Posts from our progressive community

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 09:38
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- The Star criticizes the Harper Cons' selective interest in international cooperation - with war and oil interests apparently ranking as the only areas where the Cons can be bothered to work with other countries. And Catherine Porter reports that the Cons have demonstrated their actual attitude toward global cooperation and development by making huge cuts to foreign aid.

- Geoff Dembicki interviews Corinne Lepage about France's rightful resistance to oil lobbyists. But while it's well and good for individual countries to register their willingness to stand up to the fossil fuel industry, that doesn't much help when multilateral agreements limit a country's authority to act on its values. And on that front, Brent Patterson laments the impact of CETA on oil and gas regulation, while Murray Dobbin writes that the CETA looks like a prime example of a step taken solely for the benefit of the oil industry and other corporate interests:
While there has been attention paid to some key provisions of CETA -- such as its investor state rules, its impact on Canadian drug pricing and its curbs on governments' ability to buy local -- there has been almost nothing in the media about CETA's chapter on domestic regulation. But a new Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report on CETA suggests there should be, because the articles of that chapter seem designed to kill efforts to regulate the resource industry. In other words just as governments need to get deadly serious about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels they are tying their own hands through new restrictions on their right to regulate.

CETA's domestic regulation chapter would be more aptly called "Gifts for the Oil and Gas Industry." These CETA provisions are so biased in favour of corporations it is easy to picture industry execs sitting at the elbows of CETA's negotiators, guiding their pens as they draft the agreement. Short of an international treaty banning all government regulations outright, CETA gives the oil and gas industry virtually everything it has been asking for, for decades. Of course these anti-regulation gifts are also available to other sectors, including the mining industry, but given the special place in Harper's universe reserved for Alberta's oil patch it's not hard to see where the impetus came from.
...
CETA places an absolute value on the ease with which corporations can get approval of their projects. It demands that parties ensure "that licensing and qualification procedures are as simple as possible and do not unduly complicate or delay the supply of a service or the pursuit of any other economic activity." (Art. 2, Sec. 7) Requiring that oil and gas companies do environmental assessments, archaeological studies or get approvals from different levels of government is clearly a process that could be made simpler by doing away with these requirements altogether. Obligations to consult with the public and First Nations certainly complicate the regulatory process and cause delays.

Whether or not governments have simplified their licensing processes to the absolute maximum extent possible and are not causing "undue" delays or complications would be up to a panel of trade lawyers to decide in the event of a dispute. They could look at examples from the most deregulated jurisdictions to determine what is "as simple as possible." China, for example, allows corporations to ignore requirements for environmental impact assessments (EIA) and just pay a small fine after the fact.- Katherine Scott writes about the challenge of identifying and measuring poverty, but rightly concludes that we should be seeking to eradicate it in any form. And Carol Goar discusses how the Cons' war on science has resulted in the destruction of extremely important work on the spread of poverty in Canada.

- Meanwhile, Mike De Souza highlights the Environment Commissioner's findings about the Cons' gutting of federal environmental review processes. 

- Finally, Gerald Caplan observes that the Cons' hype of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights is in stark contrast to their contempt for the real thing.

China's Mounting Cancer Crisis

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 08:59

Their proper name is PM2.5 and they embed themselves deep into lung tissue. They're a real bugger.  And, once again, small particulate pollution in northern China has hit 20-times the World Health Organization maximum healthy threshhold.

The WHO says particulate levels should not exceed 25 micrograms per cubic metre of air.  Beijing is currently at 300 with neighbouring areas hitting upwards of 500.

From Wiki:

The IARC and WHO designate airborne particulates a Group 1 carcinogen. Particulates are the deadliest form of air pollutiondue to their ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and blood streams unfiltered, causing permanent DNA mutationsheart attacks, and premature death.[4] In 2013, a study involving 312,944 people in nine European countries revealed that there was no safe level of particulates and that for every increase of 10 μg/m3 in PM10, the lung cancer rate rose 22%. The smaller PM2.5 were particularly deadly, with a 36% increase in lung cancer per 10 μg/m3 as it can penetrate deeper into the lungs.

Some bright light thought this would be an ideal time to host a cycling race, the Tour of Beijing.  Yeah, right.

In preparation for next months' APEC leaders summit, Beijing is planning to sharply restrict vehicle use and to get neighbouring areas to shut down polluting facilities.

...most locals were not wearing protection Friday, and several people said they believed Beijing was being hit by natural haze, rather than pollution.

Even so, sitting in a Beijing park 82-year-old Liu Shuying said: "There are too many cars.  I don't wear a mask because I'm not afraid of death."

If you have an area in which tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of people are exposed, year after year, to massive levels of atmospheric carcinogens that are embedded in lung tissue you have a mass cancer problem on your hands.


