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Sorry Cranky Conservatives! Carbon Pricing Wins the Day

Sorry Cranky Conservatives! Carbon Pricing Wins the Day

The Supreme Court ruling is good news for anyone invested in a habitable planet. But fixing the climate is going to take more.

Canadians worried about the survival of the country had cause for relief Thursday morning with news the Supreme Court of Canada had ruled 6-3 the federal government is entitled to impose a national carbon-pollution pricing system — in other words, to act like the government of Canada.

Had the court done what a cabal of climate-change-denying provincial Conservative premiers had hoped to achieve, one almost wonders what the point would have been of remaining a confederation.

Thursday’s ruling settles that question for a generation, if not longer, at least as far carbon pricing goes. Quite possibly for a lot more than that, too.

Even Alberta Premier Jason Kenney crankily admitted at a morning news conference that “there’s no court we can appeal this to,” while vowing, naturally, to make a political fight of it.

It remains to be seen how that will work out, but it seems likely “The Resistance,” as Canada’s conservative leaders used to like to think of themselves back when they were riding a little higher, will try to think up more taxpayer-funded mischief as long as there is a Liberal government in Ottawa.

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

David Climenhaga , TheTyee.ca, carbon tax, government, canada, conservative party, climate change, carbon pricing, supreme court of canada, alberta, jason kenney

When Is Mountaintop Removal Not Mountaintop Removal? In Alberta, of Course!

When Is Mountaintop Removal Not Mountaintop Removal? In Alberta, of Course!

The Kenney government plays word games as it plans to strip-mine the Rockies.

In Alberta, the government of Jason Kenney has one definition for mountaintop removal, while most people have another.

You might think that excavating the top of a mountain until it’s reduced to a series of carved away “benches” that rise like giant steps to a last shred of a mountain’s peak is “mountaintop removal.”

If so, you disagree with the Alberta government.

Here’s someone else who disagrees with the Kenney definition. Australian coal miners.

While the Kenney government claims mountaintop removal can’t happen in Alberta’s water-sensitive eastern slopes, Benga Mining, an Australian firm owned by Aussie billionaire Gina Rinehart, says that’s the technique it intends to employ — and in a joint federal-provincial hearing no less.

Last week, the Kenney government told the Narwhal in a series of emails that open-pit mining can’t be called mountaintop removal if it only removes, say, 90 per cent of a mountaintop.

By Alberta’s definition, the top of the mountain has to be “completely” removed to qualify as mountaintop removal.

The Alberta Energy Regulator and Kenney spokesperson Kavi Bal both informed the Narwhal that open-pit mining can scrape off the sides of a mountain, devein coal seams and leave a ridge a pockmarked shadow of itself after removing tonnes of toxic debris, and that’s OK: because it’s open-pit mining, and not mountaintop removal.

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Months Before Albertans Were Told, Australian Miners Knew Plans to Axe Coal Policy

Months Before Albertans Were Told, Australian Miners Knew Plans to Axe Coal Policy

Investor presentations signalled the Kenney government aimed to open protected lands to open-pit mining.

Australian mining firms seeking to strip-mine metallurgical coal in Alberta’s eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains knew well ahead of Albertans that the government was planning to rescind a law that stood in the way.

The 44-year-old Coal Policy, the result of extensive public consultation in the 1970s, kept 1.5 million hectares of Category 2 lands in the eastern slopes off limits from open-pit mining until the Jason Kenney government abruptly axed it in May of last year with no public consultation.

Alberta’s environment minister has denied that doing away with the Coal Policy “has opened up the eastern slopes for strip-mining.”

But a presentation prepared some time in 2019 by Capital Investment Partners, a firm that owns four private coal companies with extensive leases in the central Rockies, told investors: “Alberta government [is] in the process of changing the coal policy to allow more open-pit mining.”

This statement raises serious questions, said Katie Morrison, the conservation director of the Southern Alberta arm of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, who found the presentation online.

