Is Alberta trying to get a handle on environmental catastrophes?

Weather-wise it’s not, but June is bustin’ out all over, as it often does, in environmental atrocities.

Weather-wise it’s not, but June is bustin’ out all over, as it often does, in environmental atrocities.

It was on June 7, 2012, that the word leaked of a 46-year-old Plains Midstream Canada pipeline rupturing, spewing an estimated 3,000 barrels of light sour crude oil into the Red Deer River near Sundre.

The next day, Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Diana McQueen, and the new premier, Alison Redford, were at Gleniffer Lake behind Dickson Dam on the Red Deer, mainly to hype the safety of Alberta pipelines to other Canadian and U.S. jurisdictions that remain unconvinced that they need pipelines carrying “dirty oil” from Alberta into and through their environments.

Albertans fed up with too-frequent pipeline spills were flabbergasted by this hype-byte from the premier: “We are fortunate in this province that they (pipeline spills) don’t happen very often, and we can have some confidence that when they do happen, we have plans in place to deal with them.”

Two years of investigations, resort and fisheries closures have followed.

Finally, on June 3 this year, Plains pleaded guilty to a charge under provincial environmental law for failing to report the spill and under the federal Fisheries Act for the fish kill in the river.

Plains was also pleading guilty to an offence related to a Northern Alberta spill in 2011, the province’s largest in three decades.

For all this, Plains was fined a total of $1.3 million, “representing about five hours profit for Plains,” said Mike Hudema of Greenpeace; “it is hardly a signal to Alberta’s problem-plagued pipeline industry that they need to solve their ongoing spill problems.”

But it assuredly will be yet another signal to bodies deciding the fates of pipelines in other provinces and countries that Alberta’s environmental protection laws are totally toothless.

On June 5, Diana McQueen, now minister of Energy, announced, in the face of public, media, and environmental organization outrage, that the government will continue with the sell-off to energy companies of public land in the core habitat area of Alberta’s already endangered woodland mountain caribou.

Immediately Caribou! Shmaribou!!! headlined the comments on the website of the Alberta Fish and Game Association, the province’s largest and most geographically representative conservation organization.

The article points out that McQueen’s announcement completely ignores and belies the government’s June 2011 Woodland Caribou Policy for Alberta:

“The government of Alberta is committed to achieving naturally-sustaining woodland caribou populations.”

“The AFGA,” said its president, Gordon Poirier, “is dismayed by the continued reckless sell-off of habitat that is vital for the recovery of the woodland caribou.

“There is no way that the government with their projected return to a balanced budget needs the funds these leases will bring.”

“In October 2012, Environment Canada’s recovery strategy for the woodland caribou determined that each herd required at least 65 per cent of its range intact and industry free if the animals are to survive.

“Yet the province continually approved new industry leases within the Little Smoky range to the point where, according to various reports, 95 per cent of the Little Smoky herd had been affected.”

The AFGA urges new ESRD Minister Robin Campbell not to sign off on the new sales. If he does, you can bet the powerful National Wildlife Federation in the U.S. will add threatened caribou to its indictment of Alberta dirty oil at pipeline hearings.

The NFA considers destruction of habitat and endangerment of fish and wildlife in the producing country, state or province to be a big part of the definition of “dirty oil.”

On June 5, a 23-year-old mother took her year-old daughter and three-month-old son on a float in a rubber dinghy down Dutch Creek near Fairmont, B.C.

Debris flipped the dinghy, the mother managed to save herself and son, but the daughter was swept downstream where she was found later, and saved, hung up on some debris in about three feet of water.

The investigation continues and charges are being considered, but the live salvation of the little girl is due entirely to the fact that she was wearing a personal flotation device, a good lesson for tubers everywhere, particularly on the Red Deer this coming long weekend.

Fungaphiles, wild mushroom pot hunters, report morels bustin’ out all over once we got the first, then a few of those warmish, gentle rains.

The blacks, Morchella elata, are about as usual, but I have heard about and seen some big bags of even larger than usual goldens, Morchella esculenta.

Strangely, nary a report from mushroomers hunting some recent forest fire and prescribed burn sites which often produce big blooms of morels for three of four years after the flames.

Come on folks; I am merely curious, no longer on the hunt, and have, a long, unblemished record of keeping secret the confidences of readers about their hot spots.

Bob Scammell is an award-winning columnist who lives in Red Deer. He can be reached at

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.
Kenney distances himself from caucus vote to turf dissidents with ‘personal agendas’

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is distancing himself from a decision… Continue reading

Rental units in Red Deer continued to be some of the most affordable in Canada, according to the National Rent Report from (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Red Deer rent up year over year, still among lowest in Canada

Rent in Red Deer is up nearly six per cent but is… Continue reading

Rebels logo.
Red Deer Rebels trade last year’s first overall selection in U.S. Prospects Draft

The Red Deer Rebels have traded their first overall selection from the… Continue reading

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

A used protective face mask is seen discarded on the ground in Vancouver, B.C. in May 2020. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Medical exception letters required for Albertans who don’t wear masks in public areas

EDMONTON — Alberta has moved to close loopholes people might use as… Continue reading

Team Canada’s head coach Troy Ryan talks with players before the start of the of the Rivalry Series at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, February 3, 2020. Ryan of Spryfield, N.S., has been named head coach of Canada’s women’s hockey team for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Troy Ryan to coach Canadian women’s hockey team in 2022 Winter Olympics

Ryan was Canada’s assistant coach from 2016 to 2019

FILE- In this April 19, 2021, file photo, people wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus wait to test for COVID-19 at a hospital in Hyderabad, India. Misinformation about the coronavirus is surging in India as the death toll from COVID-19 rises. Fueled by anguish, distrust and political polarization, the claims are further compounding India’s crisis. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A, File)
Misinformation surges amid India’s COVID-19 calamity

Distrust of Western vaccines and health care also driving misinformation

FILE - In this Friday March 6, 2020, file photo, Britain’s Prince Harry visits the Silverstone Circuit, in Towcester, England. In an episode of the “Armchair Expert” podcast broadcast Thursday, May 13, 2021, Prince Harry compared his royal experience to being on “The Truman Show” and “living in a zoo.” (Peter Nicholls/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Prince Harry thought about quitting royal life in his 20s

Feared his family would have to deal with the same spotlight that was on his late mother

Mental health: Gossiping, backbiting and forming factions is unhealthy

We all know of dysfunctional organizations, which can be as troublesome as… Continue reading

Family practice physician Christina Tuomi, D.O., (right) gets Homer's first dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine from Emergency Department nurse Steve Hughes (left) on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020 at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, Alaska. Tuomi has been the hospital's medical lead throughout the pandemic. (Photo courtesy Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)
Alberta physicians: Vaccines are our path forward

As the AMA representatives for Alberta’s family physicians, we were immensely relieved… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Nils Hoglander, right, is checked by Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom during third-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Thursday, May 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Most Read