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In a drastic move to contain an on-going and unstoppable bitumen blowout in Cold Lake, Alberta, the province’s department of environment has ordered Canadian Natural Resource Ltd. to drain two thirds of a 53-hectare lake. According to CNRL, some of the removed water will be stored in the remaining one third of the lake, with the rest piped to a nearby pit and wetland.
Sept. 30, 2013 Joint climate action for Keystone fails to persuade
It’s been a few weeks since news broke that Stephen Harper had written to Barack Obama about the Keystone XL pipeline proposal, offering “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector” in exchange for his approval of the project.
So far there is little evidence that the Obama Administration is interested in accepting Harper’s offer. If Harper did fail to catch Obama’s interest with his letter, it’s worth asking why.
By the end of September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will finalize the first instalment of its Fifth Assessment Report. This will focus on the physical science basis for the threat of climate change. Some of the conclusions have already been leaked and have been the subject of divergent media stories. The purpose of this blog is to provide a guide to help understand the IPCC Report when it is released.
After eight years of deliberation, Alberta has essentially handed industry a free pass when it comes to compensating for the loss of wetlands in the oilsands region. Given the pressure the government is under to show its environmental scruples these days, you’d think it would have seized this opportunity. Instead, the policy gave the oilsands industry at least a two-year exemption from taking any responsibility for wetlands.
Sept. 20, 2013 B.C.’s Climate Action Charter deserves national recognition
We’ve always known that British Columbia has great ideas when it comes to taking action on climate change, but it’s nice to know that other people are paying attention.
Time and time again, municipal governments have shown leadership and innovation on climate action. We know that they can and must play an important role in advancing our climate targets. But are we helping them to lead?
Sept. 10, 2013 Setting the record straight on Pembina’s consulting work
Judging from the many conversations that unfolded on Twitter over the past few days, there appears to be a lot of confusion around how fee-for-service consulting works and why an organization like the Pembina Institute is committed to producing some of the best sustainability consulting services in the business. As our clients know, our consulting work is one of various approaches that support our mandate — to lead Canada’s transition to a clean energy future.
Sept. 4, 2013 Seven ways to help commuters love the Big Move
For a region that’s trapped in gridlock or crammed into subways and streetcars, new taxes for tomorrow’s transit are a tough sell. However, the province, municipalities and transit authorities can take some immediate steps to sweeten the deal. This blog outlines seven actions that can help build public support around the need to fund transit expansion, while also offering benefits to the tax-paying commuter in the meanwhile.
Aug. 27, 2013 Clean Energy Champions: John Ruffolo
John Ruffolo, one of Canada's leading venture capitalists, belives that fostering a successful clean energy technology sector in Canada means more than just providing capital to startups — it means creating an ecosystem that supports their success.
When I was growing up at Highway 7 and Bayview Avenue in Markham, the bus showed up when it felt like it. An hour could pass while you waited at the stop.
This Sunday, I ventured back to my homeland and did something I never would have considered as a teenager: I chose to ride the bus along Highway 7. But this was no ordinary bus: it was an example of bus rapid transit, an outstanding transit option for low-density neighbourhoods.
Aug. 8, 2013 Trust us? Canada's climate credibility challenge
Canada has a credibility problem. As U.S. President Barack Obama implements his new climate plan and considers the proposed Keystone XL pipeline's emissions, Ottawa hopes to convince him that we're suddenly serious about fighting climate change. Our record is plain to see, and so far it plainly shows the opposite.
Aug. 7, 2013 What’s really happening at the CNRL blowout site?
Executives at Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) said little about an ongoing blowout at an underground oilsands extraction site until late last week, when the company held a conference call for investors and analysts, claiming it had identified the cause of the problem and the situation was under control. Yet, in that conference call, CNRL also confirmed that bitumen emulsion — a mixture of oilsands and water — is still escaping from the Clearwater formation 500 metres underground and following an unknown pathway to the surface where it is leaking out of the ground in four distinct locations at a rate of up to 20 barrels a day.
A slow-motion disaster has been unfolding for months at an oilsands extraction site a few hours north of Edmonton. Provincial authorities and media reports have called it a series of “releases” or “spills”, but a more accurate description would be another uncontrolled — and so far unstoppable — blowout in the oilsands reservoir deep underground.
July 26, 2013 Despite carbon tax, sky isn’t falling in B.C.
