Edmonton Journal - April 4th

Alberta’s environment minister said Thursday the province is in the preliminary stages of reviewing its climate change policy.

“We are currently in the early stages of exploring a variety of options through a collaborative process with industry, the federal government and our department experts,” Environment and Sustainable Resource Minister Diana McQueen said in a written statement. “These discussions are ongoing and revised targets have not yet been finalized.”

McQueen’s statement comes after the Globe and Mail reported Thursday that she is talking to federal officials and oil executives about a proposal to hike carbon levies and require big oil producers to slash their greenhouse gas emissions. ... Click here to read more.

CBC News - April 4th

A renowned Alberta water scientist is urging the federal government to take action after he discovered deformities in fish in the Athabasca River downriver from oil sands developments bear a striking resemblance to ones found in fish after spills in U.S. waters.

University of Alberta ecologist Dr. David Schindler said the only way to know for sure which petrochemicals — and in what concentrations — cause the deformities is to conduct whole ecosystem experiments at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in Northern Ontario.

"I propose that the ELA site and laboratory should be kept open to conduct these important experiments, which have implications for future effects of oil extraction and transport in or near both marine and freshwater ecosystems," Schindler wrote in a letter to Environment Minister Peter Kent and Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield.... Click here to read

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Prairie Post - April 3rd

Ron McMullin, executive director of the Alberta Irrigation Projects Association (AIPA), shared what is happening in the irrigation industry with people attending the annual general meeting of the South East Alberta Watershed Alliance, March 19.

The industry has set up a plan to help improve efficiency and conserve water. It has various targets set out including increasing efficiency by 15 per cent; that 70 per cent of irrigated lands will be under best management practices; diversions will be kept below 2005 references; and a 15 per cent increase in productivity.

So far the industry is doing well to meet its targets. McMullin said a clear decline can be seen in diversion rates and water has been made available for use by others through amending and transferring licenses. Efficiency has increased by 22 per cent, more than the 15 per cent target, and productivity

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Edmonton Journal - April 3rd

The province has ordered Suncor to fix a problem with its industrial waste-water treatment system.

The enforcement order requires the company to stop discharging water from a waste-water pond into the Athabasca River until it is able to identify the source of “soluble toxicity.”

The order is not related to an incident Monday that saw diluted “process-affected” water flow into the Athabasca River. ... Click here to read more.

Calgary Herald - April 2nd

A well-known forest scientist is concerned about a plan to allow logging near Star Creek — home to the threatened cutthroat trout — in the headwaters of the Crowsnest River valley, also prime grizzly bear habitat.

David McIntyre, who has worked for the Smithsonian Institution and now lives in southern Alberta, said the province appears to be targeting the area for commercial logging.

“This is Crown of the Continent landscape, home to pure-strain westslope cutthroat trout,” he said. “Additionally, a component of this headwaters landscape has been set aside as part of the grizzly bear recovery program. ... Click here to read more.

Edmonton Journal - March 27th

Diluted water that leaked from Suncor’s oilsands facility into Alberta’s Athabasca River had a “short-term, negligible impact” on river water, the company says.

In a statement released Wednesday evening, officials said a broken pipe at the Fort McMurray facility leaked for 10 hours and released roughly 350 cubic metres of waste water into the river.

Tests show the water contained “suspended solids” such as clays and fine particulates, the company said. It did not contain bitumen. ... Click here to read more.

Calgary Herald - March 27th

Eleven groups have banded together to send a letter to the Alberta government about their concerns over a waste-water spill at a Suncor oilsands plant.

The groups — representing the environment, First Nations and landowner associations — are demanding more information about the leak.

Suncor has said it doesn’t know exactly what’s in the waste water or how much of it spilled at its base plant north of Fort McMurray. ... Click here to read more.

Edmonton Journal - March 26th

Suncor and Alberta’s Environment Department have confirmed they have stemmed the flow of contaminated water used in the extraction of bitumen from oilsands after a frozen line burst near Fort McMurray.

The volume of so-called process-affected water spilled early Monday and its toxicity have yet to be determined.

“At our oilsands base plant, a line froze and broke, allowing process-affected water to flow to a partially frozen outfall pond,” Suncor said in a news release dated Tuesday. “The flow has been stopped and although we don’t know if this process water was released in the (Athabasca) River, we are analyzing samples of the pond and the river as part of the investigation. All authorities, as well as our downstream stakeholders have been notified." ... Click here to read more.

CBC News - March 26th

A Calgary man has been stymied in his attempt to go green by recycling his home's grey water.

