Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Is the Harper Deregulation Agenda Running Amok?

New Bill threatens Canada’s grain safety and quality: study March 31, 2009

OTTAWA—A controversial bill to change Canada’s grain regulatory system threatens Canada’s grain safety and quality, says a study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).
"Threatened Harvest: Protecting Canada’s World-Class Grain System" is available from the CCPA website.

Monday, 30 March 2009

A Question for Premier Doer and Manitoba Hydro

Dam Building Is Booming, But Is it the Right Path to Clean Energy?
By David Biello, Yale Environment 360. Posted February 24, 2009.
Dam proponents are touting hydropower as renewable energy in an era of global warming. But the human and
environmental costs are high.
(China's 3-Gorges, the largest hydro dam in the world.Wikipedia photo)
(Story Courtesy of Alternet.)
(Read more by clicking headline.)

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Hamburgers, The "Hummers of Food" in Global Warming?

Courtesy of CommonDreams.org

CHICAGO - When it comes to global warming, hamburgers are the Hummers of ...

(Photo by AFP)

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Big Cattle Operation Worries Local Resident - by Larry Powell

(See update in newer post.)

A long-time resident of the Roblin area of western Manitoba, Ray Spencer, has asked the Manitoba Department of Water Stewardship to look into an intensive livestock operation north of the town, near Boggy Creek.
The cattle in question with Langen Lk. in b.g.
He says too many cattle (perhaps hundreds) are being fed in a field which slopes directly into Langen Lake, used for years by anglers in the area.

Many are members of the local San Clara/Boggy Creek Metis community. The Lake itself was
named for Pat Langen, who used to live nearby.

Spencer, an angler, hunting guide, retired farmer and former livestock specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, has talked to some of the people who fish there. And they are worried the waste from the cattle is polluting the lake. (r.) He says some even fear the lake, noted for its walleye, may even die in a few years as a result. Another Beasley herd in the area, but away from the lake.

Hundreds of Black Angus cattle are wintering on several fields in the immediate area, including the herd near the lake.

Almost every square meter of the frozen fields (l.) is covered with raw, solid cattle waste.

Spencer believes there are about 12 hundred cattle there, altogether.

In his words, "What concerns me is the wintering of all these livestock next to a conservation lake. The raw manure could drain right in."

He says overflow from the lake drains into the Shell River, a main waterway in the area.

But the owner of the livestock, John Beasley, does not believe this is happening.

He says he'd like to see test results from the lake water before he will accept it is being polluted.

Beasley claims he's "not exactly sure," even roughly, how many cattle he has.

In any case, he believes it's not the actual numbers, but the way they are managed, that's relevant.

Beasley believes he does what he can to keep pollution to a minimum.

He says he's planted trees, put up a fence which keeps the cattle back from the lake and an "off-site" watering system,(r.) 200 meters back from the water. He says he also grows perennial forage crops to keep nutrient buildup to a minimum.

He wonders whether those who are concerned would rather see cerial crops in the area, where lots of chemicals would be sprayed.

He says he has talked to those who fish in the lake and no one has complained to him, directly.

He says he fishes in the lake himself and "takes the fishery seriously."

Spencer says he has asked Water Stewardship to investigate and believes an inspector will be out any day now.

UPDATE - The Department of Conservation (not Water Stewardship) dispatched a rookie "Environmental Officer," Dave Yunker, to the scene yesterday. (Mar.24th) All he would say is, "It may look bad" with all that manure on the hill, but he'll have to check with his boss to find out if any regulations have been broken.
(He did say that Beasley has registered a manure management plan for his operation.) Stay tuned! l.p.
(Photos by l.p.)
PLEASE ALSO READ; Lake of the Prairies - the New Lake Winnipeg? - by Larry Powell
This is great reporting, Larry - good photos, too!
Who needs the CBC???? (losing hundreds of jobs! Disgusting!)
Elaine Hughes

Sunday, 22 March 2009

"Calving" Ice Sheet Worries Top Climate Scientist

by Larry Powell - BRANDON, MB. MAR. 19-'09
A prominent climate scientist says an unforeseen phenomenon is quickly eroding the Greenland Ice Sheet.
David Barber (PinP photo - l.) is the Canada Research Chair in Arctic System Science at the University of Manitoba and leader of the largest polar project in the world, studying climate change in the Arctic.

