Keystone Kaput


The U.S. government has denied an application by TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline, the State Department announced Wednesday. A statement released by the department said it doesn’t preclude TransCanada applying again with a different route. The Canadian government wanted to see the pipeline go ahead. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said the government hopes a new TransCanada application will be approved, but Canada is going to look to other markets to sell its oil. “It is clear that the process is not yet over,” Oliver said.

The Washington Post:

Obama said that a Feb. 21 deadline set by Congress as part of the two-month payroll tax cut extension had made it impossible to do an adequate review of the pipeline project proposed by TransCanada. “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,” the president said in a statement.

The Guardian:

Environmental groups immediately hailed the decision as David versus Goliath victory for an unlikely coalition between national activists and Nebraska landowners opposed to the pipeline’s route across an ecologically sensitive area known as the Sand Hills.

Last word to Desmog Blog:

While it’s good to see that President Obama is standing up to oil industry bullying and Republican pressure to fast-track the permit, this still means Keystone XL is very much in play. If it’s ever built, Keystone XL will allow the expansion of the Alberta tar sands that climate scientists worry will send us down a dangerous path of global warming pollution. What’s more, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, if built, would increase oil prices in the American Midwest. That’s the shocking takeaway point from a bombshell report about Keystone XL as an export pipeline released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Oil Change International. We’ve reported time and time again here on DeSmogBlog, the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would not improve America’s energy security, but never has that reality been more clearly conveyed than by this one real-world point that is worth repeating. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would increase oil prices in the Midwest.

The Environment Vs. The Economy

In the comments for yesterday’s Six in the Morning  (in which I basically howled incohate inchoate rage at Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver for his ignorant comments about environmental activists), commentator Brononymous defends what I would characterize as a reckless, self-serving philosophy of resource development.

Brononymous implies that pipelines are necessarily to support the nice things that all us hippy lefties want, like affordable housing and public transportation. That’s a damn weak argument built on the thinnest sliver of truth, but I appreciate the chance to say more about  this topic.

The bottom line is that a wrecked climate brings a world of hurt to everyone. Like David Suzuki says (over and over and over), global warming is expensive as well as terrible. Climate change gives us crop failures and food scarcity, droughts, water shortages, increased wear and tear to municipal infrastructure, and ultimately a wobbly global economy beset by international and regional strife (what’s going to happen when Pakistan is wiped out by drought? Nothing good, that’s for sure). All of these problems are expensive and all undermine all our quality of life, including our society’s alleged ability to provide affordable housing (which we’re doing a crappy job of in any case).

Besides, what are the numbers on fighting climate change: something like one per cent of GDP? As George Monbiot pointed out last month in The Guardian, it’s cheaper than  bailing out banks.

Rather than an expense that makes life tougher, an increased commitment to protecting the environment is absolutely necessary for Canadians to maintain an enjoyable standard of living — which is obviously what prairie dog wants too, right? A little sacrifice today for a better tomorrow — investment of one per cent GDP to fight climate change, and a little more care in approving massive fossil fuel projects. No big deal, in fact, it’s arguably the small-C conservative position.

As it is, ignoring the environmental costs of our actions is like living off credit cards. The interest is a killer and when you eventually hit your spending limit you’re screwed. But ironically, that’s the approach of our government. Canada’s Conservatives consistently sacrifice future stability for short-term economic gain. They’re only fiscal conservatives when they’re cutting money to the arts, or the CBC, or the sciences. They’re always ready to break out the platinum card to build more jails or buy more warplanes. And they’re always ready to borrow from the future by cannibalizing environmental assets for profit.

I’m sorry and frustrated that Conservative supporters in Saskatchewan are so blind to all of this.

Nitrogen Nightmare

In August I interviewed University of Regina researcher Peter Leavitt (pictured) about a federal study that showed that lakes downstream of Wascana Creek were heavily polluted with nitrogen. With new federal guidelines set to come into effect, Regina is looking at spending $850 million* to build a new sewage treatment plant to reduce the amout of nitrogen and other pollutants we release in our waste water.

