Tag Archives: pacific

Canadian prime minister makes pipeline decisions

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has approved one controversial pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast, but rejected another.

He approved Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline to the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, British Columbia , but rejected Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat, B.C.

These are the first major pipeline decisions for Trudeau, whose Liberal government is trying to balance the oil industry’s desire to tap new markets in Asia with environmentalists’ concerns.

“The project will triple our capacity to get Canadian energy resources to international markets beyond the United States,” Trudeau said at an Ottawa news conference. “We took this decision today because we believe it is in the best interests of Canada.”

Alberta, which has the world’s third largest oil reserves, needs infrastructure in place to export its growing oil sands production. Approving Trans Mountain helps diversify Canada’s oil exports. Ninety-seven percent of Canadian oil exports now go to the U.S.

“We are getting a chance to sell to China and other new markets at better prices,” Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said. “And we’re getting a chance to reduce our dependence on one market and therefore be more economically independent.”

Houston-based Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to Vancouver Harbour in Burnaby will increase the capacity of an existing pipeline from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day.

But there remains opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline in British Columbia, the birthplace of the Greenpeace environmental movement. There is no guarantee it will get built despite Trudeau’s approval as it faces strong opposition from environmentalists and indigenous leaders. Vancouver, B.C. Mayor Gregor Robertson said he was profoundly disappointed by Trudeau’s decision and said it would bring seven times the number of oil tankers to Vancouver’s waters.

Interim federal opposition Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said she supports the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, but doubts it will be built because of the opposition.

Trudeau rejected the Northern Gateway project to northwest British Columbia which passes through the Great Bear Rainforest. Northern Gateway would have transported 525,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta’s oil sands to the Pacific to deliver oil to Asia, mainly energy-hungry China.

About 220 large oil tankers a year would have visited the Pacific coast town of Kitimat. The fear of oil spills is especially acute in the pristine corner of northwest British Columbia, with its snowcapped mountains and deep ocean inlets. Canadians living there still remember the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off an Alaska export hub. 1989.

Trudeau also promised to introduce legislation for a moratorium on crude oil tanker shipping on B.C.’s north coast.

“The Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline and the Douglas Channel is no place for oil tanker traffic,” Trudeau said.

Northern Gateway was approved by the previous Conservative government but a federal appeals court blocked it, ruling that aboriginal communities had not been adequately consulted. That put the decision on Northern Gateway in Trudeau’s hands.

Trudeau also approved an Enbridge pipeline replacement called Line 3 that will carry oil from Alberta to the U.S. Midwest. That pipeline will carry oil from Alberta, through northern Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin. The Line 3 project would nearly double the existing pipeline’s volume to 760,000 barrels a day.

Notley said Trans Mountain and Line 3 are critical to the oil-rich province’s economic future.

The importance of Trudeau’s decisions on pipelines only grew after the Obama administration turned down TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline that would have taken Alberta oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast. President-elect Donald Trump has expressed support for Keystone XL.

Trudeau noted that more oil would end up being transported by rail if more pipelines are not built. There have been a number of accidents involving oil trains during the past decade in the U.S. and Canada. The worst occurred in 2013 when a runaway train derailed and set off fires that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

 

Great Barrier Reef sees record coral deaths this year

Warming oceans this year have caused the largest die-off of corals ever recorded on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, scientists said this week.

The worst-affected area is a 700-kilometer (400-mile) swath in the north of the World Heritage-listed 2,300-kilometer (1,400-mile) chain of reefs off Australia’s northeast coast, said the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

The center, based at James Cook University in Queensland state, found during dive surveys in October and November that the swath north of Port Douglas had lost an average of 67 percent of its shallow-water corals in the past nine months.

Farther south, over the vast central and southern regions that cover most of the reef, scientists found a much lower death toll.

The central region lost 6 percent of bleached coral and the southern region only 1 percent.

“The mortality we’ve measured along the length of the Great Barrier Reef is incredibly patchy,” the center’s director, Terry Hughes, told reporters. “There’s very severe damage in the northern section of the reef.”

“The good news is that south of Port Douglas, including the major tourist areas around Cairns and the Whitsundays (Whitsunday Islands), have had relatively low levels of mortality,” he added.

The governments of Australia and Queensland will update the UNESCO World Heritage Center this week on progress being made to protect and improve the reef, including their response to coral bleaching.

Providing a status update to the World Heritage Committee was required as part of its decision in June last year not to list the reef as “in danger.”

Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg said Tuesday that the reef’s coral cover had increased by 19 percent in recent years before it suffered a “significant bleaching event” this year, caused by the El Nino weather effect and climate change.

“What that shows is that the Great Barrier Reef is very resilient and quite strong,” Frydenberg’s office said in a statement.

The governments plan to spend 2 billion Australian dollars ($1.5 billion) over the next decade on improving the reef’s health.

Hughes said the coral death rates in the north would likely make the task of keeping the reef off the “in danger” list much harder.

“In its ongoing dialogue with UNESCO, Australia has said the outstanding universal values of reef are in tact because of the pristine condition of the northern reef. That’s simply no longer the case,” Hughes said.

Researcher Andrew Baird said the 2016 coral die-off was “substantially worse” than the previous worst-ever event in 1998.

“The proportion of reefs that were severely affected was much, much higher,” Baird said, adding that he did not have precise figures immediately available.

