Hamilton steelmaker ArcelorMittal Dofasco will be in court next week as a result of thirteen charges laid by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment for excessive black smoke from its stacks. The interesting aspect of this case is that the charges arose because of investigative work carried out by local citizens. The Ministry took action not because of complaints from citizens but because the citizens, with the assistance of local environmental groups, presented the Ministry with almost irrefutable evidence of the emissions of black smoke from the steel company stacks.
The community partnered with Environment Hamilton, a respected local environmental group, under a campaign known as Good Neighbour. The groups identified the emission sources (stacks) across the ArcelorMittal Dofasco site and, in addition to extensive information about the environmental regulation of air emissions from steel plants, provided an interactive map through which local citizens could effectively report evidence of black smoke from the steel plant’s stacks directly to the Ministry of the Environment.
The Environment Hamilton Good Neighbour initiative provides an example of the type of citizen action that is likely to become more common in the future. As governments reduce their environmental enforcement activity due to budget constraints and/or industry lobbying, citizens and environmental groups will move into the activity space vacated by governments. These groups may, in many cases, become much more effective environmental investigators than environment ministries ever were! Industry needs to pay attention to the way social media and community groups are observing and reporting on their activities.
The Good Neighbour initiative has an excellent website at http://www.goodneighbourcampaign.ca/ ArcelorMittal Dofasco is not the only southern Ontario company currently being targeted by the Good Neighbour approach – the other two currently shown are Atlantic Packaging in Scarborough and Hamilton Specialty Bar in Hamilton. It must be emphasized that the first objective of the Good Neighbour campaign is not to encourage the Environment Ministry to lay charges but to encourage the industrial company to become a good neighbour to local residents, though there is obviously little reluctance to take the legalistic path if the residents feel that discussion and negotiation is not proving successful.
Especially good, in GallonDaily’s opinion, is the page http://www.goodneighbourcampaign.ca/resources_hamilton which provides lots of good information and tools for reporting episodes of black smoke from the Hamilton steelmaker’s stacks. The interactive map which identifies the stacks is part of Environment Hamilton’s Stackwatch initiative and is located at http://maps.google.ca/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&t=h&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=209481340099049307923.0004a4d3be53082d3f783
A new report from the UK Environment Agency and the British Safety Industry Federation presents some useful advice to anyone involved in construction or demolition on ways to reduce the environmental impact of those activities. According to the report, the construction industry is a major source of pollution. Every year, the UK Environment Agency responds to as many as 350 pollution incidents caused by construction. “Furthermore, construction, demolition and excavation waste is found in illegal waste sites; an ‘invisible’ source of environmental pollution from the construction sector.”
The report categorizes pollution from construction into three classes:
- Construction Sources of Spills
- Concrete, Cement & Grout
- Oil Storage, Refuelling & Use
- Chemicals & Hazardous Substances
- Polluted soils and groundwater
- Contaminated subsurface structures
- Silt and Sediment
- Mechanism for Spill Propagation
- Surface Run-Off
- Dewatering (Contaminated Groundwater)
- Infiltration into the Ground
- Pathways created by Foundations & Impacted Media
- Impacted Media
- Rivers, Canals, Watercourses
- Recreational Water Users
- Aquifers & Drinking Water Supplies
- Building Occupiers (affected by vapors, odours, gas)
- Ecological Habitats
The report presents a useful checklist for implementing effective spill prevention & control in the industry. Top line headings in the checklist include:
- Risk Assessment
- Control Measures
- Transport & Handling
- Review and Inspections
The format of the report is somewhat unusual, interspersing opinions and transcripts of discussions with more technical aspects of control and prevention of construction-related spills. GallonDaily particularly recommends the ‘white paper’ entitled Identifying common spill threats and the cost of remedy which begins on page 7 and the Building a spill prevention kit for your specific needs section which begins on page 26 of the report. The full document is free and can be obtained through registration at http://www.bsif.co.uk/pdf/construction-spill-prevention-matters
On 6 March GallonDaily reported on WWF’s sustainable palm oil campaign (search for palm oil in search box above). Yesterday another UK ngo, the Rainforest Foundation UK, launched a much more aggressive campaign, initially against chocolate products (think Easter Eggs) that it considers a threat to the world’s rainforests, and to the indigenous peoples inhabiting them, because of unsustainable palm oil production. The report, Appetite for Destruction? Are You Eating the Rainforest?, prepared in partnership with Ethical Consumer magazine, is published in the environment section of The Guardian newspaper.
