The Trouble With Tailings: Toxic Waste ‘Time Bombs’ Loom Large Over Alaska’s Salmon Rivers

Mount Polley dam failure

There are a few unarguable truths about mine tailings, the pulverized rock, water and sludge left over from mineral extraction — mining is a messy business, the leftovers have to be dealt with forever and it’s impossible to guarantee against another tailings dam failure such as the Mount Polley catastrophe.

In B.C., there are 98 tailings storage facilities at 60 metal and coal mines, of which 31 are operating or under construction and the remaining 67 are at mines that are either permanently or temporarily closed

That means communities throughout B.C. and Alaska are looking nervously at nearby tailings ponds, which sometimes more closely resemble lakes, stretching over several square kilometres, with the toxic waste held back by earth and rock-filled dams. The water is usually recycled through the plant when the mine is operating, but, after the mine closes, water, toxins and finely ground rock must continue to be contained or treated.

It’s the realization that tailings have to be treated in perpetuity that worries many of those living downstream, especially as the Mount Polley breach happened only 17 years after the dam was constructed.

The concept of forever boggles people minds. In one thousand years is the bank account still going to be there? These people are going to be dead,” said Chris Zimmer of Rivers Without Borders.

Winner of Mexico's First Offshore Oil and Gas Bid Had Massive Gas Drilling Leak in 2013

The company that won the first-ever bid in the oil and gas privatization era for Mexico — earning the right to tap into two designated blocks in the country's shallow water coast of the Gulf of Mexico — leaked 252 gallons of a liquid form of raw natural gas into the Gulf in a July 2013 shallow-water accident off the coast of Louisiana.

Talos Energy, the Houston, Texas-based company responsible for the spill, won the July 15 bid and will do the drilling in a joint venture alongside Sierra Oil & Gas and Premier Oil.

The leak — producing a self-described “rainbow sheen…more than four miles wide by three quarters of a mile long” — transpired on an inactive well formerly owned by the company Energy Resources Technology, which Talos bought as a wholly-owned subsidiary earlier that year. 

Here's Why MP Peter Lilley Voted Against the Climate Change Act

Environmentalists first promoted a climate change bill when Britain was enjoying an economic boom – albeit through an evidently unsustainable housing bubble and consumer credit.

When the economic crisis of 2008 unfolded, I was a journalist at the Sunday Times newspaper and was told by Nicholas Hellen, then deputy news editor, that any environment stories were, as a result, immediately off the agenda. Consumers could no longer afford to ‘go green’.

But the momentum of the climate change legislation then passing through Parliament was enough to see it through to royal assent, with almost universal support across the political and economic spectrum. A tiny rump of free market Tories were the only MPs to voice any opposition.

Prime Minister Harper’s Inaction on Climate Killed the Keystone XL Oilsands Pipeline

Stephen Harper climate change

With U.S. President Barack Obama expected to deny a permit to the Keystone XL pipeline this fall, Canada’s oil industry is looking for someone to blame.

The National Post’s Claudia Cattaneo wrote last week that “many Canadians … would see Obama’s fatal stab as a betrayal by a close friend and ally” and that others “would see it as the product of failure by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to come up with a climate change plan.”

The latter is the more logical conclusion. Obama has made his decision-making criteria clear: he won’t approve the pipeline if it exacerbates the problem of carbon pollution.

Even the U.S. State Department’s very conservative analysis states the Keystone XL pipeline would “substantially increase oilsands expansion and related emissions.” The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed.

While Canada’s energy reviews take into account “upstream benefits” — such as jobs created in the oilsands sector as a result of pipelines — they don’t even consider the upstream environmental impacts created by the expansion of the oilsands.

For all the bluster and finger-pointing, there’s no covering up the fact that Canada’s record on climate change is one of broken promises.

David Suzuki: Climate Deniers All Over the Map

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

A little over a year ago, I wrote about a Heartland Institute conference in Las Vegas where climate change deniers engaged in a failed attempt to poke holes in the massive body of scientific evidence for human-caused climate change. I quoted Bloomberg News: “Heartland's strategy seemed to be to throw many theories at the wall and see what stuck.”

A recent study came to a similar conclusion about contrarian “scientific” efforts to do the same. “Learning from mistakes in climate research,” published in Theoretical and Applied Climatology, examined some of the tiny percentage of scientific papers that reject anthropogenic climate change, attempting to replicate their results.

