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November 30, 2011

Canada Racks Up Fossil Awards in Durban as Rumors of Kyoto Withdrawal Swirl

As rumors swirled about Canada’s potential withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, the nation continued its Fossil Award–winning sweep at the COP17 talks in Durban, South Africa, on November 30 as the Climate Action Network (CAN) handed out its daily dose of anti-kudos to countries that put pollution-causing development ahead of lives.

On opening day, November 29, the northern nation won both second and first place for Environmental Minister Peter Kent’s continued bashing of developing countries as well as his implication that Canada would likely not sign on for an extension of the accord on emissions targets signed in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997.

In an interview with the Canadian Press before leaving for Durban, Kent said that lesser-developed countries must stop “wielding the historical guilty card” in asking for less-stringent emissions targets just because industrial countries historically have created more greenhouse gas emissions than other nations.

Kent further fueled the fire by claiming that “from Canada’s point of view, Kyoto was the biggest mistake the previous Liberal government made,” referring to Canada’s signing of the Kyoto Protocol.

This as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in its annual report to the U.N. talks said that 2011 has been the warmest year on record as far as climate goes.

With debate still raging over the use of bituminous crude from the notorious oil sands of northern Alberta, Canada, it would seem that Kent is hardly one to talk. Even China, one of the alleged major emitters, called on Canada to set a better example vis a vis combatting climate change. A Canadian withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol would hurt the international community’s attempts to mitigate climate change, the deputy head of the Chinese delegation to Durban told the Chinese news agency Xinhua. It would “definitely add to the obstacles in our negotiation,” he said.

At the same time, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other prominent Africans took out an ad in the conference’s daily newsletter ECO with “A Message for Canada during the UN Climate Summit in Durban” that was essentially a petition urging Canada to set a better example on combatting climate change the way it had against Apartheid in the 1980s.

“Canada, you were once considered a leader on global issues like human rights and environmental protection,” the ad said. “Today you’re home to polluting tar sands oil, speeding the dangerous effects of climate change. For us in Africa, climate change is a life and death issue. By dramatically increasing Canada’s global warming pollution, tar sands mining and drilling makes the problem worse, and exposes millions of Africans to more devastating drought and famine today and in the years to come. It’s time to draw the line. We call on Canada to change course and be a leader in clean energy and to support international action to reduce global warming pollution.”

The U.S.’s decision over the Keystone XL pipeline has been postponed until after the 2012 presidential election, and Canada has indicated it will take its oil sands products to Asia if the U.S. does not allow the construction of a 1,700-mile-long pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile several First Nations are set to reiterate their major opposition to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in the wake of a report by the National Resources Defense Council, the sustainable-energy think tank the Pembina Institute, and the marine conservation group the Living Oceans Society saying that the pipeline would risk too much environmental damage to be feasible. Several First Nations of British Columbia will hold a press conference in Vancouver on December 1.

On the day that Kent’s attitude netted Canada’s two opening-day Fossil Awards, third place went to Britain—but only because of its efforts to bring Canada’s tar sands oil into Europe.

“This quotation from Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent, doesn’t even require paraphrasing in typical fossil humour—it is sufficiently outrageous on its own,” CAN said in bestowing those first Fossils.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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January 18, 2012

Keystone XL Pipeline Rejected, Indians Say Fight Continues

WASHINGTON – Citing a lack of time to review the Keystone XL Pipeline expansion through the United States, the federal government has rejected the plan.

The State Department, charged with overseeing transnational economic developments, confirmed the rejection on January 18. Officials there also made clear that the Obama administration will allow the company that owns the pipeline, TransCanada, to reapply for a permit to build through the U.S. after it develops an alternate route around Nebraska’s Sandhills.

“Earlier today, I received the Secretary of State’s recommendation on the pending application for the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.  “As the State Department made clear last month, the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment.  As a result, the Secretary of State has recommended that the application be denied.  And after reviewing the State Department’s report, I agree.

“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people,” Obama added.

White House Spokesman Jay Carney noted in his daily press briefing on January 18 that Republican Congress members had inserted language into a bill before Christmas requiring a decision within 60 days, which, he noted, the State Department had already said was too short a time to study plans for an alternative route. The original route, through portions of Nebraska, was denied by the State Department on November 10. Officials there previously indicated they would need until 2013 to study alternative routes.

House Speaker John Boehner quickly hammered the decision, saying it would harm the American economy and prevent needed job growth. Many Republicans in Congress echoed Boehner’s position.

The 2013 deadline had earlier prompted cries that the Obama administration was playing a political game by trying to wait until after the 2012 presidential elections to make a decision, thereby not angering environmentalists and others who have staunchly opposed the pipeline altogether. Carney denied the political claims, saying that Republicans had tried to hijack a necessary review process that was intended to protect the health and safety of the American people.

The proposed 1,700-mile, $7 billion pipeline would have transported oil from tar sands in western Canada to refineries in Texas. It would have passed through Kansas, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.

American Indian activists have played a major role in protesting the pipeline, saying that it could harm the health and culture of tribal citizens living near the proposed pipeline. They have also cited a lack of consultation, and have pointed to negative consequences for their First Nations relatives in Canada who have already been impacted by pipeline developments there.

