Category Archives: Environmental

Climate Change, Logging and Mining, Oil and Gas

Indigenous leaders warn of protests, halting developments over shale gas exemption

Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Roger Augustine says ‘the blueprint’ for government to consult Indigenous groups is there. (Radio-Canada)

‘It is our job to ensure the protection of lands and waters for our future generations’: Chief Ross Perley

Top Indigenous leaders are warning that the Higgs government has made “a serious mistake” on shale gas that may reignite protests like those seen in the Rexton area in 2013.

They say the province’s duty to consult Indigenous people is clearly defined, and the government should have known how to proceed as it tries to restart the industry in one part of the province.

“It’s not as if this is all new,” said Roger Augustine, the regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. “The blueprint is there.”

“There’s a lot of case law,” said Chief George Ginnish of Natoaganeg First Nation. “There are actual court cases. … If he needs clarity, we’ll certainly provide clarity if that’s what he needs.”

‘Reckless voice’

Augustine said the Progressive Conservative government’s decision to lift the moratorium on fracking in the Sussex area risks alarming members of First Nations communities.

“When a reckless voice speaks out, be it the premier or the prime minister, they should realize what could happen, what it causes in communities,” he said. “Once we’ve got outrage out there, and we’ve got roadblocks, we’ve got cars burned.”

He was referring to anti-shale gas protests near Elsipogtog First Nation in 2013 that saw violent confrontations between protestors and police.

Chief George Ginnish of Natoaganeg First Nation says there’s case law that clarifies government’s duty to consult. (Hadeel Ibrahim, CBC)

Ginnish warned that Mi’kmaq chiefs may pursue “whatever remedies might be available to us otherwise, legally” following the snub.

“In a partnership approach, you talk to your partners before you make a decision, not after,” said Ginnish, who co-chairs Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc., made up of the nine Mi’kmaq bands in the province.

“You would think going forward a new government would want to build a good relationship and perhaps learn from the mistakes of the past.”

Higgs given instructions

This week Premier Blaine Higgs revealed that his cabinet had approved an order to end the moratorium in one part of the province. It would allow Corridor Resources to resume fracking its wells near Penobsquis, in the Sussex area.

Higgs said he met with Augustine last week to discuss the issue. Augustine told CBC News on Friday that he’s unhappy that Higgs told reporters, even after their meeting, that the duty to consult is “vague” and “undefined.”

He said he left notes with the premier after the meeting explaining how the duty to consult — laid out in several Supreme Court of Canada decisions on resource development projects — should work.

And he said that begins with Higgs saying publicly in the legislature that he honours and respects Aboriginal and treaty rights as laid out in the 1982 Constitution.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jake Stewart sounded a conciliatory note at the legislature Friday, acknowledging that “there’s lots of questions today on whether or not we did it wrong.”

Reset?

Stewart has said repeatedly this week that he recognizes Aboriginal treaties and Aboriginal rights, and he committed again Friday to meeting with chiefs and inviting them to lay out how they want consultations to unfold.

Jake Stewart, minister of Aboriginal affairs, appeared conciliatory at the New Brunswick legislature on Friday. (CBC)

“As tricky as that issue it, that’s a good starting point to at least get the consultation process right,” he said. “Maybe this is the reset we need to sit down and say, ‘How can we define this? How would you like this to go?'”

Augustine said it’s not too late for a reset. He said he has offer to assemble Indigenous representatives to talk to provincial officials about the process.

But he wouldn’t say whether communities would ever consent to shale gas development. “That’s down the road,” he said.

The government said there’s a potential investment of $70 million if Corridor can restart its fracking near Penobsquis, but no new development is likely before 2021.

The government says there’s a potential investment of $70 million if Corridor Resources can restart its fracking near Penobsquis. (CBC)

The Opposition Liberals, who brought in the provincial moratorium when they were in power, say the PC government has gone against the definition of the duty to consult from a 2010 Supreme Court decision.

That ruling said that the duty arises “when the Crown has knowledge, real or constructive, of the potential existence of the Aboriginal right or title and contemplates conduct that might adversely affect it.”

‘Happened over and over’

Augustine, who has been dealing with governments on resource issues for four decades, said he warned SWN Resources before they began seismic testing in 2013 that they needed to follow a consultation process.

“Every protest that I’ve seen across the country has already been the industry thinking they can just plow their way through the territory and pay no attention to the rights of the people, pay no attention to the history and culture of our people,” he said.