On Friday, an article co-authored by Leavitt and other researchers from the University of Alberta and University of Washington was published in Science magazine (here’s a link to a free abstract of the article).

It’s got a fair bit of technical jargon, but from information gleaned from a three-page press release that the University of Regina released yesterday, it seems that researchers tested deposits at the bottom of 36 lakes in the northern hemisphere. What they found was a significant increase in nitrogen levels. This wasn’t confined to lakes near sites of human habitation, either. Rather, it included remote bodies of water in the far north.

Continue reading “Nitrogen Nightmare”

Four In The Afternoon:Guns For The Holidays

4 in the Afternoon1 WEAPONS FOR THE HOLIDAYS Not to kick things off all doom and gloom, but fifty guns (and ammunition) were stolen from Wholesale Sports last night. Apparently only one or two gun heists of this magnitude happen in Canada every year, and where better than the country’s former crime capital. Sigh.

2 PASSING ON THE LEGACY In question period today Justin Trudeau was allegedly heard calling Environment Peter Kent a “piece of sh–!” after he discredited the critiques of an NDP MP because she hadn’t attended the climate conference in Durban. Well that is because opposition MPs weren’t invited to attend, Peter. This echoes Pierre Trudeau’s infamous 1971 ‘fuddle duddle’ in the House of Commons. Good on ya’.

3 ASTEROID NEAR TORONTO Remember all those times when we (half-heartedly) wished that Toronto would just be wiped off the face of the Earth? WELL, that almost happened (kind of). A blazing meteor fell east of Toronto on Monday night.

4 YEAR OF THE PROTESTER In somewhat of a surprise, Time magazine announced that their “Person of the Year” award had been given to “The Protester”, citing a year of change driven by protests in the Middle East, Europe and North America.

BONUS: BECAUSE WE ALL LOVE CARTOONS Click here to check out Washington Post’s picks for best editorial cartoons of 2011.

Four In The Afternoon: Climate, Borders and…Espionage?

4 in the Afternoon1 BEYOND THE BORDER Today Harper and Obama announced plans for a new cross border security and trade agreement. While the agreement seeks to facilitate the exchange of goods and people across the border, it also involves exchanging information on travelers. No clear indication what this might entail, but it certainly has a giant privacy-breaching loophole kind of feel to it.

2 DISAPPOINTMENT IN DURBAN Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent continues to side-step any conclusive statement regarding rumours of a Canadian withdrawal from the Kyoto Accord in Durban. Not much interpretation needed as Kent argued today that Kyoto was “in the past” for Canada.

3 TECHNOLOGY DID IT! Recent investigations into the summer riots in England and the social media blame-game that ensued indicates that there is a tendency for authorities to blame technology for rioting and demonstrations, potentially distracting from the real sources of civil unrest.

4 INTERNATIONAL HEADLINES Mexican authorities claim to have stopped a plot of international dimensions to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi, the son of ex-Libyan leader, into Mexico. A Canadian woman named Cynthia Vanier has been cited as a key player, in contact with the Gaddafi family and orchestrating the finances of the operation.

Climate Deniers Repeat E-mail Sleaze

Oh Christ. This again?

There’s a new Climategate scandal a-brewing. Or at least, that’s what the right wing blog-o-sphere is telling me. My first reaction upon learning of it: It’s total bullshit. Did five minutes of reading and discovered: It’s total bullshit.

And I can’t believe I’m having to waste my time on this nonsense again.

A few quick points:

• These aren’t new e-mails. They’re more e-mails from the same batch that were stolen in 2009. This is the climate deniers’ Plan-B material.

• Nothing in them disputes, refutes or undermines the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming. That isn’t surprising because the globe is warming and people are causing it. End of story.

• Note how these e-mails are “coincidentally” coming out before the COP17 climate change conference in Dubai.

I summarized these points from a post by Brendan De Melle over at DeSmog Blog. It’s a good place to start reading. Even better reads are Richard Black at the BBC in which he points out that UK police have spent less than £6,000 ($9,000 US) investigating the illegal hacking of the East Anglia emails; and then there’s an excellent piece by Stephan Lewandowsky at the Guardian who argues that the attack on climate science is the real scandal here.

