US judge orders environmental review of Dakota Access Pipeline

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe have long argued that oil spills from the pipeline would contaminate the Missouri River.

A United States federal court on Wednesday ordered the Trump administration to conduct a full environmental review of a controversial segment of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a long-standing focal point of tribal and environmental activism.

The court granted a request by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which had petitioned to nullify federal permits for Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline on grounds that the Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it issued permits in 2016 without conducting adequate environmental reviews.

“This court ultimately concludes that too many questions remain unanswered. Unrebutted expert critiques regarding leak-detection systems, operator safety records, adverse conditions, and worst-case discharge mean that the easement approval remains ‘highly controversial’ under NEPA,” the court ruling said.


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The court remanded the matter to the Army Corps of Engineers to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement and ordered the parties to “brief the issue of whether the easement should be vacated during the remand” and oil can continue flowing.

“After years of commitment to defending our water and earth, we welcome this news of a significant legal win,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith.

The decision is the latest twist in a years-long legal battle about the pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe had sued the Army Corps over its approval of the pipeline in North Dakota, arguing that oil spills could contaminate their water source, the Missouri River.

Jan Hasselman, a lawyer for Earthjustice representing the tribe, said the court decision showed that the Obama administration was “right to deny the permits in 2016”.

The pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners LP (ETP), has been operational since June 2017, after President Donald Trump granted its permit over the objections of tribes and environmentalists who were fearful it would pollute a waterway sacred to the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux.

ETP was not immediately available for comment.

The Army Corps said in its in 2017 decision that granting the permit and right of way for the company on federally owned land “does not result in disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority populations, including tribes, and low-income populations.”

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University of Guelph pauses search for new president, names interim one

The University of Guelph says it is suspending its search for a new president and vice-chancellor amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, the board of governors have appointed current provost and vice-president Charlotte Yates as president on an interim basis for two years.

Board chair Shauneen Bruder said universities and organizations worldwide are focused on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and this is where their efforts and resources should be concentrated.

“COVID-19 is creating much uncertainty, both now and for the future,” Bruder said in a statement. “We expect that even once the crisis subsides, the implications will be long-lasting. At the same time, there are many other strategic imperatives the university must address to continue to move forward.”

Yates replaces outgoing president and vice-chancellor Franco Vaccarino, who announced last year that he was stepping down. His term will end on Aug. 1 and Yates will officially take over the following day.

A search committee has been working since last fall and the university said it was at a critical stage of the process when it made the decision to pause the search.

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Bruder said Yates was chosen in part because of her effectiveness in a range of complex situations and circumstances.

“Her significant experience and extensive knowledge of the complexities and challenges facing the university will enable her to act immediately on priorities during this critical period,” Bruder said.

Yates has served as provost since 2015 and the university said since then she has built a strong leadership team that includes five new deans and other key academic leaders.

She previously served as dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at McMaster University.

“I am deeply honoured by the trust the board has placed in me to lead the University of Guelph during this challenging time,” Yates said.

“I welcome this opportunity. The university has extraordinary, dedicated faculty, staff and students and exceptionally strong academic and administrative leaders. Working together, we will rise to meet the challenges before us while also enhancing our reputation for quality and excellence.”

An announcement regarding an interim provost and vice-president to replace Yates will be forthcoming, the university said.

In response to the pandemic, the University of Guelph has cancelled all in-person classes for the remainder of the winter semester and more than 4,000 students living on residence have moved out.

Classes resumed on Monday in what the university called an “alternative delivery format.”

More information on its response to the pandemic can be found on the university’s website.

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14 new COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, total reaches 86

The number of new COVID-19 cases, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has edged up in Saskatchewan.

The province reported 14 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 86 since the first presumptive case was reported on March 12.

Four people have now been hospitalized.

Officials said four of the new cases are the result of local transmission, with the remaining new cases travel-related.

Two of the newest cases involve patients 19 years of age and under, bringing the total in that age group to four.

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Cochrane offers free on-demand local transit during COVID-19 pandemic

Cochrane will be offering free bus rides to help residents get to and from work and essential appointments as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of the town council approved the move on Tuesday during a meeting held via video conference.

In a Wednesday news release, Cochrane Mayor Jeff Genung said free rides on Cochrane On-demand Local Transit (COLT) is one of the ways councillors are hoping to provide financial relief for residents.

“We’ve made decisions about utility payments and taxes, but we also consider COLT an essential service so Cochranites can continue to get to their jobs and important appointments without transportation being an undue burden,” Genung said.

The free period will continue while the town’s COVID-19 response is underway, or as deemed necessary by town council.

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COLT was launched in October 2019

Enhanced cleaning and safety measures on-board COLT buses

The Town of Cochrane said it implemented enhanced safety and cleaning measures to COLT buses in the wake of COVID-19, and also now restricts capacity to six riders per vehicle to allow for physical distancing.

