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Seven Years after Mount Polley Disaster, Mine Waste Still Flows into Quesnel Lake

Seven Years after Mount Polley Disaster, Mine Waste Still Flows into Quesnel Lake

A ‘temporary’ permit allows wastewater to be dumped in the water. That may not change anytime soon.

Doug Watt was sleeping the night the Mount Polley mine’s tailings dam released, dumping its contents into Hazeltine Creek, which flows into the west arm of Quesnel Lake near his home in Likely, B.C.

It was the early morning of Aug. 4, 2014, and Watt, who lives about seven kilometres from the mine site, says he wasn’t aware of the breach until a 6:30 a.m. call from the local fire and rescue service woke him. The first thing he noticed was the sound.

“It was quite a shock,” he says. “We went outside, and you could hear it down the lake. It sounded like a distant Niagara Falls.”

The gold and copper mine deposited nearly 25 million cubic metres of mine waste into the Fraser watershed that day — roughly equal to the volume of water flowing over Niagara Falls every two-and-a-half hours. It left a toxic slurry that remains on the lakebed today. Data showed the lake rose several inches overnight, Watt says.

Seven years later, mine waste continues to flow from Mount Polley into Quesnel Lake under a permit issued by the B.C. government.

That permit was meant to be temporary, a stopgap measure to prevent another spill while mine owner Imperial Metals developed long-term wastewater solutions.

Now a local citizen’s group is fighting proposed amendments that could allow mine waste dumped into Quesnel Lake well into the future.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

BC’s Faltering Effort to Manage Water Use Brings a Looming Crisis

BC’s Faltering Effort to Manage Water Use Brings a Looming Crisis

Thousands of groundwater users could be cut off in March as they fail to apply for water licences. Critics blame government inaction.

The way it looks to David Slade, a water-well driller with 50 years of experience, some 15,000 British Columbia groundwater users are going to become criminals overnight next March.

“That certainly seems to be the trajectory we’re on now,” said Slade, who is based on Vancouver Island and is a past president of the B.C. Groundwater Association.

Existing users of groundwater — generally from wells or dugouts — for agriculture, industry or business have until March 1 to get licences. So far, fewer than one-quarter of the affected water users have applied. People using well water for household use are exempt from the requirement but are encouraged to register their wells to help government manage the resource.

“I don’t know if it’s willful ignorance, or just people are ignoring it in hopes it will go away,” Slade said.

Former civil servants and others with knowledge of the situation are warning that few people are aware there is a crunch coming that could have severe consequences for water users, food security and the wider economy.

Even people like Slade who believe the change is badly needed say the government has bungled its implementation.

“I think there’s a lot of frustration all around, and it’s because the government, in my mind, hasn’t taken this file seriously,” said Slade. “It’s a big story but it hasn’t gotten much traction. It’s going to be a big story.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

BC’s Methane Emissions Are Double What Government Thought: Study

BC’s Methane Emissions Are Double What Government Thought: Study

The province’s own research has found flaws in how natural gas was detected and measured.

Methane emissions from natural gas fracking in B.C. are about double what the government has assumed, according to a recent study initiated by the province and the BC Oil and Gas Commission.

The discrepancy comes from the method used to detect emissions, say the report’s authors. While the government and industry-led emissions studies typically gas imaging cameras to detect methane, the paper echoes a growing body of research challenging the method.

“Recent studies have shown that [optical gas imaging] cameras may not be as effective as originally thought,” wrote the study’s authors.

In the first public study of its kind, researchers used aerial methane measurements — captured by flying over fracking sites and production facilities — to get a clearer picture of their climate impacts. They found significantly higher emissions from sites like production tanks, compressors and unlit gas flares than those being reported.

“This is rigorous research that the government and industry can’t deny because they’ve been involved in it,” said Tom Green, climate solutions policy analyst at the David Suzuki Foundation. “So now we have a much better handle on what those emissions are, and how that’s a problem.”

The research was supported by the BC Oil and Gas Methane Emissions Research Collaborative, a joint collaboration between industry, government non-profits and the Oil and Gas Commission, to support B.C.’s emission targets.

The findings have consequences for the climate — particularly given B.C.’s plan to more than triple its fracking activity by 2040 if the LNG Canada project comes online.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Speaking for the Old Growth

Speaking for the Old Growth

Famed tree botanist Diana Beresford-Kroeger has a tough message for BC Premier John Horgan.