Continue reading “Climate Deniers Repeat E-mail Sleaze”

Pick of the Day (Tomorrow Edition): Ideas Fair & Public Forum

Regina is in the process of drafting an Official Community Plan that will guide development for the next 20 years or so. Due to fortunate economic circumstances tied to resource revenues and the growing prosperity of India, China and other countries on the cusp of transitioning from Developing to Developed status, a fair bit of growth is likely to occur here in the next while. So as far as timing goes, the push to draft an OCP is perfect.

To help promote public buy-in of whatever ends up getting proposed, the city has stated from the outset that it wants public input. That’s what this three-day event at Conexus Arts Centre is about. In one part, people who took the city up on its offer to a hold a citizens’ circle to come up with ideas about stuff we should think about in planning for our future will present their suggestions. There’s also workshops on different aspects of urban planning, and a forum where ideas are discussed and further refined.

This event comes on the heels of three public lectures that were held at the university a month or so ago on key principles of modern urban planning which seek to promote goals like sustainability, environmental protection, inclusivity and community engagement. All are laudable aims. But one thing that bugs me about this process so far is that everything’s been held in south Regina. The university and Conexus are both terrific venues. And it’s not like they’re impossible to get to. But if you don’t have a car, they’re not exactly the most convenient locations either — especially at night.

For more on this event, which runs Oct. 25-27, visit

Pick of the Day: Regina Fall Home Show

I don’t have the exact statistic at hand, but I remember reading in an urban planning magazine a few years ago that since the 1950s the size of the average house in North America has more than doubled. At the same time, the size of the average family has probably been halved.

Here’s some more numbers. At the National Infrastructure Summit last January, Regina was identified as having a density of around 1500 people per sq. km. Vancouver’s density, in contrast, is around 5000 people per sq. km. And the density of Paris, France is around 20,000 people per sq. km.

Pro-business groups like the Chamber of Commerce and Real Estate Association are always tossing around property tax comparisons and using them as a lever to lobby for tax freezes. Yes, the property tax model for funding municipal services is in need of drastic revision. But because of Regina’s low density, the number of people who use a given unit of infrastructure ie a road, sewer or water line, bus route, fire and police services, etc; is far lower than in other cities with greater densities. And that has a HUGE impact on city hall’s ability to deliver cost effective services.

Continue reading “Pick of the Day: Regina Fall Home Show”

Design Regina Speaker Series

Here’s a link to a city-produced video of the first in three talks being presented in the next few days on urban planning issues tied to the development of an Official Community Plan. It was held at the University of Regina Education Auditorium on Sept. 22, and featured architect Ken Greenberg discussing urban sustainability. On my computer, the audio seems wonky for the first 12 minutes or so. If that’s the same for you, you can fast-forward to the point where the audio starts.

The remaining two talks are on Sept. 28 (Jennifer Keesmaat on advantages of mid-sized cities) and Oct. 4 (Larry Beasley on the importance of vibrant neighbourhoods). The talks and related Q&As run from 7-9 p.m. For more info visit

Pick of the Day: The Last Mountain

Screening at the RPL Theatre tonight at 7 p.m. as a prelude to Right-to-Know Week, which runs Sept. 26-30 and is designed to promote awareness of privacy and access to information rights enjoyed by Canadians, The Last Mountain looks at the battle some environmentally conscious Americans are waging to force a huge coal company in the Appalachia region in West Virginia to stop destroying the beautiful mountains and valleys there. Here’s the trailer.

Pick of the Day (Tomorrow Edition): Vanishing of the Bees

While most Reginans probably enjoyed the hot summer we had, it did come with a bit of a price — wasps. Thousands of them. Chippy buggers, flying around stinging everyone.

Bees kind of look like wasps, and they can sting too. But they’re nowhere near as tempermental. Plus, they’re a hugely valuable resource in agriculture, doing a ton of work as pollinators so that we can enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables.

