A chemical dispersant is a kind of "spill-treating agent" (or "STA") that is designed to break up an oil slick and dilute the oil by mixing it into the water. A chemical dispersant isn't truly a clean-up tool -- it doesn't take any spilled oil out of the environment, and by the time a dispersant is applied, it's already too late to save most life forms in the vicinity of the spill.
People living in industry-heavy areas of cities such as Hamilton, Sarnia, and Windsor bear an unfair burden when it comes to exposure to air contaminants. Many of these substances -- including benzene, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and particulate matter -- are known to pose serious threats to human health,
By almost any measure, Canada fares surprisingly poorly when it comes to protecting the environment. In 2013, the Conference Board of Canada ranked us 15th out of 17 countries based on a wide range of environmental metrics. Yet as anyone who has paddled a river, hiked a trail, or spent time in Canada's gazillion wild and beautiful places will know, this is a country that should be leading the world on green performance.
The Charter is Canada's highest law and it applies to all levels of government across the country. It gives each of us inalienable rights -- ones that protect us from discrimination and guarantee our right to life, liberty and security of the person. We believe the Charter should include environmental rights too.
While we're pleased that federal and provincial regulators finally took action and laid charges against Plains Midstream, the size and nature of the settlements is somewhat disconcerting. It raises a number of questions and once again sheds light on the major weaknesses in Canada's environmental law and enforcement framework.
We are mystified that with so much at stake, with the risks of this project being so high, the board would quibble over nine days. We would have expected the board to err on the side of good process and give Kinder Morgan the extra time to answer the questions that have been asked by municipalities, landowners, local businesses, First Nations and environmental organizations.
While the Alberta Energy Regulator has made regulatory orders in some cases, no charges have been laid related to any of the oil spills that made headlines last summer. And for the most part, the public remains in the dark about how those spills have affected their communities and the environment. As the AER enters its second year, it has a golden opportunity to live up to its big promises.