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27 March 2015


Microbeads Should Be Banned: NDP 27 March 2015

The NDP successfully passed a motion in the House of Commons Tuesday, March 24th that could lead to the banning of microbeads from personal products in Canada. Opposition MP and environment critic Megan Leslie's motion, which called for microbeads to be added to the list of toxic substances, received all party support.

Microbeads circle down the drain and are too small to be filtered out by wastewater treatment plants, so they flow right into our lakes and streams. Researchers have found 17,000 bits of these tiny plastic beads per square kilometer in the Great Lakes. The fish eat them. Then people and other wildlife eat the fish.

Microbeads are too small to be filtered out by many municipal wastewater treatment plants, and can wash directly into our fresh water systems, rivers, lakes and oceans. Many treatment plants divert wastewater directly into local rivers during heavy rain, which puts micro-beads directly into the environment.

“The growing problem of microbeads accumulating in our lakes, rivers and oceans must be solved,” Meredith Brown, environmental engineer and head of Ottawa Riverkeeper, said in a news release. Meanwhile the Ontario government has tabled regulations to ban microbeads in Ontario.

“These tiny plastic particles are showing up in the guts of aquatic animals and in our beer.”

View Environmental Defence Microbeads information page
View March 24, 2015 The Globe and Mail article
View March 24, 2015 Toronto Sun article
View March 24, 2015 Global News article
View March 9, 2015 Environmental Defence article

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New Peat Licence Issued Despite Moratorium 27 March 2015

The Manitoba government issued an Environment Act Licence this week to Sunterra Horticulture Inc. to expand its peat mine operations near Lake Winnipeg, based on a proposal that has been waiting for a decision since 2011.

Manitoba’s vast peatlands are considered the province’s best natural defense against global warming, as they absorb a tremendous amount of climate-changing carbon. When peatlands are bulldozed, drained and harvested, they release the carbon being stored.

The Manitoba government’s own peatland mining report, commissioned and completed by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, showed there was no adequate strategy to mitigate the release of carbon from peat mining.

“There is only one way to keep Manitoba peat from accelerating climate change: leave the peat in the ground,” said Eric Reder, Manitoba Campaign Director for the Wilderness Committee.

The Manitoba NDP government implemented a moratorium on peat mining on new quarry leases in the province in 2011 under the Save Lake Winnipeg Act. Since then new legislation has put new limitations on peat mining. Many peat leases were cancelled. The new peat expansion at Sunterra is being permitted because it is situated on old quarry leases.

View March 25, 2015 Wilderness Committee media release
View March 25, 2015 Winnipeg Free Press article
View March 1, 2013 Winnipeg Free Press article
View February 23, 2013 Winnipeg Free Press article
View February 2, 2012 CBC News article

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Ontario To Protect Bees: Neonic Pesticide Ban 27 March 2015

After extensive public consultation, Ontario tabled on March 23rd, a regulation to permanently reduce 80 percent of the bee-harmful neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides used on corn and soy seed by 2017. This makes Ontario the first North American jurisdiction to permanently restrict usage of this pesticide (for neonic-coated corn and soy seed).

"These regulations will restrict the use of dangerous, bee-killing pesticides on corn and soybean crops," said John Bennett, National Program Director of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation (SCCF). “The new rules will cover millions of acres. It’s good news for the bees and other pollinators.”

“We know there is sound science and strong public support behind protecting pollinators with tough, timely action on neonics," Lisa Gue of the David Suzuki Foundation said. "But to see this level of participation and near-consensus in public comments is extraordinary."

Other groups, such as the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment have conducted polls and found a large majority of Canadians want restrictions on neonics. The proposed restrictions are slated to come into law on July 1 of this year, with a second round of consultation to take place in the spring.

The pesticide industry is opposing the restrictions.

View March 23, 2015 Sierra Club Canada media release
View March 23, 2015 Ecojustice press release
View March 23, 2015 Global News article
View March 23, 2015 Friends of the Earth media release
View March 6, 2015 Digital Journal article
View March 5, 2015 Northumberland View article

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Renewables Shift Within Reach 20 March 2015

Canada could shift entirely to renewable sources of electricity by 2035 and eliminate 80 per cent of its greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, says a group of Canadian academics that is aiming to spur government action on climate change.

