Quick fix to Alberta’s ongoing oil spill: drain the lake

I’ve been trying to keep tabs on Alberta’s ongoing oil spill that started several months ago (see previous posts here and here and, for why they matter given the current regulatory regime, see here).

The latest news from Reuters is that the company in charge of the operation, CNRL, has been ordered to drain the lake where the spill is occurring. The lake is over 50 hectares, or over 100 acres, in area (I don’t know what the depth is) and about 2/3 of the water is supposed to be drained. There are some mixed messages as well, such as the claim that water quality has not been affected – presumably, I suppose, because bitumen is heavier than water and, given the slow nature of the leak, it may just be sitting on the bed of the lake. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the entire aquatic ecology of the lake isn’t affected. Again, however, just a bit of me wondering aloud on how to make sense of that claim.

This news comes as a delegation from Alberta is about to go on a charm offensive in Europe as the EU gets set to vote on a fuel quality directive that could impact imports from oil sands sites.

In other news…

If you have a chance to tune in today to CBC Radio’s program Q you can hear Edward Burtynsky and Jennifer Baichwal talk about their new documentary “Watermark” that is set to be released (or maybe just was). If you miss the program live, podcast download is also available later today. I’ve put this up before, but here is the trailer for that film:

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Alberta’s new wetland policy + updates

Alberta released its new wetland policy yesterday. You can download it here (PDF). It has been a long time in the making, and for those who are interested in comparative exercises, you can crosscheck the actual policy above with the recommendations made by the Alberta Water Council in 2008.

In other news, the on-going oil spill in Northern Alberta has now triggered an investigation by Environment Canada. It will likely be some time before we know what the full impacts will be. But in the meantime, the federal government disbanded the regional land and water boards in the Northwest Territories. On its face, this move seems to fly in the face of the NWT Water Strategy adopted for 2011-2015. And it is not just on the face. It is difficult, if you are familiar with the aims and agendas of the current mining push in the North, not to see this as a step away from partnerships with those affected by new projects.

On this front, there was a fairly decent article in Oilweek, an industry magazine, on the impacts of oil sands mining on the Ft. McKay First Nations and the cumulative impacts accruing there.

Finally, Nic Rivers at the University of Ottawa put out a new study on water and economics in Canada. It’s based on a model that, like any, has some limitations. But Nic is a particularly astute researcher, so well worth the read.

“Community” and the Alberta oil sands – special issue now out

This special issue on ‘community’ and the Alberta oil sands from the Canadian Journal of Sociology looks very good. Here is the link to the journal page.

Vol 38, No 2 (2013)

Table of Contents

Fort McMurray, Wood Buffalo, and the Oil/Tar Sands: Revisiting the Sociology of “Community” Abstract PDF
Sara Dorow, Sara O’Shaughnessy 121-140
Community by Necessity: Security, Insecurity, and the Flattening of Class in Fort McMurray Abstract PDF
Claire Major, Tracy Winters 141-166
In the Shadows” Exploring the Notion of “Community” for Temporary Foreign Workers in a Boomtown Abstract PDF
Jason Foster, Alison Taylor 167-190
Where is Fort McMurray? The Camera as a Tool for Assembling “Community” Abstract PDF
Andriko Lozowy, Rob Shields, Sara Dorow 191-210
Cautionary Tales: Making and Breaking Community in the Oil Sands Region Abstract PDF
Clinton N. Westman 211-232
Epilogue: Through the Forest of Time Abstract PDF
Sourayan Mookerjea 233-254

Review Essay/Essai bibliographique

Balises pour une lecture croisée des textes de Luhmann sur la religion PDF
Diane Laflamme 255-267