published by the Natural Resources Defense Council and 13 other environmental organizations including 350.org, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club.

Tweet: Canadians right to wonder why deep-pocketed US group w army of lawyers is meddling in all-Canadian pipeline project http://bit.ly/2ahd5OCCanadian [sic] are also right to wonder why a deep-pocketed U.S. group with an army of lawyers is meddling in an all-Canadian pipeline project,” she opined in her 820-word column, shortly after insinuating the Natural Resources Defense Council “needed to conquer and make money off a new dragon” following the presidential veto of the Keystone XL pipeline in 2015.

The idea that Energy East only concerns Canadians is a curious perspective. But it’s certainly not a unique one.

Hawaii Utilities Commission Shoots Down Plan To Import LNG from B.C.

Count on Hawaii — tied for No. 1 as the the state with the highest percentage of renewable energy — to deliver yet another blow to B.C.’s lofty liquefied natural gas (LNG) ambitions.

On July 15, the state’s public utilities commission recently shot down a proposed $4.3 billion takeover of the Hawaiian Electric Companies (which provide 95 per cent of the state’s electricity) by Florida-based NextEra Energy in a 265 page ruling.

NextEra, the largest provider of the wind power in the U.S., was positioned to play a key role in financing the importing of 800,000 metric tons per year of LNG from FortisBC’s Tilbury LNG storage facility in Delta for use in an upgraded power plant on the west coast of Oahu.

The deal, struck in May between a Fortis subsidiary and the Hawaiian Electric Company, would have lasted for 20 years beginning in 2021. The LNG would have been exported by WesPac Midstream via its proposed terminal on the Fraser River.

Think Facts Matter? Try Attending a Friends of Science Event Headlined by Ezra Levant

We’re only a minute into watching a brief low-budget video — one that begins by alleging U.S. President Barack Obama is a bully because he suggests that climate change deniers should be “called out” — when Ezra Levant sits down in the chair next to me.

The Rebel Commander himself.

According to organizers, he’s the reason attendance of tonight’s $45-per-head fundraiser in Calgary — casually titled “Climate Leadership Catastrophe: Carbon Taxes, Job Loss, Freedoms Denied” and organized by the so-called “Friends of Science” — spiked from 200 to 445 people after he was announced as its keynote speaker.

And he’s the same intensely controversial pundit who I met in late November at another Calgary event called “Generation Screwed” which I covered for Vice Canada while wearing a “Dreamy Trudeau” sweater.

Hey James,” he says, reaching out his hand to shake mine.

Enbridge and Kinder Morgan Lobby Hard As Feds Change Tune on Pipelines

It’s been a month of mostly good news for Enbridge and Kinder Morgan, the two companies pushing to build major pipeline projects from Alberta’s oilsands to British Columbia’s coast.

Quick recap: on April 11, the National Post reported that the federal government is drawing up a pipeline implementation strategy for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project and TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline.

Two weeks later, Bloomberg noted the federal government is reevaluating its tanker ban on the province’s northern coast, which currently bars exports from the Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. On the same day (April 25), Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project was quietly approved by the National Energy Board, boosting future exports by 370,000 barrels/day.

Capping off the busy spell is the May 6 announcement that Enbridge has requested a three year extension from the National Energy Board for the Northern Gateway pipeline. The company is required to begin construction by 2016 according to its current permits but says it needs more time to lock down legal permissions and further consult with Indigenous peoples.

The reinvigoration of these pipeline projects come on the heels of a major lobbying effort by both Enbridge and Kinder Morgan.

Vancouver Port Regulator Under Conflict of Interest Fire Over Coal Lobby Membership

With news of the Port of Vancouver ruffling the feathers of the federal government by issuing a permit for a jet fuel pipeline without so much as a heads up, the port authority’s integrity has been thrust into the spotlight yet again.

While the port has apologized to Transport Minister Marc Garneau, the thorny issue of the port conducting environmental reviews of projects, while profiting from the same projects, remains.

Complicating matters, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (which regulates the Port of Vancouver) is a member of the Coal Association of Canada — a lobby group that glosses over the impacts of burning coal on climate change and that has gained notoriety in recent weeks for spreading misinformation about the phase-out of coal-fired electricity in Alberta.

The port authority has also been outed in the past for a covert and intimate relationship with the Vancouver-based Coal Alliance, an aggressive lobby group with a membership that includes rail companies, export terminals and other lobby groups.

Ethics Complaint Filed Against Alberta Minister Turned Coal Lobbyist

A complaint filed with Alberta’s Office of the Ethics Commissioner on Tuesday argues that the president of the Coal Association of Canada contravened the Conflict of Interest Act by lobbying for the coal industry shortly after leaving his post as an Alberta cabinet minister.

Until six months ago, coal lobbyist Robin Campbell served as Alberta’s finance minister. He previously held positions as minister of aboriginal relations and minister of environment and sustainable resource development.

The Conflicts of Interest Act bars a former minister from lobbying any public office holder for 12 months after their last day in office.

Progress Alberta, a non-profit progressive advocacy group, filed the ethics complaint, arguing that Campbell’s activity on behalf of the coal industry may contravene rules in the Lobbyist Act designed to prevent the use of “grassroots communication” to persuade members of the public to pressure public office holders.

Since his controversial appointment as Coal Association president, Campbell has visited communities across Alberta and spoken with media about the lobby group’s positions. At least one media report indicates Campbell called on audiences to get in touch with their elected officials.

Alberta Climate Announcement Puts End to Infinite Growth of Oilsands

Alberta Climate Change Announcment

The days of infinite growth in Alberta’s oilsands are over with the Alberta government’s blockbuster climate change announcement on Sunday, which attracted broad support from industry and civil society.

This is the day that we start to mobilize capital and resources to create green jobs, green energy, green infrastructure and a strong, environmentally responsible, sustainable and visionary Alberta energy industry with a great future,” Premier Rachel Notley said. “This is the day we stop denying there is an issue, and this is the day we do our part.”

Notley and Environment & Parks Minister Shannon Phillips released a 97-page climate change policy plan, which includes five key pillars.

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