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UK Ban Adds to the Tremors Taking Down the Fracking Industry

UK Ban Adds to the Tremors Taking Down the Fracking Industry

How long can BC and Alberta ignore the financial and geological realities facing them?

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In 2013, protesters formed a human chain around Cuadrilla Resources’ fracking operation in West Sussex, England. The UK recently announced a ban on fracking. Photo by Bogdan Maran, EPA.

The dramatic decision by the British government to ban the disruptive technology of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) is just one of two volatile storms now shaking the industry.

And both have ramifications for the governments of British Columbia and Alberta, which actively subsidize the uneconomic industry with tax breaks, royalty credits, free water and taxpayer-funded seismic research and monitoring.

The first typhoon is the industry’s failing business model.

The fracking of shale formations in Canada and the United States has largely generated more negative cash flows than revenue, due to high capital, water and energy costs combined with rapid depletion rates and low commodity prices. 

Canadian firms such as Ranch Energy Corp. and Trident Exploration, which based their business models on fracking, recently went bankrupt, leaving massive liabilities for the public to clean up. The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

The highly indebted Encana Corp., a champion of the so-called “shale gale,” banked its future on fracking and lost. 

In recent years it was forced to sell off many of its holdings, lost 90 per cent of its share value and let go of thousands of employees. Just this month it changed its name and left Alberta for the oil-rich Permian Basin in Texas where companies are also losing money and going bankrupt. 

Investors have become so skeptical about the industry’s ability to generate profits that they’re either openly shunning the sector or refusing to loan it money. 

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

Frack Quakes: Knowledge Is Weak as BC Drilling Grows

Frack Quakes: Knowledge Is Weak as BC Drilling Grows

As an LNG boom looms, so does the mystery of related tremors, finds report.

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Oil and gas industry drilling pads dot the landscape around Farmington, BC, one of the areas jolted by 2018 quakes. Photo via Google Earth.

Regulators know fracking has caused earthquakes in northeastern B.C. big enough to rattle homes and halt construction at the Site C dam worksite in 2018.

Those same regulators certainly are mindful of the fact that if one or more planned LNG plants are built on B.C.’s coast, fracking in the province would surge.

But a newly released report for the BC Oil and Gas Commission says researchers can’t yet answer basic questions about where fracking will trigger earthquakes or why some frack jobs set off only small earthquakes while others trigger larger ones.

The independent geological report by the Calgary firm Enlighten Geoscience found incomplete seismic data and complex geology are major obstacles to understanding the potential hazard posed by fracking-triggered earthquakes.

“The lack of consistency in type, quantity and quality of data being collected, and especially in data that has been collected in the past, makes it difficult to develop a good understanding of the induced seismicity in the region,” said the report.

The report looked at the Kiskatinaw Seismic Monitoring and Mitigation Area created by the BC Oil and Gas Commission in May 2018 after public complaints about the number of earthquakes now unsettling the formerly quiet seismic region. The study area includes Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, the two regional centres.

The earthquake risk is high, the researchers found. The underground formations are “in a near critical state, meaning only small fluid pressure increases are sufficient to cause specific sets of fractures and faults to become critically stressed.”

Hydraulic fracturing sends highly pressured blasts of large quantities of water, chemicals, and sand down wells to shatter rock formations and allow gas to flow.

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

Why Trudeau’s Trans Mountain Dreams May Trickle Out in Coldwater

Why Trudeau’s Trans Mountain Dreams May Trickle Out in Coldwater

IN DEPTH: A tiny Indigenous band’s epic pipeline fight takes its biggest turn.

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‘Nobody respects us,’ says Coldwater Chief Lee Spahan, his band having filed a new challenge to the TMX project he says has long trespassed his people’s territory. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

On the Friday evening of June 7, Chief Lee Spahan of the Coldwater Indian Band received an email from Mitchell Taylor, Q.C., head of a federal consultation team acting under the auspices of Canada’s Department of Justice.