To get there, they recommend a national carbon-pricing plan, and greater effort to move electricity produced from low-carbon sources such as hydro dams across provincial borders.

A major global climate treaty, in the works for years, is supposed to be finalized in December at a summit in Paris, but most countries have yet to announce what their national contributions to the pact will be. Earlier this month the European Union unveiled its contribution, vowing to cut greenhouse gas emissions at least 40 per cent by 2030, compared to 1990.

In a 56-page policy document scheduled for release on Wednesday, March 18, more than 70 scientists, engineers and economists say Canada is in a more favourable position than most countries for a switch to renewable power, including large-scale hydroelectric. The most significant barrier is not technical or economic, but a lack of political will, they said.

The report says 77 per cent of Canada’s electricity is already produced without burning fossil fuels, and it has many sources of renewable energy.

“This is within reach. We could be the world leader … that’s a very important message for Canadians to understand,” said Catherine Potvin, an ecologist and Canada Research Chair in climate change mitigation at McGill University, who led the writing of the document.

View Pembina Institute Canada's Renewable Energy Future page
View March 19, 2015 CBC News article
View March 17, 2015 The Globe and Mail article
View March 16, 2015 Leader-Post article
View March 26, 2013 DeSmog Canada article

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Experts See Need for Lake Winnipeg Improvements 20 March 2015

CEC experts presented evidence this week (March 16 – 19) at the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission (CEC) hearings to review the 40 year interim licence for regulation of water levels in Lake Winnipeg (LWR). The hearings are to investigate the request for a final licence for regulation of Lake Winnipeg by Manitoba Hydro.

The Minister for the Water Power Act, in Manitoba’s cabinet, will determine whether to issue the final licence. The recommendations of the CEC and the results of First Nation consultations are the primary sets of information the Minister uses for the decision. The final licence would be backdated to 1976, which means that a renewal of that licence would need to be in place for 2026.

Dr. Gordon Goldsborough of the University of Manitoba reviewed the status of Netley and Libau marshes at the mouth of the Red River, where it flows into the south basin of Lake Winnipeg. His analysis applies to the many coastal wetlands and marshes around the lake. Netley and Libau marshes are dramatically different than 100 years ago, and have experienced more significant changes since the 1970s. Dr. Goldsborough outlined what needs to happen in lake water levels for the coastal wetlands and marshes to regain their ecosystem functions and services.

Dr. George McMahon, a retired US Corp of Engineers reservoir expert, attended the hearings for a week, including to hear the Manitoba Hydro panel presentation. Dr. McMahon reviewed the hydrological and operations models, and planning standards for regulation of Lake Winnipeg water levels. His observations included the need for the whole hydro system to be operated, managed, and planned together. To this goal he recommends public operating rules for each generation station and reservoir. These operating rules would become a suite of operating rules by which the hydro system could be audited, reviewed, adjusted, or changed.

Dr. McMahon told the hearing that if the current wet cycle of ten or more years in Manitoba continues it would be very difficult to continue to operation LWR at 711-715 feet, as per the current licence.

View Manitoba Wildlands page content for LWR CEC Hearings
View CEC Transcript March 17, 2015 for Dr. Goldsborough and Dr. McMahon
View March 9, 2015 Dr. McMahon presentation
View February 2015 Dr. McMahon report
View January 30, 2015 Dr. Goldsborough report
View Dr. Goldsborough presentation
View more on Manitoba Wildlands Lake Winnipeg page

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More Oil Train Derailments Less Action 20 March 2015

Transport Canada needs to ensure it has enough safety inspectors to oversee the rail transportation of dangerous goods, a Canadian House of Commons committee recommended these steps among 10 recommended in a report from the House Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, which examined how dangerous material is moved by all modes of transport.