Another difference between bees and wasps is that the former are nowhere near as numerous as the latter. In fact, in the past two decades or so, bee populations have plummeted worldwide. Tomorrow night at the Royal Sask Museum at 7:30 p.m. the documentary Vanishing of the Bees is screening. It explores why bee colonies are collapsing, and what the ramifications are for humanity. Here’s the trailer.

Pick of the Day: Profs in the City

With students set to head back to class any day now, this summer-long lecture series featuring University of Regina Arts professors winds up today with a talk by Fidji Gendron & Sarah Vinge on Gardening With Native Plants.

Doing so would presumably allow us to cut back drastically on water consumption as many of the imported species that we’ve adopted over the years (like the green grass that adorns most yards in the city) aren’t indigenous to this area and must be supported with copious amounts of H2O.

Gendron and Vinge’s talk will be held at Neutral Ground Contemporary Arts Centre (201-1856 Scarth) from 12:15-12:45 p.m. And if you attend, be sure to check out the show by Lalie Douglas that’s on at the gallery throughout September (cover photo at left).

Oil Lobbyists Have Learned Ventriloquism And Are Using It On Natural Resources Canada

Okay, okay, it’s not very surprising, but it’s still pretty chilling: Natural Resources Canada is literally taking dictation on oil sands policy from – you guessed it! – the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

The Edmonton Sun reported on Tuesday that

In newly released emails and internal records, department officials said the strategy to “turn up the volume” and get “the right attitude” on oilsands advocacy was actually proposed by high-ranking officials from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers during a March 2010 meeting involving senior federal and Alberta government officials, as well CEOs from oil and gas companies.

In fairness, if the government wants to promote the oil sands, who better to go to than the people behind it? Surely the fine folks at the CAPP don’t have any vested interest in wanting to use the considerable media resources of the Canadian government to explicitly promote their business venture, nor do they have any motivation for wanting direct control of the messaging coming out from the Canadian government, except for wanting to make more money. Right?

The revelations also coincide with the recent release of an Environment Canada report, quietly posted online, that said the oilsands sector is projected to triple its carbon dioxide pollution over the next decade if companies do not improve their environmental performance. This would virtually cancel actions of other Canadian industries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Ha ha ha, oil & gas lobbyists. Don’t you ever change.

We Shan’t Be Chatting Much Today So I’ll Leave You With This

It’s prairie dog deadline day and that means PANIC! And no Whitworth blogging (crowd cheers). But here’s something to read before — a story from last week that somehow escaped mention on the blog. It’s important, because it shows how the plants are scheming against us. They’re also scheming against tits*. From the BBC:

A plant has killed and “eaten” a great tit at a garden nursery in Somerset. Nurseryman Nigel Hewitt-Cooper, from West Pennard, was inspecting his tropical garden when he discovered one of his pitcher plants had trapped the bird. He said he was “absolutely staggered” to find it had caught the creature. It is believed to be only the second time such a carnivorous plant has been documented eating a bird anywhere in the world.

*Tee hee hee hee hee!

And, uh, more importantly and totally unrelated, here’s a frightening story you should read in The Guardian to be informed about critical problems with fish stock management. Long excerpt:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a year, after which no one will ever eat fish again. Almost everywhere fish stocks are collapsing through catastrophic mismanagement. But no one in the rich world has managed them as badly as the European Union.

So when the EU tells Iceland and the Faroes that they should engage in”responsible, modern fisheries management”, it’s like being lectured by Attila the Hun on human rights. They could be forgiven for telling us to sod off until we’ve cleaned up our own mess. Unfortunately, this is just what they’ve done, with catastrophic results.

A feeding frenzy is taking place in their territorial waters, as they rip into the North Atlantic’s last great stock: mackerel. As the seas have warmed, the fish have moved north. When they arrived in Icelandic and Faroese waters, those nations argued that their mackerel fishing agreement with Norway and the EU should be changed to allow them to catch more. Norway and the EU refused, so Iceland and the Faroes tore the agreement up and each awarded themselves a unilateral quota of 150,000 tonnes. As a result, the north-east Atlantic mackerel catch has risen almost 50%, and is now well beyond the replacement rate. If the mackerel go, so do the many links of the food chain which depend on them.

