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Senate must heed evidence on bee killing pesticides PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Posted by Joan Russow   
Tuesday, 28 January 2014 09:07
MEDIA RELEASE / January 28, 2014 
Senate must heed evidence on bee killing pesticides
OTTAWA – The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry begins hearings on bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides today. Beekeepers, grain growers and academics have been invited to present evidence.
The hearings come a month after Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) -- bowing to pressure from lobby group Croplife and the pesticide industry -- shockingly punted any action on the bee-killing pesticides until at least 2016. Croplife is led by former Conservative MP and newly minted President & CEO Ted Menzies.
Did the federal government break the law with genetically modified salmon approval? PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Posted by Joan Russow   
Monday, 20 January 2014 12:34

by kmitchell  Ecojustice


at Jan 20, 2014 12:00 AM

Ecojustice lawyers are representing environmental groups in a legal action challenging the federal government's decision to approve the manufacture of genetically modified salmon in Canada.

Did the federal government break the law with genetically modified salmon approval?

Genetically modified salmon could pose a risk, as an invasive species, to ecosystems and species such as wild salmon.

By Kaitlyn Mitchell and Tanya Nayler, Staff lawyers

Ecojustice lawyers have filed a lawsuit, on behalf of Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society, against the federal government for permitting the manufacture of genetically modified salmon in Canada.  

Last Updated on Monday, 20 January 2014 12:47
Oil Has Been Spilling Near Cold Lake, Alberta for Almost Nine Months and No One Knows Why PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Posted by Joan Russow   
Sunday, 19 January 2014 15:05



Map of clean up efforts, via CNRL.

It’s been eight months since the world first heard about a bitumen-oozing fiasco on a oil field owned by the Canadian Natural (CNRL) corporation near Cold Lake, Alberta. Four mysterious leaks have slowly spewed 1.878 million litres of heavy crude mixed with water, spurring several government investigations and orders—one of which called for two-thirds of a lake to be drained over the winter months.

According to the province’s energy regulator, all four spills are still oozing with no calculable end in sight. “The incident isn’t actually over,” says Darin Barter, senior PR advisor for the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), noting the cold weather has slowed the flow to “almost nothing.” “We don’t expect that’s going to last once the weather heats up,” he says.

All this is going down on an active air weapons range—which, no matter which way you slice it, is not a great look. The same Cold Lake oil field reported another incident just last week, spilling 27,000 bonus litres into an underground reservoir. Barter says that incident is unrelated, fixed and affected no wildlife or water bodies.

The spills have raised concern about the super-hot high-pressure injection methods CNRL and other energy companies use to get bitumen out of the ground. A coalition of 23 health, environment, and First Nations groups have called on the AER to conduct a public inquiry into the safety of so-called “in-situ” operations—a process similar to fracking.

Environment Canada, Alberta’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) and the AER have not, so far, taken up this broader cause. “I can only speak for the AER, but there are currently no plans for an inquiry into the matter,” Barter says. “Our investigation looks into the geological aspect,” he adds, “everything from pressures to caprock integrity.”

As The Tyee explained last October, caprock integrity isn’t often discussed in the media but it’s a crucial issue for the energy industry. “Approximately 80 per cent of Alberta's bitumen deposits lie deeper than 75 metres and cannot be mined. As a consequence, these deep deposits, all capped by rock, are currently being heated to as high as 300 degrees Celsius with highly pressurized steam.” This caprock acts as a protective seal, and operating with enough pressure as to not break the caprock is a very precarious process that has gone wrong in the past. There’s no indication, however, that such a mistake was made in Cold Lake.

“Our focus is on whether environmental laws were broken,” ESRD spokesperson Jessica Potter tells me. The ESRD also issued a second order, to test deep groundwater wells and find root causes for the spill. The drilling for those tests is underway.

CNRL has complied with the orders and has made greater efforts to reach out to the public about remediation efforts, earmarking $40 million for clean up. The affected area has been reduced and pressure underground appears to have decreased.

Why it happened and how it’s dragged on so long remains undetermined—though CNRL is advancing a “confident” hypothesis that bad cement jobs in retired wells are to blame. “Canadian Natural’s causation review will be extensive,” CNRL spokesperson Zoe Addington assured me via email. “All the evidence and data collected to date suggests the fluids can only make it through the shales at the base of the Colorado Group by a failed or partially-failed wellbore.”

Translation: there are these super-hard rock layers with names like "Viking" and "Colorado" around 180-360 metres deep in the ground. So far none of CNRL’s evidence show those rock layers have been penetrated by anything but the company’s old well structures. “A failed wellbore can be in the form of a poor or faulty cement job on abandoned legacy stratigraphic wells.”


Map of fissures and arrows via Dr. Timoney and Lee.

Aside from being written in robot, this is not a complete answer—nor is it endorsed by the AER. “We can’t confirm what they’re saying,” says Barter. It doesn’t begin to explain why the bitumen arrives at the surface in long, oily gashes in the surrounding soil and wetlands.

“Until independent scientists can examine the geologic findings, I would not place much stock in the opinion of CNRL,” says Dr. Kevin Timoney, a scientist who released his own research on the spill back in September. Dr. Timoney says he does not know of any independent scientists that have been granted access to the site, which includes experts hired by local First Nations to collect evidence for constitutional challenges.

