Desmog Canada: Should Taxpayers Be On The Hook For Cleaning Up Saskatchewan’s Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells?

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall announced Monday he asked the federal government for $156 million to help fund oil and gas well cleanup efforts. In a press release he said the program “will stimulate economic activity and job creation while at the same time delivering environmental benefits.”

But Saskatchewan already has a fund in place for dealing with so-called “orphan wells,” or wells that have been left behind by companies or individuals who are no longer financially able to pay or legally responsible. Since 2009 the province has collected payments from wells in operation, and if the well doesn’t meet a particular threshold for financial stability the province may demand a refundable deposit as a guarantee. As of last fall that fund held $11.4 million in payments, up a million dollars from the previous year, plus another $45 million in refundable deposits.

The Alberta NDP government said in a statement on Tuesday that the province — despite having about seven times as many orphan wells as Saskatchewan — will not seek federal money because “industry should continue covering costs related to remediating abandoned wells.”

So why does Saskatchewan need $156 million now?

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Desmog: Low Expectations for Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s High Emissions

The summer of 2010 was a bad year for Saskatchewan. Record floods, winds, and hailstorms led to 175 communities declaring states of emergency, and costing the province over $100 million. “The Summer of Storms” also made it the worst year ever for insurers, with $100 million in crop insurance payouts.

Premier Brad Wall, a man once described by Maclean’s as “standing athwart history yelling ‘I’m not sure about this!’ ” responded to the string of natural disasters with a telling quote: “The one thing the province cannot control is the weather,” he said.

Unfortunately for Saskatchewan, the type of extreme weather that cost it so dearly in 2010 is symptomatic of what models predict for the province under a changing climate.

Sure enough, extreme weather was yet again making headlines and shutting down entire cities in 2014.

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Hakai Magazine: The Race for Arctic Oil (infographic)

Oil exploration began in the Arctic almost a century ago, long before the words “climate” and “change” were paired with “human induced” and the ushering in of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. Paradoxically, even as the science emerged, the world’s reliance on oil grew—globally, we use about 35 billion barrels of oil each year.

The sea ice melts. Oil prices rise. The sea ice melts. Oil prices fall. The sea ice melts. There’s an oil glut. The sea ice melts. There’s an oil shortage. And the sea ice melts, creating better conditions for building remote oil platforms in the frigid waters and for land-based drilling operations that can take advantage of newly-thawed shipping routes.

Read more here. Research by Jimmy Thomson and Ami Kingdon; text by Jude Isabella; illustration by Mark Garrison.



VICE: Vancouver’s Attempt to Sort Out the Pot Dispensary Bonanza is Causing Even More Confusion

A high school student walking to and from Stratford Hall, a private school on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive, walks past two pot dispensaries in the three blocks between the transit station and school. They could mistake one of the dispensaries, the BC Compassion Club Society (BCCCS), for a hippie health-food store. The other, the BC Pain Society, is pretty hard to miss though, thanks to the sandwich board out front: “Got Pot? Our Vending Machine Does!”

One business has been accused of bringing in a growing number of people who are wafting pot smoke across the playground of a preschool three doors down, while the other has given presentations on the pharmacological properties of medical cannabis to Grade 12 biology classes.

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Globe and Mail: Marine scientists to use navy techniques to study whales

When Randy Musseau stood in a conference room in Halifax this week to teach the navy’s basic course in the field of passive acoustics, he had an unusual group of pupils: marine scientists who are among the first-ever civilian students to learn the military’s techniques for listening to the ocean.

The participants will use what they learn to better understand the effects of human activities on whales – information they can, in turn, share with the military to help protect the marine mammals.

“In my unit alone, we’ve been studying passive acoustics for 50 years,” said Mr. Musseau, training officer from the highly secure Trinity naval intelligence unit. “There are noises out there that we can classify immediately.”

The course is a modified version of the military’s basic passive acoustic analysis course, with classified material removed. Hansen Johnson, a marine bioacoustics researcher at Dalhousie University and one of the participants in the class, said the knowledge exchange will be a two-way street.

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The Tyee: Six ways climate change is getting personal in B.C.

Climate change is getting personal in British Columbia. Shifts in weather patterns in recent years are already changing the way we live in this province, whether you ranch, ski, love eating shellfish, or happen to notice the forest on the edge of town isn’t the same as it was when you wandered through it as a child.

Here are six ways global warming is coming home for British Columbians.

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BCBusiness Magazine: Why an economist picked Kamloops over Vancouver. Hint: it has to do with the commute

An average morning for Joel Wood used to begin with a 20-minute drive from his Langley home. He would arrive at a park-and-ride in South Surrey, board a bus to a Canada Line station, then take a train into Vancouver. From there, it was just one more bus ride to his job as assistant director of the Centre for Environmental Studies at the Fraser Institute in Kitsilano. At the end of the day, he would do it all again in reverse—a total commute time of 75 minutes each way, or about two and a half hours per day. He would spend 50 hours each month in his car, buses and trains—the equivalent of working more than three extra months per year. “It was pretty taxing,” says the 34-year-old father of one (soon to be two). “You’re away from family, away from small children, away from your partner.”

After three years of slogging from Langley to Kitsilano and back, Wood started to look for work in smaller cities; his wife is from a small town and they both pined for a slower pace of living.

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Toronto Star: Russians blamed for attack on Syrian hospital

Russia is being blamed for an airstrike on a hospital in the northeastern Syrian city of Hama, continuing a pattern of attacks begun by the regime of Bashar Assad.

While Russia maintains it is striking Islamic State (IS) targets in the country, the hospital that was hit Friday was more than 70 kilometres from the nearest IS-supporting region.

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Hakai Magazine: The Blob in the Northeast Pacific Ocean

For the past couple of years, researchers from California to Alaska have witnessed a warm-water phenomenon mess with the coastline’s marine food web. It’s like watching a horror B-flick unfold: suddenly, a strange miasma emerges, things get weird, and everyone starts behaving differently. Appropriately, a scientist nicknamed this tepid ocean broth The Blob.

“It’s the type of thing you might expect to happen once in a millennium,” says Richard Dewey.

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Hakai Magazine: Epishelf Lakes – an Ecosystem Facing Extinction


Once upon a time, northern Canada harboured a remarkable kind of freshwater lake, a distinct glacial environment found nowhere else in the Northern Hemisphere. In these special freshwater lakes, known as epishelf lakes, life thrived, effectively cut off from the rest of the world. Many of these hidden lakes formed between 4,000 and 800 years ago. But now there’s just one left, and it won’t last long.

“I would be surprised if the lake lasted for more than a decade,” says physical geographer Derek Mueller. “It could go really at any time.”

Keep reading here