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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
Earth News
Posted by Joan Russow   
Friday, 27 December 2013 10:49

by David Anderson / Times Colonist 


December 26, 2013 03:38 PM



The report handed down on Dec. 19 by the federal panel assessing the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal is deeply flawed.

The panel has attached 209 conditions to its approval of the proposal, and if these conditions were met, it is beyond question pipeline and port safety would improve. But attaching conditions is the easy part. This does not create any greater level of security.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 January 2014 12:06
Scientists reject Harper gov't claims vital material is being saved digitally. PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Posted by Joan Russow   
Thursday, 26 December 2013 07:52

What's Driving Chaotic Dismantling of Canada's Science Libraries?

By Andrew Nikiforuk, 23 Dec 2013, TheTyee.ca
Image for What's Driving Chaotic Dismantling of Canada's Science Libraries?
Shelves in Winnipeg's Freshwater Institute library showing, according to the scientist who shared this photo with The Tyee, vital records left in disarray and destined for further destruction.

Scientists say the closure of some of the world's finest fishery, ocean and environmental libraries by the Harper government has been so chaotic that irreplaceable collections of intellectual capital built by Canadian taxpayers for future generations has been lost forever.

Scientists urge EU action on tar sands - letter PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Posted by Joan Russow   
Tuesday, 24 December 2013 18:20
By Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS Fri Dec 20, 2013 3:28pm GMT
























1 of 3. A demonstrator holds up a sign during a protest against the possible transportation of tar sands oil through the region, in Portland Maine January 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Scott Eisen


BRUSSELS (Reuters) - More than 50 top European and U.S. scientists have written to the European Commission president urging him to press ahead with a plan to label tar sands as more polluting than other forms of oil, in defiance of intensive lobbying from Canada.

The draft law was kept on ice during trade talks between the European Union and Canada, the world's biggest producer of oil from tar sands, which culminated in a multi-million-dollar pact signed earlier this year.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 December 2013 18:47
More than 75 Alberta environmental regulators now paid by energy industry PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Posted by Joan Russow   
Tuesday, 24 December 2013 14:20

By Sheila Pratt, Edmonton Journal December 23, 2013


More than 75 Alberta environmental regulators now paid by energy industry

The setting sun reflects off a tailings pond behind Syncrude’s oilsands upgrading facility north of Fort McMurray on June 18. The plant converts bitumen extracted from oilsands into synthetic crude oil, which is then piped to southern refineries. Alberta’s oilsands are the third largest proven oil reserve in the world.

Photograph by: Ryan Jackson , Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON - More than 75 environment officers who watched over oil industry activities left the provincial environment department this fall, to take higher paying jobs with the new industry-funded Alberta Energy Regulator. Another 75-plus are expected to leave in the spring.

In mid-November, the department also began handing over to the regulator thousands of files on oil industry activity pertaining to the Public Lands Act, according to documents obtained by the Journal.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 December 2013 14:27
Geothermal energy touted as alternative to Site C PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Posted by Joan Russow   
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 21:43

By Erica Fisher

Site C Joint Review Panel members Jocelyn Beaudet, Chair Harry Swain, and James Mattison.
Site C Joint Review Panel members Jocelyn Beaudet, Chair Harry Swain, and James Mattison.Erica Fisher


The Canadian Geothermal Energy Association believes thermal energy stored beneath the Earth’s surface presents

a “cost-effective and low impact” alternative to the Site C dam, as presented at the project’s public hearing in

Fort St. John Tuesday.


Speaking via teleconference, Chair Alison Thompson maintains that B.C. Hydro and the provincial government have

decided that geothermal energy is “inconvenient” and dismiss the idea, while several other countries embrace it.

 She points to the United States and Mexico as being the first and fourth largest producers of geothermal energy,

and notes that Canada has similar North American geology. 

“The same resource that hosts greater than 4,300 Megawatts of geothermal power in Mexico and the U.S.

including Alaska north of us, clearly exists in B.C.,” she explains. “165 projects are being currently developed

in similar geology as B.C. has.” 

B.C. does not currently have any operational geothermal projects, but Thompson claims Canada and B.C.

have the potential to become a “powerhouse” on the world stage. She says the potential exists in three main

areas of the province: near the proposed LNG terminals on the north coast, new mines in northeast B.C.,

and gas projects in the Horn River Basin. 

“The northeast area of B.C. has recorded temperatures – by the oil companies themselves who operate

there – of greater than 140 degree Celsius,” Thompson maintains. “Certainly, this value is not in agreement

with ‘low temperature hydrothermal resources’ that B.C. Hydro has indicated exists in this region.” 

Thompson adds that geothermal energy seems to be overlooked and faces near impossible permitting processes,

when it could only take five to seven years for a greenfield geothermal project to be built. 

The Site C Clean Energy Project public hearing process continues Wednesday at the Pomeroy Hotel with a

general session featuring speakers from Treaty 8 Tribal Association, Steve Thorlakson and Senator Richard Neufeld,

and Area C Director Arthur Hadland.

Lago Agrio: Ecuadoreans can seek Chevron damages in Canada PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Posted by Joan Russow   
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 06:40



17 December 2013 


Sign at a Chevron petrol station in Los Angeles, California 9 October 2012
A lower judge had ruled the plaintiffs had no access to assets of Chevron's Canadian subsidiary

Related Stories

An Ecuadorean indigenous group can seek enforcement of a $9.5bn (£5.8bn) judgement against US petrol giant Chevron in the Canadian courts, an Ontario appeals court has ruled.

Ecuadorean courts awarded the damages in 2011 and 2013 after the villagers sued over 18 years of pollution of the Amazon jungle in the Lago Agrio region.

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