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.





MLA David Coon: Reply to the Throne Speech 2014

15 12 2014

Reply to the Speech from the Throne December 9, 2014 David Coon, MLA, Fredericton South Leader of the Green Party of NB Contact: Margot Malenfant, Legislative Assistant (506) 478-7781

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my response to the Speech from the Throne, I want to thank the people of Fredericton South for electing me to represent them in this Legislative Assembly. It is an honour and a tremendous responsibility to serve the community of Fredericton South in this House. I want to thank the many young women and men, some who voted for the first time in their lives, who put their faith in me. I also want to acknowledge all of the children and youth, too young to vote, who seemed galvanized by my candidacy and cheered me on during the campaign and celebrated my election. I will be forever thankful for their enthusiasm and I will be respectful of the trust they have put in me to give a voice to their hopes and dreams.

Change we must, for everything around us is in motion. Maintaining a death grip on the way we have always done things will surely rob our children of their futures. Things we could count on in the past – the predictability of our seasons, the conviction that the power will come back on in hours, the assurance that sea level will remain at sea level, the availability of work in the woods when all else dried up, the certainty of economic growth, the faith that great wealth for some will ensure a decent livelihood for many – are gone. As our footing has become uncertain, some have taken advantage of our anxiety and spread fear to benefit themselves. They have been successful, as we have become fearful. We are fearful about the economy, fearful about our debts, even fearful of each other – francophone and Anglophone, First Nation and newcomer – thanks to those who would rather divide our people to serve their interests, rather than unite them to transform New Brunswick and ensure our children have a decent future in our province. As Plato said, “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

Mr. Speaker, the hopes and dreams of young people are what I will keep at the forefront of my mind over the next four years. I will seek the views of youth, as much as I seek the views of the adults in my riding, and bring those views to our deliberations on the floor of this Legislative Assembly. Young people are hungry for change, even desperate for change. Youth want to play a role in transforming New Brunswick into a fairer and greener society. Youth want in. One way to let youth in is to lower the voting age to 16. This is something we can make possible as legislators.

Mr. Speaker, a recent Report from the Human Development Council reported that 21% of New Brunswick children lived below the poverty line in 2012, an increase from 19.8% in 1989, despite a 40% increase in New Brunswick’s per capita GDP over that period. Between 1989 and 2012 we saw the construction of not one, but two pipelines across our province, a massive expansion of the Irving Oil Refinery and a 61.5% increase in J.D. Irving’s allowable cut of softwood over the same period. Clearly, a growing economy has not reduced child poverty. In fact, it has increased, with the child poverty rate in Saint John, our most industrialized city, at 30.4%. If we want to reduce child poverty, parents need access to affordable childcare so they can afford to work. Parents need access to reliable public transportation so they can afford travel to work. While the government is committed to increasing the minimum wage, it’s not enough. Parents earning minimum wage should not have to pay the provincial portion of income tax, so they can better cope with their week-to-week expenses. Mr. Speaker, children need access to early childhood education to help equip them with the skills they need to break out of the poverty trap. UNB’s Early Childhood Research Centre has created impressive curriculum for early learning, but those children who need access to early learning the most cannot take advantage of it. It has been estimated that universal access to low-fee childcare in Quebec led to nearly 70,000 more mothers holding jobs than if the program had not existed, representing a 3.8% increase in women’s employment. The resulting increase in tax revenue exceeds the costs of the childcare program. We need to look at ways of ensuring universal access to childcare and early learning. Children need access to meal programs in their schools so they can learn optimally, and they need greater access to our alternative education system operated by our school districts for those who cannot function within the regular system. It is overcharged and the waiting lists are long.

Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago the Child and Youth Advocate released his State of the Child report. It shows that the New Brunswick rate of hospital admissions for children and youth struggling with mental diseases and disorder is 80% higher than the national rate. It is estimated that 22% of youth from Grade Six to Twelve have low mental fitness. There is an urgent need to guarantee rapid access to mental health care for our children and youth. The State of the Child report also indicates that New Brunswick has a rate of children and youths who are victims of family violence that is 37% higher than the national average. It is well established that boys who witness violence in the home are at a higher risk of committing violence against women in adulthood. Sixty-five percent of women seeking shelter in Transition Houses were witnesses to domestic violence as children. There is a pressing need for therapeutic treatment for these children, which is not something Transition House staff are able to provide. According to the State of the Child Report, the rate of persons charged with sexual violations against children in New Brunswick is 63% higher than the national rate, which the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate describes as cause for alarm.

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw special attention to the difficulties faced by youth between the ages of 16 and 18 in finding a safe place to live when escaping violence, sexual abuse, neglect, or reaching the age where they are too old for foster care. The youth residences such as Chrysalis House in Fredericton and the Miramichi Youth House have long waiting lists, leaving youth at tremendous risk by lacking the ability to accommodate youth in emergency situations. Frankly, I was appalled that the Telegraph Journal, in its editorial commenting on findings of the State of the Child Report, chose to limits its focus to child obesity. I was also disappointed to see so little attention given to advancing the rights and well-being of children and youth in the Speech from the Throne, given the findings of the State of the Child Report. Parents will sacrifice much to ensure the health and well-being of their children. A similar priority must permeate our policy and budget priorities. We need to build an infrastructure of midwifery to provide the continuity of care for invents and support for Moms. We must invest in strengthening the infrastructure of childcare and early learning. We must invest in providing preventative mental health care and rapid access to diagnosis and treatment. We must invest in safeguarding women from domestic violence and that means investing in treating children who have been witness to violence in the home to break the chain of violence.