Rob Avis, who is a mechanical engineer, modified the plumbing in his house so that water from the bathtub, washing machine and hand basins is sent through a filter containing wood mulch and out into the garden.

“And then we distribute it to the landscape, where any remaining nutrient in the water is dealt with by the biology in the soil,” Avis said.

But after the system was operating for a few years, city officials got word and made Avis shut it down, he said. ... Click here to read more.

Daily Herald Tribune - March 20th

A developer responsible for operating a waterworks system that pumps groundwater to 27 occupied lots in the County of Grande Prairie has been ordered to meet the Code of Practice requirements by Alberta Environment Sustainable Resource Development.

The Alberta government issued the enforcement order to Citizens Power & Gas Ltd. and Lloyd Blimke, who is the operator of the waterworks system that’s set up at Spruce Villa Estates subdivision, northeast of Sexsmith.

After an on-going investigation the government found the company was operating a waterworks system that was not registered and did not comply with several sections of the Code of Practice for Waterworks Systems Using High Quality Groundwater. The company failed to comply with more than 20 sections of the code. ... Click here to read more.

Okotoks Western Wheel - March 20th

Foothills residents like what they see in a plan to establish a shared water system between four municipalities.

An open house outlining the potential of a Quad Regional Water Partnership (QRWP) between Black Diamond, Turner Valley, the MD of Foothills and, in the future, Longview to share water resources was held at the Black Diamond Municipal Building on March 12.

Approximately 12 residents showed up to the event and were receptive to a regional system between the four communities.

“I think we’ve got to go together with the other communities,” said Black Diamond resident Don Thomson. “The more people you have in a project the more we can share infrastructure costs.” ... Click here to read more.

Fort McMurray Today - March 19th

The provincial government is looking for feedback from residents on how to manage the province’s water resources moving forward.

Hosting community conversations in 20 cities across Alberta, the “water talk” touched down in Fort McMurray Thursday evening at the Sawridge Inn.

“The reason we’re here today is to talk to the general public about water issues, trying to get their feedback not only on some of the priorities that this government has identified to deal with water issues, but some potential areas of action this government may want to consider,” said Andy Ridge, director of water policy with the department of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. “And the reason we want to engage with citizens is these are things that will have an impact on how we think about water, some of the decisions in the future around water that could impact

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CTV News Winnipeg - March 19th

Canadians are largely unaware of the strain placed on municipal water infrastructures across the country and reluctant to pitch in to ease the burden, a poll released Thursday suggests.

An annual survey of Canadian water attitudes, commissioned by the Royal Bank of Canada, found the majority of respondents believe the cities they call home are well able to withstand the demands placed on urban drinking and storm water systems.

But the poll said the view held by 78 per cent of those surveyed is divorced from the reality faced by the majority of Canadian cities.

According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the total price tag to bring Canada's water infrastructures up to scratch hovers around $80 billion. ... Click here to read more.

Bonnyville Nouvelle - March 19th

Members of the Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) were in Cold Lake last Wednesday to present information to the community on the potential expansion to the city’s regional water treatment and supply system.

The presentation, which took place at the Lakeland Inn, saw several scientists discuss and give their thoughts and ideas to a crowd of 100 people regarding the possibility of Cold Lake supplying water to both a growing population in the city limits, and its surrounding communities. The information was split into four categories: water levels and flow, water quality, fisheries and public concerns.

The long-standing water issue between Cold Lake and Bonnyville was addressed by Dr. Ernst Kerkhoven, senior hydrologist with Northern ESRD, as he came to the conclusion Bonnyville’s water supply was not sustainable and that the

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After a week off the water conversation public sessions continued last week. Likewise the summaries that AESRD has been posting have also continued. Click on the locations below to read what was heard.

Calgary Herald - March 13th

Alberta Environment approved new guidelines for constructing large artificial lakes in the northeast to store toxic tailings and close off old oilsands mine sites, though the technology remains “contentious.”

The department’s endorsement of so-far unproven technology was welcomed by Syncrude, the first oilsands operator trying out the technology to transform a 20-year-old tailings pond into a clean lake.

About 30 artificial lakes are planned as an alternative to reforesting some of thousands of hectares of boreal forest dug up to get at the oilsands — as well as to store tailings or waste from the open-pit mines. Called “end pit lakes,” they are constructed in the last pit of a mine. ... Click here to read more.

Calgary Herald - March 13th

Alberta should pursue the development of hydro electricity — possibly through private- public partnerships — to reduce its carbon footprint, says an all-party committee of the legislature in a report released Monday.

The 34-page report of the standing committee on resource stewardship says Alberta should consider the development of dams and run-of-river hydro projects to meet a projected demand for nearly 12,000 megawatts of new generation over the next two decades.