Prof. Barber says many scientists have believed the sheet is simply
melting as global warming takes its toll.

What is actually happening is, torrents of melt-water on the surface are finding their way down, through fissures, to the bottom.

Photo courtesy of UNEP

There, they act as "lubricants," breaking the ice apart and causing it, as he puts it to "calve" many small icebergs into the ocean at a rapid rate.

Barber believes the icebergs sliding into the sea in this way, could raise sea levels by as much as 6 meters. That's enough, he warns, to damage several large coastal cities!

He further predicts summer sea ice could be completely gone from the Canadian Arctic by as early as 2013, just four years from now!

While other projections say the ice may not disappear until 2030, actual observations his team has made, show it is melting at a rate astonishingly faster than earlier models had predicted.

In his words, "We are losing one Lake Superior (70 thousand K2) of sea ice each year. The last time we had no summer ice in the Arctic was more than a million years ago."

Prof. Barber is critical of global warming skeptics, who do not believe humans are behind the problem.

He says the connection is obvious. There was even a big jump in greenhouse gas emissions way back at the time of the industrial revolution, a clear indication of human involvement.

He believes these skeptics are simply "Trying to find an excuse for not doing something."

As for solutions, Barber believes, if there were only two choices, nuclear power (at least new and improved forms of the technology), would be better than coal as an energy source. He refers to coal as the "dirtiest" source of all.

Barber is not overly concerned that vast areas in the Arctic have been claimed by oil companies for resource development. He says development could still go ahead there, as long as it takes place at a sensible pace.

He noted that, while serving on his research vessel in the Arctic, it was consistently warmer there for a year than it was in Winnipeg!

Barber was speaking at a recent environmental conference in Brandon, Manitoba, devoted to examining ways of reducing the human footprint on our planet.

The 2-day conference, sponsored by the Assiniboine Community College, discussed ways of lessening our carbon footprint on the planet.
Topics included alternative energy and fuel-efficient cars.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


Sounds like protests and expressions of concern do work, once in a while!
But please note the release, below, fails to mention that the government, without consultation, gave the company permission in early January to take its pollution controls offline until June.

Manitoba News Release
March 16, 2009

The province is requesting the Clean Environment Commission (CEC) to review Louisiana Pacific's request for permanent alterations to its Swan Valley oriented strand board plant's Environment Act licence.
"I have directed the Clean Environment Commission to review Louisiana Pacific's request," Conservation Minister Stan Struthers said. "The CEC will thoroughly examine the plant's proposal and will return with a recommendation on the request."

Louisiana Pacific Swan River filed a request on Jan. 19 that its licence be altered to allow for the decommissioning of its regenerative thermal oxidizers (RTOs) and for the increase of certain emissions from the plant. Their proposal has been under review by Manitoba's director of environmental assessment and licensing, and the period for public comments ended on Friday, March 13.

The CEC reviewed the Louisiana Pacific (LP) plant when it was first proposed in 1994. Included in the report was a recommendation that the company operate pollution control equipment including RTOs. LP's application states that upgrades have reduced emission levels since the plant was first constructed.

- 30 -
The following is Larry's article, published in the online magazine, "OnEarth."
U.S. Logging Giant Scraps Pollution Controls in Manitoba
by Larry Powell March 10, 2009

In early January, the Government of Manitoba quietly agreed to let the Louisiana Pacific Corporation (LP), with extensive forestry operations in North America, shut down pollution control equipment at one of its wood products plants in the west-central part of the province.

As a result, increased emissions such as benzene, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide, have apparently been escaping into the air since January at its “oriented strand board” (OSB) plant near Minitonas in the SwanValley. (OSB is a building product similar to plywood made mostly from poplar tree fiber.)

Now, LP wants to keep that equipment shut down, permanently. Much to the chagrin of environmental groups, the Government is considering that request.

Ironically, it was the New Democratic Opposition Party, now the government, that insisted that the equipment, called “regenerative thermal oxidizers,”(RTOs) be installed when LP was first issued its Manitoba license back in the late 90’s. So did a government advisory body, the Clean Environment Commission. Environmentalists added their voices to the calls for controls.

Under the pressure, the government and company capitulated.

