2 Degrees C: Tar Sands Must Stay in the Ground

9 01 2015

85% of tar sands must stay in the ground to limit climate change to 2 degrees Celsius

With Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s environment minister meeting with provincial and territorial leaders to discuss post-2020 carbon emission targets in late February, the federal election this October, the pivotal United Nations climate summit in December, and a federal government decision expected on the Energy East pipeline just a few month later by May 2016, the release yesterday of a new report on what Canada must to do to limit climate change to 2 degrees Celsius is of critical importance.

The Canadian Press reports, “British researchers [from University College London] have concluded that most of Canada’s [tar] sands will have to be left in the ground if the world gets serious about climate change. The report, published in the journal Nature, says three-quarters of all Canada’s oil reserves and 85 per cent of its [tar] sands can’t be burned if the world wants to limit global warming.”

“The report also concludes that no country’s Arctic energy resources can be developed if global temperature increases are to be kept manageable. It adds that about one-quarter of Canada’s natural gas reserves and four-fifths of its coal would also have to be left in the ground.”

CBC adds, “[The study] says for the world to have a reasonable prospect of meeting the target, no more than 7.5 billion barrels of oil from the [tar] sands can be produced by 2050 — a mere 15 per cent of viable reserves and only about one per cent of total bitumen.” And the Globe and Mail further notes, “Domestic estimates of Alberta’s oil reserves come in at about 168 billion barrels, with hundreds of billions more available for extraction if future oil prices make the resource more attractive. The study uses a more conservative estimate of 48 billion barrels as the current reserve and then finds that only 7.5 billion barrels of that, or about 15 per cent, can be used by 2050 as part of the global allotment of fossil-fuel use in a two-degree scenario.”

In response to this study, Natural Resources Canada said, “The majority [of the world’s energy] will come from fossil fuels, even under its most stringent greenhouse gas reduction forecast. The choice is whether to use energy from a secure, environmentally responsible, transparent country like Canada, or to seek energy from less stable countries without responsible environmental policies.” And Andrew Leach, the Enbridge Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Alberta, says that even using 25 per cent of Canada’s oil reserves between now and 2050 would lead to growth above current rates of production.

In terms of production, in early October 2014, Canada was exporting about 2.98 million barrels per day of crude to the United States. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has said they expect oil production to reach 3.91 million barrels per day in 2015 and 6.44 million barrels per day by 2030. And in terms of meeting our carbon emission target, the Globe and Mail has reported that documents submitted by the Harper government to the United Nations in December 2013, “show that, without further policy action, Canada’s emissions would be 734 megatonnes by 2020, or 20 per cent higher than the target of 612 megatonnes [that the Harper government agreed to at the United Nations climate summit in 2009].”

The Council of Canadians is against the proposed Keystone XL, Northern Gateway, Energy East, Trans Mountain and Arctic Gateway pipelines. Together, those pipelines would move about 3.45 million barrels of oil per day or about 1.26 billion barrels a year. If all of these pipelines were to become operational, they would exceed the 7.5 billion barrel limit noted in this British study in less than six years.

And as now supported by this study, we have called for a moratorium on the offshore extraction of oil and gas from Arctic, an end to fracking, and opposed coal export terminals in British Columbia. As an alternative, we have called for the development of sustainable energy sources in a joint report with the Canadian Labour Congress titled Green, Decent and Public.

We were also present for the climate talks in Lima in 2014, Cancun in 2010 and Copenhagen in 2009. At those summits, we called on the Harper government to commit to an emissions reduction target of at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. We have also stated that Canada’s fair contribution to climate adaptation for the Global South should be $4 billion yearly. And we have argued for inclusion and a democratization of the climate change negotiations process. The next United Nations climate summit – COP 21 – will take place November 30 to December 11 in Paris.

Further reading
85% of oilsands can’t be burned if world to limit global warming: report (Canadian Press)
Climate change study says most of Canada’s oil reserves should be left underground (CBC)
Oil sands must remain largely unexploited to meet climate target, study finds (The Globe and Mail)

 





BP oil spill dispersants concern Nova Scotia environmentalist

29 12 2014

Bill C-22 is ‘an absolute, total abdication of regulatory responsibility’

CBC News Posted: Dec 29, 2014 9:38 AM AT Last Updated: Dec 29, 2014 9:38 AM AT

Crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill washes ashore in Orange Beach, Ala., on June 12, 2010.

Crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill washes ashore in Orange Beach, Ala., on June 12, 2010. (Dave Martin/Associated Press)

A Shelburne County environmentalist is raising concerns about a toxic chemical that could be used off Nova Scotia in the future.