Please note that chocolate products in the Canadian and US markets may have different formulations from those sold in the UK so results from this study may not apply on this continent. However, the RFUK report urges consumers not to buy some products from such well-known brands as Mars, Kraft (Cadbury and Terry’s), Ferrerro, Lindt, and Guylian because of their unsustainable palm oil content. Using a traffic light system for rankings, a popular approach in Europe, RFUK puts a caution (yellow light – read the company’s policy carefully to understand the impact of your purchase) on some chocolate products from such manufacturers as Nestle, again because of unsustainable palm oil content.
For The Guardian article Easter Eggs Rated by Palm Oil Use(remember this is a UK study and may not apply in North America) visit http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/25/easter-eggs-palm-oil?INTCMP=SRCH
For direct access to the RFUK data visit http://www.rainforestfoundationuk.org/palm-oil-database
On February 7 of this year GallonDaily advised readers of the possibility of investigation of their environmental activities by remotely piloted drones. We did not know at the time that it has already been done, though more by chnace than by planning.
sUAS News, with sUAS standing for small Unmanned Aerial Systems, reported on 23 January 2012 that a drone enthusiast had piloted his camera-equipped aircraft over a creek near Dallas and had noticed a blood red colour in the creek. Some quick phone calls and 40 minutes later a government inspector was on scene. A Federal search warrant followed and in December 2012 a Dallas County grand jury returned several indictments against a meat packing company accused of dumping animal blood into a creek.
This case will certainly give corporate critics some ideas. For lots of news coverage Google “Columbia Packing” or visit http://www.myfoxdfw.com/story/20428259/columbia-packing-co-indicted-for-pigs-blood-in-trinity-river
One can argue that an annual event such as Earth Hour, coming at 8.30pm on Saturday March 22 in whatever time zone you are located, helps give people an opportunity to reconnect to their support for action on climate change. So far so good, but many of those who participate in Earth Hour replace electric lighting with one or two unhealthy alternatives: candles and flashlights.
Candles are an environmentally poor alternative to electric light. Most candles are made of petroleum wax, a fossil fuel derivative, and the amount of light emitted per unit of petroleum burned is far less than the most inefficient power plant. Many ngos are working to replace oil lamps in homes in developing countries with solar powered LED lighting because of the undesirable environmental and indoor air quality impacts of the oil lamp. Candles are no better than oil lamps. All candles, even those made from beeswax, inevitably emit particulate matter in the form of soot, a material that, when experienced indoors, puts people with asthma at risk of an attack and which is not healthy even for the most healthy of us. We do not need more particulate matter, particularly black carbon particulate matter with a light coating of petroleum, being inhaled into our lungs. If you are concerned about second-hand cigarette smoke, GallonDaily recommends that you avoid rooms where candles are being burned.
Flashlights themselves are not a problem but the used batteries most certainly are. A non-rechargeable dry cell battery of any type has a higher environmental footprint than almost any other form of electricity. Scrap batteries are becoming an increasing component of municipal solid waste and the vast majority, even those designated as household hazardous waste, are not finding their way into recycling programs. If you must use a flashlight, try using a crank powered flashlight or rechargeable batteries and, at the end of their useful life, make sure that all batteries go to recycling. Note as well that even recycling of dry cell batteries is not a particularly energy efficient activity, though it is certainly a great improvement on landfill. And, of course, make sure that your flashlight is an LED type, giving maximum light for minimum battery use.