An article by the Brookings Institution earlier this year said it best: “Want a pro-growth pro-environment plan? Economists agree: tax carbon.” Now a new study of B.C.’s carbon tax is adding further valuable evidence in support of the carbon tax as a smart and effective policy for curbing emissions and driving innovation.
No other province in Canada has a longer history with wind energy than Alberta, which has 20 years of experience with utility-scale wind farms. Yet, unlike some parts of the country, we don’t tend to hear much about it. So we set out to discover what sorts of complaints officials in Alberta have received about wind energy projects from nearby residents.
July 24, 2013 Setting a clean electricity standard in Alberta
Alberta could implement a clean electricity standard that would create market-based incentives to encourage energy technologies with lower emissions than the current coal-powered system. A recent forum brought thought leaders together to discuss this opportunity.
While Calgary celebrates its resilience at a “Hell or High Water” Stampede, Toronto is drying out after a dramatic storm that saw more rain fall in two hours than the city usually sees in the entire month of July.
Even if you don’t live in Southern Alberta or Mississauga, floods are fodder for dinner table conversations across the country right now. And more and more Canadians are asking whether what we’re seeing is climate change.
July 8, 2013 Three reasons to take Obama’s climate plan seriously
President Obama recently outlined a detailed climate action plan in a speech at Georgetown University. P.J. gives three reasons to be optimistic about the new plan.
Earlier today, the Government of Alberta launched a new “streamlined” regulator for energy projects in the province. While proponents say the move is an “exciting change” that will usher in “a new era” for energy regulation in Alberta, critics have compared the new single regulator to Frankenstein’s monster, arguing that the government is “building a new creature from old bones.”
Draft regulations tabled by the federal government would keep in situ oilsands development off the list of projects that require federal environmental assessment. By doing so, Ottawa is officially writing itself out of the process that would enable it to responsibly reduce the impacts of oilsands expansion before they occur.
May 23, 2013 Moving oilsands to market — by pipeline or rail?
Earlier this week, five CP Rail tank cars jumped the tracks just outside of Jansen, Saskatchewan, spilling more than 91,000 litres of crude oil. Last month, a similar derailment near White River, Ontario, resulted in a 63,000-litre oil spill.
While these trains were not carrying bitumen from the oilsands, it’s becoming increasingly common to move oilsands by rail, particularly as public opposition to various new pipeline proposals continues to grow and oilsands producers seek other shipping options.
May 14, 2013 Scientists offer much-needed reality check on climate implications of Ottawa’s resource agenda
As other countries face up to the climate challenge and begin curbing their demand for fossil fuels, will Canada be left waiting on the shore for tankers that will never come?
May 13, 2013 Ontario’s transit funding debate is getting HOT
The provincial budget saw the introduction of Ontario’s first (and modest) revenue tool to fund transit: high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes. With the provincial budget hot off the press, now is a good time to examine how HOT lanes work and what impact they have on congestion, as well as commuters.
Toronto City Council is debating the revenue tools for transit recommended in the city manager’s report, based on opinion polls and public consultations with Torontonians. This blog answers some key questions regarding the report’s top four choices: a sales tax, a fuel tax, a parking levy and development charges.
In the debate over which combination of revenue tools would best support the expansion of transit in the Toronto region, an unexpected option has emerged as a top pick. Travis Allan and Cherise Burda take a closer look at the development charge and its potential to fund transit and improve urban planning at the same time.
May 3, 2013 Clean Energy Champions: Mark Rudolph builds bridges between "counterintuitive strange bedfellows”
For Mark Rudolph, the key to making progress on environmental protection is to open channels of communication between unlikely allies, particularly between corporate Canada and environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs). To this end, he volunteers as a matchmaker.
April 30, 2013 Ontario Budget: Let’s not let auto insurance concessions “collide” with our goals to reduce gridlock
For the Wynne government to pass its first budget, it may have to consider some policies demanded by the NDP, including rolling back auto insurance premiums by 15 per cent. While insurance rates are higher in Ontario than in some other provinces, there are better policy solutions to offer drivers a break without undermining other key government priorities — namely reducing congestion in the GTA.
April 26, 2013 Who has seen the spin? How wind power opponents are mischaracterizing the decision in the Fairview Wind Farm case
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice released a decision dismissing claims that opponents of wind power brought against the Fairview Wind Farm in Clearview Township. Unfortunately, the spin from the lawyer for the wind opponents and the misunderstanding of a vocal anti-wind group have misconstrued the judge’s reasons to their benefit. Here are the facts.
