Friday, December 23, 2011Thanks to Jim Rowen for highlighting this article on his blog The Political Enviroment. The article by Mike De Souza appeared in the Vancouver Sun:
Contamination of a major western Canadian river basin from oilsands operations is a "high-profile concern" for downstream communities and wildlife, says a newly-released "secret" presentation prepared last spring by Environment Canada that highlighted numerous warnings about the industry's growing footprint on land, air, water and the climate.
The warnings from the department contrast with recent claims made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Environment Minister Peter Kent that the industry is being unfairly targeted by environmentalists who exaggerate its impacts on nature and people.
The presentation noted figures from the Canadian Energy Research Institute, a collaboration among industry, government and academics, that estimate the oilsands sector is responsible for more than 100,000 direct and indirect jobs in Canada, and will contribute more than $1.7 trillion to the country's economy over the next 25 years.
But it warned that Alberta and other parts of Western Canada are facing a steep economic and ecological price tag for failing to crack down on the industry's collateral damage.
"Contamination of the Athabasca River is a high-profile concern," said the presentation, marked secret, but released to Postmedia News through access to information legislation.
"Recent studies suggest elevated levels of pollutants near mining sites including hydrocarbons and heavy metals . . . (It) raises questions about possible effects on health of wildlife and downstream communities. . . ."
"The oilsands are Canada's fastest growing source of GHGs," said the document.
It estimated that the industry's annual greenhouse gas emissions would rise by nearly 900 per cent from 1990 to 2020. By the end of that period, the oilsands — with an estimated annual footprint of 90 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent gases in 2020 — would exceed the carbon footprint of all cars and SUVs on Canadian roads from 2008, according to the Environment Canada document.
The document also warns of other rising air pollutants that could cause acid rain or other forms of acidification to damage lakes in Saskatchewan and Alberta, along with particulate matter that could be toxic to rivers, the landscape and wildlife.