“The CIP presentation really implies that long before Albertans heard about the cancellation of the Coal Policy, the government was consulting with coal companies at the request of coal companies and for the benefit of coal companies,” Morrison told The Tyee.

She added that the presentation “is very clear that the Australians understood the cancellation as a lifting of restrictions that allowed them to mine in areas they couldn’t access before.”

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

Threatened by Coal, Ranchers Take the Kenney Government to Court

Threatened by Coal, Ranchers Take the Kenney Government to Court

Alberta is poised to let miners destroy mountaintops and vital watersheds grazed for a century.

When Jason Kenney’s government quietly abolished the province’s visionary Coal Policy last May to appease Australian coal miners, a shock wave travelled through cowboy country along the scenic slopes of the southern Rockies.

One of those waves arrived at the doorstep of the Rocking P Ranch owned by Mac and Renie Blades.

Another hit the nearby Plateau Cattle Co. owned by John Smith and Laura Laing.

Both families graze their cattle at the base of a fir-topped mountain called Cabin Ridge during the summer months.

Under the province’s 44-year-old Coal Policy the picturesque mountain lay within a landscape known as Category 2. That classification forbade open-pit mining and thereby conserved a precious watershed in arid Alberta.

But in one fell swoop the Kenney government ended that protection by killing the policy and most of its land classification system.

As a consequence the province abruptly opened up 1.5 million hectares of the southern Rockies to mountaintop removal in the middle of the Oldman River watershed, which supplies drinking water to more than a million Canadians. The government is now taking bids for some of that area until Dec. 15.

Australian leaders of coal mining corporations, who had lobbied for the abolishment of the Coal Policy, openly praised the government when their wish was granted.

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

What Kenney Had to Kill to Embrace Coal

What Kenney Had to Kill to Embrace Coal

Alberta’s 1976 Coal Policy protected vital drinking water supplies for much of the province. That’s gone now.

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. His government, after being heavily lobbied by coal interests, opted to open a huge swath of sensitive Rocky Mountains land to open pit mining, rendering longstanding protections ‘obsolete.’ Photo by Jason Franson, the Canadian Press.

Under the cover of a pandemic, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney quietly wiped away a near half-century of safeguards against open pit coal mining in most of the province’s Rocky Mountains and foothills.

The result could be the stripping away of mountain tops across more than a million and half hectares of terrain — about half the size of Vancouver Island.

Gone, as of last May, is the province’s 1976 Coal Policy, which protected the headwaters of rivers that secure drinking water for Canadians across the prairies.

The Coal Policy was established by the Progressive Conservative government then led by Peter Lougheed, based on nearly six years of active public consultations. It was quietly axed this spring without input by First Nations or the wider public.

In fact, Kenney’s government only talked to one group, the Coal Association of Canada. (See this related story published today on The Tyee.)The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

That lobbying group is directed by Robin Campbell, a former Tory provincial environmental minister.

Now a handful of largely Australian-owned corporations intent on serving metallurgical coal markets in India and China are poised to begin transforming Alberta’s eastern slopes into an industrial mining zone.

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

Is Jason Kenney Ready to Bet Albertan Pensions on Failing Fossil Fuel Firms?

Is Jason Kenney Ready to Bet Albertan Pensions on Failing Fossil Fuel Firms?

The UCP government is moving to take control of citizens’ savings — and they should be very worried.

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney may be eying up the retirement funds of public sector workers as a financial lifeline for companies in the oil patch. Photo via the Government of Alberta.

Cautious. Reliable. Boring. Those are words that are appropriately associated with pension fund management. However, pensions have recently become a hot button political issue in Alberta, for some ominous reasons.

As international investment dries up for the fossil fuel sector, evidence mounts that Premier Jason Kenney may be eying up the retirement funds of public sector workers as a financial lifeline for companies in the oil patch.

The United Conservative Party didn’t mention sweeping pension reform in its election platform, but it has been a curious legislative priority since they were swept to power last year.

