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For nearly 10 years, the Unistoten camp has occupied hereditary lands directly in the path of the pipeline. Photo by Stephen Miller / YES! Magazine

By Zoë Ducklow

1. Where Is the Unist'ot'en blockade, and What's It About?

The gated checkpoint is on a forest service road about 120 kilometers southwest of Smithers in Unist'ot'en territory at the Morice River Bridge. Two natural gas pipelines are to cross the bridge to serve LNG terminals in Kitimat. Unist'ot'en is a clan within the Wet'suwet'en Nation.

Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs claim title to the land, based on their pre-Confederation occupation and the fact that they've never signed a treaty. Their claim has not been proven in court.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Andy Rowell

If Justin Trudeau didn't know before, he does now. If Canada's prime minister could blame ignorance before, he can't now.

Every day brings reports of new deaths and disasters as the intense heat wave which has gripped much of the Northern Hemisphere continues.

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Scientists at the Canadian company Carbon Engineering have moved carbon-capture technology one step closer from pipe dream to viable solution.

The company has developed technology at its plant in British Columbia that can both remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into carbon-neutral fuels, suggesting such technology could be a meaningful part of the fight against climate change.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at World Bank Group headquarters during Trudeau's first official visit to Washington, DC in March 2016. Franz Mahr / World Bank / CC BY 2.0

By Andy Rowell

With just over a week to go until the May 31 deadline set by Kinder Morgan for the Canadian Government to resolve all financial and political issues surrounding its highly controversial Trans Mountain pipeline, some 236 civil society groups from 44 countries have written to Justin Trudeau to tell him to drop his support for the project.

Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline will triple the amount of dirty tar sands being shipped from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia.

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Emma Cassidy / Greenpeace

By Andy Rowell

As the clock ticks down until the May 31 deadline for the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project, which will triple the amount of tar sands being transported from Alberta to the British Columbian coast, the campaign against its expansion is spreading abroad.

On Sunday in Seattle, more than 120 miles south of where the pipeline hits the coast, hundreds of "kayactivists" took to the water to protest against the pipeline.

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Rising Tide NA / Twitter

By Andy Rowell

Just because you get older, it doesn't mean you cannot stop taking action for what you believe in. And Monday was a case in point. Two seventy-year-olds, still putting their bodies on the line for environmental justice and indigenous rights.

Early Monday morning, the first seventy-year-old, a grandfather of two, and former nominee for Canada's Juno musical award, slipped into Kinder Morgan's compound at one of its sites for the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline and scaled a tree and then erected a mid-air platform with a hammock up in the air.

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British Columbia Wine Institute

By Andy Rowell

They say that oil and water do not mix. And now the proverb applies to oil and wine.

There is an escalating tension in Canada between the Albertan and British Columbian (B.C.) governments over the disputed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline, which is due to transport tar sands from Alberta to the B.C. Coast.

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Circle M Outfitters

British Columbia's provincial government Monday announced a decision to prohibit grizzly bear hunting province-wide.

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Photo credit: Free Spirit Spheres

Free Spirit Spheres resort in British Columbia knows there's nothing quite like being in an orb in a tree canopy. They invite you to experience an enchanted rainforest vacation in a spherical suspended treehouse. The year-round, adult-only resort on Vancouver Island features three hanging handmade orbs, which you can rent for $175 per night.

The Eve sphere in winter. Free Spirit Spheres

"Normal buildings that we're in are all about separation ... when you step into a sphere there is no separation. There's only one wall," owner Tom Chudleigh told Arbutus RV Island Adventures. Chudleigh has a background in engineering and spends three years personally building each sphere.

The three rentable orbs are called Eve, Eryn and Melody and each is accessed by a spiraling staircase. Chudleigh also has his own office sphere, called Gwyn. The orbs weigh about 1,100 pounds and are each tied to three separate trees. A strong breeze or the movement of an inhabitant causes them to sway.

The sphere interiors hold drop-beds, workspaces, sinks and round windows, Curbed explained. Each has its own electric composting toilet outhouse and a shared bathhouse with a sauna. There are several restaurants within three to 15 miles from the resort.