The email contained an offer, and an assertion.

The offer was that the government would take a new approach to deciding where the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX) pipeline would be routed in relation to the Coldwater reserve, whose people are determined to protect the freshwater aquifer upon which they depend.

That issue had remained wholly unresolved after four years of negotiations, court judgments in favour of the Coldwater’s position, countless hours of consultations, and many hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on futile wrangling.

The stakes were high for the Coldwater, for the TMX, and for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had placed a heavy political bet on using taxpayer’s money to buy the pipeline and guaranteeing its expansion would happen. Last year, the Federal Court of Appeal threw out TMX’s permit to proceed, demanding more rounds of consultation with the Coldwater and other Indigenous nations in the path of the pipeline.

Now, with the new offer came this assertion: “Canada believes this commitment satisfies what we understand to be your key concerns.”

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

‘Spill’: A New Exhibit Examines Humanity’s Abuse of Water

‘Spill’: A New Exhibit Examines Humanity’s Abuse of Water

Toxic messes turn into blazing — and angry — works of art at Vancouver’s Belkin Gallery.

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Genevieve Robertson, Still Running Water (video still), 2017.

Oil slicks, toxic tailing ponds, poisoned aquifers, drowned landscapes and sludgy brown crude vomited up from the bottom of the sea. To say that humans have abused water is like saying the Titanic was a boating mishap.

The scale of this misuse is made as clear as a pellucid pool at the UBC Belkin Art Gallery’s new exhibition, Spill.

If you think that sounds incredibly depressing, you’re not wrong. But there’s another element at work — the blazing fire of anger and activism.

As Belkin curator Lorna Brown explains, the idea for the exhibition originated from a diesel spill in Vancouver’s English Bay in 2015. The incident reminded her of Melancholy Bay, the former title of Vancouver Harbour, given by Captain George Vancouver when he first landed here in 1792.

But melancholy doesn’t do justice to many of the situations documented in the show. Fury might be a better descriptor for the feeling sparked by this catalogue of human error, bad behaviour and insane decision-making presented in image, sound and installation, supported by exhaustive research.

Brown explains that although the artists featured in Spill — Carolina Caycedo, Nelly César, Guadalupe Martinez, Teresa Montoya, Anne Riley, Genevieve Robertson, Susan Schuppli and T’uy’t’tanat Cease Wyss — worked in different parts of the world, they were united by the common element of water. They also shared an activist approach and deep reservoirs of anger.

None are quite as furious as Susan Schuppli, whose large-scale installation Nature Represents Itself takes on the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

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

The Green New Deal Battles Business as Usual. Both Will Doom Us

The Green New Deal Battles Business as Usual. Both Will Doom Us

We’re clinging to fantasies while the world crumbles. And we like it that way.

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‘The real unfolding drama — the collapse of a global civilization founded on a highly material culture created by cheap energy — is not a narrative we want to tell ourselves or our children.’ Image via Pixabay.

The stories we tell ourselves become the reality of our experience.

Global elites are now offering ordinary people two salvation stories for our digital entertainment.

Both delusional stories are being served on the Internet with bags of virtual popcorn.

One is the so-called Green New Deal, and the other is Business As Usual, which comes in both liberal and autocratic formats.

Both are actively competing for our attention.

Let’s begin with BAU, which now boasts a variety of populist variations.

At one level or another, we can all understand BAU’s alluring and simple call to restore greatness and order.

Think of it as Vladimir Putin, Doug Ford, Jair Bolsonaro, Andrew Scheer and Donald Trump doing a rain dance to bring back lost worlds and spent energies.

Or China’s Hong Kong establishment wondering what’s wrong with those young people in the streets.

Or Emmanuel Macron asking what the hell got into those yellow vest people marginalized by globalization and carbon taxes. 

The BAU refrain is simple: trust the status quo and its armies of technocrats, because they’ll make things great again.