“That was a big mistake and that’s what happened over and over again.”

Anti-shale gas protesters blocked Highway 11 near Rexton in December of 2013. (Twitter)

Stewart maintained Friday that until cabinet approved the order to exempt the Sussex area from the moratorium, there was not much to consult on.

But he said he and Energy and Resource Development Minister Mike Holland were set to meet four Mi’kmaq chiefs and an elder later the same day.

Wolastoqey Nation opposition

In a statement released Friday by the Wolostoqey Nation, comprised of St. Mary’s, Woodstock, Madawaska, Oromocto, Tobique and Kingsclear First Nations, leaders denounced the “shocking, unacceptable, and unlawful” lifting of the moratorium.

The letter said part of the area where the moratorium is being lifted includes unceded Wolastoqey territory.

“The Province’s attempt to secretly open the door to fracking in our Territory is shocking, unacceptable, and unlawful. They need to restore the Moratorium immediately, and they need to have a serious dialogue with Indigenous peoples before taking any more steps in that direction,” said Patricia Bernard, Chief of Madawaska First Nation.

The statement also quoted Ross Perley, Chief of Tobique First Nation, saying he is disappointed by the move and promises to stop development.

“It falls short of the Higgs Government’s promise of defining a new relationship with the Wolastoqey and Mi’kmaw Nations,” he said. “It is our job to ensure the protection of lands and waters for our future generations and we will unify with our Mi’kmaw brothers and sisters to stop this development.”

By: Jacques Poitras ·  CBC News · Posted: Jun 08, 2019

[SOURCE]

Train Derailment near St-Lazare, Spilled One Million Litres of Crude Oil

The Canadian National train with 110 petroleum crude oil cars derailed when an emergency brake was applied, rupturing 16 cars.

37 tanker cars carrying crude oil derailed near St-Lazare

Investigators say at least one million litres of crude oil was spilled when a train derailed last month in western Manitoba.

According to Global News, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) says the spill was mostly contained in a low-lying area next to the track, and it’s too early to comment on the environmental impact.

On Feb. 16, 110 tanker cars loaded with petroleum crude oil, was travelling east at about 49 mph when it experienced a train-initiated emergency brake application.

37 cars derailed at 3:30 a.m. by the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border near St. Lazare.

The TSB says 16 of the cars sustained breaches.

The agency says the investigation is ongoing and some track components and wheel sets are being examined for failure analysis.

CN said the leak did not penetrate the Assiniboine River.

There were no reports of injuries or fires.

CN resumed operations on the mainline the following day of the derailment.

The aftermath of an oil spill in St. Lazare, Man., captured by a drone.

The wreck happened on the same day as a pro-pipeline rally just 50 km away in Moosomin, Sask.

Supporters of pipelines argue that shipping oil by pipeline is safer than by rail.

47 people died in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6th 2013, when an unattended 74-car freight train carrying crude oil derailed in the downtown setting off a massive explosion and fire.

By RPM, Staff, Updated March 2, 2019.

European Contact Killed So Many Indigenous Americans It Changed The Climate, Says Study

Columbus’ first set foot in the Americas in 1492.  

More than 50 million indigenous people perished after Columbus’s arrival

Prior to Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas in 1492, the area boasted thriving indigenous populations totalling to more than 60 million people.

A little over a century later, that number had dropped close to 6 million.

European contact brought with it not only war and famine, but also diseases like smallpox that decimated local populations.

Now, a new study published in the journal Quarternary Science Reviews argues that those deaths occurred on such a large scale that they led to a “Little Ice Age”: an era of global cooling between the 16th and mid-19th century.

Researchers from University College London found that, after the rapid population decline, large swaths of vegetation and farmland were abandoned.

The trees and flora that repopulated that unmanaged farmland started absorbing more carbon dioxide and keeping it locked in the soil, removing so much greenhouse gas from the atmosphere that the planet’s average temperature dropped by 0.15 degrees Celsius.

Typically, experts look to the Industrial Revolution as the genesis of human-driven climate impacts. But this study shows that effects may have began some 250 years earlier.

“Humans altered the climate already before the burning of fossil fuels had started,” the study’s lead author, Alexander Koch, told Business Insider. “Fossil fuel burning then turned up the dial.”

