Where is transparency?Posted: July 15, 2009
Denise Wilson, June 18, 2009, Edmonton Journal -- The Alberta Energy Report in the June 11 edition of The Journal was nothing but an infomercial for the oilsands, designed to make Albertans believe that oilsands are benign and that industry has Albertans'best interest in mind.
If you Google Earth Fort McMurray, you will see the oilsands operations not far away. You do not have to read Stupid to the Last Drop or Oilsands -- both environmentally critical books--to know that something is out of place there. Oilsands tailings ponds sit so close to the Athabasca River, my first response was, "There is no way that they do not leak into the Athabasca River."
There was no foresight to this project; no preliminary water, soil or air testing. The oilsands industry rips up boreal forest, displaces wildlife, and currently consumes two to four barrels of water, and a lot of natural gas, per barrel of bitumen produced. Getting bitumen has been a makework project from the beginning.
In the report, it is mentioned that the ERCB would not comment on current water use in oilsands production. This seems to show that there is no transparency to the public about what is going on. The lack of transparency of the oilsands is as dirty as it's physical destruction to the area. Government and industry are not honest with Albertans.
The government has continually said that the only polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the Athabasca are just "naturally" occurring. Dr. John O'Connor is a physician in Ft. Chipewyan who dared to ask questions about the cholangiocarcinoma cases showing up in the community and was brought before the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons for causing "undue alarm." Where else would a physician face such action for raising questions about rare cancers showing up in a low populated area?
Clearly, the federal and Alberta governments favour the oilsands industry over environmental and health issues. And while industry is trying to improve its environmental record--which is a good move--it is their responsibility to do it. And while they may feel "stung" when critics call it dirty oil, it is, has been, and probably always will be.
Oilsands are a non-renewable resource. With low royalty rates and profits being funnelled away, I have no sympathy for the industry.
I do have sympathy for future generations of Albertans who have an insubstantial Heritage fund to remind them of the mess made in Fort McMurray and of a resource that is gone.