The BAU crowd maintains that nothing is really wrong with our failing global economic Ponzi schemes or the broken air conditioning unit that controls the climate.

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

Canada’s Political Parties Won’t Say What They Know about You

Canada’s Political Parties Won’t Say What They Know about You

Legally, some argue, they don’t have to. Others won’t be fully transparent. One expert says that’s wrong: ‘It’s not their data.’

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Despite several political privacy scandals in recent years, there’s no Canadian federal law allowing individuals to find out what political parties know about them, and how. Photo via Shutterstock.

Despite recent scandals that raised public awareness about how political parties collect and use personal information from individuals, none of Canada’s main federal parties are willing to be fully transparent about what they know about you.

“I think the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal has raised these issues to public prominence, [as well as] the whole issue about how personal data is used in elections, how it’s profiled, how it’s used to target ads,” said Colin Bennett, a University of Victoria political science professor who is an expert on privacy protection.

“Political parties the world over have to do a lot to restore trust, and they need to be more transparent about what data they’re collecting, how they’re using it, and part of that is allowing citizens to have access to it if they wish it,” he said.

There is, however, no federal law allowing individuals to find out what political parties know about them. 

And when The Tyee tried to find out using British Columbia’s provincial privacy law, which does include such a provision, none of the parties fully filled the request, and two asserted they aren’t covered by the B.C. law at all.

British Columbia’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner is aware of the jurisdiction issue. A spokesperson confirmed an inquiry is underway into whether the provincial law applies to the activities of federal parties in the province but declined to provide details while the process is ongoing or say when it was likely to be completed.

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

BC Government Frets Over Climate Change While Heavily Subsidizing Fracking Companies

BC Government Frets Over Climate Change While Heavily Subsidizing Fracking Companies

Worse, the giveaway probably isn’t needed, with the global industry desperate for new gas fields.

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Fracking does not need subsidies to be profitable. But we still hand ’em out. Photo via Shutterstock.

We’re in a climate crisis. So why did the B.C. government give oil and gas companies $663 million in subsidies last year so they would produce more fracked natural gas?

The NDP government hasn’t declared a climate emergency. But it commissioned a report that warns of more severe wildfire seasons, water shortages, heat waves, landslides and more.

Despite that, the government handed almost two-thirds of a billion dollars to fossil fuel companies — $130 per person in the province — so they’ll extract more methane, more quickly. (The numbers are all from the always-interesting Public Accounts released last month by the province’s auditor general.)

Which is perverse in a time when we’re warned of climate disaster.

British Columbians own the oil and gas under the ground. Companies pay royalties to the government for the right to extract and sell it

Since 2003, the B.C. government has been putting natural gas on sale. It has cut royalties to subsidize the industry’s road construction and reward any operators who drilled in the summer.

And most significantly, it started offering the gas at a deep discount for companies that drilled “deep wells.” The industry argument was that they were riskier and more expensive; the government had to sell the gas more cheaply to encourage companies to drill. It increased the discounts in 2009 and 2014, giving even bigger breaks to the fossil fuel companies. (Who were also big BC Liberal donors.)

The discounts — subsidies from taxpayers who have to pay more to make up for the lost revenue — have enriched fossil fuel companies for more than a decade.

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

The Vancouver Sun’s Op-ed Denying a Climate Crisis a Symbol of Wider Journalistic Malpractice

The Vancouver Sun’s Op-ed Denying a Climate Crisis a Symbol of Wider Journalistic Malpractice

A journalist’s role is to seek truth, especially in the face of an emergency. But the media is not doing its job.

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‘By publishing op-eds such as this, their newspaper isn’t serving the truth. It is polluting the public square by propagating what the best science tells us are untruths about the most pressing problem of our age.’ Photo BC Wildfire Service.

So I was disappointed when that misery coincided with the Vancouver Sun’s publication of an op-ed column by University of Guelph economics professor Ross McKitrick claiming we only have a “vague inkling” that we “might” be in a climate emergency a “decade from now.”

