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National pollutant data finally released, sort of

Following the recent release of new mining pollution data — compelled by a lawsuit by MiningWatch Canada & Great Lakes United — the Environmental Law Centre's Laura Bowman posts on the "sorry state of access to pollution data in Canada":

The question remains, does anyone even know the environmental impact from spills and routine releases from industry and municipalities in Canada? Is it even possible for anyone to find out if there are reporting and access to information barriers?

Posted August 16, 2010 by AEN

Groups weigh in on Alberta's Oil Sands PR Campaign

As the Alberta government ramps up its oil sands public relations campaign, AEN member groups weigh in, and call on the government to focus on action rather than advertising. The Pembina Institute's Danielle Droitsch suggests that Alberta should pay heed to the mistakes made by BP and direct its energies towards aggressive action rather than public relations:

In the case of oil sands, public relations will go only so far to countering a growing image problem. It will likely take a dramatic gesture as suggested by the premier's council for the public in both Canada and the U.S. to take notice.

John Bennett, Executive Director of Sierra Club Canada, suggests that:

If the Alberta government really wants to change public perception it will take a lot more than an ad campaign and a website. Actions speak louder than words.

Posted August 5, 2010 by AEN

The truth about tailings

The Pembina Institute's Jennifer Grant sets the record straight on some facts in Pembina's recent report, Northern Lifeblood: Empowering Northern Leaders to Protect the Mackenzie River Basin from Oil Sands Risks.

Downplaying, or ignoring unresolved tailings risks is not helpful at a time we need stronger policies and more publicly available information to inform responsible management.

Posted August 5, 2010 by AEN

Capital Power and broken promises

The Pembina Institute's Chris Severson-Baker posts on Capital Power's application to renege on a commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions at their Genesee 3 coal-fired power plant. The commitment was part of the original approval to build the power plant.

…allowing companies to renege on environmental commitments made at public hearings once projects are operating would be set a dangerous precedent and completely undermine the credibility of the Alberta approvals process.

Read more »

Posted July 23, 2010 by AEN

Accountability & Transparency in Managing Alberta's Environment

Accountability and transparency are essential principles of democracy, but when it comes to managing Alberta's environment they can sometimes be in short supply. The Environmental Law Centre's Jason Unger discusses accountability in the regulatory approval process, the lack of a legal remedy to address broken promises, and proposes two legislative changes to address the issue.

The word “accountable”, meaning “responsible; answerable” (Black’s Law dictionary 9th ed.), evokes the idea that we must pay the piper for unmet promises…

 

…It seems, however, that accountability for environmental impacts and decisions related to them are becoming increasingly elusive.

The Pembina Institute's Nathan Lemphers goes on a quest in search of emergency preparedness plans in case of a oil sands tailings lake breach, and finds only secrecy and a lack of transparency.

Communities downstream of the oil sands are already skeptical about whether the Government of Alberta and oil sands operators are diligently managing the impacts and risks associated with oil sands development…

…A lack of transparency around tailings management is only adding to the skepticism and concerns.

Posted July 21, 2010 by AEN

Senate Passes Budget Bill Weakening Canadian Environmental Assessment

Despite the opposition of public interest groups, including AEN members Ecojustice, Sierra Club Canada, and the Environmental Law Centre, and a recommendation from the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate voted to pass the budget bill (C-9) including provisions to weaken the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The Environmental Law Centre's Adam Driedzic weighs in on the impacts on the environmental assessment process and the "exclusion of the public from decision-making on matters of public interest."

You don’t have to be an environmentalist to be concerned with this one.  For the second straight year, the federal budget bill passed with Trojan horse provisions unrelated to the budget.   The perennial target is the federal environmental assessment regime, but the real victim is the public.

Posted July 14, 2010 by AEN

Devon blowout highlights impacts of in situ oilsands operations

In the wake of last weekend's blowout at Devon Canada's Jackfish in situ oilsands site, the Pembina Institute's Terra Simieritsch posts on the environmental impacts of in situ oilsands operations:

We conducted a first-of-its-kind analysis of the environmental performance of in situ oil sands operations, comparing mining and in situ development side by side. Our resulting fact sheet revealed that in situ development is not an environmental gamechanger…

The bottom line is in situ oil sands development comes with significant impacts and risks - impacts and risks that shouldn't be downplayed. Cumulative impacts have the potential to extend across a very large landscape.

Posted July 14, 2010 by AEN

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