Last week, a giant container ship came dangerously close to slamming into the Silva sailing ship. “The Silva’s crew believed they were in a different location than her actual position,” a federal official told me.
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Bruce Livesey continues his National Observer series about the Irving family and empire. (Even the National Observer can’t decide if this is “#3 of 3 articles from the Special Report House of Irving” or “Second in a six-part series on one of Canada’s richest families: The House of Irvings.”)
Headlined “Turmoil at Irving Oil,” Livesey’s article gets into the fascinating but gossipy family dynamics playing out at Irving Oil before getting into the more relevant environmental issues at the centre of the operation — particularly the proposed Energy East pipeline and the horrific air pollution issues in Saint John. Of particular interest is Irving Oil’s part in the Lac-Mégantic disaster:
An investigation quickly discovered the oil was more volatile and corrosive than reflected on labels placed on the cars. While this particular train was operated by the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, the oil was heading to Irving Oil’s refinery in Saint John.
But what did Irving Oil know about the volatility of the oil arriving at its refinery from the US prior to the accident — oil they’d been refining for years?
Joel Rochon, a Toronto-based lawyer involved in one of the victim lawsuits, believes Irving Oil must have known how dangerous the fuel was. A lawsuit launched against CP Rail — one of the companies held responsible for the disaster — alleges that Irving Oil changed the labeling on the empty cars to a higher level of volatility when they sent the cars back to the US. Irving Oil did so, Rochon said in an interview, “presumably after they’d had the opportunity to evaluate the volatility of the liquids of the residuals at the bottom of the tank cars. So there’s a huge discrepancy we alleged between the labeling coming in and the labeling going out. That should have raised a red flag not only with Irving but with other transporters and players along the line… Did Irving fall down on their duty? Probably.”
3. Burn, baby, burn
Some months ago, Halifax council asked the fire department to produce a report on backyard burning, and that report came back yesterday to council suggesting that open air wood burning (as opposed to natural gas or propane burners or barbecues) be banned.
Deputy fire chief Roy Hollett said the department gets called about 500 times a year for nuisance complaints related to the smoke from chimneys, wood barrels, fire pits, and the like. That works out to fewer than two calls a day or, more realistically, about 71 calls on each of the seven days it doesn’t rain each year.
The complaints are generated by neighbours who have respiratory problems, often made worse by people burning green wood, garbage, and other material that increases the amount of smoke. This puts the fire department in the awkward position of neighbourhood peacemaker. Hollett said firefighters first try to reason with the warring neighbours, and usually successfully — the department has issued just one citation for backyard burning. But, said Hollett, he’s aware that sometimes when firefighters respond to a complaint and see that there’s no problem with the burning, after the firefighters leave, the burning party will get pissed off at the complaining neighbour and make the fire even bigger and smokier.
Sitting in council chambers, I got the sense that the fire department really doesn’t care one way or the other about the issue, except to note that it takes a bit of their time.
Evidently, however, people really like their chimneas, as councillors were flooded with calls in opposition to a ban, and so even though it was almost immediately clear that there was no political will for a ban, for two hours councillors pontificated for the cameras before voting down the proposal.
As many councillors pointed out, the issue really isn’t so much burning as it is the excess smoke, which homeowners can control by burning cleaner and drier fuel and being conscious of the concerns of their neighbours. Which seems sensible enough.
And if that’s the biggest controversy we’ve got this summer, we’re doing OK.
4. Memento mori
Sidney Crosby has accomplished much: two Stanley Cups and a list of awards and firsts and bests too long to enumerate in this space. Even more to his credit, by all reports Crosby is a stand-up guy, generous with his time and money, and simply as likeable as they come. As with his athletic ability, he appears to have a strength of character that is beyond the understanding of we lesser folk, or at least this lesser man.
But Crosby is 28 — he turns 29 in August. He’s just a kid. A kid on top of the world.
And we have no idea how he’ll handle the greatness, the honours bestowed on him, the temptations and rewards. The mighty have fallen before.
All of which is to say, as much as we may want to bask in reflected glory, maybe we should temper our enthusiasm.
Michael Gorman filed Freedom of Information requests to try to understand where the Liberals are in terms of developing a fracking policy, but came up mostly empty-handed, except for a bunch of heavily redacted documents:
A technical paper on fracking prepared by Energy Department staff included a proposed definition, according to a department email dated May 15, 2015. That paper was also redacted.
While there are people on both sides of the issue who would like to see more clarity from the Liberals, there is some political safety in being where they are; as long as they can say the issue is being studied, the Grits can’t be accused of bringing in an outright ban and, thus, being called anti-business.
And while there may not be an outright ban, the lack of regulations and a definition means companies can’t frack, which surely satisfies many people opposed to the practice.
1. Stanley Cup
Sidney Crosby has no plans to bring the Stanley Cup to Nova Scotia, writes Matt Brand:
Back in 2009, Crosby says he suffered the emotional toll of trying to make everyone in Nova Scotia feel like they, in some way, contributed to helping win the cup. This was something Crosby knew was nothing but a lie.
“The truth is, they had nothing to do with it,” said Crosby, prepping Jager-Bombs for his teammates at 7am.
Crosby says if the city wants to host the Stanley Cup, maybe they should get that other Nova Scotia hockey hero to bring it there.
“Oh wait, that other player doesn’t exist,” said a snarky Crosby, who laughed diabolically as he gave a high-five to absolutely no one.
Audit & Finance (10am, City Hall) — a bit of movement on the Dartmouth Museum.
No public meetings.
Thesis defence, Chemistry (9:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Courtney Calahoo will be defend her thesis, “Structure-Property Relations of Mixed-Alkali and Ion-Exchange Silicate Glasses.”
Thesis defence, Economics (2pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Buildin) — PhD candidate Angela Daley will be defend her thesis, “Three Essays on the Well-Being of Canadian Children and their Families.”
In the harbour
1am: Atlantic Conveyor, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
6am: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Valencia, Spain
7am: CSL Reliance, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Riverton, Louisiana
7am: He Chi, oil tanker, arrives at anchor for AGM inspection from New York
11am: ZIM Savannah, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
1pm: He Chi, oil tanker, sails from anchorage to sea
2:30pm: Thalassa Desgagnes, asphalt tanker, sails from Pier 26 to sea
3:30pm: Thalatta, car carrier, sails from Autoport to sea
4:30pm: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, sails from Pier 41 to sea
8:30pm: ZIM Savannah, container ship, sails from Pier 42 to sea
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 1pm.
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