George Monbiot’s article is scary but we gotta keep up with this stuff. Especially since we live in a country where our government does bad stuff like fire 700 Environment Canada workers. Politicians are nightmarishly bad at listening to scientists, they seem to deliberately deprive themselves of access to information and that’s gotta change. (Actually, it doesn’t gotta do nuttin’ but there will be awful consequences.)

And now I must dive into copy like it’s a freshly-raked pile of leaves. I have headlines to write and typos to add!

Speak No Evil

Here’s a link to a July 28 article in the Toronto Star about an artist named Franke James (pictured) who allegedly had funds pulled for a European exhibition of her work by the Canadian government because of past criticism she’s levied against the Harper Conservatives and other political parties for their lack of action on the environmental portfolio.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Who was the idiot who approved an art show by that woman, Franke James?” a senior Canadian official was quoted as saying by Antonovic’s contacts in the Zagreb embassy. “Don’t you know this lady speaks against the Canadian government?”

Pick of the Day: Cinema Politica

Cinema Politica is a national organization that seeks to elevate the level of political engagement in our world through the presentation of thought-provoking documentaries. Tonight, Addicted to Plastic is screening at the University of Regina (Rm. 112 of the Classroom Building) at 7 p.m.

Directed by Ian Conacher, this 2008 film was shot in 12 countries on five continents, and examines the mixed legacy of plastic. Once regarded as a shining example of human technical ingenuity (a sentiment satirized in the 1967 movie The Graduate), plastic, because of its durability and petro-based origins, has turned out to have enormous enviromental consequences.

To give you a taste of what the film’s about, here’s the trailer.

Six In The Morning

1 THE GREATEST SELF-PORTRAITS EVER TAKEN Photographer David Slater left his camera unattended while on a shoot in Indonesia, only to discover that a crested black macaque had picked up his camera and started unwittingly taking photographs with it.

I’d post a picture of the macaque mugging for the camera, but as it turns out, our editor has “standards” and doesn’t like me putting up photos that are “copyrighted” by “a gigantic news agency”. But please, click for hilarity.

2 GORDON TOOTOOSIS DIED As reported earlier on the blog, actor Gordon Tootoosis is dead at 69. He was recently hospitalized with pneumonia.

3 MEANWHILE, WILLIAM AND KATE ARE STILL HERE Won’t they go? No, not until they’ve sampled all the fruits that our bountiful nation has to offer.

4 THIS THING Even if you’ve been actively ignoring the story of Casey Anthony, you might as well know that she has been found not guilty of murdering her two year-old daughter, even though she lied about the girl’s whereabouts for over a month to her friends and family. CBC has a pretty good summary of the whole messy affair, if you feel like delving into the lives of some pretty awful people.

5 ANOTHER REASON TO ENJOY OUR BEAUTIFUL URBAN LAKE If you were jogging or strolling around Wascana Park yesterday morning, perhaps you saw the police pull the body of a man in his late 70s from the lake? With any luck you avoided that sight.

6 REGINA INCREASING ITS MOSQUITO BUDGET Good, because there’s a freaking ton of them this year.

Six In The Morning: It’s Morning Somewhere Edition

DIANA THE REVENANT. Newsweek decided to spice up their cover by Photoshopping a digitally aged version of Diana Spencer next to Kate Middleton. Tina Brown defended the decision by explaining, “I am a ghoul from the planet Zoig who still has yet to learn your ways, O Earth We wanted to bring the memory of Diana alive in a vivid image that transcends time and reflects my piece.” Somehow they made her look more like a mummy than a woman in her fifties. My advice: put a cool damp cloth next to your bedside tonight. You’ll need it when the nightmares jolt you awake.

cover of newsweek with kate middleton and a photoshopped diana spencer

THE MENSTRUATING RACISTS. A recent study indicates that women’s racial biases may be influenced by their menstrual cycle. I have nothing witty to say about this, but the study confirms my belief that WOMEN ARE RACISTS.