Eve was the prototype and is 9 feet in diameter. Next came Eryn and then Melody, with 10.5-foot-diameters. Melody has scales from Beethoven's Ode to Joy painted on it. Eve is best suited for one occupant and Eryn and Melody can accommodate two adults.

"There's a magic about these spheres," that comes in part "from the love and intention Tom puts into each one," says Kait Burgan of Arbutus RV Island Adventures. Free Spirit Spheres is about 35 miles north of the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, between Qualicum Beach and what is locally known as "lighthouse country."

Free Spirit Sphere's hopes this floating oasis in the canopy of the coastal forest will "provide a venue for people to enjoy exceptional experiences while dwelling in a natural forest environment." Chudleigh also wants to build new spheres and is seeking new spaces and potential partners that can enable him to do so.

A nearly three-quarter-square-mile chunk of ice broke off the Porcupine Glacier in British Columbia this summer, but it was only detected recently when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration posted a satellite image of the area. Glaciologist Mauri Pelto called it "the biggest calving event in North America" that he has ever seen.

The breakup at Porcupine is the largest single iceberg (by area) to calve from a North American glacier in recent decades.NASA Earth Observatory

The Porcupine Glacier, a 12-mile-long tongue of an ice field in the Hoodoo Mountains of Northern British Columbia, has been studied for many years. From 1985 to 2005, researchers saw a reduction of 0.3 percent a year. The glacier has also been thinning, at a rate of about 2.5 inches per year. As it melts, it grows a lake at the end of the glacier.

"The volume loss has been speeding up in these glaciers," Pelto told The Globe and Mail.

The Landsat 8 satellite passed over Porcupine Glacier on Aug. 27 revealing the breakaway ice as compared to an image made two days earlier. Dr. Pelto, who has been analyzing satellite imagery of the area's glaciers since the 1980s, said the Porcupine Glacier event is part of a broader trend in which glaciers are retreating rapidly. This summer's sudden calving event shrunk the glacier back a full mile.

Pelto is a professor of environmental science at Nichols College in Dudley, Massachusetts, a small town on the Connecticut border south of Worcester. Pelto has been making field trips to the North Cascades every year since 1983 and uses satellite images to see the larger view.

"Without the images, we would just have the isolated point measurements of ground truth at specific times," Pelto said.

This calving event would have been unlike those often seen in Alaska, where a large section of ice crashes dramatically into the sea. The Porcupine Glacier features a low slope, so the iceberg would have simply slid into the lake.

"It would have been more like if you're pushing off from the shore in a canoe. It didn't break off and fall in," Pelto explained.

During his three decades of research, Pelto has also observed a large number of new alpine lakes being formed and expanded as glaciers have retreated in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, North America, New Zealand, and Norway. He has also witnessed new islands revealed off the coast of Greenland and Novaya Zemlya that had been hidden under ice for thousands of years.

The U.S. Geological Survey says that Alaska's glaciers are losing 75 billion tons of ice each year. That's an amount of water that would fill Yankee Stadium 150,000 times, year after year.

"It's hard for me to forecast the climate going forward, but it's not going to get better for the glaciers," Pelto said.

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David Suzuki

British Columbia (B.C.) appears to be pinning its economic hopes on natural gas—much of it obtained by fracking. While the world should be turning from fossil fuels to cleaner energy and conservation, we’re poised to dig ourselves deeper into the climate-altering carbon hole.
 
Taking a cue from the liquidation-sale policies of the Alberta and federal governments, B.C.’s leaders want to get fossil fuels out of the ground, piped to the coast, liquefied and shipped to Asia—or wherever they can find buyers—as quickly as possible. It’s a short-sighted plan based on outmoded thinking. In the long run, it’s not good for the economy or the environment.

Whether politicians believe fossil fuel supplies are endless or can only see as far as the next election, they’re selling out our future and leaving a shattered legacy for our kids and grandkids. To start, natural gas is not the clean-energy solution it’s touted to be. According to the Pembina Institute, if only five of the 12 proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals were built on the B.C. coast, they could spew 63 million tons of carbon a year into the atmosphere—exceeding the amount now produced by the Alberta tar sands and equal to all of B.C.'s greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. Discharged particle matter and volatile organic compounds would also be significant new sources of pollution.