The 2012-13 Federal Budget provides very limited new funding to environmental initiatives. However, there are commitments in the Budget which may provide benefits to environment-related companies and organizations. In contrast to past years, many of these new commitments lack a detailed analysis. Presumably, subsequent government announcements will provide more details.
2013 Budget initiatives that may have particular relevance to the environment sector include:
- $325 million over eight years to Sustainable Development Technology Canada to support the development and demonstration of new clean technologies, which can save businesses money, create high-paying jobs and drive innovation.
- $92 million over two years to the forestry sector in support of its transformation to higher-value activities and its expansion into new export markets.
- $32.2 billion through a Community Improvement Fund consisting of an indexed Gas Tax Fund and the incremental Goods and Services Tax Rebate for Municipalities to build roads, public transit, recreational facilities and other community infrastructure across Canada that will improve the quality of life of Canadians. This includes a $10-billion Provincial-Territorial Infrastructure Component that will support projects of national, regional and local significance in communities across the country in a broader range of categories including highways, public transit, drinking water, wastewater, connectivity and broadband, and innovation (including infrastructure at post-secondary institutions that supports advanced research and teaching). There will be P3 screen on projects with capital costs of more than $100 million submitted by provinces, territories and municipalities for funding under the Building Canada Fund (apparently meaning that the possibility of including a private sector element must be considered for inclusion in such projects).
- $1.25 billion for a renewed P3 Canada Fund to continue supporting innovative ways to build infrastructure projects faster and provide better value for Canadian taxpayers through public-private partnerships.
- $6 billion in federal support to provinces, territories and municipalities under current infrastructure programs in 2014–15 and beyond.
- Approximately $7 billion over 10 years in First Nations infrastructure such as roads, bridges, energy systems and other First Nations infrastructure priorities.
- $225 million to support advanced research infrastructure and the Canada Foundation for Innovations long-term operations.
- $3 billion over five years with provincial and territorial governments under Growing Forward 2 to support innovation, competitiveness and market development in agriculture.
- $4.4 million over three years to the Ring of Fire Capacity Building Initiative, through the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario. This initiative will provide targeted support to communities directly adjacent to the Ring of Fire for activities such as business skills development, strategic business planning and Aboriginal youth engagement.
- $57.5 million over five years to enhance regulatory certainty for the aquaculture sector.
- $248 million over five years on a cash basis to Environment Canada to revitalize Canada’s weather services.
- $20 million over two years to the Canada Revenue Agency to improve the predictability and enhance enforcement of the Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax incentive program.
- $37 million annually to support research partnerships between post-secondary institutions and industry through the research granting councils.
- $10 million over two years to improve the conservation of fisheries by supporting partnerships with local groups
- Dedicating all funds collected through the sale of the Salmon Conservation Stamp to the Pacific Salmon Foundation.
- $4 million in 2013–14 to support marine conservation activities in Canada’s oceans.
- $4 million over three years to protect against invasive species through continued enforcement and monitoring of ballast water regulations and increased ballast water inspection capacity in the Arctic.
- Expanded eligibility for the accelerated capital cost allowance for clean energy generation equipment to include biogas production equipment that uses pulp and paper waste and wastewater, beverage industry waste and wastewater, and separated organics from municipal waste; and all types of cleaning and upgrading equipment that can be used to transform biogas, landfill gas or digester gas into biomethane..
- Proposing to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act to support the regulation of nuclear facilities by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission through cost-recovery from nuclear licence holders.
- Extension of the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for new investment in machinery and equipment in the manufacturing and processing sector for an additional two years.
- Renewal of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) with funding of $920 million over five years to help create job opportunities and encourage economic growth in the region. This includes $200 million over five years for a new Advanced Manufacturing Fund in Ontario.
- Expansion and extension for one year the temporary Hiring Credit for Small Business, allowing Canadian small business to reinvest $225 million in job creation and economic growth in 2013.
- A new, temporary First-Time Donors Super Credit for first-time claimants of the Charitable Donations Tax Credit to encourage all young Canadians to donate to charity. No details on whether this will include environmental charities.
