Blog posts

The truth about tailings

The Pembina Institute's Jennifer Grant sets the record straight on some facts in Pembina's recent report, Northern Lifeblood: Empowering Northern Leaders to Protect the Mackenzie River Basin from Oil Sands Risks.

Downplaying, or ignoring unresolved tailings risks is not helpful at a time we need stronger policies and more publicly available information to inform responsible management.

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Capital Power and broken promises

The Pembina Institute's Chris Severson-Baker posts on Capital Power's application to renege on a commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions at their Genesee 3 coal-fired power plant. The commitment was part of the original approval to build the power plant.

…allowing companies to renege on environmental commitments made at public hearings once projects are operating would be set a dangerous precedent and completely undermine the credibility of the Alberta approvals process.

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Accountability & Transparency in Managing Alberta's Environment

Accountability and transparency are essential principles of democracy, but when it comes to managing Alberta's environment they can sometimes be in short supply. The Environmental Law Centre's Jason Unger discusses accountability in the regulatory approval process, the lack of a legal remedy to address broken promises, and proposes two legislative changes to address the issue.

The word “accountable”, meaning “responsible; answerable” (Black’s Law dictionary 9th ed.), evokes the idea that we must pay the piper for unmet promises…

 

…It seems, however, that accountability for environmental impacts and decisions related to them are becoming increasingly elusive.

The Pembina Institute's Nathan Lemphers goes on a quest in search of emergency preparedness plans in case of a oil sands tailings lake breach, and finds only secrecy and a lack of transparency.

Communities downstream of the oil sands are already skeptical about whether the Government of Alberta and oil sands operators are diligently managing the impacts and risks associated with oil sands development…

…A lack of transparency around tailings management is only adding to the skepticism and concerns.

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Senate Passes Budget Bill Weakening Canadian Environmental Assessment

Despite the opposition of public interest groups, including AEN members Ecojustice, Sierra Club Canada, and the Environmental Law Centre, and a recommendation from the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate voted to pass the budget bill (C-9) including provisions to weaken the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The Environmental Law Centre's Adam Driedzic weighs in on the impacts on the environmental assessment process and the "exclusion of the public from decision-making on matters of public interest."

You don’t have to be an environmentalist to be concerned with this one.  For the second straight year, the federal budget bill passed with Trojan horse provisions unrelated to the budget.   The perennial target is the federal environmental assessment regime, but the real victim is the public.

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Devon blowout highlights impacts of in situ oilsands operations

In the wake of last weekend's blowout at Devon Canada's Jackfish in situ oilsands site, the Pembina Institute's Terra Simieritsch posts on the environmental impacts of in situ oilsands operations:

We conducted a first-of-its-kind analysis of the environmental performance of in situ oil sands operations, comparing mining and in situ development side by side. Our resulting fact sheet revealed that in situ development is not an environmental gamechanger…

The bottom line is in situ oil sands development comes with significant impacts and risks - impacts and risks that shouldn't be downplayed. Cumulative impacts have the potential to extend across a very large landscape.

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BP oil spill: Not an argument to ramp up oilsands production

The Pembina Institute's Simon Dyer lays out the case against the oilsands as a "green" alternative to offshore drilling.

It's been more than two months now that oil from BP's blown out Deepwater Horizon rig has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. A man-made disaster of epic proportions, some people are now claiming that it makes Alberta's landlocked oilsands look safe in comparison. In fact, that statement couldn't be further from the truth.

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AEN members react to Syncrude duck death verdict

AEN members weighed in on Friday's guilty verdict in the Syncrude ducks case. Both Sierra Club Canada and Ecojustice applauded the verdict, suggesting that the verdict further confirms the need to eliminate the toxic tailings ponds. The Pembina Institute's Simon Dyer, while calling the verdict "significant" and "positive", raises questions about the deterrent value and impact of the verdict in the broader context of the oil sands tailings ponds:

Since the incident, the amount of tailings (the toxic liquid waste produced by the oil sands extraction process) has steadily increased in volume by 200 million litres, or 80 Olympic-sized swimming pools, every day to now cover an area of 170 km2. It raises the question: Did the ducks die in vain?

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