“COLT currently has only two buses on the road to match the lower levels of demand,” a Wednesday news release explained. “This utilizes the on-demand nature of the service, saves on operational costs and aligns with the actions of other transit agencies.”

“COLT is closely monitoring the situation and we remain in contact with regional health authorities and other transit agencies to determine best practices to ensure our response remains appropriate.”

How to use COLT

COLT riders can request rides using the COLT app or website or by calling 403-851-5995.

Buses run Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There is no service on Sundays.

Alberta also remains in a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The province declared a public health emergency on March 17.

As of Tuesday, there were 358 in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alberta, including two deaths.

For more information, you can visit the province’s COVID-19 website.

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Saudis tighten anti-virus curfew, UAE closures leave travellers stranded

RIYADH/DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia reported its second coronavirus death and tightened a nationwide curfew on Wednesday, barring entry to and exit from the capital Riyadh and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina as well as movement between all provinces.

The orders, approved by King Salman and published by state media, also brought forward the start of curfew in the three cities to 3 p.m. from 7 p.m., starting on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia introduced the curfew on Monday, initially for 21 days, after registering a jump in infections. Its second fatality was a 46-year-old foreign resident of Mecca, among 133 new cases that took Saudi Arabia’s total to 900.

Across the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, the tally rose to 2,472 with seven deaths, as the United Arab Emirates registered 85 new infections, Oman 15 and Kuwait four.

Saudi Arabia has also halted international flights as well as suspending visas for the year-round Umrah pilgrimage and closing mosques, schools, malls and restaurants.

The restrictions have altered the rhythm of daily life in the country of some 30 million, where late-night gatherings at coffee shops or private homes are common.

Turkish resident Nasif Erisik, who plays cards most nights with friends at one of their homes, said the group had resorted to online gaming to keep in touch: “Corona has … changed our habits and everything in our lives.”

The authorities say they will fine or jail those who violate restrictions. The Interior Ministry on Wednesday reported high compliance.


But in the UAE, the region’s tourism, business and transit hub, 64 people were facing legal action for not obeying a 14-day home quarantine order after coming into contact with people confirmed to be infected, the government tweeted.

Hundreds of Europeans were stranded in the UAE after Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports stopped flights on Tuesday night with little warning.

Oil engineer Jamie Richardson had been due to return to Britain on Wednesday for a new job. “It’s proper stressful,” he said. “You have no idea what’s going on.”

UAE authorities have urged people to stay home but not announced an official curfew or suspended work.

On Wednesday the business regulator in Dubai, one of the member-emirates, told private companies to implement remote working for 80% of staff through April 9.

Pharmacies, grocery stores, supermarkets and cooperative societies were exempted. It later clarified that other sectors, including banking, industrial and manufacturing, construction, logistics and delivery were also exempt.

Food shops were told to stay open 24 hours a day but not exceed 30% customer capacity, to be able to maintain a 2-metre (6-foot) distance between shoppers.

Organisers of the Expo 2020 Dubai world fair, scheduled to start in October and expected to draw 11 million overseas visitors, confirmed one coronavirus case among staff and said they were reviewing their preparations.

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North American Indigenous Games postponed due to pandemic

The North American Indigenous Games (NAIG), set to be held in Halifax in July, have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement released Wednesday, the NAIG council and host society said they will explore their options for rescheduling in the coming weeks. Organizers are working to hold the games in Halifax in 2021.

“It is our intention to work towards the full experience for these young athletes in Kjipuktuk (Halifax),” the statement said.

The president of the games said the goal is to keep everyone safe and healthy. As of Wednesday, the number of COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia had reached 68.

“To abide by the recommendations and guidance of the Nova Scotia government and its health care professionals is critical to slowing and eliminating this pandemic, even if it means the delay of something amazing,” said NAIG 2020 president Tex Marshall.

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CANADA FX DEBT-Canadian dollar rallies 1% as legislators approve economic stimulus

 (Adds strategist quotes and details throughout; updates prices)
    * Canadian dollar rises 1% against the greenback
    * Loonie touches its strongest since last Friday at 1.4298
    * Canada's House of Commons agrees to approve stimulus bill
    * Canadian bond yields fall across a flatter curve

