alberta-wind-power-nl-03-2024

Beware the winds of change in Alberta

In our latest newsletter, we celebrate our new tote-carrying Narwhal members. Then, we dive into Alberta’s topsy-turvy no-go zones for wind power

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“Your investigative reporting is having an actual impact and I want to support that.”

“You have done amazing and important speaking truth to power.”


Pardon us, but we’ve been a bit overwhelmed by the notes of support from the 145 Narwhal readers who joined as members since Tuesday.

Those 145 readers? They’re getting brand-new Narwhal tote bags as a thank you for supporting independent, investigative journalism. That means we only have 55 totes left — one could be yours if you sign up for any monthly or annual amount you can afford! Will you join the growing chorus of readers helping us launch more agenda-setting investigations?

 
Become a Narwhal, get a tote!

Now, onto this week’s newsletter, from a province where we’ve been doing our fair share of investigative reporting: Alberta. 

The Prairies have been abuzz with talk about renewables — or talk about quashing renewables — for some time now. 

A year ago, Alberta was on its way to being Canada’s renewable energy capital. A few things have happened since then. 

First there was last summer’s moratorium on new renewable energy projects, which slammed the brakes on billions of dollars in investment. Then there was the back and forth about who actually asked for the moratorium — with Alberta reporter Drew Anderson unearthing a series of documents poking holes in the government’s (shaky) narrative.

Premier Danielle Smith’s government said it would use the “pause” for an inquiry into the impacts of renewables in the province.

It’s worth taking a step back to say, yes, renewable energy is happening fast here. And, yes, there are questions. On fertile soil, is a solar farm the best use? What happens when a company decides it’s done with a wind farm?

Mines, logging, sprawl — but no wind turbines. Here’s what Alberta is still doing in ‘pristine viewscapes’

But as critics of the government’s moratorium have pointed out, there are similar questions about all sorts of industries in the province (cough, oil and gas) and those industries aren’t facing a “pause.” 

Then, in February, the government shocked Albertans again, announcing it would establish 35-kilometre buffer zones around protected areas and “pristine viewscapes” — something one minister described as “unobstructed, natural landscapes.” 

Those buffer zones would prevent any new wind farms.

Cue more questions. Wouldn’t a 35-kilometre buffer zone around protected areas cover most of the province? What the heck is a pristine viewscape? And are there any “unobstructed, natural landscapes” left anymore?

As Drew reports, we got (a tiny bit) more clarity when the government released a draft map, showing new wind farms will be forbidden from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains to as far east as Calgary.

Some call it hypocrisy. The Alberta Utilities Commission, in its report as part of the government-ordered inquiry into renewable energy development, said itself that any prohibition to “achieve viewscape protection” should be “industry agnostic” and “apply to all forms of development within the restricted zone.”

Other uses of land are chugging along in the wind power no-go zones. Check out Drew’s latest explainer to see examples of things Alberta is still doing in those landscapes. Let’s just say they’re not exactly pretty.

Take care and stay agnostic about your industries,

Sharon J. Riley
Prairies bureau chief
Headshot of Sharon Riley

P.S. Drew’s document dives into the inner workings of the Alberta government are only possible because thousands of loyal readers just like you give what they can every month. Will you join our growing pod? The next 55 people who sign up as members will get a Narwhal tote bag to say thanks for supporting investigative journalism.

 
Become a Narwhal, get a tote
A young child in a carrying sack is perched in the snow in front of a fire

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Photo fellowship alert!


As a Narwhal reader, you know we regularly report on stories that deeply impact the lives of Indigenous communities. We’re dedicated to showing how assertions of sovereignty and age-old land stewardship protect the natural world. We’re also there to document how these communities are grappling with the ongoing impacts of climate change, natural resource development and environmental racism. 

We want to see more of these stories — and we want to ensure they’re told more often by Indigenous journalists. That’s why we’re launching The Narwhal’s Indigenous Photojournalism Fellowship.

We’d love to hear from any First Nations, Inuit or Métis photographer based in so-called Ontario who has a story they’ve been hoping to share about the natural world. Maybe that’s you — or someone you know?

Spread the word: applications are open until April 15! Read more about the fellowship here.

 
A youth from Wilps Ni'isjoohl lays cedar boughs beside a Nisga'a pole that was rematriated nearly a century after it was stolen.

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So, we picked up a few award nominations


We are delighted to share the news: we nabbed three nominations at this year’s National Newspaper Awards!

One of the coolest things about the selections? They all showcase the potential of teamwork — all three nominations recognize partnerships with other media outlets and freelance journalists.

Northwest B.C. reporter Matt Simmons teamed up with IndigiNews editor Cara McKenna and photojournalist Marty Clemens for a feature on the rematriation of a stolen totem pole to the Nisg̱a’a Nation. Their work was recognized with a nomination in the arts and entertainment category. 

Our dogged work reporting on the Greenbelt saga in Ontario earned a nomination alongside our friends at the Toronto Star for sustained news coverage.

And a trio of Narwhal pieces, from the roads along Ontario’s planned Highway 413 (with photos by one of last year’s fellows!) to a bird’s-eye view of Alberta’s oilsands, earned us a selection in the presentation/design category.

None of this work would be possible without all of the folks who read, share and support our journalism. Thank you!

 
🤍 Become a member

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This week in The Narwhal

In Namu, B.C., on the central coast, Hereditary Chief Harvey Humchitt stands in the centre against a calm beach, and the glassy water reflects the overcast sky. Mountainous islands are visible on the horizon. Humchitt has dark hair with a bit of grey and a greying mustache. He wears a blue rain jacket and looks off camera to the right. Hhe has a soft expression and his eyes look deep and reflective.
Frustrated with Canada’s spill response, Heiltsuk leaders take their fight international
By Steph Kwetásel’wet Wood
In the lasting aftermath of the Nathan E. Stewart spill off coastal B.C., Heiltsuk leaders embark on a mission to reshape maritime law, advocating for recognition of cultural losses and justice for their community

READ MORE
 
A dump truck works at Teck's Fording River Operations coal mine, one of several mountain-top-removal coal mines in the Elk Valley near Fernie, B.C.
Costs to clean up Teck’s B.C. coal mines are billions higher than previously thought: report
By Francesca Fionda and Ainslie Cruickshank
READ MORE
 
A spotted owl sitting on a branch in an enclosure with foliage around it
Opinion: B.C. isn’t getting an endangered species law. Maybe that’s okay
By Arno Kopecky
READ MORE
 
Illustration of caribou on a mountain while heli-skiers are dropped in the distance.
B.C. to test need for heli-ski flight data to support caribou conservation
By Ainslie Cruickshank
READ MORE
 
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The cat’s out of the bag! We’ve got Narwhal totes for the next 55 readers who sign up to become a member. Will you join our pawd?

 
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