Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Yet More Projects Get Go-ahead: Kearl project approved

The strategy of the major oil and energy producers in being able to maintain what they call "non interference" (via regulation, shut downs, etc) is simple. Keep all of the projects that are combining to cause: Climate change, theft of resources from people and nations, deforestation and mining of the landscape alongside increases in violence against women, children and elders in their wake-- disconnected from one another. For the energy corporations, it is important that one tar pit and another pipeline, or a water diversion in one river and another in a separate lake-- all of these must be divided in the public mind, even while the interests pursuing the projects see it all as the conjoined infrastructure to bring dirty energy to the US market.

They know they need energy to operate each part of the system, and they know the infrastructure will supply it-- that is why it is economical for them to invest billions before construction. That is why we must prevent construction, and we cannot trust these impact assessments, each one operating in the dark, unable to see one another yet brought to the same blackened view by the same process.

How can one operate a new tarsand plant without the energy to run it? Where will it come from? Where will the water come from?

We don't need a moratorium on rape, and we don't need a moratorium on murder. We need to stop these projects, before they destroy our environment and take all of the water with them. They cannot be made green any more than war can be made peaceful. When you have peace you don't have war, and when you have a healthy environment you do not have tar pits belching out emissions and wasting freshwater on indigenous lands.

Imperial Oil's Kearl project gets green light

Alberta approves third major oil sands project in four months

Globe and Mail
Mar 1, 2007

CALGARY -- Alberta has approved the third giant oil sands project in just four months, sparking more intense debate in the province over an aggressive pace of development that has put severe stress on the Fort McMurray region.

Late Tuesday, a joint review panel of the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board and the federal government approved Imperial Oil Ltd.'s Kearl oil sands project. A similar joint panel approved a Shell Canada Ltd. expansion in December and a provincial panel approved a Suncor Energy Inc. expansion in November.

In both the Imperial and Shell approvals, the panels warned -- using exactly the same language -- that there were "critical challenges" for the environment and the region of Fort McMurray, adding that there is an "absence of sustainable long-term solutions." For Suncor, the provincial panel said there was a "short window of opportunity" to tackle problems in the region.

Following the Shell decision, people at Imperial worried the $8-billion Kearl project could face higher hurdles for approval. The company said on Tuesday that the approval was a significant milestone for the project. Imperial plans to start on Kearl next year, with initial production scheduled for 2011.

The Conservative provincial government hasn't questioned the pace of development, but opposition parties have, with the Liberals saying the pace should be slowed and the NDP calling for a moratorium on new projects until a full assessment can be conducted.

"It's the burning issue in the province. People are really wondering what's going on," said Brian Mason, Alberta NDP leader. "The tar sands development strategy being followed by the Alberta government is not in the interests of Albertans; it's in the interests of the oil industry and the United States."

The oil sands building boom has created stresses throughout Alberta, which has the highest inflation rate in Canada. The epicentre, Fort McMurray, has seen its population roughly double in less than a decade, and is under so much pressure that a new government report said the health care system in the region could potentially "collapse."

The government on Monday promised $400-million in emergency funding over the next three years, roughly a third of what politicians in Fort McMurray say is needed to address immediate problems with roads, housing and other services.

The broader issue is the environmental effect on water, land and air of so much development. Greenhouse gas emissions are expected to soar, several thousand hectares of land could be strip-mined and additional projects need large volumes of water, which will put pressure on the Athabasca River.

"We need a time-out on oil sands. Business as usual is not in Alberta's best interest, and continuing to grant new approvals, we're digging ourselves into a deeper and deeper hole," said Dan Woynillowicz, an analyst at the Pembina Institute, an Albertan environmental group.

He was upset with the Imperial approval, which was made even as the review panel acknowledged major problems.

"To be honest, we're at a point of disgust with the decision-making process. The system is broken."

Ed Stelmach, Alberta's new Premier, said he has no interest in trying to temper development, telling members of Calgary's Rotary Club last month that interference in the market could be "devastating."

"I'd like to make sure that, as a province, we maintain our reputation of always having a predictable investment climate," Mr. Stelmach told reporters on Monday.

A report that will look at the pace of development is due by the end of June, after canvassing the views of Albertans. The panel's preliminary findings, issued last November, said the priority is "maximizing the commercial value of the oil sands" while maintaining an "orderly pace of development."

The Imperial approval included big concerns about the oversight of development, a task that belongs to the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA), which makes decisions by consensus and has 46 members. Formed in the late 1990s, it was supposed to reach big-picture conclusions within five years but has struggled to produce results. The panel that approved Imperial's project said it is "concerned about the capacity" of CEMA to do its work, adding that the success of CEMA is "critical" for appropriate oil sands development.

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