Bill 22 forced the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund to hand over its $18-billion pension fund to Alberta Investment Management Corp. — a Crown corporation that just lost $1.9 billion of the Alberta Heritage Trust Fund’s assets. This bill also prevents the numerous public pensions under AIMCo control from ever taking their investment business elsewhere, regardless of poor investment results.

Kenney has also proposed pulling out of the Canada Pension Plan after a vote under his new referendum-on-anything bill. AIMCo could then be in charge of over $260 billion entrusted for the financial futures of millions of Albertans.The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Legal firewalls are often in place to prevent political meddling in public pension management. If a politician even attempts to contact a Canada Pension Plan board member, it is a reportable offence.

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Jason Kenney’s Other Pipeline War Is with Michigan

Jason Kenney’s Other Pipeline War Is with Michigan

Locals say Enbridge’s aging Line 5 is a disaster waiting to happen and Alberta’s premier should butt out.

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Enbridge’s US underwater Line 5, built in 1953, carries mostly Alberta crude. Premier Jason Kenney has attacked Michigan’s governor for moving to decommission the pipeline for safety concerns. Photo via the National Wildlife Federation.

Locals urging the aging pipeline be closed down fear it could imperil drinking water for tens of millions of people. Some wonder why Kenney, who has claimed Alberta is bullied by foreign-backed environmental advocates, has no problem intervening in the decision-making of a jurisdiction beyond Canada’s borders.

“The premier ought to take care of things that are directly impacting the citizens of Canada and let the people of Michigan take care of things that directly impact the citizens of Michigan,” said David Holtz, a spokesperson for the environmental group Oil & Water Don’t Mix, based in northern Michigan’s Traverse City. 

Last June, Kenney notified his 173,000 Facebook followers that Michigan’s leaders are trying to decommission Enbridge’s Line 5, a nearly 70-year-old pipeline traversing the state. Line 5 serves as a shortcut for moving Alberta crude oil to refineries in Sarnia, Ontario, accounting for about 70 per cent of the oil it carries. 

The pipeline, which was built in 1953 and runs under the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, is losing its protective coating and was damaged by an anchor several years ago. In August, Enbridge revealed a 25-metre segment was unsupported due to erosion caused by strong currents, and said it was acting to re-anchor the section.

A worst-case-scenario spill would pollute 643 kilometres of Michigan coastline, a state-ordered risk analysis concluded.

Yet Kenney has said that Line 5 poses “no pressing or legitimate environmental concern.”

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Enviros Tools of Russians? The Weird Conspiracy Theory Firing up Kenney’s Inquiry

Enviros Tools of Russians? The Weird Conspiracy Theory Firing up Kenney’s Inquiry

SPECIAL REPORT: Alberta’s ‘anti-energy’ probe makes a debunked US report its must-read.

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Texas Republican Lamar Smith, a noted climate denier and big recipient of oil and gas political donations, led a House committee that produced a report suggesting environmentalists are manipulated by the Russian government.

Russian Attempts to Influence U.S. Domestic Energy Markets by Exploiting Social Media was produced by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology, which at the time was led by a climate change-denying Republican from Texas named Lamar Smith. Upon its release in 2018, Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva described the report as “another round of unsupported conspiracy theories,” and it received little traction.

Now the report is officially required reading for Alberta’s inquiry, explicitly included in its terms of reference.

Why would that be? Answers were not forthcoming from Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allan, who didn’t respond to The Tyee’s interview request.

“There is very little the commissioner can share with the media at this time that is not contained on this website,” reads the Alberta Inquiry website. The commission’s terms of reference also explain that “As part of the inquiry, the commissioner shall examine the work completed by other investigations in other jurisdictions into similar activities or alleged activities.”

A New York-based journalist who wrote an article about the Republican-produced report was surprised Alberta is paying attention to its claims of Russian intrigue.

