Carol Linnitt

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Carol Linnitt is Managing Editor and Director of Research for DeSmog Canada. Carol is a writer and researcher focusing on energy development, environmental policy and wildlife. She joined DeSmog in June 2010 as a researcher, focusing much of her time on the natural gas industry and hydraulic fracturing.

Carol is the lead author of DeSmog's original report Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens Our Water, Health & Climate. Her work also led to the DeSmog micro-documentary CRY WOLF: An Unethical Oil Story and the Cry Wolf investigative series.

Carol began her environmental career writing and performing interviews for The Canada Expedition, a non-governmental sustainability initiative, and while working in dispute resolution with communities affected by resource scarcity.

Carol has a Master's in English Literature from York University where she studied political theory, natural resource conflicts and Aboriginal rights. She also has a Master's in Philosophy in the field of phenomenology and environmental ethics and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Victoria in the English and Cultural, Social and Political Thought programs.

Cleaning Up Information Pollution: TruthMarket Creates Public Market for Truth

Truth can be a fickle thing. And when it comes to contentious, polarized and ideologically driven issues – like climate science, the safety of fracking, or the feasibility of renewables – the ‘truth’ can be hard to find amidst the noise.

With industry-sponsored misinformation firms like the Heartland Institute or Energy in Depth playing a prominent role in ‘public education,’ and with growing factious opposition between politicians and partisan groups, the public domain has flooded with so-called scientific or expert claims intended to mislead, manipulate and sway popular opinion. Our public discourse on many key issues is polluted.

Since yesterday, however, the public has a new role to play in the information marketplace.
 
TruthMarket, a public platform designed to improve the conditions of political, commercial and scientific dialogue, announced its designs for increased public scrutiny of truth claims. The website is modeled after grassroots online campaigning, where crowd-sourced investigations challenge the veracity of politicized rhetoric.  
 
Rick Hayes-Roth, Ph.D., the founder of TruthMarket and its parent enterprise Truth Seal Corp., said yesterday in a press release, “false claims, half-truths and biased polls are polluting public dialogue, commerce and public trust.” He added, “it’s time to do something constructive and give the public a mechanism to openly challenge false claims and reinforce honest dialogue.”
 

Albertans Seek Pipeline Safety Investigation, Launch Spill Tipline

After three major spills in Alberta occurred over the span of one month, questions are surfacing regarding the integrity of the province’s aging pipeline infrastructure. Last week, a collective of more than 50 organizations from Alberta called upon Premier Alison Redford to initiate an independent inquiry of pipeline safety.

In an open letter sent to the Premier, representatives from a cross-section of landowners, farmers, environmental organizations, health and labour groups and First Nations asserted that “Albertans deserve assurances that our pipeline infrastructure is safe, and that appropriate regulations and oversight are in place.”

“The recent spate of pipeline spills has been a wake-up call for all Albertans,” Don Bester, president of the Alberta Surface Rights Group said in a press release. “We know that we have a problem with pipeline safety in this province, and we can’t afford to wait another year before starting to look at the solutions or diagnosing the problem.”
 
The letter comes on the heels of an initiative lead by the Alberta Surface Rights Group, Greenpeace Canada, The Council of Canadians and the Sierra Club (all signatories of the open letter) to make pipeline spills a matter of public knowledge. These groups recently launched an anonymous oil spill tipline, urging individuals to report information on pipeline ruptures or leaks in their area. The information collected will, in turn, be made available to the public.

"Welcome to the Rest of Our Lives": Climate Crock Video on Extreme Weather Events

Since January more than 40,000 hot weather temperature records have been broken in tihe U.S. while fewer than 6,000 cold records have been broken. More than 3,000 of those hot weather records were broken in June alone. Over 2.1 million acres of land across the country has burned in raging wildfires and two-thirds of the country is experiencing extreme drought.

As fires, droughts, floods and extreme hurricane-like weather events have plagued the West and the Midwest for the past five months, the conversation surrounding climate change and its relation to evolving weather patterns worldwide has been steadily scaling up.

Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona told the Associated Press: “this is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level.” Adding, “the extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfires. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about.”

This week conservative commentator and climate change skeptic George Will dismissed the significance of the last month's heat wave, saying, “we're having some hot weather. Get over it.”

The latest installment of Peter Sinclair's Climate Denial Crock of the Week video series connects the dots between extreme weather and climate science.