When the Deepwater Horizon oil platform erupted in flames in 2010, it spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico, but some research says the cleanup was worse because about 6.8 million litres of the chemical Corexit 9500A was used to disperse the oil.

The dispersant used by oil company BP, when mixed with crude oil, was found to be 52 times more toxic than oil alone to some microscopic plankton-like organisms called rotifers.

“When you mix this stuff with the oil, you create a compound that is substantially more dangerous than even the dangerous dispersant on its own or even the dangerous oil on its own and this is the issue that we have,” says John Davis, a founder of the No Rigs Coalition.

He says Shell has already put out bids to use Corexit if there is a spill at a well planned for the Shelburne Gully.

“The creators of CoRexit will tell you it’s less toxic than dish soap. All you have to do is read the warning label to know that it’s a highly, highly dangerous chemical.… There is no doubt in my mind that if Shell made the effort they could find ways to clean up the oil and not just be prepared to disperse it and put it under water and out of sight,” he says.

‘Total abdication of regulatory responsibility’

Davis says there is legislation in place to prevent the use of chemicals like Corexit, “but what happened here is that the federal government has decided to put forward legislation called Bill C-22 — which in fact creates a circumstance where the oil company can go and utilize the product, the dispersants, and then report after the fact to the regulatory agencies. It is an absolute, total abdication of regulatory responsibility.”

Bill C-22 was introduced by the federal minister of Natural Resources earlier this year.

It would pre-approve emergency plans for oil and gas companies to deal with spills, such as the speedy use of dispersants, or chemicals used to break oil into smaller particles in the event of an oil spill at sea.

Davis says he worries the chemical could end up on the Georges Bank, pointing out the Labrador Current would carry any material right to the fertile fishing grounds.

“It’s that [upwelling of water] that provides much of the nutrients that makes Georges Bank such an important biological place — and so important to us as an economical generator,” he says.

A publication in the February 2013 issue of the scientific journal Environmental Pollution, found that on their own, the oil and dispersant were equally toxic. But when combined, the oil and dispersant increased toxicity to one of the rotifer species by a factor of 52.

‘High and immediate human health hazards​’

Dispersants cause giant pools of spilled oil floating atop the sea to break up into tiny droplets that then dilute with water just below the surface. The process helps creatures including turtles, birds and mammals that need access to the surface, and also ensures less oil flows ashore where it can choke coastal wildlife. However, it increases the amount of oil just below the surface, potentially contaminating the organisms that live there.

Scientists at the Autonomous University of Aguascalientes in Mexico and the Georgia Institute of Technology now say Corexit 9500A is far more harmful than previously thought to a key dweller of those sub-surface depths.

An Environment Canada study states the dispersant is 27 times safer than common dish soap, but some say that figure is dangerously misleading. The study also states that five of Corexit’s 57 ingredients are linked to cancer and can pose “high and immediate human health hazards.”

In all, the British Petroleum oil leak was the largest offshore petroleum spill in U.S. history, sending 4.9 million barrels (584 million litres) of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.





Judge Rules Ottawa Wrongly Passed 2012 Omnibus Budget Bills

22 12 2014

By Vincent McDermott

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Protesters with the Idle No More movement block traffic on Highway 63 in early January 2013. Vincent McDermott/Today Staff

A federal court has ruled that Ottawa should have consulted First Nations before introducing the two omnibus bills that served as the catalyst for the 2012 Idle No More protests, after a Fort Chipewyan band challenged the bills in court.

The omnibus bills, C-38 and C-45, included alterations of several environmental acts. They also reduced federal protection of hundreds of streams, rivers and tributaries across the country, including ones the Mikisew Cree First Nation argued were culturally significant.

Within Wood Buffalo, only Lake Athabasca, and the Athabasca and Peace rivers, remained protected once the bill was passed.

Chief Steve Courtoreille of the MCFN said Friday’s ruling was a victory for Canadians, not just his band.

“It is not responsible to ram these bills through Parliament without consulting us and thinking that is alright,” he said. “It is pretty sad for all of us that we had to remind a government that we are having trouble trusting of that.”

In a 64-page ruling, Justice Roger Hughes ruled the MCFN should have been consulted prior to the passing of the two bills, but stopped short of granting an injunction.

“No notice was given and no opportunity to make submissions was provided,” Hughes wrote in his ruling. “The Crown ought to have given the Mikisew notice when each of the Bills were introduced into Parliament.”

Courtoreille said he did not expect an injunction, but is hoping Ottawa will amend the acts to their previous wording.

