Peace and Environment News — Insider, February–March 2012
by Mike Buckthought
Gateway to disaster
According to records filed with the U.S. government, subsidiaries of Enbridge Energy have reported more than 170 pipeline leaks and spills in the United States since 2002. The incidents have included a 2007 leak in Minnesota that killed two workers and led to $2.4 million in fines. The Calgary-based energy company has been in the news recently, thanks to its plans to build a pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific Ocean. If constructed, the Northern Gateway pipeline would bring bitumen from the tar sands to the port of Kitimat, BC. Supertankers would travel through narrow fjords. A spill would have catastrophic impacts, jeopardizing the ecosystems of the Pacific coast. (Ottawa Citizen, January 12, 2012; Sierra Club BC, www.sierraclub.bc.ca)
Public transit in Gatineau Park
The National Capital Commission (NCC) is developing a sustainable transportation plan for Gatineau Park. The NCC is encouraging members of the public to provide comments using an online questionnaire. At the moment, it can be difficult to visit Gatineau Park without a car. Are you concerned about the lack of public transit and the increased greenhouse gas emissions from cars? You can provide your comments before February 19. Visit the NCC online at www.canadascapital.gc.ca. You can also comment on the NCC’s Cultural Heritage Plan and Outdoor Recreation Plan. (National Capital Commission, January 13, 2012)
In December, Bruce Power announced that it has cancelled its plan to build nuclear reactors in northern Alberta. The company had proposed to construct a $10‑billion nuclear plant near Peace River, about 480 kilometres northwest of Edmonton. In 2009 the company abandoned its plan to construct a nuclear plant on the shores of Lac Cardinal. It proposed a second location, about 30 kilometres north of Peace River. However, there was strong opposition from residents who were concerned about the health impacts of radioactive contamination of drinking water supplies. (CBC News, December 12, 2011; Edmonton Journal, December 13, 2011)
BC’s Fish Lake threatened
BC’s Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) is threatened once again. After an extensive environmental assessment, the federal government rejected Taseko Mines Limited’s proposal to drain the lake. Unfortunately the company has come up with a new proposal, the so-called “New Prosperity” gold-copper project. Under the new plan, the lake would not be drained. However, it would be surrounded by an open pit mine and mountains of toxic tailings. First Nations were not consulted. A new review panel is considering the project. (MiningWatch Canada, November 29, 2011)
Going to court to support Kyoto
A Université de Montréal law professor is taking legal action against the Harper government in an attempt to overturn its decision to drop out of the Kyoto Protocol. Professor Daniel Turp says the government’s decision to renege on its international commitments is unconstitutional, and it breaks a federal law, the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey will ask the Federal Court to determine whether or not Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol violates the country’s laws. The legal action is supported by L’équipe Kyoto, a student group at Université de Montréal. (Montreal Gazette, January 13, 2012; Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique (AQLPA), January 13, 2012)
The European Union is looking into making deeper cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases. According to a new analysis, the EU’s existing target of a 25% reduction from 1990 levels by 2020 is easily achievable with existing policies. A number of member states, including Denmark, the UK and France, are pushing for deeper reductions of 30% by 2020. A draft low-carbon plan recommends reducing emissions by 60% by 2040. Making the transition to a low-carbon economy will cost about 1.5% of GDP annually over the next 40 years. Around the world, investments in renewable energy reached a new high of $260 billion US in 2011. Investments in solar energy have increased dramatically, reaching $137 billion US last year. (The Guardian, January 12–18, 2012; February 14, 2011)
Mike Buckthought writes about environmental and human rights issues.
Published in the Peace and Environment News — Insider, Volume 27, Number 1, February–March 2012, page 7.