The world recognized tree botanist, biochemist and bestselling author Diana Beresford-Kroeger is angry.

“I’m furious actually,” she says over the phone from her home in Merrickville, Ontario.

“In this day and age I am furious that they are logging the last old-growth forests during a pandemic. It is sneaky.”

She squarely directs the bulk of her considerable wrath against the British Columbia government of Premier John Horgan.

“The whole idea of a democracy is to look after the whole,” she says.

And she thinks that fine idea has been undermined by Horgan’s commitment to the industrial logging of the province’s last remaining giant trees.

And all to take advantage of rising prices during a pandemic.

“It is so underhanded. It’s like watching a plumber perform brain surgery,” she adds with a ladle of Irish wrath.

“The liquidation of B.C.’s ancient forests and their rare genetic richness, represents a direct assault on Indigenous people and their ability to survive,” she argues. “It is a form of mass murder.”

Beresford-Kroeger knows a thing or two about colonialism. Orphaned at an early age, she just barely escaped the clutches of Ireland’s dreaded Magdalene Laundries, brutal residential schools for orphans, unwed mothers and prostitutes.

Raised by traditional Celts in the old ways and Brehon Laws, she learned how England’s colonialism systematically robbed the Irish of their language, customs and, yes, their once great forests.

Ireland once had magnificent forests but the patriarchs of the British Empire played a powerful role in their destruction, all for money.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Future of Fire in Canada

The Future of Fire in Canada

We’re on the brink of a ‘runaway fire age.’ Here’s why. And how to respond.

Five days after wildfire destroyed the town of Lytton in British Columbia killing two people and injuring several others, officials were still trying to account for some residents who were missing. No one apparently saw the fire coming. When they saw smoke, according to Mayor Jan Polderman, it took all of 15 minutes before the whole town was ablaze.

This was the third time in five years during Premier John Horgan’s time on the job in which catastrophic fires have taken their toll. “I cannot stress enough how extreme the fire risk is at this time in every part of British Columbia,” he said the day after the evacuation. “This is not how we usually roll in a temperate rainforest.”

Lytton is actually located in the drier, fire-prone montane forest which dominates most of the interior of B.C. Contrary to what Horgan said, this is exactly how things have been rolling since at least 2003 when more than 45,000 people were evacuated from Kelowna and Kamloops as fires tore through thick stands of forests filled with ponderosa and lodgepole pine, Douglas fir and Sitka spruce, trees that need to burn because heat from a fire is the most effective way of opening up enough cones to release the seeds they hold.

Hotter hells

The year 2003 was notable not for the amount of forest that was consumed, but for the number of people in the West who were in harm’s way…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Dozens Die Across British Columbia And Pacific Northwest Amid “Historic” Heat Wave

Dozens Die Across British Columbia And Pacific Northwest Amid “Historic” Heat Wave

The Pacific Northwest is experiencing a multi-day heat wave that we said last week would be “historic.” The unrelenting triple-digit temperatures shattered records on Monday and Tuesday and have stressed out power grids in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Many folks in these areas don’t have central air condition and struggle to survive in these unprecedented conditions. At the moment, dozens have died of heat-related complications since last Friday.

Just north of the Pacific Northwest is Canada’s westernmost province, British Columbia, where Death Valley hot temperatures reached triple digits. Many folks in this region of the Pacific coastline and mountain ranges don’t have central air condition and found it challenging to stay cool.

CNN reports more than 230 deaths across British Columbia have been recorded since Friday. The coroner for the region called it an “unprecedented time.”

“Since the onset of the heat wave late last week, the BC Coroners Service has experienced a significant increase in deaths reported where it is suspected that extreme heat has been contributory,” Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a statement.

BC Coroners Service said it usually receives on average 130 deaths over four days, but from Friday through Monday, at least 233 deaths were reported. The chief coroner warned this number is expected to climb as new data comes in.

“Environmental heat exposure can lead to severe or fatal results, particularly in older people, infants and young children and those with chronic illnesses,” the coroner’s office said. 

As for the Pacific Northwest, a dozen deaths in Washington and Oregon are believed to be due to heat-related complications. Temperatures in Seattle and Portland have recorded highs over 100 degrees for multiple days.