Liquefying the gas for export, which requires enormous amounts of energy, isn’t the only source of greenhouse gases. Leaks–or what the industry refers to as “fugitive emissions”–during drilling, extraction and transport are also concerns. Although the B.C. Environment Ministry claims just .3 to .4 percent of gas escapes into the atmosphere, independent studies say it’s likely many times that amount.

According to an article in Nature, scientists from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado in Boulder found leaks of methane—a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide—amounted to between four and nine percent of total production at two gas fields in the U.S.

Even the economic benefits of the province’s LNG plans are suspect. Many analysts expect price corrections, and LNG expert Peter Hughes told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation the perceived windfall is “wishful thinking” because B.C. will have to compete with producers in places like Qatar, East Africa and Australia. Most of the money wouldn’t even stay in B.C., as many gas companies are from other provinces and countries. As for jobs, natural gas extraction, transport and production create relatively few compared to almost every other economic sector–including tourism, science and technology, health care, education and small business.
 
On top of that, fracking—shooting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into the ground to shatter shale and release natural gas—has many other environmental consequences. It requires massive amounts of water, contaminates drinking water, damages habitat and ecosystems—even causes small earthquakes!
 
As well as seeing natural gas as an economic panacea, some argue it could be a “bridging fuel"–something cleaner than oil or coal to use while we make the transition to renewable energy. But it’s a hazard-strewn bridge, and subsidizing and investing in natural gas extraction and infrastructure without any real commitment to wean us off oil, coal and gas will only keep us on the fossil fuel road and discourage investment in clean energy and conservation.
 
The industry also relies on taxpayers’ money to subsidize it, through tax and royalty credits, and to provide water, roads and the massive amounts of energy required to liquefy the gas. And fugitive emissions from gas operations are exempt from the carbon tax. If we are really “bridging” to reduce fossil fuels, why are we subsidizing companies for their carbon costs?
 
It’s time to invest our money and human resources in long-term, innovative ideas that will create good, lasting jobs and ensure that we and our children and grandchildren continue to enjoy healthy and prosperous lives and that our spectacular “supernatural" environment is protected. We have abundant renewable resources and opportunities to conserve energy and lead the way in developing clean energy. It’s time to move forward.

Visit EcoWatch’s LNG and FRACKING and pages for more related news on this topic.

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Click here to tell Congress to Expedite Renewable Energy

DeSmogBlog

By Carol Linnitt

Silica sand mines in Wisconsin. Photo by Jim Tittle at thepriceofsand.com

Stikine Gold Mining Corp. will provide unconventional gas producers with British Columbian silica sand for fracking operations if the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations approves the company's open pit frac-sand mine project application. According to the Ministry's website the project, located 90 kilometers north of Prince George, is in pre-application status with the Environmental Assessment Office.

If granted approval, Stikine could gouge a 5 kilometer wide and 200 meter deep hole in the region's sandstone shelves, dismantling what works as a massive natural water filtration system in order to benefit an industrial enterprise that removes millions of gallons of freshwater from the earth's hydrogeological system each year. This is done as an intermediary step towards fracking for unconventional gas, an energy-intensive, heavy industrial process that will ultimately release high levels of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. 

"Stikine's new focus on the potential production of Frac Sand from silica sources in north eastern BC (NEBC) represents a strategic opportunity in the market and a first for what is shaping up to be a massive gas play in region," the company announced on its website.

Frac-sand mining is an often overlooked component of hydraulic fracturing operations. Producers use a mixture of sand, water, and chemicals to blast open shale gas deposits, such as those located in northeastern BC. Fracking opponents often point to the toxicity of fracking chemicals, the possibility of groundwater contamination and high levels of fugitive methane emissions associated with the process to demonstrate the high environmental footprint of the industry-lauded 'clean' energy source.

The role sand plays in fracking is often overshadowed by these more widespread problems that follow the process to each well-pad, affecting communities at the local level. However, giving more thought to the industry's need for sand—a single well can use between 2 and 5 million pounds of sand—sheds light on just how destructive fracking is, right from inception.

