It all began at Tim Hortons ...

It all began at Tim Hortons ... r1 ... r33 In late 2018, our Alberta reporter, Sharon J. Riley, was meeting with a farmer in a Tim Hortons in southern Alberta.

They were there to talk about oil and gas wells. Then he mentioned, in an off-hand sort of a way, that even when wells were officially reclaimed, they were still failing government criteria.

Her ears pricked up immediately.

In fact, he said, he'd heard rumours that the government had studied this, and of all the reclaimed wells sites it looked at, all but one failed.

That really got her attention.

What followed was more than a year of investigating the government's oil and gas well reclamation program.

After filing multiple freedom-of-information requests (paid for by you, our dear readers), she stumbled on what can only be described as the smoking gun — a report, commissioned by the Alberta government in 2018, that found "mounting evidence" oil and gas well sites were unlikely to be reclaimed in the long run.

It turned out the farmer hadn't been wrong.

When she started poking around further, she heard from a former senior government official that this report had been buried. It was, they said, "politically inconvenient."

Now the province's United Conservative Party government is moving ahead with plans to eliminate the government division that had been pushing to monitor the long-term reclamation of oil and gas wells in the first place.

The results of Sharon's investigation were published last week and it's causing quite a stir in Alberta. Liberal leader David Khan called it "alarming" and the story has been shared or referenced by journalists from the CBC, the National Observer, The Tyee and others. The story is one of our top-read stories this month, and is still gaining traction.

Read on for the week's top stories!

Emma Gilchrist

PS: The Narwhal's job postings are still live! Check them out — and send in your applications to join our team — if you haven't already.

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Two members of a government-appointed panel tell The Narwhal they heard an unexpected level of agreement about the need to ‘get back to the land’ and move past polarized political cycles when safeguarding the province’s last intact ancient forests, which are being cut down faster than the Amazon. Read more.

Report 'buried' by Alberta government reveals 'mounting evidence' that oil and gas wells aren't reclaimed in the long run

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A previously unreleased report obtained by The Narwhal shows a government division — soon to be scrapped by Premier Jason Kenney — raised red flags about the province’s failing system for wellsite cleanup. Read more.


VIDEO: When fracking and hydro dams collide

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Internal documents show that BC Hydro officials knew from the moment the Peace Canyon dam was built in the 1970s that it had “foundational problems,” and that if an earthquake damaged the structure’s vital drainage systems it could be a race to stabilize the dam before it failed. Watch now.

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Logging permits in the Skagit River headwaters will no longer be issued by the B.C. government but mining exploration is causing friction with Americans downstream. We travelled the river to meet the people fighting an Imperial Metals permit. Read more. The Narwhal in the world Frontburner is CBC's daily national news podcast, and we're big fans over here at The Narwhal. We were thrilled to have our Alberta reporter, Sharon J. Riley, featured on Wednesday's episode about the proposed Frontier oilsands mine in Alberta. Listen here (or wherever you listen to podcasts). What we're reading A note from a Narwhal "I absolutely love the work that you are doing at The Narwhal, and donating is the least I can do." — Niall

Be like Niall and donate what you can to support The Narwhal's reader-funded journalism. Follow us on the 'gram That feeling when you find out The Narwhal is hiring. Share this newsletter signup link with all your favourite cats. Copyright © 2020 The Narwhal, All rights reserved.
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