It seems that barely a week goes by without a federal cabinet minister saying we’re “halfway” to meeting our 2020 greenhouse gas target. So here’s the explanation of why the government says we’re halfway, what the line really means, and what Jon Bon Jovi has to do with Canada’s emission projections.
April 18, 2013 Tales from the National Inventory: a look at Canada’s latest greenhouse gas emissions report
Each spring, as the tulips are starting to bloom in Ottawa, Environment Canada releases its annual compendium of greenhouse gas emissions data. Here are three stories that emerged from our first look at the report.
April 12, 2013 What Minister Oliver didn’t read
Canada’s Natural Resources minister, Joe Oliver, recently shared his views on climate change and energy with La Presse. The Minister is quoted that he did not read the climate change section of the IEA report or their warning about locking into a path to dangerous climate change. To hopefully inform his next briefing, I’ve summarized the two scenarios below.
April 9, 2013 Albertans don’t just pay to ride the resource rollercoaster — they risk having to clean up once the carnival leaves town
There’s a carnival in town, and everyone is talking about its main attraction — the mighty resource rollercoaster that is taking Alberta’s and Canada’s economies for a wild ride. Albertans are already paying a premium at the ticket booth, but few have noticed the fine print on the bottom of the receipt: once the carnival leaves town, ticketholders may be left paying for the cleanup costs.
April 5, 2013 How carbon pricing currently works in Alberta
In Alberta’s current carbon pricing system, called the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER), major industrial facilities must reduce their “emissions intensity” (i.e. emissions per unit of production) by up to 12 per cent, relative to their typical performance or “baseline” level. The target phases in over time, reaching the full 12 per cent requirement in a facility’s ninth year of operation, and remains at 12 per cent after that.
News broke this week that Alberta is considering strengthening greenhouse gas regulations on the province’s energy industry. The so-called “40/40” plan proposed by the Environment Minister Diana McQueen would increase Alberta’s intensity-based emissions target and its carbon price. The very mention of such a move has kicked off a long-overdue conversation about what it’s going to take to curtail greenhouse gas pollution and develop Alberta’s resources responsibly.
March 28, 2013 Farewell to National Round Table on Environment and Economy
Last year’s federal budget gave the order to shut the NRTEE down on March 31, 2013, but you can find an unofficial archive of their work online, including a list of their publications dating back to the early 1990s.
March 28, 2013 Driving forward with electric vehicles in British Columbia
On Tuesday morning the government of British Columbia extended their Clean Energy Vehicles program. This means for at least the next year, residents of B.C. will continue to receive an incentive of up to $5,000 when purchasing an electric vehicle. Here are five more ideas for British Columbia to support the transition to more electric transportation.
After years of delays, the next major oilsands mining venture is expected to start production by the end of this month. Imperial’s Kearl mine was approved in 2007 but legal challenges over the failure to manage greenhouse gas pollution, along with protests associated with equipment imports, unseasonably cold weather and significant cost increases delayed startup. Despite these delays, promised environmental measures that were critical in granting the approval remain unimplemented. The fact that the policies required to ensure protection of the Athabasca River have not yet been secured calls the legitimacy of the approval into question.
March 18, 2013 Q&A: How the Board of Trade’s transit funding proposal would drive the Toronto region in the right direction
Earlier today, the Toronto Region Board of Trade released its bold proposal to address gridlock and expand transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). The benefit of the four tools proposed by the Board is that they can be spread among the tax base, be kept relatively low for each tool, such as for a regional sales tax and fuel tax, and not hit one sector or user group hard.
With consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal heading into the home stretch, a parade of Canadian politicians have been making the trek to the U.S. to try to convince the Obama Administration of the pipeline’s merits.
The good news is that the recent visitors — from Premiers Redford and Wall to federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver — now acknowledge that Canada’s environmental record is crucial to the upcoming U.S. decision.
The bad news is that there are some gaping holes in that record.
At first glance, pairing renewable energy with the oil and gas sector would seem an unlikely match. But behind the curtain, romance could be blooming. As Canadians come to recognize that meaningful and cost-effective climate action may be the key to unlocking market access for oilsands, the appetite for an even-tighter union between these star-crossed industries could be just around the corner.
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