Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Alberta Government declares water for tarsands sacred even in drought

This is the crux of the matter: water.

Now that the government has officially decided that the needs of feeding climate change are more important that even emergencies such as drought relief, the time to allow these people to make decisions regarding the tarsands has gone beyond past due.

Their entire corrupted scheme of approvals, consultations, community hearings and report issuances has all produced in the last month alone: on one hand the population base of the planet has become ever more sharp and clear in their demands for serious action on climate change, on the other? The people in charge have systematically either called for patience on tarsands policy writing, or have instead called for the outright heightening of the tarsands production.

In the past few days, the streamlining of another massive pit for tarsand operations took place, the NEB greenwashed the MGP and now the government in Edmonton has promised to protect the waste of the freshwater in rivers for tarsandpetrol, even during drought.

The conservatives accuse the Liberals of "threatening" to shutdown the tarsands, and Dion whimpers "Don't worry, not possible," and he's right.

The gulf between rulers and ruled is never clearer than when the directions being proposed are at exact loggerheads.

People are listing the environment-- specifically climate change-- as their primary concern right now. As the population sees the Katrina like evidence mounting, the US energy giants are calling for rapid increase-- five fold, to be exact-- in all tar sands output. That means not merely more C02 from the gas burning, but the five-fold increase of this industrial development within Canada that already is 40 percent of national C02 emissions alone, not taking into account the massive industrial infrastructure being planned from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic to the Pacific to the Atlantic. All connected.

And for every litre that comes of this "plan", five litres of water, according to the provincial government of Alberta. The Feds subsidize already through tax breaks amounting over a billion dollars a year. For over five years you could already buy "access rights" to water and now, the water that produces oil for the US war economy is more important than the water that people drink, that gives life and that helps grow food.

We cannot settle for a moratorium. Yet even the mere suggestion has power trembling in fear. Draining the rivers more slowly is not a compromise position, it is the death of life. The tarsands or a future for our grandchildren.

New plan gives oilsands its fill of water, even during a drought

Firms will be able to draw 50 bathtubs worth of water a second from Athabasca River

Hanneke Brooymans, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Friday, March 02, 2007

EDMONTON - Alberta Environment's new water management plan for the Athabasca River makes some people "anxious" because it will still allow oilsands companies to withdraw water during a serious drought.

The Athabasca River Water Management Framework comes after calls from First Nations, environmentalists and a recent cabinet-appointed committee for a plan to protect the needs of people and wildlife that rely on the river.

Alberta Environment's plan relies on constant monitoring of the river's flow to make decisions about how much water companies can pump out of the Athabasca.

The river is split into five sections, or reaches, each rated in sensitivity according to how vital it is for fish spawning. If the flow of water through a reach is considered healthy, it's rated green and industry is allowed 15 per cent of the river's flow. Impacts may begin to appear during a yellow rating and withdrawals then should not be more than 10 per cent of the flow, the plan says.

About five per cent of the time, the river shrinks to a level where significant ecosystem change is expected. This warrants a red-zone label, but companies are still allowed to withdraw 15,000 litres per second.

That's a significant amount -- enough to fill 50 bathtubs, said Dan Woynillowicz, policy analyst with the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank.

"For the government to say this is protective rings hollow," he said.

Dr. David Swann, environment critic for the Liberal Party, said he's not comfortable with that part of the plan.

"That makes me very anxious, when they're still talking about withdrawals and we're down in the area where there is actual threat to survival of species."

But Environment Minister Rob Renner said the amount withdrawn during red-zone periods makes up about five per cent of the flow at the time.

Renner said the plan is significant because it represents the first opportunity the department has had to deal with environmental regulations based on the cumulative effects of an entire industry, rather than on a company-by-company basis.

Last year during the hearing for the recently approved Kearl oilsands project, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans predicted oilsands companies will withdraw a total of 15,000 litres per second by 2010. That also happens to be the withdrawal limit during red-zone periods in the winter.

Industry is pleased the water management plan is now official. The figures provide the kind of certainty industry needs to plan projects, said David Pryce, a vice-president with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Government told industry to provide reports on how it planned to meet the new water withdrawal limits. Those reports were due at the end of January.

Ongoing scientific studies could make the water withdrawal limits tighter if fish habitat is found to be more sensitive than currently known. But Pryce said the limits are already quite conservative and he doesn't expect they will become more restrictive.

Last year, oilsands companies were licensed to take 395.7 billion litres a year from the river, the equivalent of 395,700 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

For comparison, the industries and the 930,000 people in and around Edmonton who get their water from Epcor used 121 billion litres in 2005.


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