That comment may surprise some readers of the Sun, which has a storied past and was the most-read newspaper in Western Canada according to the most recent report from News Media Canada. After all, many of them have already experienced that emergency as a result of the climate change-fuelled wildfires which devastated British Columbia in 2017 and 2018, cloaking the Lower Mainland in smoke. It may also surprise readers who have seen this summer’s satellite images of the Arctic on fire.

And it would almost certainly surprise the scientists who authored three major peer-reviewed studies on climate change that were published a day after McKitrick’s column. Commenting on those studies for the CBC, climatologist Gavin Schmidt said they underline the fact the global heating we are seeing is “unusual in a multi-centennial context” and that we are to blame for it.

In fact, we have much more than a “vague inkling” that there is a climate emergency given the voluminous scientific research and observable evidence supporting that conclusion. 

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

Is Protest Good for Democracy? And Does It Work?

Is Protest Good for Democracy? And Does It Work?

When certain conditions are present, huge change is possible. So get out there.

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‘If concerned citizens did not mobilize to demand their rights, the politically powerful would not grant them.’ Photo by Dexter McMillan for The Tyee.

Do protests constitute a danger to the legitimacy and stability of the political system, or do they foster greater democratic responsiveness? And, most importantly, do protests really create long-term political change? 

To answer these questions, you only need to think of some of the greatest achievements of the last century: civil and political rights for people of colour, women, Indigenous peoples, members of the LGBTQ+ community, alongside workers’ rights and students’ rights. 

If concerned citizens did not mobilize to demand their rights, the politically powerful would not grant them. 

The key to fostering a positive link between protest levels and democratic quality is the openness of political institutions to protesters’ demands and the willingness of protesters to engage with those institutions. 

When these conditions are present, protest movements complement or reinforce conventional political participation by offering a measure of direct representation for those who perceive mainstream politics to be unresponsive to citizen concerns. 

When governments ignore protesters or attempt to repress them, protests tend to become radicalized and directed against the political system. 

We are currently witnessing a global uptick in protest activity, with some of the largest protests in world history. The 2011 global protest cycle, which began with the Arab Spring and expanded to include Europe, Latin America and North America, was the largest and most influential since the classic protest cycle of the 1960s. 

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

Trudeau Declared a Climate Crisis, then Backed Trans Mountain Again

Trudeau Declared a Climate Crisis, then Backed Trans Mountain Again

Opponents slam approval of potentially ‘catastrophic’ pipeline expansion.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces the second approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline in Ottawa with fellow cabinet ministers. ‘We listened to community concerns and we are acting on community ideas.’ Photo by Sean Kilpatrick, Canadian Press.

A day after declaring a “climate emergency,” the federal government approved for the second time the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline that it now owns. 

In announcing cabinet’s decision, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said fighting climate change and growing the economy are complementary.

“We need to create wealth today so we can invest in the future,” he said. “This project has the potential to create thousands of solid middle class jobs for Canadians.”

Opponents, including the B.C. government, slammed the decision and justification, saying the project puts the coast at risk, as well as tens of thousands of jobs that depend on a clean environment. 

The existing pipeline from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia has capacity to carry 300,000 barrels of oil and petroleum products a day. The $7.4-billion expansion project would triple that.The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

The federal government approved the pipeline expansion in 2016, but a Federal Court of Appeal ruling overturned the approval, finding that the government failed to adequately consult First Nations and that the National Energy Board’s review of the project should have considered tanker traffic and the threat to southern resident killer whales.

A year ago, the federal government spent $4.5 billion to buy the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline and take over the expansion project from Texas company Kinder Morgan.

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

Canada’s Cars Are World’s Worst Gas Guzzlers, but BC May Be Tipping Point

Canada’s Cars Are World’s Worst Gas Guzzlers, but BC May Be Tipping Point

Surge in electric vehicle sales a silver lining to high pump prices.