The 1998 event was restricted to in-shore reefs around the Queensland coastal city of Townsville, while the 2016 destruction affected a much larger area, he said.

Scientists expect that the northern region will take at least 10 to 15 years to regain the lost corals. They are concerned that another bleaching event could interrupt that recovery.

There have been three extreme mass bleaching events in 18 years on the reef. In each case, the areas that suffered the worst bleaching were where the water was hottest for the longest period of time.

Reef tourism operator Craig Stephen did not expect the dead coral would diminish visitors’ experience of one of Australia’s biggest tourist drawcards.

“The patchiness of the bleaching means that we can still provide our customers with a world-class coral reef experience by taking them to reefs that are still in top condition,” Stephen said in a statement.

Graeme Kelleher, who headed the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for 16 years, said last week that Australians must not buy the “political lie” that they can have the reef as well as major coal mines nearby.

“We’ve lost 50 percent of the coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef in the last 30 years and the main cause of that is the burning of fossil fuel. I sincerely hope UNESCO rejects the claim that the government is doing enough,” Kelleher said.

Obama by executive action could create world’s largest ocean preserve

President Barack Obama on June 17 announced executive actions aimed at creating the world’s largest ocean preserve.

The announcement came as Secretary of State John Kerry announced a global call to protect the oceans and the State Department hosted an international conference on sustainable fisheries, marine pollution and ocean acidification.

The president, in a video message to conference participants, said, “We’ve already shown that when we work together, we can protect our oceans for future generations. So let’s redouble our efforts. Let’s make sure that years from now we can look our children in the eye and tell them that, yes, we did our part, we took action, and we led the way toward a safer, more stable world.”

The executive actions, which do not require congressional approval, include:

• Deciding how to expand protections near the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the south-central Pacific Ocean, an area that contains pristine tropical marine environments. The tropical coral reefs and associated marine ecosystems are among the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.

• Directing federal agencies to develop a comprehensive program aimed at deterring illegal fishing, addressing seafood fraud and preventing illegally caught fish from entering the marketplace by increasing traceability and transparency. Black market fishing constitutes up to 20 percent of the wild marine fish caught each year around the world, and drains up to $23 billion from legitimate fishing enterprises.

Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “Expanding these protections will provide a safe haven for coral gardens, seamounts, and the rich waters that support hundreds of species of fish, sea turtles, giant clams, dolphins, whales and sharks, conserving them for future generations. This represents a commitment to the kind of bold action needed to restore the failing health of our ocean, on which we all depend and continues the bipartisan tradition of ocean protection.”

Dr. Beach: Duke Kahanamoku in Waikiki tops 2014 beach ranking

A tourist-friendly beach named for a Hawaii surfing legend has been dubbed the best public beach in the United States in this year’s Dr. Beach ranking.

Duke Kahanamoku Beach, a well-groomed crescent of blond sand and palm trees near the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, beat out more than 600 other beaches for the distinction.

Stephen Leatherman, a Florida International University coastal science professor who goes by the nickname Dr. Beach, said the cleanliness, safe conditions and amenities pushed Duke Kahanamoku to the top of his 24th annual list.

“It’s safe for kids and families,” he said by phone. “The water quality’s great. The vistas are right off the scale for that place.”

Also big for him: Smoking there is banned, as it is on beaches throughout Oahu.

“I hope Hawaii sets the standard and the wave moves eastward to the mainland,” he said. “South Beach is a hot beach in Miami but sometimes there I count 10 cigarette butts in a square meter.”

On Wednesday at Duke Kahanamoku Beach, visitors lolled under umbrellas and thumbed paperbacks. Toddlers in frumpy hats undertook tiny civil engineering projects. A half-dozen surfing students in garish green rash guards paddled through the placid shallow water, past the seawall and out toward popular surf breaks.

Locals who know Hawaii may quibble about what deserves the best beach title. “There’s probably better beaches on the outer islands,” said Kainoa Haas, 22, a Honolulu surfer.

But Rhode Island tourists Robert Ferland and Stephanie DeQuattro, at Duke Kahanamoku for a ninth straight day, were impressed.

“It’s pretty,” said Ferland, 32. “We have nice beaches at home…”

“But it’s nothing like here,” DeQuattro, 30, finished for him.

Hawaii’s Waimanalo Bay Beach Park on Oahu, and Hamoa Beach on Maui, were also among the top 10 beaches Leatherman named this year.

The others were Florida’s Barefoot Beach, St. George Island State Park, Key Biscayne and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park; North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras; Massachusetts’ Cape Cod; and South Carolina’s Kiawah Island.

Duke Kahanamoku Beach is the 13th Hawaii beach to win the distinction as America’s best — the fourth on Oahu, following Hanauma Bay, Kailua Beach Park and Lanikai Beach. Once a beach wins, Leatherman retires it from consideration for future lists.

Outside Hawaii, Florida boasts the most past winners in the Dr. Beach rankings, with seven. New York beaches have won twice, while California and North Carolina have produced one top beach apiece.

This already has been a big spring for Duke Kahanamoku Beach. In the new blockbuster movie “Godzilla,” it’s where the monster clambers out of the Pacific and into Waikiki, flooding the streets and demolishing hotels.

Leatherman, who did his Ph.D. on beach erosion, said such a kaiju attack would hurt the beach in his rankings if the debris wasn’t cleaned up. “The tsunami itself would go over top of the whole thing,” he said, “and the beach would still be there.”