Alberta Energy Minister Calls Pandemic ‘a Great Time’ to Build Pipelines Due to Protest Restrictions
Anti-pipeline protests work.
That's the implication behind comments made by Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage Friday on how coronavirus social distancing requirements could ease the construction of Canada's controversial Trans Mountain Expansion project.
"Now is a great time to be building a pipeline because you can't have protests of more than 15 people," Savage said, as The Canadian Press reported. "Let's get it built."
Savage made the comments while speaking on a Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors podcast. After the remark, the interviewer laughed, but Savage did not.
Have you listened to the Weldcor Supplies CAODC Podcast featuring Alberta Energy Minister @sonyasavage? If not, che… https://t.co/qdbMrwV3Op— CAODC (@CAODC)1590156917.0
Savage also argued that the political and economic climate caused by the pandemic would not favor protesters.
"People are not going to have tolerance and patience for protests that get in the way of people working," she said on the podcast. "People need jobs and those types of ideological protests that get in the way are not going to be tolerated by ordinary Canadians."
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which would nearly triple the amount of oil carried from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day, has faced fierce opposition from environmental groups, the B.C. government and some indigenous communities along its route, BBC News reported. Pipeline opponents cite the risk of oil spills, the threat to endangered orcas off the B.C. coast and the climate crisis as reasons the project should not be expanded.
Construction on the project began in December, but in the podcast Savage acknowledged that protests had been a major hurdle.
"The activists have been so effective because the industry has been so ineffective," Savage said, as HuffPost reported. "They outsmarted the entire industry […] they got ahead of everyone."
Both Alberta and British Columbia have actually increased their upward limit on outdoor gatherings to 50, according to The Canadian Press. But while protesting in person against a pipeline might be more difficult because of the coronavirus pandemic, the outbreak has actually given environmental groups and frontline communities another reason to oppose them. Because oil and gas has been designated an "essential service" by the Alberta government, work camps have spread the new disease to rural areas, HuffPost pointed out. In one April incident, an outbreak at Imperial Oil's Kearl mine led to more than 100 cases in Western Canada. Another outbreak at the Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. Horizon oilsands mine generated at least five new cases last week.
"Can't believe we have to say it but it absolutely is NOT a 'great time' to build a pipeline," 350 Canada tweeted in response to Savage's comments. "We are in the midst of a health and climate crisis. And setting up man camps will endanger the lives of Indigenous and rural communities with already strained healthcare systems."
Can't believe we have to say it but it absolutely is NOT a 'great time' to build a pipeline. We are in the midst o… https://t.co/5i8oG3M37B— 350 Canada (@350 Canada)1590433063.0
Savage's spokesperson Kavi Bal acknowledged that she spoke on the podcast but denied that social distancing measures were good for the industry.
"We respect the right to lawful protests," Bal told The Canadian Press. "I would note that the limitations to public gatherings … have benefited no one – including project proponents and any opposition groups."
"These comments do not come as a shock," he said. "The UCP have already used the pandemic as an excuse to suspend environmental monitoring. When combined with the minister's latest comments, this will harm the reputation of Alberta's energy industry and inhibit our ability to attract investment and get our product to market."
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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