“That is unexpected,” said John Timmer, senior science editor for the media outlet Ars Technica. The report “didn’t pick up very wide coverage perhaps because it was rather strange to begin with… It just didn’t really hold up to a critical analysis very well.”

“It’s just a bizarre compilation of allegations that feeds a conspiracy theory,” said Devon Page, the executive director of Ecojustice, about the report’s inclusion in the Alberta inquiry’s terms of reference.

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

Accelerate New Oil Wells, Abandon the Old Ones, All the While Burning

Accelerate New Oil Wells, Abandon the Old Ones, All the While Burning

Alberta in a nutshell, under new leader Jason Kenney’s trajectory.

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Premier Jason Kenney does not seem to realize he’s overseeing an unfolding environmental and economic catastrophe in Alberta. Photo: Government of Alberta Flickr.

The urgency to expedite new petroleum projects stands in stark contrast to the utter disinterest in cleaning up the old ones. Alberta is perhaps unique in the world in having no mandatory timelines for reclaiming oil and gas wells. There are about 300,000 conventional oil and gas wells in the province, all of which eventually require cleanup. Over half, or 167,000, are listed as inactive or abandoned. The oldest dates back to 1918. What’s the rush?

The Alberta government says this collective liability is a mere $18.5 billion. Internal figures from the regulator analyzed by the Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project instead peg the cleanup bill at up to $70 billion. This snapshot does not of course include the almost 3,000 additional drilling permits to be dispensed this year by the regulator’s expedited algorithm.

At the current leisurely reclamation rate it could take 126 years to deal with the methane-leaking mess already created. Yet somehow there is an assumption that the oil and gas industry is going to be around more than a century from now to settle up, even though almost 80 per cent of Alberta’s conventional crude reserves have already been extracted. Not to worry — Alberta regulators have ensured that industry posted funds to cover 0.3 per cent of cleanup costs.

The massive taxpayer exposure from abandoned wells pales in comparison to even larger liabilities accumulated from decades of lightly regulated bitumen mining. According to other internal figures from the Alberta Energy Regulator, reclaiming tailings ponds now covering 88 square kilometres and counting could cost a further $130 billion, assuming such a thing was even technically possible.

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

Both Notley and Kenney Hiding from a $260-Billion Cleanup Problem

Both Notley and Kenney Hiding from a $260-Billion Cleanup Problem

The Alberta government may well leave taxpayers to clean up the oil and gas industry’s mess.

Oil well
‘I think this issue is too big and too scary for both government and industry to face.’

The main thing Jason Kenney and Rachel Notley have in common, other than their affinity for pipelines, is their joint fear of the possible $260-billion cleanup bill for the province’s aging oil and gas fields. 

Neither Kenney, the United Conservative Party leader, nor NDP Premier Notley have said much on the hustings about this astounding liability, which includes tens of thousands of inactive wells, abandoned gas plants, oil sands tailing ponds and 400,000 kilometres of pipelines. 

The mountainous size of the cleanup costs dwarfs the puny pile of security deposits the province has collected from industry to pay for the cleanup — $1.5 billion.

Regan Boychuk, a 41-year-old Calgary roofer, independent researcher and a driving member of the Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project, understands why Kenney and Notley don’t want to talk about such embarrassing math.  

“I think this issue is too big and too scary for both government and industry to face. It is a can of worms,” said Boychuk in a Tyee interview. 

But if not corrected, the scale of the problem could affect the province’s credit rating, bankrupt hundreds of smaller oil and gas firms and leave Canadian taxpayers with the mother of all cleanup bills.

This has happened before.

Decades ago, Canada’s mining industry grossly underestimated what it needed for cleaning up acidic tailings and set aside paltry deposits for the job, just like the oil patch is doing today. 

As soon as the mines stopped producing money, corporate Canada walked away from an estimated 10,000 abandoned or orphaned mines throughout the country, arguing they had run out of cash.  

Taxpayers still need to spend billions on rehabilitating these mining sites.

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

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