Greenpeace rappels off the Calgary Tower to remind government to separate oil and state

Greenpeace drove a message home to the heart of Canada’s oil industry today, hanging a huge banner from the Calgary Tower that says “Separate Oil and State” to highlight the need to sever the cozy relationship between the toxic tar sands oil industry and the federal and provincial governments.

The activists dramatically unfurled the 8 x 15 metre banner at 10 a.m. today from the top of the tower. At the time of this release, the activists were still in place and police were on scene. The banner is on the North side of the Calgary Tower and is visible across downtown Calgary. Two activists — one Albertan and one European — are still dangling from the banner, nearly 160 metres from the ground.

“While oil may run your car, it shouldn’t run your government. Canada is not a petro-state and Big Oil should not be calling the shots and governments should not be ignoring the environmental destruction of the toxic tar sands,” said Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Melina Laboucan-Massimo, from the action. “Until both the federal and Alberta governments stand up to the oil industry, greenhouse gas emissions will continue to increase, more animals will die, more residents will be poisoned by the air they breathe and the water they drink, and more treaty rights will be violated in favour of profits in the senseless quest to squeeze every last drop of dirty oil from this province.”

On the eve of the meeting of Canada’s premiers at the Council of the Federation in Winnipeg from August 4 to 6, Greenpeace is putting Premier Ed Stelmach and other political leaders on notice. Canadians and Albertans are becoming increasingly aware of the all too cozy relationship that the oil industry enjoys and exploits through lax regulations that allow companies to self-monitor in the tar sands. This cozy relationship is underpinned by oil industry executives who work in or have worked in the Alberta government, including a senior oil industry executive who headed up the government's oil sands sustainable development secretariat and an executive from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers who is providing advice on regulatory enhancement.

Greenpeace and other environmental organizations recently released a database  of more than 6,000 routine oil industry disclosure incidents in the tar sands. This database shows that industry is failing miserably at policing itself and that the Alberta government is failing to monitor this toxic industry and enforce what should be strict regulations. The Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), which purports to operate as an independent approval body, approves nearly 100 per cent of tar sands projects and often approves projects that do not comply with government directives.

This spring, Greenpeace released graphs that showed that while the Alberta government’s PR budgets have risen steadily, its monitoring, enforcement and compliance budgets have been slashed, which may explain the lack of oversight illustrated in the Timoney database that was publicly released last Friday.

“The environmental destruction in the tar sands is frighteningly reminiscent of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, where the same multinational interests pay lip service to safety while cutting corners that cost lives and livelihoods,” said climate and energy campaign coordinator Christy Ferguson. “For the federal and Alberta governments to continue to allow the oil industry to dictate the rules is beyond irresponsible and cannot be tolerated in a democracy.”

For more information on the Alberta tar sands and Greenpeace’s campaign, please visit our resources section