The recommendations come in the wake of the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in which 47 were killed, but also as small Canadian communities grapple with three train derailments in the last month. A recent incident occurred when 13 train cars derailed near the small community of Gregg in southern Manitoba, about 50 kilometres east of Brandon. Canadian National Rail (CN) reported that some refinery cracking stock was spilled but there was no threat to public safety. On Saturday, a second recent derailment near Gogoma, Ont., caused a rail-car fire and some oil spilled into a nearby river system.

Rail-safety officials said they would not be pursuing an investigation into a derailment that spilled 30,000 litres of a petroleum product on farmland near Carberry.

CN, which operated the train, gave no further details on what investigators have found so far since the 13 cars carrying a type of bitumen left the track the evening of March 11.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) described the accident as a "Class 5 occurrence," meaning there will be no further review for "possible safety analysis, statistical reporting, or archival purposes." A TSB spokesman gave no cause for the derailment.

View March 14, 2015 Winnipeg Free Press article
View March 12, 2015 Ottawa Citizen article
View March 9, 2015 Financial Post article
View March 7, 2015 CBC News article
View February 23, 2015 CBC News article

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Canada World Water Day 2015 20 March 2015

March 22 is World Water Day - a day to celebrate and protect water. In 2012, the Harper government gutted the Navigable Waters Protection Act and removed protections from 99 per cent of lakes and rivers in Canada. The government also specifically exempted pipelines projects from this act, leaving waterways vulnerable to pipeline spills.

There are thousands of Canadians who cannot safely drink the water out of the taps in their homes. In some extreme cases, they may not even have indoor plumbing. The worst part is that for many, help isn’t on the way.

Canada lacks a national water law and rigorous, enforceable water quality standards. Instead, it relies on an uneven patchwork of provincial water policies and regulations to protect drinking water. This means that from coast to coast to coast, our drinking water is not available or equally protected. While most major Canadian cities have relatively sophisticated water treatment facilities, many rural, low-income, or First Nations communities lack such infrastructure and rely on untreated or minimally treated water.

World Water Day is a day to make sure Canada does better.

View March 20, 2015 The Chronicle Journal article
View March 19, 2015 Ecojustice article
View March 19, 2015 Environmental Defence article
View March 16, 2015 Drayton Valley Western Review article
View March 14, 2015 The Council of Canadians article

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Lake Winnipeg Hearings Open in Winnipeg 13 March 2015

The Clean Environment Commission northern and rural tour for community consultations regarding regulation of Lake Winnipeg and the request for a final licence moved to Winnipeg March 9, 2015. The licence would be back dated under the Water Power Act, to 1976, and run for 50 years until a renewal is needed.

Three weeks of hearings are booked during March, with a return to the hearing in Winnipeg after Easter. During the January and February tour several sessions were held in First Nations communities.

Manitoba Hydro’s Panel presented its highlights from their formal filing during summer 2014. The utility’s position is that there are no impacts to the Lake from making Lake Winnipeg a reservoir for 40 years, and that all the impacts are downstream, north of Lake Winnipeg inside the hydro system.

All exhibits, reports, transcripts from the Lake Winnipeg Regulation hearing are posted on the CEC website.

View Manitoba Clean Environment Commission Hearings page
View more on Manitoba Wildlands Lake Winnipeg page

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Site C Dam is Damned 13 March 2015

Harry Swain, chair of the federal-provincial panel appointed to review Canada's largest current infrastructure project says the B.C. government was unwise to green-light the project without a review by the B.C. Utilities Commission and would have been better off to delay the decision.

The B.C. government was wrong to approve construction of the $8.8-billion Site C dam project without an independent examination of cost and need, says Swain. Some of the questions that still need to be answered, according to Swain, include the real cost and availability of alternatives, how B.C. should use its Columbia River rights, how British Columbians will react to increased electricity prices (which could decrease demand) and how the province’s liquefied natural gas industry will develop.

Site C would be a hydroelectric facility on the Peace River, seven kilometres south of Fort St. John. A newly created reservoir would be about 83 kilometres long and two-to-three times wider than the current river, flooding 5,550 hectares of land. Current estimates are it would take eight years and $8.5 billion to build the facility.