Crystal Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation is still waiting for access. She says her right to hunt, trap, fish, and forage on the land has been violated by the spill and the cumulative affects of industry. “In order for those rights to be abided by, you obviously need a healthy ecosystem—being damaged and affected, that's a direct violation of our treaty rights, which are enshrined in the Canadian constitution.” 

The Beaver Lake Cree case is one of several legal battles between provincial and federal governments and First Nations, most recently sparking controversy as Neil Young weighed in, asking Canadians to honour the treaties of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations, a people and territory located further north amid Alberta's oil deposits.

“They [the government] don’t get to pick and choose which parts of the constitution they like and which they don’t,” Lameman says, adding the Beaver Lake Cree have documented 20,000 treaty violations based on leases and permits granted without First Nations consultation. Lameman's nation recently succeeded in raising over $30,000 to begin researching cumulative impacts of developments like the CNRL spill site near Cold Lake.

The spill officially enters its ninth month next week.



Moratorium on fracking announced by Newfoundland government PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Posted by Joan Russow   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 23:00

By the Telegram

Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley has declared a moratorium on fracking in the province.


Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Dalley started off the fall sitting in the House of Assembly by announcing that the government will not approve fracking onshore and onshore-to-offshore hydraulic fracturing pending further review.

Dalley said the government will be doing public consultation before it develops any policy for fracking.

Both the Liberals and the NDP are supporting the move.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 14:04
Canada approves production of GM salmon eggs on commercial scale PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Posted by Joan Russow   
Friday, 03 January 2014 20:51


AquaBounty fish are genetically modified to grow twice as quickly as regular salmon.

• US biotechnology firm AquaBounty given green light 

• FDA expected to follow with decision on sale of GM salmon

by Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent

  • theguardian.com,

  • http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/25/canada-genetically-modified-salmon-commercial?commentpage=1#start-of-comments


  • Monday 25 November 2013 20.43 GMT

GM salmon's global HQ – 1,500m high in the Panamanian rainforest

Canada has given the go-ahead to commercial production of genetically modified salmon eggs, bringing the world's first GM food animal closer to supermarkets and dinner tables.

In a decision buried in routine business in the Canada Gazette, Environment Canada said it had granted a US biotechnology firm, AquaBounty Technologies Inc, permission to export up to 100,000 GM fish eggs a year from a hatchery in Prince Edward Island to a site high in the Panamanian rainforest. 

The decision marked the first time any government had given the go-ahead to commercial scale production involving a GM food animal.

The move clears the way for AquaBounty to scale up production of the salmon at its sites in PEI and Panama in anticipation of eventual approval by American authorities.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to render a decision in the near future on the sale of GM salmon, and in due course some 30 other species of GM fish currently under development, campaigners and industry figures said.

The Canadian government said in its decision that the GM fish presented a high risk to Atlantic salmon, in the event of an escape, and a spokesman was adamant there would be no immediate sale or consumption of GM salmon eggs in Canada.

“There are strict measures in place to prevent the release of this fish into the food chain,” an Environment Canada spokesman said by email. “In Canada, no genetically modified fish or eggs are currently approved for the purposes of human consumption.”

But the limited approval still represents a big win for AquaBounty which has fought for 20 years to bring GM salmon to American dinner tables.“This is a significant milestone in our efforts to make AquAdvantage® salmon available for commercial production,” Ron Stotish, the company's chief executive, said in a statement.

AquaBounty has been raising GM salmon for several years on an experimental basis, growing fish eggs at a lab in PEI and then flying them to a ramshackle test site at a secretive inland location in the Panamanian rainforest, where they were grown to full size, and then ultimately destroyed.

The GM fish splices growth genes from a Chinook salmon and a seal eel onto an Atlantic salmon – which AquaBounty claims enables the altered animal to grow twice as fast as a regular fish.

Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network said last week's decision made it easier for the FDA to contemplate approval, so clearing a potential obstacle in AquaBounty moving towards full-scale commercial production.

“This is one concrete step closer to the reality of GM fish on our plates, and unfortunately it is a really dramatic step,” she said. “It's a global first, and it has a significant global potential impact for our environment. It starts a chain of decisions that could be just disastrous for our aquatic ecosystems.”

The move by the Canadian authorities follows a run of setbacks for AquaBounty – and growing scrutiny of its operations from campaign groups.

An environmental group in Panama last week wrote to the authorities with concerns that the AquaBounty site was operating without the necessary permits and inspections.

The Panamanian test site has had a history of mishaps. In 2008, a storm destroyed part of the facility, according to a filing to the FDA. In 2010, an entire batch of fingerlings died in transit, according to Panamanian officials.

All the while, AquaBounty fought to navigate the US regulatory process and to stay afloat. The company has run through more than $60m waiting for approval.

The company has also fought to win over the public to the idea of GM fish. Within the last year, supermarket chains such as Whole Foods and Trader Joes, have said they will not stock GM salmon.

AquaBounty must still win approval to raise the fish on commercial scale from the authorities in Panama – and the site so far consists of just a few tanks at the end of an unpaved road.

The company will also have to apply anew to the Canadian government if it wants to raise the fish commercially at any other site. AquaBounty must still obtain approval from the FDA before it can begin to try to bring the fish to market in America.

But Stotish said in the statement the company planned to go into commercial production once those other approvals are in place.




Last Updated on Friday, 03 January 2014 21:21
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