“Is it feasible? Yes, it’s feasible,” said committee chairwoman Donna Kennedy-Glans, MLA for Calgary-Varsity. “But what is the best way forward?” ... Click here to read more.

Calgary Herald - March 7th

At a time when all eyes are on Alberta’s green record, the province has sliced its spending for environment and sustainable resource development by four per cent in Thursday’s budget.

The cutback to the Environment Department’s funding is $22 million, reducing the overall spending to $516 million in 2013-14.

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As examples, he said the Redford government is allocating $2.2 million to Asian market access for forest products and saving $2 million by creating an Integrated Resource Management Planning Division, which will develop the land-use framework plans. Click here to read the full article.

St. Albert Gazette - March 6th

The public will have an opportunity to provide input at a meeting next week regarding an initiative involving as many as four municipalities planning to share water services.

The public is invited to attend an open house in Black Diamond on March 12 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to learn details of the Quad Regional Water Partnership that could have Black Diamond, Turner Valley, the MD of Foothills and, further in the future, Longview sharing water resources by 2015. The first open house was held in Turner Valley last fall.

“We want to get the information out there so we can move along through this project,” said Turner Valley Mayor Kelly Tuck. “It’s important that they understand the direction these four communities are looking at going.”

Although the partnership is in its infancy stages and not yet approved, Tuck said it’s important the public be involved with the

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Calgary Herald - March 5th

The federal government has given warning letters to several oil, gas and pipeline companies across the country instead of trying to prosecute them for alleged transgressions that include polluting air and water, inadequate emergency planning and sloppy record-keeping.

Environment Canada sent the written warnings, released to Postmedia News under access to information legislation, to a range of companies in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec.

The warnings include letters to oilsands producer Devon Canada, and to Gibson Energy - a midstream company that manages pipelines and other related infrastructure - alleging that two separate oil spills at their respective facilities in 2010 were in violation of the federal Fisheries Act. ... Click here to read more.

The water conversation public sessions continued last week. Likewise the summaries that AESRD has been posting have also continued. Click on the locations below to read what was heard.

 

Bonnyville Nouvelle - March 5th

The Government of Alberta held one of its 20 province-wide “water conversations” in La Corey last week, as part of the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Diana McQueen’s plan to find out the public opinion regarding water issues in Alberta.

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Of the issues brought up throughout the night, perhaps the most prominent was the public’s opinion regarding oil companies’ use of fresh water in the area. One individual suggested the companies could move towards using brackish water so as to keep water levels in Cold Lake at a reasonable level.

Leo Himmelsbach, a local engineer, stated that the government needs to do something to avoid a shortage of water in the future. ... Click here to read more.

Calgary Herald - March 4th

The company responsible for a massive pipeline spill in northwestern Alberta two years ago has spent $70 million to clean up its mess.

And under new provincial legislation Plains Midstream Canada and other pipeline operators could face fines of up to $500,000 a day for future environmental disasters.

Alberta’s energy regulator issued a scathing report this week into the 4.5-million-litre spill that said Plains appeared to place a higher priority on keeping the pipeline running than on any concerns about a leak.

But investigators with the Energy Resources Conservation Board decided not to refer the case for prosecution and potential imposition of a fine of up to $10,000 after finding the spill northeast of Peace River was much larger than it should have been. ... Click here to read more.

CBC News - March 4th

Alberta's Energy Resource Conservation Board is issuing a high-risk enforcement action against Calgary-based Plains Midstream over a 2011 pipeline leak northeast of Peace River, Alta.

The 28,000 barrel spill — which leaked from the Rainbow pipeline in northern Sunrise County — was the largest in Alberta in more than three decades.

The ERCB says the company had inadequate leak detection and failed to test its emergency response plan.

While there is no fine associated with the action, Plains Midstream has been told to hire a third party to audit its ability to manage communications during a crisis. ... Click here to read more.

The Guardian - March 4th

Public concern in environmental issues including global warming, the loss of species and air pollution has dropped to its lowest level in two decades, according to an international poll released this week.

The GlobeScan poll, undertaken last summer before superstorm Sandy hit the Caribbean and New York, showed levels of public concern in 12 countries over environmental problems – which also also included fresh water shortages and depletion of natural resources – were even lower than 1992, when the first Earth summit was held in Rio.

The decline has come in a period when the signs of environmental degradation have become clearer and the science stronger, from species going extinct faster than new ones can evolve to dramatic climate change impacts such as the shrinking of Arctic sea ice in 2012 by 18% against the previous record.  ... Click here to read more.