Indian protesters of the pipeline were largely pleased with the new rejection, but some said there was still a long fight ahead.

“An outright rejection by President Obama of the TransCanada application is the goal; this is a temporary victory—the oil industry will not give up its attempt to get their weapon of mass destruction approved for entry to this country,” said Lakota activist Debra White Plume in response to the development. “We must keep fighting, we must fight harder. If we say this is our Treaty Territory, we must be ready to defend it, we must be ready to defend our sacred water. Our love for Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) is strong, and our greatest weapon is prayer.”

Pat Spears, president of Intertribal COUP, the Council On Utility Policy, in the Northern Plains, said that
Obama and the State Department deserve thanks for having the “foresight and courage” to reject the permit application for the pipeline.

“The inflated numbers of temporary imported jobs are far outweighed by the existing and potential environmental damages, particularly for water pollution in Canada and in the United States,” Spears said. “Rerouting the pipeline through Nebraska does not decrease the potential risk and liability for damages to tribal treaty lands and populations along the pipeline.”

Spears said that tribal citizens should be encouraged by the decision, and that they should ask for a more detailed risk analysis of both economic and environmental issues for all people impacted by the Keystone XL Pipelines.

“The current and further impacts to the health of the people and homelands of the Cree and Dine Nations and climate change must be included and valued in the economics of the export of foreign oil across the United States,” Spears added.

As for next steps, White Plume, who was arrested in September for peacefully protesting the pipeline at the White House, said she believes that TransCanada will definitely re-apply for a permit in the U.S. to create an expansion along a different route.

“[T]he pipeline is a billion dollar business endeavor to them, they will not give up,” White Plume said. “Our sacred water is life and death for us, we will not give up either.”

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February 24, 2012

145 Black Bears Killed in Tar Sands Region in 2011

The number of black bears killed by Canadian Fish and Wildlife Conservation officers near the Alberta tar sands nearly tripled to 145 in 2011 as compared to the 2010 total. The news, reported by the Calgary Herald, comes from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

Spokesman Darcy Whiteside said the number is the highest in recent years, and that 68 of the killings happened in tar sands camps and facilities to which hungry bears are attracted by unsecured garbage. Fifty one of the bears were shot on residential property.

Alberta Wilderness Association conservation specialist Carolyn Campbell told the Calgary Herald that, “There needs to be much more responsible behaviour by companies running these camps to really get serious about reducing food and other attractants. … The attitude of ‘attract them, feed them and then shoot’ them is really repugnant to most Albertans.”

A CBC report cited Alberta Sustainable Resources Minister Frank Oberle who said there will be a review of “garbage management” practices.

Although the boom in tar sands activity is doubtless a factor in the uptick, regular citizens also seem to need some instruction on bear safety. One concerned local resident spoke of Albertans regularly “throwing dog food out and feeding the bears, enticing them to come back.”

Here is a video of a black bear foraging on a dumpster near a tar sands camp (found at Treehugger).

Click here to view the embedded video.

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October 11, 2012

New York Times Journalists Threatened With Arrest While Reporting on Keystone XL Opposition

Actress Daryl Hannah almost had company on the police blotter, as two journalists from The New York Times were threatened with arrest on Wednesday while interviewing protesters blocking construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas.

New York Times reporter Dan Frosch and freelance photographer Brandon Thibodeaux were told they risked arrest for trespassing on October 10 as they tried to speak to demonstrators who were blockading the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas.

“We had a reporter and photographer detained yesterday briefly for what they were told was trespassing,” spokesperson Eileen Murphy told Indian Country Today Media Network. “When they identified themselves as media they were made aware that they risked arrest and were told to leave.”

Although the two had the landowner’s permission to be on the property and did not believe they were trespassing, local police and a TransCanada security guard told them they were.

“They were told they risked being arrested, which they didn’t want to happen, so they complied and moved on,” Murphy said.

Hannah was arrested on October 4 as she stood beside 78-year-old landowner Eleanor Fairchild before an excavator that was clearing land for the pipeline’s path. Fairchild’s land had been taken by eminent domain.

There is much opposition to the $7 billion, 1,700-mile-long pipeline project, which would comprise the last leg of the pipeline bringing bituminous crude down from the Alberta oil sands in Canada. The pipeline is a factor in the 2012 Presidential election, pitting purported jobs and economic benefit against environmental concerns and the potential desecration of traditional tribal territories.

The journalists were detained elsewhere along the route as they tried to interview protestors who have been living 40 to 80 feet above ground in trees along the path of the pipeline in northeastern Texas, reported Fuelfix.com, the Houston Chronicle’s energy blog. In a statement, TransCanada told Fuelfix that the two journalists were not legally allowed to be on the property, along the construction’s right-of-way.

“The right-of-way is an active construction site, and only authorized personnel are able to go on this area,” the company said in the statement, as quoted by Fuelfix.

TransCanada won the right in court on September 28 to take land by eminent domain from property owners who were contesting the pipeline’s running across their land, Bloomberg reported.

Below, video of the two-person protest that got Hannah arrested.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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