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Without BC’s carbon tax on fuel, UBC researchers figured, demand per capita would be seven per cent higher and the average vehicle’s fuel efficiency would be four per cent lower. Photo via Shutterstock.

[Editor’s note: Accelerating gasoline prices in B.C. have triggered an investigationby the B.C. Utilities Commission and are helping to fuel a boom in electric vehicle sales in the province. Refining more crude locally might eventually cause gasoline prices to drop but that would take years and a major investment, says one analyst. “I can’t see anybody wanting to invest at least a billion [dollars] for a new refinery in British Columbia because you’ve got electric vehicles coming over the hill. They’re in the market, they’re available, and they are a viable alternative to gasoline powered cars.” 

Is that a tipping point we hear? The Tyee’s Geoff Dembicki predicted in December that might happen. Earlier this month, University of Calgary professor Blake Shaffer revealed Canadian cars are the world’s top gas guzzlers, but B.C.’s carbon tax along with provincial and federal electric-car-friendly policies are mapping the road to redemption. Given trends at the pump and in the atmosphere, Shaffer’s findings are more relevant daily.]

Usually when Canada is at the top of an international ranking, it’s cause for celebration. Not this time.

A recent report by the International Energy Agency shows that Canada’s vehicles have the highest average fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions per kilometre driven. They are also the largest and the second heaviest in the world.

In short: Canadian vehicles are bigheavy and guzzle a lot of gasoline. For a country that is championing its climate action, how do we square these facts?

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

On Climate, Does Trudeau’s Canada Play Hero or Villain?

On Climate, Does Trudeau’s Canada Play Hero or Villain?

The Tyee asked global experts, and got some surprising answers.

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Canada’s symbolic role globally outweighs its actual emissions impact, say experts, who call Trudeau’s carbon tax ‘courageous.’ Still, it’s not enough to meet emissions pledges, upping the ante for the federal election.

How does Canada rate in fighting climate change? 

Better than most countries, especially ones where fossil fuels drive politics. 

Terribly for the world, because if every country copied Canada, that would ensure climate catastrophe. 

That’s the complicated picture climate policy experts in Canada and abroad shared with The Tyee.

They said Canada, while still far from where it needs to be in lowering its greenhouse gas emissions, is enacting “courageous” and “interesting” policies that are pushing global progress forward at a time when the opportunity for action is rapidly fading

On the surface this doesn’t seem to make much sense, given that under Trudeau’s Liberal government Canada is set to miss the 2030 climate targets it agreed to at Paris, spends billions of dollars propping up the oil and gas industry (despite promising to end fossil fuel subsidies), and last year nationalized Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion. 

But Mark Jaccard, a professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University who has contributed to assessments from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says that Canada’s record on climate change is more complex and productive than most people realize.

“It seems to me people get so focussed on the Trans Mountain pipeline as a symbol that the federal government has failed on climate policy, without paying attention to the actual policies and comparing them to the rest of the world,” he told The Tyee. “When you do that, we’re among the leaders.”

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

What’s the Difference Between a Low-Carbon and Zero-Carbon Future? Survival

What’s the Difference Between a Low-Carbon and Zero-Carbon Future? Survival

Governments, media and industry use ‘low-carbon economy’ frame to continue business as usual.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan celebrating LNG Canada’s investment decision as an investment in the low-carbon economy. They’re missing a critical point: we need a zero-emissions economy. Photo: BC Government Flickr.

“The finance ministry reckons that even with the estimated $6 billion in relief over 40 years, the province would still reap $22 billion in revenues over the same period. Without the project, returns would, of course, be zero.”

It’s a compelling comparison. With the project we can pay for schools, hospitals and poverty reduction. Without it, we have nothing. 

Yet it is fallacious, a comparison promoted by Big Oil and adopted by most governments. It takes our minds off alternatives. 

The correct comparison is between revenues generated from $40 billion invested in fracking and fossil fuel production versus revenues generated from $40 billion invested in renewable energy, such as solar, wind and thermal.