More than 50 million indigenous people perished by 1600

Experts have long struggled to quantify the extent of the slaughter of indigenous American peoples in North, Central, and South America. That’s mostly because no census data or records of population size exist to help pinpoint how many people were living in these areas prior to 1492.

To approximate population numbers, researchers often rely on a combination of European eyewitness accounts and records of “encomienda” tribute payments set up during colonial rule.

But neither metric is accurate – the former tends to overestimate population sizes, since early colonizers wanted to advertise riches of newly discovered lands to European financial backers.

The latter reflects a payment system that was put in place after many disease epidemics had already run their course, the authors of the new study noted.

So the new study offers a different method: the researchers divided up North and South America into 119 regions and combed through all published estimates of pre-Columbian populations in each one.

In doing so, authors calculated that about 60.5 million people lived in the Americas prior to European contact.

Once Koch and his colleagues collated the before-and-after numbers, the conclusion was stark. Between 1492 and 1600, 90 percent of the indigenous populations in the Americas had died.

That means about 55 million people perished because of violence and never-before-seen pathogens like smallpox, measles, and influenza.

According to these new calculations, the death toll represented about 10 percent of the entire Earth’s population at the time. It’s more people than the modern-day populations of New York City, London, Paris, Tokyo, and Beijing combined.

The disappearance of so many people meant less farming

Using these population numbers and estimates about how much land people used per capita, the study authors calculated that indigenous populations farmed roughly 62 million hectares (239,000 square miles) of land prior to European contact.

That number, too, dropped by roughly 90 percent, to only 6 million hectares (23,000 square miles) by 1600.

Over time, trees and vegetation took over that previously farmed land and started absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide traps heat in the planet’s atmosphere (it’s what human activity now emits on an unprecedented scale), but plants and trees absorb that gas as part of photosynthesis.

So when the previously farmed land in North and South America – equal to an area almost the size of France – was reforested by trees and flora, atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels dropped.

Antarctic ice cores dating back to the late 1500s and 1600s confirm that decrease in carbon dioxide.

That CO2 drop was enough to lower global temperatures by 0.15 degrees Celsius and contribute to the enigmatic global cooling trend called the “Little Ice Age,” during which glaciers expanded.

Lingering doubts

“The researchers are likely overstating their case,” Joerg Schaefer from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, told Live Science.

“I am absolutely sure this paper does not explain the cause of the carbon dioxide change and the temperature change during that time.”

Koch said that some of the drop in carbon dioxide could have been caused by other, natural factors like volcanic eruptions or changes in solar activity.

But he and his colleagues concluded that the death of 55 million indigenous Americans explained about 50 percent of the overall reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

“So you need both natural and human forces to explain the drop,” he said.

Koch said the findings revise our understanding of how long human activity has been influencing Earth’s climate.

“Human actions at that time caused a drop in atmospheric CO₂ that cooled the planet long before human civilization was concerned with the idea of climate change,” he and his co-authors wrote.

But they warned that if a similar reforestation event were to happen today, it wouldn’t do much to mitigate the Earth’s current rate of warming.

The drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide that happened in the 1600s only represents about three years’ worth of fossil fuel emissions today, Koch said.

“There’s no way around reducing fossil fuel emissions,” he said, adding that reforestation and forest restoration remain crucial, too.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

[SOURCE]

Wet’suwet’en complaints about pipeline builder to be probed by government, police

RCMP officers join hereditary chiefs and supporters as they walk towards Unist’ot’en camp near Houston, B.C., on Wednesday, January 9, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS

Wet’suwet’en say traplines and tents destroyed, archeological impact assessment not yet done

The British Columbia government says it will inspect the site of a planned natural gas pipeline southwest of Houston following allegations that the company building the project is violating its permits.

Members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and supporters have alleged that Coastal GasLink is engaging in construction activity without an archeological impact assessment and also destroyed traplines and tents unnecessarily.

The Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources says in a statement that joint site inspection will be conducted by the province’s Environmental Assessment Office and the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission next week.

“We anticipate that it will take some time subsequently to determine whether any non-compliances are evident and, if so, the appropriate enforcement action,” the ministry said.

The RCMP also said it has received complaints from both the Office of the Wet’suwet’en and Coastal GasLink regarding traplines and the removal of personal property items.

“We are following up on all complaints and continue to facilitate ongoing and direct dialogue between all parties regarding various issues,” the RCMP said.