In a Guardian article, co-author Dana Nuccitelli said their study found “no cohesive, consistent alternative theory to human-caused global warming.” Instead, “Some blame global warming on the sun, others on orbital cycles of other planets, others on ocean cycles, and so on.”

Wall Street Warns About Cost Of Doing Nothing On Climate Change

As President Obama heads to the Arctic to discuss climate change, just mere weeks after approving Shell Oil’s bid to drill for oil in the treacherous Chukchi Sea, a very different group is sounding the alarm over the dangers of a warming climate. That group, surprisingly, is Wall Street bankers.

Citibank has released a new report showing that taking action now against the growing threat of climate change would save an astonishing $1.8 trillion by the year 2040. Conversely, the report says that if no action is taken, the economy will lose as much as $44 trillion during that same time period.

Government Keeps Climate Cards Close to its Chest

It’s been four months since Amber Rudd was made head of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and there are just three months before the Paris climate conference. So, what do we know about the UK’s contribution to international climate change negotiations? Turns out, not much.

According to the (very limited) information released to DeSmog UK by DECC under a Freedom of Information request, Rudd has met with international counterparts five times since May 2015, in Berlin, Luxembourg and Beijing, to discuss the COP21 climate targets.

And, well, that’s about it. The department acknowledged that they hold briefing materials that were provided to the Secretary of State ahead of these meetings but have withheld all of these.

Social Justice and Climate Justice Movements Merge in New Orleans 10 Years After Hurricane Katrina

Julie Dermansky

Marguerite Doyle Johnston, a resident of New Orleans’ Upper 9th Ward, did not take part in the multitude of events surrounding Hurricane Katrina’s 10th anniversary that celebrated the city’s resilience. “My neighborhood was left out of the recovery, so I don’t feel like celebrating,” she told DeSmog.

Johnston would have preferred that the money spent on celebrating New Orleans’ recovery be spent on restoring Club Desire, a landmark building in the Upper 9th Ward neighborhood that she has been trying to save and convert into a community center.

In its heyday, many of the city’s most famous artists performed in Club Desire, including Fats Domino and Little Freddie King. Despite Johnston’s efforts to rescue the building, it is slated for demolition later this fall. 

Will This Be Remembered as The Summer North Americans Woke Up to Climate Change?

Lizard Lake wildfire

Smokey haze, intense heat, encampments of evacuated residents next to the highway: these were the conditions that greeted Renee Lertzman when she recently drove through Oregon. It’s no wonder why the environmental psychology researcher and professor resorts to the term “apocalyptic” to describe the scene.

It was a surreal experience,” says Lertzman, who teaches at the University of San Francisco and Victoria’s Royal Roads University. “We’re all driving along and it’s so smoky and it’s terrifying. Yet we’re all doing our summer vacation thing. I couldn’t help but wonder: what is going on, how are people feeling and talking about this?”

It’s really the question of the hour. Catastrophic wildfires and droughts have engulfed much of the continent, with thousands displaced from their homes; air quality alerts confine many of the lucky remainder behind locked doors (with exercise minimized and fresh-air intakes closed).

Firefighters have been summoned from around the world to battle the unprecedented fires, which are undoubtedly exacerbated by climate change. Yet the seemingly reasonable assumption that witnessing such horrific natural disasters may increase support for action on climate change is vastly overestimated, Lertzman tells DeSmog Canada.

On 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina Former New Orleans Resident Questions African-American Leaders Siding With Climate Deniers

c Julie Dermansky

This is a guest post by Evlondo Cooper, senior fellow with the Checks and Balances Project, cross-posted with permission. 

New Orleans has many nicknames: The Crescent City, The Birthplace of Jazz, and The Big Easy. It’s also my hometown but Hurricane Katrina cast me out. In 2005, I was an investigator for the New Orleans district attorney’s office who was invested in making a great city even better. Along with hundreds of thousands of others, I had to flee New Orleans.

This month is the 10-year anniversary of Katrina and its devastating punch, which we now know was made far worse by pollution-driven climate change. I juxtapose its devastation with the potential solutions as this month marks the release of President Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan, which would cut the very pollution that made Katrina so much worse.

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