As the Leader of the Third Party in this House, the criticisms I make regarding government policy and priorities are not to condemn, but to highlight our challenges so we can work together as legislators to better serve the common good. My arguments will be based on reason, on evidence, and on principles. Mr. Speaker, you have my word that my critiques will be directed toward ideas, not individual personalities on the other side of this House. Mr. Speaker, we can and must afford to build a just society based on fairness and equality. We can and must afford to build a sustainable society based on living within ecological constraints, reducing our fossil fuel use to safe levels, and living within our financial means. I will support, or work to improve those policies, budget commitments and legislation brought forward by government that are consistent with these goals.

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’Watered-down’ deal struck at UN climate talks

15 12 2014

T&T  DEC 15

Karl Ritter THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

   LIMA, PERu • Climate negotiators salvaged a compromise deal in Lima early Sunday that sets the stage for a global pact in Paris next year, but rejected a rigorous review of greenhouse gas emissions limits.

More than 30 hours behind schedule, delegates from more than 190 countries agreed on what information should go into the pledges that countries submit for the expected Paris pact.   They argued all day Saturday over the wording for the watered-down deal, with developing nations worried that the text blurred the distinction between what rich and poor countries can be expected to do.

Many developing countries, the most vulnerable to climate change’s impacts, accuse rich nations of shirking their responsibilities to curb climate change and pay for the damage it inflicts.   The final draft of the deal alleviated those concerns with language saying countries have “common but differentiated responsibilities” to deal with global warming.

“As a text it’s not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties,” said Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who was the conference chairman and had spent most of the day meeting separately with delegations.

In presenting a new, fourth draft just before midnight, Peru’s environment minister gave a sharply reduced body of delegates an hour to review it. Many delegates had already quit the makeshift conference centre on the grounds of Peru’s army headquarters.

It also restored language demanded by small island states at risk of being flooded by rising seas, mentioning a “loss and damage” mechanism agreed upon in last year’s talks in Poland that recognizes that nations hardest hit by climate change will require financial and technical help.   “We need a permanent arrangement to help the poorest of the world” Ian Fry, negotiator for the Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu, said at a midday session.

However, the approved draft weakened language on the content of the pledges, saying they “may” instead of “shall” include quantifiable information showing how countries intend to meet their emissions targets.   Also, top carbon polluter China and other major developing countries opposed plans for a review process that would allow the pledges to be compared against one another before Paris.

In Lima, the momentum from last month’s joint U.S.-China deal on emissions targets faded quickly as rifts reopened over who should do what to fight global warming. The goal of the talks is to shape a global agreement in Paris that puts the world on a path to reduce the heat-trapping gases that scientists say are warming the planet.

 The new draft mentioned only that all pledges would be reviewed a month ahead of Paris to assess their combined effect on climate change.

“I think it’s definitely watered down from what we expected” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.   

Sam Smith, chief of climate policy for the environmental group WWF, said: “The text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it’s very weak indeed”   

Chief U.S. negotiator Todd Stern acknowledged that negotiations had been contentious but said the outcome was “quite good in the end.” He had warned Saturday that failing to leave Lima with an accord would be “seen as a serious breakdown” that could put the Paris agreement and the entire UN process at risk.

Though negotiating tactics always play a role, virtually all disputes in the UN talks reflect a wider issue of how to divide the burden of fixing the planetary warming that scientists say results from human activity, primarily the burning of oil, coal and natural gas.

Historically, Western nations are the biggest emitters. Currently, most CO2 emissions are coming from developing countries led by China and India as they grow their economies and lift millions of people out of poverty.   

During a brief stop in Lima on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said fixing the problem is “everyone’s responsibility, because it’s the net amount of carbon that matters, not each country’s share”

According to the UN’s scientific panel on climate change, the world can pump out no more than about 1 trillion tons of carbon to have a likely chance of avoiding dangerous levels of warming — defined in the UN talks as exceeding 2 degrees centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above 19th-century averages.

It already has spent more than half of that carbon budget as emissions continue to rise, driven by growth in China and other emerging economies.




Klein: 3-Day Workweek to Save the Climate

15 12 2014

By Naomi Klein bigissue.comNo Logo author Naomi Klein says we must revolutionise our working lives if we are to combat climate change and save the free world…

Imagine an ordinary, full-time working week, one that requires just 21 hours of hard graft. Imagine a less frantic existence – three days on, four days off. Imagine more time with the family, more time strolling round the park, more time listening to your favourite music while cooking at a leisurely pace. A lovely idea – but does it really stack up?

The phrase ‘three-day week’ might, for readers of a certain age, conjure up memories of the early 1970s: electricity blackouts and TV broadcasts stopping at 10.30pm. Yet a growing number of people are advocating a 21-hour working week as the solution to the 21st century’s most pressing problems.

