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Stunning Victory for Indigenous Nations as Canada Halts Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion

Energy
Stunning Victory for Indigenous Nations as Canada Halts Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion
Pipeline intended to cross Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Robert McGouey / Getty Images

A Canadian court "quashed" approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on Thursday, a major setback for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose government agreed to purchase the controversial project from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion Canadian dollars (U.S. $3.5 billion) in May.

It's a stunning victory for Indigenous groups and environmentalists opposed to the project, which is designed to nearly triple the amount of tar sands transported from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia.


The Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the National Energy Board's review—as explained by the Canadian Press—"was so flawed that the federal government could not rely on it as a basis for its decision to approve the expansion."

The project has been at the center of widespread protests from environmental groups and First Nations ever since November 2016, when Trudeau approved a $7.4 billion expansion of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline that would increase the transport of Alberta tar sands oil from the current 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day and increase tanker traffic nearly seven-fold through the Burrard Inlet.

Specifically, the court said it was an "unjustifiable failure" that the National Energy Board did not consider the environmental impacts of the increased tanker traffic.

The court additionally concluded that the government "fell well short" with properly consulting with the Indigenous groups involved in the case, including the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish on British Columbia's south coast.

The ruling will force the National Energy Board to redo its review of the pipeline and the government to restart consultations with the Indigenous groups. It also means that the construction that has already began in central Alberta must cease.

In effect, the court has halted the 1,150-kilometer project indefinitely and it will remain in "legal limbo until the energy regulator and the government reassess their approvals to satisfy the court's demands," CBC wrote about today's decision.

Notably, the decision was made the same day Kinder Morgan's shareholders voted to approve the $4.5 billion sale to Canada, which means the country owns a proposed pipeline project that could be subject to years of further review, the publication pointed out.

The court's judgment could be appealed a final time to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Minister of Finance Bill Morneau said that the government has received the ruling and will review the decision.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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