- $20 million in 2013–14 for the Nature Conservancy of Canada to continue to conserve ecologically sensitive land. Each federal dollar will be matched by two dollars in funding from other sources.
- Capital support, subject to matching funding from the Yukon government and the private sector, to support Yukon College’s Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining. By allowing for the construction of additional trades and technical facilities at the College’s Ayamdigut Campus in Whitehorse, this initiative will expand Yukon College’s programming linked to mining employment opportunities. Details will be announced in the coming months.
- Investment of $70 million over three years to support 5,000 more paid internships for recent post-secondary graduates. No sectors announced.
- The Canadian international Development Agency is to be merged with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in a new Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development. No details on what this will mean for CIDA funding. There will still be a minister for international development.
- There will be 2013 amendments to the Investment Canada Act to implement already announced clarifications regarding how the Government will assess proposed investments in Canada by foreign state-owned enterprises.
The Budget summary and a link to the full document is available at http://www.budget.gc.ca/2013/doc/bb/brief-bref-eng.html
An initial review of the environmental implications of the Canada Federal Budget will be posted on this site by 6.30pm Thursday March 21st.
Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent spoke yesterday toan international business audience at the AMERICANA Environmental Technology Trade Show and Conference in Montreal.
The speech, which may signal that little in the way of new environmental initiatives will be included in tomorrow’s Federal budget, was quite short at just under 1400 words. Key points, quoted directly from the speech, included:
- Our Government actively supports business efforts to develop innovative and sustainable solutions, advance technologies and promote a green economy. We are doing this through Sustainable Development Technology Canada—a not‑for-profit foundation supported by the Government of Canada.
- Sustainable Development Technology Canada’s Tech Fund has supported more than 230 projects over the past ten years, worth nearly $600 million—boosted by another $1.4 billion in funding from other partners. In addition, SDTC’s NextGen Biofuels Fund supports large-scale demonstration facilities for tomorrow’s renewable fuels.
- We have introduced “Responsible Resource Development”—our comprehensive plan to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity while strengthening our world-class protection of the environment. This will provide companies with the stability, clarity and predictability that will allow them to invest and innovate with confidence.
- We’re looking at the big picture to determine where we can bring the greatest benefits to the environment, which key sectors contribute the most greenhouse gas emissions, and how we bring about the changes we seek while maintaining the economic growth we need
- We have taken on a sector-by-sector approach to address the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions—introducing new standards to safeguard our environment, stimulate our economy and spur innovation.
- We made Canada the first country to ban the construction of traditional coal‑powered generation units.
- Our greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector are projected to decline by one-third between 2005 levels and 2020. Yet, we are anticipating significant increases in both economic activity and electricity generation during this same period—proof positive that you can have economic growth and lower emissions at the same time.
- In the transportation sector—which accounts for about one-quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions—we are working with our American partners to harmonize standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.
- Our Government continues to work with the provinces and stakeholders to develop greenhouse gas emission regulations for the oil and gas sector. These regulations will be announced when they are ready.
- In 2011, the Governments of Canada and Quebec renewed the St. Lawrence Action Plan for 15 years. With this plan, we are focusing on comprehensive monitoring with a view to biodiversity conservation, improved water quality and sustainable use of that great river.
- We are working . . closely with our American friends on a whole range of issues, including cleaning up the Great Lakes, the largest freshwater system in the world. Last fall, we collaborated with the United States to enhance and renew the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. We reinforced our efforts to deal with harmful algae, toxic chemicals and discharges from vessels using the lakes. We also included new provisions to address issues such as aquatic invasive species, habitat degradation and the effects of climate change.
- Canada has been active on the international stage, where we’re focused on achieving a binding global agreement on climate change that covers all major emitters.
- Canada was also a founding member of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition—an important initiative to reduce short-lived climate pollutants that have a significant effect on global warming.
- We are also investing $1.2 billion in fast-start financing to support climate change action and leverage private sector investment for projects in developing countries with a focus on sectors such as clean technology, renewable energy, energy efficiency, water, agriculture, and forestry.