We noted Tuesday, Portland and Seattle experienced temperatures 30 to 40 degrees above average.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

BC’s Utilities Commission Blocks Climate Goals, Say Enviro Groups

BC’s Utilities Commission Blocks Climate Goals, Say Enviro Groups

The regulator of BC Hydro needs a new ‘energy justice’ mandate, province told.

Advocacy groups are encouraging the British Columbia government to overhaul the commission that regulates BC Hydro and other utilities so that it can better support a transition to cleaner energy and other provincial goals.

With processes coming early next year that will determine energy policy for years into the future, widening the B.C. Utilities Commission’s mandate needs to happen soon, the seven groups say.

“The BCUC now makes its decisions in largely the same way it has since its inception,” said Dylan Heerema, the policy and research lead on community energy for one of the groups, Ecotrust Canada. “It tries to keep rates as low as possible and tries to maximize the economic efficiency of the utilities’ operations across all of the ratepayers.”

That mandate made sense 50 years ago amid concerns that utilities would take advantage of their monopolies to make rates unfairly high, he said, but now that economic lens has become a “significant barrier” to needed change.

Ecotrust and the other groups sent a June 17 letter to B.C. Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation Minister Bruce Ralston and Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman. In it they argued changes need to be made before 2022 when the BCUC will consider BC Hydro’s Integrated Resource Plan as well as the utility’s Rate Design Application.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

BC Looks like an LNG Loser: Report

BC Looks like an LNG Loser: Report

Prospects have been battered by global competition, volatility, delays and cost overruns.

Once touted as an economic powerhouse, the liquified natural gas industry is on the rocks, according to a worldwide survey of LNG terminals from the Global Energy Monitor, a non-profit research group responding to climate change.

LNG terminals are among the largest capital projects attempted in modern industry, costing up to $30 billion per project. Gas is extracted from underground deposits, piped to LNG plants where it is compressed by cooling to liquid form, loaded onto ships and transported to other markets.

“The sheer size of the projects has exposed investors to catastrophic losses,” said Lydia Plante, lead author of the just-released report.

The survey found that planned projects representing 38 per cent of global export capacity are facing delayed final investment decisions and other serious hold-ups. Cost overruns are common.

Canadian LNG is particularly bad off, Ted Nace, executive director of the Global Energy Monitor, told The Tyee. “The problem with the Canadian LNG expansion is that it’s especially vulnerable because Canada is a high-cost producer on a world basis.”

That’s because Canada plans to produce its LNG from fracking — an energy and capital-intensive process to access gas hidden deep inside shale rock.

Canadian LNG comes up short on the global market, said Nace, particularly when it competes against countries where conventional gas sources make LNG cheaper to produce.

And global competition is only getting fiercer. Qatar and Russia, for example, have vast supplies of cheap natural gas. “These super low cost producers,” said Nace, “are not giving up market share without a fight.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Climate Disaster Hidden in BC’s Forests

The Climate Disaster Hidden in BC’s Forests

The province doesn’t count forest emissions in its global warming plan. That’s a big, dangerous mistake, say advocates.

Here are two key words that have been largely left out of the broiling debate around British Columbia’s old-growth forests: carbon emissions.

Even in the recent forest policy update, the provincial government only mentioned carbon emissions twice. And that was to say forests suck up and store carbon, which environmental advocates warn doesn’t tell the whole story.

By B.C.’s own reporting, forests are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the province — 23 per cent larger than the total emissions from the energy sector.

To talk about forests while ignoring carbon emissions is “climate denialism,” says Torrance Coste, senior campaign director for the Wilderness Committee.

When B.C. reports its official carbon emissions, that number excludes emissions from forests. Coste says that’s a huge problem, because “emissions associated with forests in some years surpass B.C.’s total emissions. Which is staggering. It’s like a second B.C. we don’t count.”

Coste says the province has a long history of siloing two ministries — the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development — and acting like they never overlap.

The 2018 provincial climate change strategy, CleanBC, also skates around emissions from forests.

But with the climate emergency it’s urgent the two departments work together to tackle emissions from forests, Coste says.

B.C. counts and reports its annual greenhouse gas emissions in a methodology book.

BC’s Axed Climate Action Fund Worries Municipalities

BC’s Axed Climate Action Fund Worries Municipalities

Government promises replacement for program that helped towns and cities reduce emissions.

After abruptly cancelling a program that helped local governments fund projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, B.C. Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne says she’s committed to working collaboratively with them on a replacement.