Gidimt’en say 3 tents bulldozed

Trans Canada-owned Coastal GasLink is working to build a natural gas pipeline from northeastern British Columbia to LNG’s export facility on the coast as part of a $40-billion project.

Members of the Gidimt’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation issued a statement Monday saying the company “wilfully, illegally, and violently destroyed” its property this weekend, while the company said its actions have been permitted and lawful.

Jen Wickham, a member of the Gidimt’en clan, said Coastal GasLink bulldozed three tents constructed with timber and canvas in an area along a logging road not included in the company’s plans.

“CGL workers just tore down all our stuff, threw them in [shipping containers] and said we had until the end of the day to pick them up or they would be thrown in the dump,” she said.

The tents were constructed when members erected a barrier at the same location, where RCMP enforced a court injunction on Jan. 7 and arrested 14 people in a move that sparked protests across Canada and internationally.

Wickham said Wet’suwet’en members told RCMP they wanted the tents to remain to host cultural workshops.

Following the enforcement of the court injunction, a road was plowed around the tents allowing free movement of vehicles.

President of Coastal GasLink pipeline Rick Gateman leaves the Office of the Wet’suwet’en after meeting with RCMP members and hereditary chiefs in Smithers, B.C., on Jan. 10. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

Coastal GasLink said in a statement that all work it’s doing is “approved and permitted and in full compliance” with its environmental assessment certificate issued by the province and the company has met all required pre-construction conditions.

“These areas are active work zones that are lawful and permitted. Any obstruction impeding our crews from safely accessing these work zones is in contravention of a court order,” Coastal GasLink said.

Traplines in dispute

On Friday, Coastal GasLink said it stopped work in an area closer to its planned work site because traplines had been placed inside construction boundaries and people were entering the site, raising safety concerns.

Jason Slade, a supporter with the nearby Unist’ot’en camp run by Wet’suwet’en members, said Monday that work only halted temporarily and the traplines had been destroyed. He said excavation had begun at the site of a planned “man camp.”

The Unist’ot’en allege the actions violate the Wildlife Act by interfering with lawful trapping, as well as an agreement that the Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chiefs had reached with RCMP allowing the company access to the area and ensuring traditional practices like trapping could continue.

The clan also alleges it is violating its permits with the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission and Environmental Assessment Office by beginning construction work before an archeological impact assessment has been complete.

In a letter to the commission on Friday, Chief Knedebeas of the Unist’ot’en Clan points to an affidavit filed by a company official in November as part of its court injunction application, saying the assessment is scheduled for May.

Knedebeas asks in the letter that a stop-work order be issued immediately while the allegations are investigated.

The Canadian Press · Posted: Jan 29, 2019

[SOURCE]

 

Coastal GasLink stops work on pipeline over trapline dispute in northern B.C.

RCMP officers look on as contractors pass through their roadblock as supporters of the Unist’ot’en camp and Wet’suwet’en First Nation gather at a camp fire off a logging road near Houston, B.C., on Jan. 9. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

A company building a pipeline has stopped work on the project in northwestern British Columbia where 14 people were arrested earlier this month.

Coastal GasLink says in a notice posted on its website on Thursday that it stopped work in an area south of Houston because traps had been placed inside construction boundaries and people were entering the site, raising safety concerns.

The company says it was working with the RCMP to address the issue.

Earlier this week, the Unist’ot’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation alleged on social media that pipeline contractors had driven a bulldozer through the heart of one of their traplines south of Houston, which they say violates the Wildlife Act by interfering with lawful trapping.

The company says its work in the area has been fully approved and permitted, and it reminded the public that unauthorized access to an active construction site where heavy equipment is being used can be dangerous.

The pipeline will run through Wet’suwet’en territory to LNG Canada’s $40-billion export facility in Kitimat.

Opponents say Coastal GasLink has no authority to build without consent from Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

The company says it has signed agreements with the elected councils of all 20 First Nations along the route, including some Wet’suwet’en elected council members

Those council members say they are independent from the hereditary chiefs’ authority and inked deals to bring better education, elder care and services to their members.

Hereditary chiefs say they have authority over 22,000 square kilometres of Wet’suwet’en traditional territory while elected band members administer the reserves.

Carolyn Bennett, the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, says the dispute is an example of how the Indian Act, which imposed the band council system on First Nations, is still creating confusion and conflict over Indigenous governance.

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]