“To me, the omnibus bills are invalid because the court has said so and our treaty says so. The duty to consult is clear,” he said.

Prior to the bill’s passing in the House of Commons, the federal government said it would be transferring responsibility to local governments, arguing the move would remove red tape for industrial development and streamline regulation.

Environmentalists and opposition parties accused the Harper government of absolving itself of their environmental responsibilities.

The omnibus bills were condemned by every First Nation and Metis group in Wood Buffalo.

While the objectives behind the nation-wide Idle No More protests differed for many aboriginal communities, the majority of Alberta’s indigenous community opposed the omnibus bills.

On two occasions, protesters blocked Highway 63 north of Fort McMurray. One roadblock had traffic in both directions backed up for nearly two kilometres. Traffic was allowed to flow in short bursts.

Courtoreille said the ruling should serve as a warning to governments, and that First Nations will defend themselves in court if they feel their treaty rights have been violated. His band has successfully done so in the past.

In 2005, MCFN successfully argued in front of the Supreme Court of Canada that Ottawa had failed to adequately consult with them over plans to add traditional territory to Wood Buffalo National Park.

The band is currently lobbying UNESCO to list the park as an endangered ecosystem due to encroaching industrial development.

The pace of industrial expansion should also slow down, he argued, blaming a rush to hastily extract resources as the reason behind the omnibus bills.

“We don’t want to ignore government or have them be afraid of us. And nobody wants to keep dragging the government to court,” he said. “The First Nations have valuable contributions and knowledge on these important issues.”

Representatives from aboriginal affairs and Environment Canada could not be reached on Friday or Saturday for comment. Ottawa has 30 days to appeal the ruling.





Fracking Moratorium Could Force Corridor Resources out of NB

20 12 2014

Hundreds of jobs at stake near Sussex, government says mine has other options

CBC News Posted: Dec 20, 2014 1:11 PM AT Last Updated: Dec 20, 2014 1:11 PM AT

A fracking moratorium in New Brunswick could affect hundreds of jobs by forcing Corridor Resources to leave the province, according to the natural gas and petroleum company.

President and CEO Steve Moran says Corridor Resources is still gauging the impact of the moratorium, but says if it lasts for a long period of time, the company may have to relocate outside of the province.

“We’ll have to move our capital and our expenditures elsewhere. We really don’t want to, but we’ll have no choice,” Moran said.

 Corridor Resources has been fracking near Sussex for a decade. The company co-owns a pipeline with PotashCorp that carries fracked gas to the new potash mine in Penobsquis, where about 450 people work.

The moratorium will prevent Corridor Resources from fracking for more gas to continue supplying the mine, according to Moran.

Premier Brian Gallant introduced the moratorium on Thursday,explicitly outlining five conditions that must be satisfied before the moratorium is lifted.

The moratorium will not be ‘grandfathered’ for companies with projects already underway.

“It’ll be up to them to see if there’s other ways to be able to continue their operations without the process of hydraulic fracturing,” Gallant said.

Energy Minister Donald Arseneault says the mine has other options.

“PotashCorp has other means as well to access gas as they’re connected to the Maritimes Northeast pipeline, ” Arsenault said.

The Maritimes and Northeast pipeline connects natural gas from developments from offshore Nova Scotia to markets in Atlantic Canada and the northeastern United States.

Arseneault also says Corridor Resources has several active wells that don’t need to be fracked in order to supply the PotashCorp mine.





Stanford: Pathways to 100% Renewable Energy

19 12 2014





Largest Tar Sands Pipeline to US Shut Down Indefinitely After Spill of 50,000+ Gallons

19 12 2014

Enbridge Inc., based in Calgary, Alta., has agreed to pay about $6.8 million to settle a class action in one of the costliest onshore oil spills in U.S. history. (photo: AP)
Enbridge Inc., based in Calgary, Alta., has agreed to pay about $6.8 million to settle a class action in one of the costliest onshore oil spills in U.S. history. (photo: AP)

By Scott Haggett, Reuters

18 December 14

nbridge Inc said on Thursday it has no restart date yet for its 796,000-barrel-per-day Line 4, the largest oil-export pipeline to the United States, after it was shut a day earlier after a spill of 1,350 barrels at its Regina, Saskatchewan, oil terminal.

Graham White, a spokesman for the company, said in an email the spill originated at a flange or valve within the terminal, so there were no problems with the pipeline itself. He said that could mean the problem is “a relatively easy fix”, but could not speculate on when the line would return to service.