CANADA POST EMPLOYEES ARE MAKING THEIR ROUNDS. Did you see them? I went for a walk this morning and personally witnessed two (2) mail deliverers. I said hello to both of them and may have even said “Yay, mail delivery!” I’m thinking of putting a cupcake in my mailbox for the postal guy. And maybe a small note to alert him to the presence of baked goods. Of course, the employees’ union is contesting the back-to-work legislation, but we’ll still be getting mail in the meantime. So be nice to your postal people. By the way, Tangerine is celebrating its first (1st) birthday (brthdy) today! Go on down and get a free cupcake.

GOOGLE GIVES GOODS ON GOVERNMENT. Google’s semi-annual transparency report has been released. The report charts data queries and takedown requests from governments around the world. Between July and December of 2010, Google received 38 queries for user data from the government of Canada and seven takedown requests of “defamatory” material. There’s not much data on the individual requests, but you can visit their site for a bit of detail and analysis.

VAMPIRE WEEKEND WAS RIGHT. Even the Oxford Writing and Style Guide has given up on the Oxford comma. It’s over, folks. Send your grammarians home and crack open the good liquor. They’ve plagued us long enough.

WE’VE GOT A JAMBOREE COMING, SO LET’S GET THIS PLACE CLEANED UP. Saskatchewan’s government, that collection of used car salesmen and backwoods evangelists, has put up $1.5 million in flood relief to help ensure that the Craven Country Jamboree can go as planned this summer. People have expressed their disappointment over the appearance that the government seems more willing to prop up a tourist attraction than help out homeowners and local businesses, but Brad Wall appeared to them in their dreams and explained that they weren’t Sugarland.

Six In The Morning: Six With A Bullet Edition

1. THE PROBLEM WITH GPS NAVIGATORS. A Canadian woman has been found in the Nevada mountains after surviving for seven weeks on snow, candy and trail mix. The couple ended up getting stranded after following their GPS navigator’s instructions for the shortest route to the town of Jackpot. Her husband has not yet been found.

2. SASKATCHEWAN GETS TOUCHY-FEELY WITH FLOOD VICTIMS. If you’re bummed out, depressed, stressed or existentially numbed by Saskatchewan’s Unexpected Moisture Surplus this year, the Ministry of Health is there for you. Emergency health management consultant Merv Tippe has been travelling to affected communities to provide “critical incident stress management” information. So far this has not involved identifying the most stressed-out people and forcing them to fight in gladiator matches for the entertainment of the community. But I’m pretty patient when it comes to these things.

3. MANITOBA GETS ALL THE BEST FLOOD VISITORS. Undoubtedly, a visit from Merv Tippe benefits a stressed-out Saskatchewan flood victim. But if you’re a damp Manitoban, you may just get a visit from Stephen Harper. Harper is visiting Manitoba to tour an area scheduled for controlled flooding, but who knows? Maybe he’ll take the time to visit with victims and comfort the afflicted. Imagine the joy that a visit from Harper will bring to a young child’s life! As long as he doesn’t have to, you know, touch anyone.

4. RENT INCREASE NOTICES AREN’T BUDGING. The Saskatchewan government has put the kibosh on increasing advance notice of rent increases from the current six months to a year. This seems like a reasonable decision to me. Of course, there’s still no recourse for tenants when their rents skyrocket by 60 per cent.

5. THIS IS HOW THEY FIND YOU NOW. Metropolitan London police have bought a piece of security software called Geotime, which is capable of tracking suspects’ moves through all the digital chaff they leave behind: cell towers, satellites, cameras, social networking. We already know that your snazzy new iPhone keeps track of your movements – it’s not surprising that police forces are starting to follow the trail of our clown-shoe sized footprints in the digital sawdust.

6. A CAUTIONARY TALE OF DEVELOPMENT. Prairie Dog contributor Emmet Matheson shared this here story of favela dwellers being kicked off their land in preparation for the Olympics and World Cup in Rio di Janeiro. A quick and excellent read.