Two similar-sounding phrases lie at the heart of this issue. One has gained predominance, the other relegated to the margins of climate change discourse. The first is “low-carbon economy,” an economy in which even fracking and liquefied natural gas have a role. The second is “zero-carbon economy,” an economy in which no more greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. In this second framing, the goal must be an economy fuelled entirely by renewable, non-carbon-emitting sources.

As the Palmer column illustrates, renewable energy has been largely written out of the script in the climate change narrative being constructed in B.C. and across Canada. For one thing, a renewable energy future would likely mean the end of Royal Dutch Shell and the other fossil fuel supermajors.

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

How Citizens Can Stop the Big Five’s Disastrous Fossil Fuel Funding

How Citizens Can Stop the Big Five’s Disastrous Fossil Fuel Funding

Canada’s major banks have financed $464 billion worth of fossil fuel projects since 2016.

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‘What would happen if young Canadians started to pledge to never do business, including mortgages, with any bank that is investing in making their future worse?’ Photo by Jonathan McIntosh, Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 2.0.

My first bank account was with RBC, back when they were still into being called “Royal.” I didn’t so much as choose them as just follow my parents, like you do with the family toothpaste brand.

Today it turns out that RBC is doing more to undermine my son’s future than any bank in Canada.

I’ve long since switched to a credit union. I couldn’t stand the predatory profits Canada’s five big banks rack up each year, or that they pay their executives such exorbitant amounts of money — in 2018 the five CEOs took home $62 million between them. All while dinging their customers for service fees every chance they get.

But if you are a young person getting your first account you have another reason to dislike the big banks. They are not just betting against your future; they are actively working to make it worse.

A new international report Banking on Climate Change finds in the three years since the Paris Agreement was adopted, Canada’s big five banks have financed a staggering $454 billion worth of fossil fuel projects, with RBC leading the pack. This includes $160 billion of financing for the expansion of new fossil fuels both in Canada and around the world.

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Source: Banking on Climate Change.

Scientists have told us we have less than 12 years to cut emissions almost in half, representing a dramatic reduction in fossil fuel use, to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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

Court Battles Reveal ‘Fundamental Incoherence’ in Trudeau’s Climate Policies, Says Campaigner

Court Battles Reveal ‘Fundamental Incoherence’ in Trudeau’s Climate Policies, Says Campaigner

Ottawa praises BC’s green leadership, while fighting provincial legal case on Trans Mountain expansion.

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Justin Trudeau’s government welcomes BC’s support on carbon tax, but is siding with Alberta’s Rachel Notley in fighting against BC’s right to regulate oil shipments. Photo from Alberta government.

The federal government’s treatment of British Columbia shows the Trudeau Liberals’ “incoherence” on climate change, says an environmental campaigner.

On one hand, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is calling B.C. an “exemplary climate leader” on Twitter, because the provincial government supports its carbon tax.

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At the same time, the Trudeau government is fighting to force the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion through B.C. over the provincial government’s objections and accusing B.C. of hurting the country’s economy.

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As a result, B.C. is involved in three court cases concerning environmental issues that involve the federal government.

In two, the province is intervening in support of the federal government to argue in favour of a national carbon tax.

In the third, B.C. is asking if it has the right to control what hazardous materials come across its borders, which could give it the ability to block the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The conflicting legal cases show a basic problem with the federal government’s climate change policies, Dogwood BC campaigner Sophie Harrison told The Tyee. 

“It speaks to the fundamental incoherence in the federal government’s climate change policies,” she said. “Out of one side of their mouth they are talking about leading on climate, they are talking about making polluters pay for climate damages… and out of the other side of their mouth they pay oil companies to pollute. And they do this with subsidies and tax breaks.”

The federal Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act comes into effect Monday.

The tax will start at $10 per tonne of carbon emissions, gradually rising to $50. 

 …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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