    By Fergal Smith
    TORONTO, March 25 (Reuters) - The Canadian dollar climbed to
a five-day high on Wednesday as the country's legislators
approved a stimulus package to help ease the economic impact of
the coronavirus outbreak.
    Canada's C$27 billion aid package will give people affected
by the outbreak C$2,000 a month and delay student loan
repayments, among other measures, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
    "The Canadian government wrote itself a blank cheque to
fight the coronavirus and that is an incredibly powerful tool,"
said Adam Button, chief currency analyst at ForexLive. "At some
point the markets are going to focus on which countries can
weather this storm best."
    At 31%, Canada's federal debt as a share of the economy is
low compared to some other major countries.
    At 12:27 p.m. (1627 GMT), the Canadian dollar          was
trading 1% higher at 1.4314 to the greenback, or 69.86 U.S.
    The currency touched its strongest intraday level since last
Friday at 1.4298. It was the second best G10 currency after 
Norway's crown       .
    U.S. senators will vote on Wednesday on a $2 trillion
bipartisan package of legislation to alleviate the devastating
economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. dollar
       fell as the U.S. package steadied money market nerves and
prompted investors to buy back into 'riskier' currencies.
    Canada is a major exporter of commodities, including oil,
which has been pummeled by demand destruction related to the
virus and a price war between major producers. U.S. crude       
prices were flat at about $24 a barrel.             
    "I think the drama for the Canadian dollar remains in oil,"
Button said." "Crude is barely hanging on as are Canadian
    Canadian bond yields fell across a flatter curve. The
10-year was down 7.6 basis points at 0.795%.

 (Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Tom

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Murder investigation underway after midnight shooting in quiet Kelowna neighbourhood

A man was shot dead in a car on an otherwise quiet residential cul-de-sac in Kelowna’s Upper Mission neighbourhood on Tuesday night.

Neighbours flooded 911 with calls of gunshots along the 300 block of Trumpeter Court just before midnight, according to Kelowna RCMP.

The murder appears to be targeted, according to police.

“Police are maintaining the crime scene for examination and are canvassing for witnesses and video surveillance footage,” said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy.

No suspects have been located, Noseworthy added.

Trumpeter Court is part of a residential neighbourhood that many families call home. It is located on Kelowna’s south slopes.

The shooting is being investigated by the Kelowna RCMP Serious Crime Unit.

Anyone with information is asked to call Kelowna RCMP or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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UN launches $2 billion appeal to help for vulnerable nations fight coronavirus

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launched a $2 billion appeal on Wednesday to help vulnerable and conflict-torn countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and South America tackle the coronavirus pandemic and prevent COVID-19 from again circling the globe.

The U.N, chief called the amount a “drop in the ocean,” noting that the U.S. Senate is seeking $2 trillion –“1,000 times more” — for the U.S. economy.

U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock announced a $60 million contribution from the U.N.’s emergency relief fund to kick-start the appeal.

Guterres said the $2 billion is essential to keep economies in the developing world going so their health systems remain afloat to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the money will also help countries already in the midst of a humanitarian crisis caused by conflicts, natural disasters and climate change.

“The worst thing that could happen,” the secretary-general said, “is to suppress the disease in developed countries and let it spread like fire in the developing world where then millions of transmissions will take place, millions of people will die, and the risk of mutations would be there, which means that the virus could come back.”

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Coronavirus ‘victims’ shipped to paradise island with world’s happiest animals

Rottnest Island, a small sandy islet off the coast of Western Australia, is being turned into a coronavirus quarantine zone for some 800 Australian cruise passengers

The little island is famous for being the only home of the quokka – a small and friendly marsupial that is often described as “the happiest animal on earth” due to its naturally smiling expression.

In the past two days all visitors have been ordered off the island, so it can be prepared as a quarantine site.

The cruise liner Vasco da Gama is scheduled to dock in the city of Fremantle, Western Australia on Friday. None of its 950 passengers and 550 crew are currently thought to be suffering from COVID-19.

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From there, 800 Australian nationals are expected to be loaded onto ferries and shipped to Rottnest for a precautionary 14-day quarantine.

There is a hotel on the island but it’s currently being refitted. There are, however, a number of bungalows, cabins and dormitories on the island, which has previously been home to a penal colony, a military installation, and in wartime an internment camp for enemy aliens.

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At a press conference today, Western Australia’s Premier Mark McGowan told reporters: “In the last two days we have cleared the island of visitors and made arrangements for accommodation, catering, and security.”

He said that when it was first suggested preparing Rottnest as a potential quarantine site sounded almost "ridiculous" to him.

"But I'm so pleased we made that decision a couple of days ago, because we now need it," he said.

The island reportedly has 699 available beds for the 800 people, which is expected to be ample for the 800 Australians as many of them have been sharing cabins on the ship.

Rottnest has a permanent population of around 300, and around 500,000 tourists every year – mainly to get a selfie with the adorable quokkas.

Though quokkas are said to be the happiest animal on Earth, a few dozen cases of quokkas biting people, especially children, are reported every year.

While visitors generally make the 12 mile journey to the island by boat, there is a helipad if any acute cases need to be airlifted to hospital.

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