Farmers, ranchers and First Nations have all objected to Site C, which was rejected thirty years ago.

View March 12, 2015 The Common Sense Canadian article
View March 11, 2015 DeSmog Canada article
View March 10, 2015 The Globe and Mail article
View December 19, 2014 CBC News article
View December 16, 2014 Huffington Post article
View Wilderness Committee Stop The Site C Dam page

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Manitoba Climate Plan Consultations Underway 13 March 2015

In 2012 the Government of Manitoba released TomorrowNow—Manitoba’s Green Plan, which includes commitments to update its climate change plan and create the first green economy action plan for Manitoba. As an initial step in this process, the province has asked the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) to host a series of consultation sessions with key stakeholders on climate change and the green economy. Each meeting will focus on a specific sector, and will seek an open dialogue on Manitoba’s new climate change and green economy action plan discussion paper.

Climate change threatens social, economic and environmental systems on a global scale. Governments at every level are seeking to increase climate resilience, lower vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, implement adaptive actions and participate in the newly emerging green economy. Manitoba is no exception.

The next Manitoba climate change plan will integrate both adaptation and mitigation strategies, with an increased focus on adaptation. It will be important for the coming plan to consider the adaptation impacts of mitigation actions (and vice versa), as well as identify areas where co-benefits can be achieved and negative side effects avoided regarding mitigation or adaptation actions.

To date Manitoba is not counting and reporting emissions for any site or source less than 100,000 tonnes per year. Manitobans are encouraged to go online and respond to the discussion paper.

View January 2015 International Institute for Sustainable Development background paper
View TomorrowNow – Manitoba’s Green Plan
View International Institute for Sustainable Development action page
View June 6, 2014 Manitoba Government news release

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Premiers to Meet on Climate Change - Be There 6 March 2015

Canada’s Premiers are going to Quebec City in April to talk about climate change. Plans are underway for a large, festive and family friendly demonstration on April 11, 2015, the Saturday before the Premiers meet. The Premiers of Canada’s provinces (Council of the Federation) will hear and see a simple message: Yes to climate protection, No to expanding Canada’s tar sands and pipelines, Yes to just, green, renewable energy.

Organizations across Canada are being lead by Quebec’s environmental movement and include: labour, faith, and environmental organizations who are endorsing the April 11, 2015 mass demonstration in Quebec City. Endorsers include Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace, Environmental Defense Canada. See link to endorsers list below.

The organizers and endorsers want us all to think about our situation: We cannot protect the climate while supporting extreme energy projects like the tar sands and the pipelines that enable them.

View Act on Climate website
View Act on Climate blog post
View Act on Climate Endorsers list

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Two Environment Act Reviews - No Results 6 March 2015

Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship announced that it would conduct a review of the Manitoba Environment Act, and released a discussion paper. Public comments closed in September 2014. The public registry, as of February 4, 2015, contains the materials, and sets of public comments returned.

The Manitoba Law Reform Commission began its review of the Manitoba Environment Act in summer 2013, with a public launch workshop in January 2014. The stated objective of their review was to review “Manitoba’s Environmental Assessment and Licensing Regime.” The Commission undertook in person interviews that were extensive, combined with their own research. They posted their report for public comments, ending March 6, 2015.

Manitoba Wildlands submitted a combined set of comments and recommendations regarding the Environment Act, environmental assessment, and licensing regime in Manitoba in September, 2014. The aim was to respond to both the Law Reform Commission and Manitoba Conservation reviews. To date it is not clear how the Manitoba Wildlands recommendations and comments will be applied to decisions about updating the Environment Act in Manitoba. The specifics of the mandate for the two reviews have not been made public.

Changes in laws in Manitoba go through a public hearing review process each year in June, through a committee of the Legislature. There are no amendments, or draft legislation available at this time.

View January 2015 Manitoba Law Reform Commission Report
View Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship Public Registry File # 5711
View Manitoba Wildlands October 2014 Manitoba Environment Act review comments

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Manitoba Wildlands2002-2014