UPDATED: Liberals imposing moratorium on All fracking activity

18 12 2014

T&T   DEC 18

ADAM HURAS Legislature Bureau
December 18, 2014

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant.Photo: James West/THE CANADIAN PRESS

FREDERICTON • New Brunswick’s Liberal government plans on imposing a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

Premier Brian Gallant said the moratorium is on all hydraulic fracturing activity – water and propane included.

Gallant said that the move will require amendments to the oil and natural gas act, expected to be introduced in the legislature on Thursday afternoon.

He stressed the move is not a ban and that it could be lifted in the future.

But the moratorium has a series of conditions that need to be met before being lifted, including a process to consult with First Nations, a plan for wastewater disposal and credible information about the impacts fracking has on health, water and the environment.

“We have been clear from Day One that we will impose a moratorium until risks to the environment, health and water are understood,” Gallant said. “We believe these conditions to be very reasonable.”

Gallant said he also wants the development of a royalty structure and a “social licence’” ensuring that the public accepts fracking before the moratorium would be removed, though he acknowledged that has yet to be defined.

He said his government supports job creation but added that it needs to be done in a diversified and sustainable way.

“We’re not interested in putting all of our eggs in a single basket,” he said.

But the moratorium is strictly on hydraulic fracturing, meaning exploration for shale gas could continue.

Companies can continue work, as long as they don’t frack.

“We’ll certainly also always listen to businesses that may have concerns and try to mitigate some of the impacts if they believe (them) to be negative on their operations,” he said.

Fracking is a process whereby a pressurized fluid is injected into shale rock in order to crack the rock and release underground natural gas deposits.

In making the announcement, Gallant is carrying out another of its cornerstone commitments.

The Liberal election campaign platform pledges to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing “until risks to the environment, health and water are fully understood.”

“Any decision on hydraulic-fracturing will be based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence and follow recommendations of the Chief Medical Officer of Health,” it states.

The move risks killing an industry that has already invested hundreds of millions in New Brunswick.

It also raises the danger of multi-million dollar legal action from the companies that were granted licences by both Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments in the province over the last decade.

But it erases the threat of environmental risks that have been hotly debated across the country and around the world.

New Brunswick’s move follows moratoriums in Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

It turns it back on joining provinces such as British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan with a history of hydraulic fracturing having embraced industry development.

THE DEBATE

The arguments, reports, and studies for and against the well-stimulation technique are many.

The Fraser Institute has stated the environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing are real but manageable with existing technologies and regulation, noting that stopping shale gas development is squandering a good economic opportunity.

A group of university and private sector analysts released a report on shale gas that included an economic study that predicted New Brunswick could create between 5,900 and 7,900 full-time jobs, both directly and indirectly, if the industry annually drilled between 150 and 200 wells.

That would translate into between $1.4 billion and $1.8 billion in economic growth.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said in September that a total of 44,266 oil and natural gas wells have been hydraulically fractured in Saskatchewan.

There were 1,380 wells fracked there last year, without incident.

“There are simply not the incidents that some who oppose fracking are pointing to,” he said.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark maintains that her province has “never had a single incident of water contamination reported in British Columbia after doing this for 50 years.”

The David Alward Progressive Conservatives went all in on the industry in a failed re-election bid that urged New Brunswickers to “say yes” to what the Tories said would be $10 billion in short-term investment.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Premier Philippe Couillard ruled out exploiting Quebec’s shale gas reserves.

Quebecers are largely against hydraulic fracturing and exploiting the natural resource in today’s market is not economically viable, he said.

Couillard made the comments shortly after Quebec’s environmental review board concluded the ecological and social risks associated with hydraulic fracturing outweigh the financial benefits.

Nova Scotia has moved ahead with legislation to ban high-volume hydraulic fracturing for onshore oil and gas. Only three test wells have been hydraulically fracked in Nova Scotia since 2007, all of them in the Kennetcook area, where Denver-based Triangle Petroleum failed to make the natural gas there flow.

The government there won’t consider lifting the ban until it is convinced fracking can be done safely under a set of stringent new rules and regulations.

The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance, which represents 22 community organizations, called on the Gallant government earlier this week to “put people before politics” when it comes to the shale gas industry.

“We recognize that the government is under significant pressure from the oil and gas lobby, in both public and private, to reverse or weaken its decision (for a moratorium), and its promise to the electorate,” said alliance spokesman Jim Emberger at a news conference in Moncton. “This is no less than a direct attempt by industry to subvert the will and voice of the people and therefore, is also a direct attempt to undermine our democratic process.”