As DeSmog's Steve Horn reported this summer in his investigative video report Sand Land, mining for frac-sand is associated with serious ecological dangers and threats to human health. Most egregious on the human health level is the risk of silicosis, a respiratory condition associated with silica particulate which shreds lung tissue causing permanent scarring. Because silica dust is carcinogenic, the condition is often associated with cancer.

Left: Image of sharp silica dust from Jim Tittle's The Price of Sand. Right: Stikine sample of BC silica sand used in fracking operations. Fine silica particulate matter, of the sort pictured on the left, is released into the air during mining and processing of rounded frac-sand grains, pictured right, sought after by the gas industry.

The impact of sand mining is far reaching ecologically. Pastoral landscapes, like those previously found around Wisconsin's Chippewa county, have been transformed into post-mining wastelands. According to Grist, the mining industry took Chippewa by storm in 2009, producing 6.5 million metric tons of sand that year alone. Between 22 and 36 frac-sand facilities were either open or approved in Wisconsin as of July 2011. That number catapulted to a total of 60 mines and 45 sand-refining plants by February 2012, only seven months later.

This summer the state's Department of Natural Resources estimated corporations are mining at least 15 million metric tons of sand annually in Wisconsin alone.

Is BC the Gas Industry's Next Wisconsin?

BC's Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Development includes Stikine's application for the open pit sand mine in its October 2012 Major Projects list

Companies operating in the region currently spend hundreds of dollars per tonne to import frac-sand from thousands of kilometers away, according to Stikine, a gold mining company that sees sand as an easy way to cash in on BC's fracking boom.

Sattelite images demonstrate how tremendous industry's impact has already been on the region's landscape.

Google map images of Stikine's proposed frac-sand open pit mine location. The coordinates

of the mine project, named Angus, are made available on the Ministry's website.

Stikine's sights may be set on additional future frac-sand mines. The company's map below outlines BC's quartz deposits, all of which may prove suitable for frac sand mining. 

The crucial question is whether or not British Columbia is prepared to level vast swaths of the province's prized forests to feed the fracking fire. 

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

 

DeSmogBlog

By Carol Linnitt

British Columbian filmmakers Nicolas Teichrob and Anthony Bonello are leading a grassroots campaign to protect BC's waters from Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. In an effort to bring awareness to all sides of the pipeline battle, the duo documented the tanker route destined to carry diluted tar sands bitumen along rugged coastal shores if the pipeline is approved.

Concerns over the construction of the pipeline are only half the story, according to the film's trailer released last week. The other half begins where the pipeline ends, with pristine coastal waters and the life—both ecological and cultural—that depends upon it.

Following stand up paddler Norm Hann as he paddles the 350 kilometers that stretch from Kitimat to Bella Bella, the film, called STAND, showcases the region's biodiversity as well as its treacherous waterways. The documentary also tells the story of coastal communities through the creative protest of Bella Bella high school students and legendary surfer Raph Bruhwiler.

DeSmog caught up with Nicolas Teichrob and Anthony Bonello to learn more about their experience along the tanker route and inspiration for STAND.

What was the original inspiration for the project?

Anthony: I read about Norm Hann's paddleboard trips to the Great Bear Rainforest (GBR) in a magazine and when I went home and looked at his website, I learnt about Norm's StandUp4GreatBear SUP expedition along the proposed tanker route. That planted a seed for an environmental film. I called Norm and we had a coffee and he told me about the Bella Bella High School students making their own cedar SUP's [stand up paddleboards] and I knew then that we had a good story and a fresh angle to shine a light on this issue. When I floated the idea to Nic he was immediately interested and we were off. Personally, the inspiration for these films always comes from wanting to be out in our world and experiencing both the landscape and the people.

Nicolas: I had been thinking for a couple of years about working on a film that had a greater contribution to society other than pure entertainment. I have always been deeply passionate about the west coast and the ocean that provides us with so much, so when Anthony called me to see if I was interested in doing a paddle film, I was onboard right away.  

Did you have any previous experience in the Great Bear Rainforest or Haida Gwaii? What was it like spending time in that part of the world?