“We’re here to listen,” she said this week. “I certainly hear from local governments on my monthly calls and am hearing from local governments about those ambitious climate action goals that they have. We’ll be working with them to develop a new program and I’m really looking forward to that.”

In mid-May Osborne’s ministry let local governments know it was cancelling the $8.4-million-a-year Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program that had been in place since 2010.

Under the program, originally intended as an incentive to join the province’s climate action charter, the province returns the money that local governments pay in carbon taxes to be invested in climate action.

Municipalities have used the funding for a wide variety of projects such as restoring habitat, planting trees, conserving water, adding cycling infrastructure, starting composting programs, adding electric vehicle charging stations and installing energy-efficient lighting and heating. In 2018, the program funded 2,723 projects around the province.

Brian Frenkel, the president of the Union of BC Municipalities and a Vanderhoof city councillor, initially said UBCM members were “puzzled” by the province unilaterally cancelling the program without consulting them.

“The UBCM Executive has received an outpouring of responses from our membership since Ministry staff informed local governments this would be the final year for CARIP,” Frenkel later wrote in a May 28 letter to Osborne.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Vancouver Council Votes Against Delay for Climate Emergency Plan

Vancouver Council Votes Against Delay for Climate Emergency Plan

City bylaw will require new homes built after Jan. 1 to use zero-emissions heat and hot water systems, effectively banning natural gas hookups.

New homes in Vancouver will be built with zero-emissions heating and hot water systems starting Jan. 1 following a city council vote this week.

Council was considering delaying the zero-emissions requirement by one year to give the heating and plumbing industry additional time to adapt to the new bylaw, which was introduced in 2019.

Council voted 6–4 to stick to the original timeline outlined in Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan. OneCity’s Christine Boyle, independent Mayor Kennedy Stewart, COPE Coun. Jean Swanson and Green councillors Adriane Carr, Pete Fry and Michael Wiebe voted to keep the original timeline.

Independents Rebecca Bligh, Lisa Dominato, Colleen Hardwick and Sarah Kirby-Yung voted for a one-year deferral. NPA Coun. Melissa De Genova abstained.

“I’m really pleased and relieved about it,” says Boyle. “What’s clear to me after years of doing climate work is that climate delay is the same as climate denial. We’ve been losing slowly for too long, and we don’t have enough time to continue to take that approach.”

Boyle was an outspoken opponent of the one-year delay. Earlier in the week she told The Tyee a delay would punish businesses that had invested in Vancouver’s low-carbon transition and signal to the fossil fuel industry that the city was willing to cave on its climate goals “with a tiny bit of pressure.”

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘Monumental Steps’ on Protecting Old Growth Says Horgan. Critics Aren’t Convinced

‘Monumental Steps’ on Protecting Old Growth Says Horgan. Critics Aren’t Convinced

BC defers logging of southern Vancouver Island old growth after months of protests and blockades.

The British Columbia cabinet has agreed to defer the logging of 2,000 hectares of old-growth forest in the Fairy Creek watershed and the Central Walbran Valley, Premier John Horgan announced Wednesday.

The two-year deferrals fulfil a request made by the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations, but are unlikely to satisfy people who have been blocking logging activity in the area between Port Renfrew and Lake Cowichan on southern Vancouver Island.

“These are monumental steps,” Horgan said. “I know it appears at the moment to be just another announcement by another premier, but these announcements are transformative for an industry that has been foundational to British Columbia’s success and will be foundational to our future success, but it has to be done in a different way.”

The deferral areas shown on maps the government released include 884 hectares of old-growth forest in the Fairy Creek watershed and 1,150 hectares in the Walbran. Logging is also deferred in a few hundred hectares of second-growth forests in the two areas.

The deferrals include a stop to new road building in some areas.

“We welcome the decision by the Government of British Columbia to approve the request made by our three Nations to defer old-growth harvesting in the Central Walbran and Fairy Creek watersheds for a period of two years,” said a statement from the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations.

“We will work with the Government of British Columbia and the licensees to monitor all forestry activity outside of the deferral areas to ensure that continuing forest activity does not impact the old-growth timber within the Central Walbran and Fairy Creek protected areas.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Vancouver Council Pushed to Weaken Climate Emergency Plan

Vancouver Council Pushed to Weaken Climate Emergency Plan

An industry group wants the city to delay a deadline for shifting from natural gas in new homes. At least one councillor says no.