The full speech is available at http://www.ec.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=6F2DE1CA-1&news=C88B2F09-0932-4D57-8643-A44280537B50
A new report from the European Environment Agency finds that “Europe is still wasting vast quantities of valuable resources by sending them to landfill, and many countries risk falling short of legally binding recycling targets”.
Overall 35 % of municipal waste was recycled in Europe in 2010, a significant improvement on 23 % in 2001. Recycling rates are highest in Austria, with 63 %, followed by Germany (62 %), Belgium (58 %), the Netherlands (51 %) and Switzerland (51 %). The United Kingdom increased the share of municipal waste recycling from 12 to 39 % between 2001 and 2010, while Ireland raised recycling rates from 11 to 36% over the same period. The amount of waste sent to landfill has decreased since 2001, while Europe has increased the amount of waste incinerated, composted and recycled.
The reports findings include:
- Recycling can reduce greenhouse gases and save valuable resources. This is because recycled materials replace virgin materials. From a life-cycle perspective, changing municipal waste treatment between 2001 and 2010 has successfully cut greenhouse gas emissions from municipal waste by 56 %, or 38 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent in the EU, Norway and Switzerland, the report says.
- Preventing waste in the first place is the first priority of EU waste legislation. The municipal waste generated by each EU citizen fell by 3.6 % between 2001 and 2010. However, this may be due to the economic downturn – waste generation per capita was quite stable between 2001 and 2007.
- Municipal waste produced by the average Slovakian increased by 39% between 2001 and 2010, while Norwegians and Croatians increased annual municipal waste by 30 and 25 % respectively. At the other end of the scale, several countries reduced the amount of waste they generated – including Bulgaria (18 % reduction), Estonia (17 %), Slovenia (12 %) and the UK (12 %).
- Improved recycling rates are primarily due to trends in recycling of materials, with less progress in bio-waste recycling.
- Countries that successfully reduced waste sent to landfill and increased recycling usually used a range of national and regional instruments. These included landfill bans on biodegradable waste or municipal waste that has not been pre-treated, mandatory separate collection of municipal waste fractions, economic instruments such as landfill and incineration taxes, and waste collection fees incentivising recycling.
The report and its individual country supplements present a very useful resource on waste management and social engagement technologies. Our sister publication, Gallon Environment Letter, will be presenting a summary of some of the highlights from this massive data resource in an early issue. To subscribe to Gallon Environment Letter visit http://www.cialgroup.ca/subscription.htm
For more information on the EEA report Managing Municipal Solid Waste, a copy of the report (free) and its country supplements (also free) visit http://www.eea.europa.eu/pressroom/newsreleases/highest-recycling-rates-in-austria
The Great Lakes Environmental Assessment and Mapping Project, a joint initiative of scientists at a number of US and Canadian universities and research organizations, has recently published a series of maps identifying the locations and seriousness of Great Lakes stressors. The maps provide a very helpful visual indication of the extent to which areas around the lakes are subject to a set of 34 categories of environmental stress.
Top line stressor headings include:
- Aquatic Habitat
- Climate Change
- Coastal Development
- Invasive Species
- Nonpoint Pollution
- Toxic Chemicals
Looking at Lakes Erie and Ontario, which are the lakes which the maps show to be most impacted by human activities on the Canadian side, key Canadian impacts in the nonpoint pollution and toxic chemical categories include:
- nitrogen loading
- sediment loading
- copper in sediments
- mercury in sediments and
- PCBs in sediments.
Interestingly, and positively, phosphorous is not shown as being quite as serious a non-point polluter as the above categories, though it certainly still falls into a second category of seriousness for nonpoint pollution sources.
These maps are a fascinating and useful way to present environmental information and to indicate where some prevention and remediation priorities should lie if the Great lakes are to be restored to a more sustainable state in line with swimmable, drinkable, fishable objectives.
The data and maps are available at http://www.greatlakesmapping.org/ Drill down through the various pages for lots more information. The authors state that the site does not work well with Internet Explorer and suggests Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, or Safari as the best web browsers for viewing the maps.