If for nothing else, this video is worth watching to see the movement of a derecho - a freakishly strong storm front with unnaturally high wind and energy levels - as it gallops across the nation. The storm left millions without electricity and killed more than 20 people.

Enbridge Mismanagement Caused Kalamazoo Tragedy, Says NTSB

Enbridge, the Canadian company poised to build the controversial Northern Gateway Pipeline, received a scathing assessment this week from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) after an inquiry into a 2010 pipeline rupture in Michigan revealed the company’s mismanagement of what unfolded into a “tragic and needless” disaster.

A combination of “human error” and miscommunication culminated in the reckless release of over 843,000 gallons of Albertan diluted bitumen from the Enbridge Line 6B into the Kalamazoo River. The investigation found that 81 percent of the tar sands oil spill was the result of the company’s baffling response to rupture alerts, which prompted monitors to pump additional oil into the line – twice – rather than close the line’s remote controlled valves. The rupture went undetected for over 17 hours, leading to the most expensive onshore clean up effort in American history, with a price tag approaching $800 million.
 
In her opening remarks, NTSB’s chair Deborah Hersman likened Enbridge to the incompetent Keystone Kops of silent film, suggesting their bewildering response amounted to nothing more than a pantomime. “Why didn’t they recognize what was happening,” Hersman asked. “What took so long?”
 
According to the Board’s investigation, Enbridge knew about the ailing condition of Line 6B for at least five years before the rupture. A 2005 report identified about 15,000 defects with the aging pipeline that extends for 471-kilometers from Ontario to Indiana. Although nearly 900 of those defects had since been addressed, the NTSB found the 2010 rupture was caused by external corrosion at a site overlooked during the course of repairs.

Maps Show Tar Sands Sprawl in Caribou Habitat: Could Resolve Problem with 1% of Industry Profits, says Scientist

This post is part of DeSmog's investigative series Cry Wolf.

Alberta’s threatened caribou herds will stand a significantly better chance of surviving the province’s development of the Tar Sands, according to a group of scientists, if the oil and gas industry is willing to spare 1 percent of its potential development profits to make it happen.

According to a recent study from the University of Alberta’s Richard Schneider, 50 percent of the caribou habitat threatened by Tar Sands development could be easily preserved if only the industry and government would be more strategic in their land use planning. But ‘strategy’ has had little to do with the way the Tar Sands region has been managed, according to Schneider, who suggests that caribou have become an unintended victim of the government’s thoughtless industrial leasing program.
 
The effort to recover caribou largely relies on securing critical habitat for the species. But habitat has proven difficult to conserve in an area like Fort McMurray where the government has leased the majority of the land to individual companies without any longterm land use strategy. 
 
To understand why caribou recovery is so difficult and why industry is so resistant to habitat protection (see our extensive coverage of this problem here), you have to understand the way oil and gas leases are awarded in Alberta, Schneider told DeSmogBlog. 
 

American Nurses Band Together to Expose Health Risks of Fracking and Fossil Fuel Energy

Nurses from the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA) are proposing they take on a more prominent role in connecting the dots between human health and fossil fuel-based energy. Their public policy proposal, “Nurses Role in Recognizing, Education and Advocating for Healthier Energy Choices,” was passed by the American Nurses Association (ANA) House of Delegates last week. Developed in Pennsylvania, one of North America’s fracking hotspots, the proposal suggests nurses take on an educational role, acting as a conduit between those affected by energy pollution and medical professionals.

“Human and ecological health risks are directly related to the use of coal-fired power plants, mountaintop removal of coal, offshore and onshore oil and natural gas drilling, and hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’” the PSNA writes in a press release. The nurses association proposes nurses use “evidence-based information to educate other health professionals, the public and policy makers about the relationship between energy choices and human health.”
 
This proposal arises in response to a recent ‘muzzling’ of medical professionals in Pennsylvania where new laws prevent doctors from relaying information to patients affected by fracking chemicals. In Pennsylvania doctors are legally bound to protect the confidentiality of proprietary chemical information protected as a trade secret by fracking companies.
 

Howarth and Ingraffea: Gas Industry Fracking Study So Biased it is 'Almost Useless'

Two of the largest gas industry lobbying bodies in the US, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and American Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), released a ‘study’ earlier this month claiming methane emissions from natural gas production to be 50 percent lower than the US Environmental Protection Agency’s 2011 estimates.  However, according to a joint statement prepared by professors Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea and released by the Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE) this week, the study is nothing more than industry-purchased propaganda that does not adhere to basic standards for scientific accuracy and consistency.  

