A 30,000-foot view of two entirely different investigations

In our latest newsletter, we reflect on feedback to our Pacific Wild story and tell you about a time when clicking on email attachments proved to be a good decision

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A painting of two whales one under the water, one breaching. Green hills are seen on the horizon with clouds overhead. Illustration by Eryn Lougheed for The Narwhal's investigation on Pacific Wild
“Thank you for your conviction to tell the truth. It’s why I am an avid donor.”

Responses to our investigation into conservation organization Pacific Wild have been streaming in. Most of the notes have expressed appreciation for our many months of work digging into allegations of verbal abuse and safety issues at the B.C.-based non-profit. What’s more, reporter Stephanie Wood’s piece has been shared by publications including The Globe and Mail, Politico, Capital Daily, The Tyee and Longreads.

“I really hope that your article will make environmental organizations reflect on their structure and accountability regarding fair and just treatment of their staff,” Renee, a member of The Narwhal, wrote in to say. “Having been employed by several organizations that deeply cared for ‘all living things,’ I found that the ‘human’ part of that sentiment was often neglected or dismissed.”

Many shared similar feedback. “But it wasn’t all praise,” our editor-in-chief Emma Gilchrist writes in this opinion piece. “We also heard from a few readers who thought the environmental good accomplished by Pacific Wild outweighed any alleged harm done to workers.”

This argument misses the point, Emma writes.

“If The Narwhal’s investigation into Pacific Wild serves as a clarion call for non-profits to examine their governance structures and ensure they have bullying and harassment policies in place, that’s a good thing. In fact, I’d argue that is going to help save the planet, not hinder the cause.”

A handful of others have said that Steph’s story strays too far from our core mandate, asking: “why don’t you focus on telling more important climate and biodiversity stories instead?” Well, we believe it’s possible to do both. In fact, we published an entirely different investigation this very same week.
A  Canadian Natural Resource Limited (CNRL) work site near Lloydminster, Alta.

That one started when internal Alberta Energy Regulator documents were leaked to us. And those documents, our climate investigations reporter Carl Meyer discovered, contained hidden documents within them.

“As I was reading the PDFs of emails, I noticed that some of them had attachments,” Carl told me. “Some of the attachments looked like links, not just text. And one day I decided to click on them just to see what would happen. And what happened was that the attachment actually appeared.”

What those emails and memos reveal is a whole lot of dirt on how the province’s dirtiest oil and gas facilities managed to escape tough rules on methane pollution.

Saying methane emissions are bad for the environment would be an understatement: its global warming potential is estimated to be 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over the long term. And methane accounts for 14 per cent of Canada’s emissions.

So, in 2017, the Alberta Energy Regulator drafted tough new rules to slash methane emissions. But those tough rules never quite came to pass. The reason for that, these documents show, was 11th-hour lobbying by the fossil fuel industry — efforts that prompted Rachel Notley’s NDP government to create a loophole to the benefit of heavy emitters like Canadian Natural Resources Limited.

As Carl opened attachments, he learned that the energy regulator had repeatedly urged the province to reject Canadian Natural Resources’ proposal.

“The whole debate between the regulator and the government was primarily about the loophole. It wasn’t just some abstract thing — it was right there in the talking points, spelled out.”

Go here to read all about what went down, including a fresh interview with then-energy minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd, who told Carl she wanted the methane rules to be “fair for everyone.”

Take care and do open that attachment, actually.

Arik Ligeti
Director of audience
Headshot of Arik Ligeti
Reporter Matt Simmons is seen with a camera documenting RCMP activity on Wet'suwet'en territory.

The Narwhal on the pod

Over in the podcasting world, northwest B.C. reporter Matt Simmons appeared on The Big Story to talk about his investigations into the RCMP’s raids on Wet’suwet’en territory. “We were all in the dark,” Matt said as he recounted the immediate aftermath of the arrests of land defenders and journalists last November. And so, together with managing editor Mike De Souza, he started digging. Listen to the episode to learn about what they found (or read the investigations: one, two and three).

This week in The Narwhal

Nisga'a youth on a dock in Gingolx, B.C.
How an oily fish is connecting Nisg̱a’a youth to the land
By Matt Simmons
After a long, dark winter, the return of the oolichan to Ḵ'alii Aksim Lisims is the first sign of spring on Nisg̱a’a territory. During a three-day camp, Ging̱olx youth connect with saak and those who catch and process it.

Illustration of pollution over Toronto roads.
The fight to crack down on air pollution from Toronto’s traffic has stalled
By Emma McIntosh
Wild salmon smolts swim past the open nets of a fish farm in Clayoquot Sound
The federal government just extended B.C. salmon farm licences. Here’s what you need to know
By Ainslie Cruickshank
Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, right, poses with Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark next to a "Protecting the Greenbelt" sign.
Highway 413 threatens more Ontario conservation lands than publicized
By Emma McIntosh


What we’re reading

Globe: Wild boars are invasive, adaptable and dangerous, and pose a growing threat to the country
Tyee: ‘Disaster Land Grabs’ Worldwide and in British Columbia
When you’re spending your afternoon reading The Narwhal’s latest investigations. Tell your pals to sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop on our scoops.
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The Narwhal’s Prairies bureau is here to bring you stories on energy and the environment you won’t find anywhere else. Stay tapped in by signing up for a weekly dose of our ad‑free, independent journalism.