A natural gas lobby group could delay action on a pillar of the City of Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan this week.

The plan currently requires all new homes to be built with zero-emissions heating and hot water systems starting Jan. 1, which could effectively ban natural gas hookups in new homes.

But after the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating sent a letter to the City of Vancouver saying the industry couldn’t meet the January deadline and needed an additional one to two years, an amendment was added to the action plan that would delay the zero-emissions requirements by one year.

City council will vote on the amendment Tuesday.

The Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating is a non-profit association with 270 companies across the country who manufacture and distribute plumbing and heating products. In its letter the association said Vancouver should maintain its gas piping infrastructure for the eventual rollout of alternative fuel sources like hydrogen or renewable natural gas.

The Climate Emergency Action Plan was first introduced in 2019.

OneCity Vancouver Coun. Christine Boyle said that a one-year delay would punish climate leaders in the building industry and signal to the fossil fuel industry that the city is willing to cave on its climate goals “with a tiny bit of pressure.”

Over half of Vancouver’s greenhouse gas emissions come from burning natural gas for heat and hot water, according to the plan, so it’s hugely important for old homes to be retrofitted with electric appliances and urgent that new buildings are built to be as close to zero-emissions as possible, Boyle says.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

BC’s ‘Intentions Paper’ on Future of Forests Is Panned for Lack of Specifics

BC’s ‘Intentions Paper’ on Future of Forests Is Panned for Lack of Specifics

Greens say failure to protect old growth breaks NDP campaign promise as protests continue.

As soon as the British Columbia government released what Premier John Horgan said was a new vision for forestry in the province, critics panned it as a status quo document that fails to protect any more old growth.

“I don’t know what they’re thinking, frankly,” said Torrance Coste, national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee advocacy group. “They don’t want to take meaningful action because they’re worried about the consequences of it.”

The 28-page paper “Modernizing Forest Policy in British Columbia: Setting the Intention and Leading the Forest Sector Transition” sets out 20 “policy intentions,” many of which have been talked about for decades.

“Our forests are foundational to our economy and a way of life for British Columbians,” it said. “B.C.’s forestry policy framework, put in place nearly two decades ago, is inadequate to address today’s challenges.”

It includes policies aimed at redistributing forest tenure as a step towards diversifying the ownership of companies in the sector, particularly with an eye to increasing Indigenous participation. Other policies are aimed at improving the oversight over log exports, using managed burns and giving the forests minister and government more discretion over certain decisions.

There’s a policy to “Promote the use of wood and mass timber,” one to “Strengthen compliance and enforcement” and another to “Protect good jobs.”

Coste said that on a first read there’s little to object to in the government’s policy intentions themselves. “On the surface they look OK.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Change BC Fracking or Expect Damaging Earthquakes: Report

Change BC Fracking or Expect Damaging Earthquakes: Report

The new warning comes from a former senior scientist with the province’s oil and gas commission.

Since 2005, British Columbia’s experiment with hydraulic fracturing of gas wells has changed the geology of the province’s northeast. It is now home to some of the world’s largest fracking-induced earthquakes outside of China.

In 2018, one magnitude 4.6 tremor tied to fracking even rattled buildings in Fort St. John and stopped construction on the Site C dam. It was followed by two strong aftershocks.

Now, a comprehensive new scientific study warns that stress changes caused by the technology could trigger a magnitude 5 earthquake or greater in the region, resulting in significant damage to dams, bridges, pipelines and cities if major regulatory and policy reforms aren’t made soon.

Allan Chapman, the author of the paper served as a senior geoscientist for B.C.’s Oil and Gas Commission and as its first hydrologist from 2010 to 2017. Prior to working for the commission, he directed the Ministry of Environment’s River Forecast Centre, which forecast floods and droughts.

Chapman, now an independent geoscientist, said that he felt compelled to write the paper because researchers have concluded that fracking “induced earthquakes don’t have an upper limit” in terms of magnitude.

In addition, “there is a clear and present public safety and infrastructure risk that remains unaddressed by the regulator and the B.C. government.”

B.C.’s Oil and Gas Commission rejected Chapman’s conclusions in a statement to The Tyee, saying his study contained “speculation.”

Recent events in China’s Sichuan province prove that fracking can trigger large and destructive earthquakes.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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