Naomi Klein is the latest big thinker to back the idea of a shorter working week and sees it as part of a transition toward a low-carbon economy and a move away from “shitty” long-hour, low-paid jobs, as she outlines to The Big Issue…

When did you begin to think free-market economics are a threat to life on Earth?

When I started hanging around with climate change deniers, it became clear they understood the current economic system could not survive if climate change was real. You can’t hold on to ideas like freedom from regulation and liberating profit in the face of a crisis like climate change, which clearly demands collective action and strong regulation. We need to cut our emissions so deeply that it threatens the whole growth model of free-market capitalism.

Some economists are now talking about moving beyond the idea of growth and our obsession with GDP. Is that a good thing?

It’s exciting that people are talking about these things. We know chasing endless growth doesn’t deliver well-being or economic stability and is leading to widening inequality. So it’s much easier to challenge now. It’s really about having a strategic economy, focusing on parts of the economy we want to expand or extract.

You write about “selective degrowth” and ideas like a shorter working week and a universal basic income to discourage “shitty work”. Do you think people are ready for those ideas?

I think people know they’re overworked. And overworking is intimately tied to a particularly wasteful model of consumption – you have no time after work to do anything other than grab a takeaway, and less time for low-consumption activities like cooking.

Does the environment movement need to become more radical?

The environmental movement has a history of elitism. Not the entire movement – there have been grassroots outsiders engaging in confrontation tactics – but there’s a history of conservation and hunting clubs, bringing in royalty and so on. It’s not exactly been part of the left, which is why there’s been suspicion between progressive political movements and the environmental movement. There’s a lot of work to be done between natural allies.

So it’s time to stop pretending big companies are going to change everything?

There’s been a bias among many big environmental organisations to build coalitions with other elite groups. You’d be amazed by how much time green groups in the US spend thinking about how to get the Pentagon using green energy. Really? Is that the best we can hope for?

The idea we’re all guilty is demobilising because it prevents us directing our anger at the institutions most responsible

And it’s time to get angry?

Yes – I think people should be angry. A lot of environmentalist discourse has been about erasing responsibility: “We’re all in this together… We’re all equally responsible.” Well, no – you, me and Exxon (Mobil) are not all in this together.The idea we’re all guilty is demobilising because it prevents us directing our anger at the institutions most responsible.

Do you think working people will see the connection between climate change and their own pressing struggles?

Most people don’t have good choices. They use fossil fuels because they have to – not because they love Exxon or Shell. We’re seeing an important discussion around fuel poverty. Fossil fuels aren’t delivering energy people can afford easily, if about a quarter of people in this country are choosing not to turn the heat on at times because they can’t afford the bills. I think people will start to see that action on climate change can address pressing issues.

How do you stay optimistic when the picture looks so bleak?

I don’t think you can engage with this material without being on an emotional rollercoaster. Our elites have never treated climate change as a real crisis, they only pay lip service to it. But a wide social movement can change that. Pressure from below can force recalcitrant elites to respond.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, by Naomi Klein (£20, Allen Lane), is out now





Pope Francis: Climate Change Requires Solidarity

13 12 2014

Pope: Climate Change a serious ethical and moral responsibility

Pope Francis – AFP

11/12/2014 12:29
(Vatican Radio) The 20th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, is currently underway in Lima, Peru. The conference aims to look at the progress being made in the application of this legal guideline.In his message to Mr. Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of the Environment of Peru and President-Designate of the Conference or COP 20, Pope Francis expressed his closeness and encouragement, that the work being done at the meeting would be undertaken with an open and generous mind.

He add that what they are discussing affects all humanity, especially the poor and future generations. Even more so, the Pope stressed, it is a serious ethical and moral responsibility.

The Holy Father noted that the conference was taking  place on the coastline adjacent to the maritime current of Humboldt, which unites , as he put it, the peoples of America, Oceania and Asia, in a symbolic embrace and which plays a key role in the climate of the entire planet.

The consequences of environmental change, said Pope Francis remind us of the severity of neglect and inaction on this issue and he warned that “the time to find global solutions is running out.”

But, he also underlined that, “we can find solutions only if we act together and agree.” There is therefore, a clear, definitive and urgent ethical imperative to act, he said.

Pope Francis concluded his message by saying that the effective fight against global warming will only be possible through a collective response and develops free from political and economic pressures.

A collective response, he added, is also one that is able to overcome mistrust and to promote a culture of solidarity, encounter and dialogue.

The UN conference runs from the 1st -12th of December





Eyes on Peru – Calling All Idle No More

3 12 2014

Earth Guardians, Water and Land Defenders!

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December 1st to 12th: It’s time to let the global climate policy makers who will be meeting in Lima, Peru, know that we demand a safe future for ourselves and those yet to come.

We invite you and your group (if you have one) to organize an event and share it far and wide. Not in a group? Take a photo of you and your friends with sign(s) of what you want the Climate Negotiators to know and post it here and on other social media outlets. #EyesOnPeru

Read more:  Idle No More Website – Facebook Event Page