A Winnipeg-based environmental group, Boreal Forest Network says the RTOs cost the company about $10 million dollars and now need to be replaced. It suggests this, plus the cost of operating them are the real reasons behind the company’s move.

The Netowork admits, the housing slump in the “States has hit sales of OSB. But the company decision shouldn’t come at the expense of the health of those living near the plant. Susanne McRae of the Network notes that the housing crisis is worse in the US than Canada, yet all OSB plants in the ‘States have pollution controls. So, she reasons, Canada deserves the same treatment.

LP has had a bit of a chequered past in terms of its environmental record in the United States. In the 1990’s the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), imposed what, at the time, was its largest fine ever on the company. It ordered LP to pay more than $11 million for falsely reporting how much pollution its OSB plants there were emitting.

It was also ordered to outfit those plants with the best pollution abatement technology available.

But that isn’t the end of the story.

Less than three years ago, the EPA cited Louisiana Pacific again for allegedly exceeding emission limits for smoke, ash and dust from one of its OSB plants in Michigan. As Bharat Mathur of the EPA put it at the time, “Inhaling high concentrations of particulates can affect children, the elderly and people with heart and lung conditions.”

A long-time critic of LP operations, Dan Soprovich of Swan River, is quoted as saying, “This is a cost-driven decision that will compromise human health and the environment as a means to support an American company that has taken millions of dollars out of this province.”

Soprovich was a government biologist when LP was originally granted its license. He was fired after opposing the project, saying LP had given impossibly optimistic forecasts about how sustainable the forest would be in the harvest area.

Manitoba’s Assistant Deputy Minister of Conservation, Ryan Coulter, has so far been the only government official to comment.

He told CBC Radio recently that monitoring at the site has shown that pollutants do not seem to have exceeded allowable limits, so far. Coulter left open the possibility of a public consultation process on the issue and even a formal hearing by the Clean Environment Commission before a final decision is made.

In any case, the temporary permit already issued seems to guarantee the company it can keep its RTOs offine until June.

For its part, Louisiana Pacific says keeping the pollution controls in place is expensive. And it adds, shutting them down would mean the natural gas which runs them would no longer be required. This, in turn, would avoid the production of a lot of grenhouse gasses.

The company denies that decommissioning will result in any dangerous increase in toxic emissions.

Request to remain anonymus wrote on March 22, 2009, 12:08PM :

As far as I understand, the rate payers of the communities around the LP plant in Minnitonas, MB (Swan River, etc.) had to pay the brunt of getting the plant supplied with natural gas in the first place. It was not supplied by Manitoba Hydro at the time. The estimate of how many residents would actually choose to use natural gas once the lines were installed were highly inflated. The company got a huge break and the cost was passed on to the local communities....

Also, the suggestion that the process leading to the temporary decommissioning of the RTOs was not as open as the company suggests it was. Many folks that were involved in the original struggle to ensure the installation of adequate pollution abatement equipment did not know that LP was even applying for a decommissioning. LP was definitely flying under the wire as local environmental champions still living and working in the community were caught completely unaware.

Finally, LP has not been the best(!) corporate citizen in the US, so it is right that people are skeptical about their assurances. It is also terrible that Canada and its provinces do not hold US-based companies to at least the standards of their "home" nations--in this case the US. If we in Canada do not demand more, just think of the precedent this sets for LP's operations in developing nations!!!

Also, I am not a fan of corporate bail outs. However, when reducing costs by eliminating pollution abatement equipment becomes a bone of contention, I think the provincial and federal governments should look aggressively at what can be done so that local jobs aren't lost and the health of the workers and communities is not put at risk. It should not be health or jobs--especially when the company and its shareholders have been making lots of money over the years by cutting and/or processing local timber--much of it being a publicly-owned resource!

Sunday, 15 March 2009


(Photo courtesy Environmental
Extensive testing by Health Canada scientists has revealed that bisphenol A(BPA), the infamous hormone-mimicking chemical banned from baby bottles in Canada and placed on the Federal List of Toxic Substances late last year, has been detected at significant levels in soft drinks.The study, published in the January issue of the Journal of Agriculture & Food Chemistry' analyzed BPA levels in 72 samples of canned drinks.
(Click on headline to read full story.)

Does your place of residence make you immune from climate calamity? I think not! (Opinion)

by Larry Powell I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard one of my fellow "prairie dogs" remark, how "lucky" or...