Nicolas: Shooting for this project was the first time either of us had been up to the Great Bear or Haida Gwaii. I grew up going to Tofino on holidays and more recently doing remote surf trips up the central coast, but this was the first time I managed to get further north and west to Haida Gwaii.  

What was it like meeting with local communities living on the front lines of the current battle over the Northern Gateway Pipeline?

Nicolas: It has been very interesting working with all these people who would be severely affected by a pipeline and tanker route. What I think was the most exciting thing to see was the unanimous opposition across the board to the proposed pipeline-tanker route, coupled with a keen interest in the work and stories we wanted to share.

What concerns did you hear from people in those communities? 

Nicolas: That much of what they depend on for survival, will be destroyed and they will have to move. It is a very simple scenario, where hunting and gathering from the land and sea provides the vast majority of food for the year. The communities work to respect what the ocean provides, take what they need and eat what they take. All the stories of the past and present, and the culture they are of would be in jeopardy if their food source was destroyed. 

Do most people feel like their voices are being heard in the fight to prevent the pipeline's construction?

Anthony: I was in Bella Bella for the Joint Review Panel hearings and spoke with Heiltsuk people during and after the hearings. Most felt it was a disgrace that they had to articulate why their home was their home despite living in their traditional territory now and 10,000 years ago. In short they felt their voices were not being heard but that they would proceed through the requisite channels.

Nicolas: The Gitga'at of Hartley Bay feel the same way as the Heiltsuk. The fact that the First Nations have to prove who they are is a big slap in the face. However, they were willing to go through with the process diplomatically.

In your opinion what does the construction of the pipeline mean for the Great Bear Rainforest and those who rely on the region's natural riches for their survival? Is this an argument over economy or is there more to it?

Anthony: I think the pipeline and tanker route has far greater implications than just those facing the GBR. In the face of First Nation opposition, provincial opposition, science and common sense, if this project goes ahead, it essentially sets a precedent for any type of proposal to go ahead in the future. That is the scary part for Canada and the world at large I think.

Nicolas: The GBR, fisheries, tourism and the west coast way of life would be threatened by a pipeline-tanker route. A fundamental problem in this consultation and assessment process is the lack of value put on nature and working with nature. The ideology of 'humans will conquer nature' is pushing the pipeline project, however, it simply doesn't make sense when you look at the greater scale of things in terms of time and space. A spill would likely affect the water, shores, and ecosystems from Haida Gwaii down through Vancouver Island. Fisheries and Coastal Tourism equate to 40,000+ annual jobs and $2 billion/year for BC, which is not reliant on oil supply, demand, and speculation, but rather a clean and healthy natural environment to work in.

If you crunch the numbers, there is no way this project makes sense for British Columbia. Even in a best case scenario, it will take away more than it provides. A worst case scenario would present BC with a $10 billion cleanup bill, a destroyed ocean environment, destroyed fisheries and tourism, and a lost First Nations coastal culture. That's a pretty bad case that is not an acceptable option for the sake of humanity and the globe. 

What part of your journey so far has had the greatest impact on your personally?

Anthony: Spending time with the students building their boards. Seeing them create something with their own hands and then use it to discover the outdoors has been the highlight. They are really great young people and grew in confidence through that project.

Nicolas: Two things: 1) The ancient Haida totem poles, sites, and stories.  Haida Gwaii is filled with so much history, that just walking around old growth in the forest feels like a surreal experience. 2) The nasty weather changes that occur on the north coast. At the end of our Haida Gwaii expedition we had a day of total glassy water, not a breath of wind.  The next day it was blowing 56 knots (100km/h) and the ocean was chaos. Dangerous waters are ever present up there. 

Were there any unintended lessons learned along the way?

Anthony: How truly rugged and wild BC's west coast is. I thought I had a sense before, but having traversed a good chunk of it this summer, it is totally wild.

How you can help
Anthony and Nicolas hope they can raise enough crowd-sourced funds to complete the film and ensure it is distributed to a wide audience. If you are interested in supporting the STAND project, visit their IndieGoGo page for more information.

Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.