Something To Be Thankful For This Weekend

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 08:28


The National Energy Board inspires little confidence in many of us, often appearing less an independent regulator of the energy industry and more an extension of the Harper regime's tarsands' agenda.

It is therefore both a surprise and a delight to read that they are actually showing a bit of backbone when it comes to Enbridge's Plan 9 line reversal to bring tarsands crude to the East for refining:
The National Energy Board has slammed the brakes on Enbridge Inc.’s plan to start shipping western oil to Montreal this fall through its reversed Line 9 pipeline, saying the company failed to install shut-off valves around some major waterways.

In a sharply worded letter to Enbridge this week, NEB secretary Sheri Young said the board is not convinced the company has met the safety conditions which the regulator set when it approved the plan to reverse the pipeline’s direction of flow last March, and that Enbridge cannot begin shipping crude until it addresses those concerns.
Infamous for the Michigan spill four years ago that saw 3.3 million litres of diluted bitumen go into the Kalamazoo River, a spill whose repercussions are still being felt, Enbridge has proven itself less than a sterling protector of the public good, and appears to have learned little from the disaster, as evidenced by the Line 9 concerns:
At issue is the company’s approach to safety when the pipeline crosses “major water crossings.” Once it designated a river or stream as a major water crossing, Enbridge was required to install valves on both banks so the flow of crude could be quickly shut off in the event of a pipeline break.

The regulator said Enbridge had failed to provide clear justification for why it designated some streams as major water crossings but not others. It must now go back to identify which waterways involve major crossings, based on whether a spill would pose significant risk to the public or the environment.And here is a sobering statistic:
Currently, only six of the 104 major water crossings it has identified have valves within a kilometre of the banks on both sides, the regulator noted.
Adam Scott, project manager with Toronto-based Environmental Defence, appears to have taken an accurate measure of the company's integrity:
“They clearly just figured they could get this thing rubber-stamped, and push through without actually improving the safety of the pipeline. So we’re happy to see the NEB has said no.”

Mr. Scott said it appears from the NEB letter that Enbridge will be required to reopen construction on the line to install valves at all the major water crossings that it identifies.
A small victory in the overall scheme of things, perhaps, but one sufficiently sweet to savor.Recommend this Post

Gazette Calls Out Harper on Climate Change

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 10/11/2014 - 08:19
It's one of the grand old English-language papers in Canada, the Montreal Gazette, and its editorial board has had enough of waiting for the Harper regime to act on the threats Canada faces from climate change.

Many of the arguments the government employed in favour of sending war planes to northern Iraq also apply to the necessity of acting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: climate change is a growing threat to global peace and security; only through international cooperation will the emergency be brought under control; Canada would be an freeloader if it failed to do its part in the global effort.
But since taking office, the Harper government has ignored these compelling reasons for fighting climate change. Time and again, it has buried its head in the sand.
This lack of action was underscored again this week when Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development issued a report documenting the federal government’s lamentable record. Among the findings are that the government did in fact draft regulations for emissions in the oil and gas sector that were initially promised in 2006, but has never made them public or to implemented them. While Environment Canada has taken steps to monitor the impact of oilsands exploitation on air, water and biodiversity, plans for continuing this crucial work after 2015 are unclear. Rules for conducting environmental assessments are applied haphazardly. The ground rules for public input in environmental-assessment processes are onerous and viewed as a barrier by many participants.
An audit of Environment Canada found regulations to cut emissions have been delayed, best practices have not been followed, the department is not evaluating the effectiveness of regulations in place, there is a lack of coordination with the provinces and there is no plan for meeting reduction targets. As a result, Canada will miss its emissions reductions targets for 2020, agreed to at Copenhagen in 2009.
Add to this the Conservative government’s track record of villainizing environmental activists, cutting departments and agencies that safeguard Canada’s natural resources and curtailing the right of federal scientists to speak to journalists — the latter transgression decried in a separate study this week by Simon Fraser University and Evidence for Democracy.
It is noteworthy that the federal environment commissioner is not an environmental group or think tank ideologically opposed to the Conservatives and their drive to exploit Canada’s oil riches. Julie Gelfand is a federally appointed watchdog who has a background in the mining industry, conservation and government. This is criticism from an insider — a knowledgeable one.
...The Harper government has shown it views environmental regulation as a threat to its ambitions to transform Canada into a global energy superpower. 
...Harper spoke in the House of Commons this week about Canada losing credibility on the international stage if it failed to contribute to the mission against IS. If only he would apply his own logic to the fight against climate change, Canada and Canadians would be much better off.



Pages

Subscribe to canadianprogressives.ca aggregator - Posts from our progressive community