The industry report, entitled “Characterizing Pivotal Sources of Methane Emissions from Unconventional Natural Gas Production,” was commissioned by API and ANGA and co-authored by the URS Corporation and The LEVON Group. The report’s findings, pounced upon by gas industry advocates, like the virulent astroturf group Energy In Depth, were based upon API and ANGA survey responses and, according to Howarth, Ingraffea and the PSE, therein lies their downfall.

Here is a brief outline of the study’s ‘fatal flaws’ as outlined in the PSE joint statement:

Greenpeace Clean Energy Billboard Rejected by Pattison

After a Plains Midstream Canada pipeline spilled between 160,000 and 480,000 liters of oil into Jackson Creek near the Red Deer River in Alberta this month, premier Alison Redford called the incident “an exception.”

Yet, as Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema reports, this spill comes as no surprise given Alberta’s aging pipeline infrastructure and when considering that, in 2010 alone, pipelines across the country experienced 687 ‘failures’ resulting in 3,416 cubic meters of spilled toxic pollutants.

That’s why Greenpeace decided to send Premier Redford a strong message “about the need to invest in green jobs and stop the growing number of toxic oil spills,” Hudema wrote yesterday. 
 
But this plan was stopped in its tracks when Pattison Outdoor Advertising, an advertising arm of the Vancouver–based Jim Pattison Group, rejected Greenpeace’s billboard design destined for a busy Edmonton intersection. Without ceremony and without explanation, the agency refused to host the proposed billboard sign pictured below, simply announcing to Greenpeace, “the artwork has been rejected.”
 

Terror is in the Eye of the Beholder: Alberta’s Counterterrorism Unit to Protect Oil and Gas Industry

In January, during the week before Canada’s federal hearing on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, the Harper government and Ethical Oil Institute launched an unprecedented attack on environmental organizations opposed to the pipeline and accelerated expansion of the tar sands. Resurrecting Cold War-style ‘terrorist’ rhetoric, conservative politicians like Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver referred to prominent environmental organizations as “radical groups” threatening “to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda” while using “funding from foreign special interests groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.”

The government and Ethical Oil singled out environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, ForestEthics, and the Pembina Institute, in an orchestrated effort to undermine the credibility of pipeline opponents and to cast doubt on their intentions for the Enbridge Pipeline hearings. 
 
The rhetorical campaign against these alleged ‘environmental extremists’ moved from propaganda to policy last week when the RCMP announced the creation of a new counterterrorism unit in Alberta, designed to protect Canada’s energy infrastructure from so-called ‘security threats.’

EPA Shale Gas Emissions Standards: "Too Little, Too Late"

The gas industry received a blow yesterday when the nonprofit group Physicians, Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE) released a joint statement by Professors Anthony Ingraffea and Robert Howarth of Cornell University. According to the release the EPA’s new emissions standards for methane and volatile organics from shale gas development “must be considered to little, too late” given the urgent need to reduce global levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

The gas industry is set to remain the single largest methane polluter in the United States, according to the release, with an overall GHG footprint surpassing emissions from coal. 
 
The EPA’s new national emissions standards, finalized in mid-April, rely on new air quality measures, the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Pollutants (NESHAPS), that target pollutants discharged during gas extraction activities. New procedures, such as a methane capture technique known as “green completion,” are expected to play a significant role in achieving the new standards.
 
Howarth and Ingraffea agree these standards are significant and if strongly-enforced could amount to a reduction in methane emissions of about one-third. But despite this achievement, they write, methane emissions remain a serious problem.
“Despite the new regulations, shale gas methane emissions will remain significant, with the estimates of EPA (2011) and Howarth et al. (2011) indicating a likely leakage of 2.5 – 3.9 percent of the amount of methane produced over the lifetime of a shale-gas well, and possibly as high as 6 percent,” the statement reads.
Despite the EPA’s efforts, which have caught positive attention from prominent environmental groups, Howarth and Ingraffea remain very matter-of-fact about the real issue, which hinges on a nation-wide spread of poor practice. Gas production is plagued with ‘ongoing emission’ problems and the EPA’s emissions standards – while a step in the right direction – just aren’t enough to make the concerns associated with poor practice go away.

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