Alberta Oil Sands a Pollution Nightmare

By Timothy B. Hurst
December 6 2008
Extraction and refining heavy oil from Canadian tar sands will have increasingly devastating impacts on migratory bird populations, according to a new study.

oil refinery in canadian tar sands

According to anew report, the cumulative impact of developing Canadian tar sands over the next 30–50 years could be as high as 166 million birds lost, including future generations. Written by scientists from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Boreal Songbird Initiative, and Pembina Institute, the peer-reviewed paper suggests that avian mortality from continued development of Canada’s tar sands would provide a serious blow to migratory bird populations in North America.

It is estimated that half of America’s migratory birds nest in the Boreal forest, and each year 22–170 million birds breed in the area that could eventually be developed for tar sands oil if the rate of development continues at it is currently planned.

“At a time when bird populations are rapidly declining, this report puts into perspective the far reaching effects of tar sands oil development on North America’s birds,” said the report’s lead author Jeff Wells, Ph.D. of the Boreal Songbird Initiative. “The public needs to understand the real and long-term ecological costs of this development and determine if this is acceptable,” added Wells.

suncor tar sands mining in alberta, canada

In Alberta, tar sands mining and drilling causes significant habitat loss and fragmentation. Expansive toxic tailings ponds are protected by propane cannons that are used to keep ducks from landing in them.

toxic oil shale tailings

When those cannons fail, we see unfortunate accidents like the one this past summer in Alberta when some 500 ducks were killed after landing in a tailings pond. Toxic tailing ponds result in 8,000 to 100,000 oiled and drowned birds annually.

duck being cleaned of oil

Authors of the report suggest that an immediate solution to the unsustainable pace of development and to environmental problems relating to tar sands oil development is a moratorium on all new projects, project expansions, and to clean up existing projects.

For Canada to take the kind of substantive action necessary to prevent the ecological damage suggested by this report, it may require international pressure; the kind of pressure that could be applied by a renegotiated NAFTA that strengthens environmental laws, something that president-elect Obama has suggested he would like to see.

Images courtesy of: 1. & 3. David Dodge/Pembina Institute; 2. & 4. D. Faucher/Ducks Unlimited; 5. Sun Media Corp.

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The report covers the various ways tar sands development affects bird populations, including:

-Habitat Loss
-Tailings Ponds and Oiled Birds
-Fragmentation of Habitat from Drilling
-Water Withdrawals
-Air and Water Toxins
-High Emissions and Global Warming

In the Beginning.

1970’s Film – The Tar Sands

This clip shows the various refinement steps required to convert tar sands into usable crude oil and other petroleum products.

The methods have changed since then, but the  environmental impact is still very disturbing.

As Alberta’s tar sands production continues to increase at a rapid rate new ‘tailings ponds’ or toxic lakes from spent refining of the heavy crude oil trapped in sand are popping up everywhere and kilometers in size for the most part.

Tar Sands the Beginning of the End of the Carbon Age -Clearing the forest for the Oil Sands

At the Athabasca tar sands deposits north of Fort McMurray companies like Syncrude move unfettered and with strong support from local media companies despite the high pollution levels and carbon dioxide emissions.

America Looks to Canada’s Tar Sands for Next Century As the neighbor to the north Canada it appears is more then happy to develop its tar sands at any cost and as fast as possible despite the environmental fallout from the heavy crude oil reserves.

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Alberta  Oil Sands Cause Acid Rain

The Human Cost

By Matthew Kruchak and James Wood
February 16, 2008

Acid rain caused by Alberta oilsands production is pouring down on Saskatchewan and if governments don’t take note, any oilsands development in this province will contribute to the “most destructive project on Earth,” the Environmental Defence organization warns.

A report released Friday by the group says 70 per cent of the sulphur entering Alberta’s air ends up in Saskatchewan. Acid rain is produced by the interaction between water, sulphur and nitrogen oxides.

“Acid rain causes damage and death to the ecosystem and also human health,” said Christopher Hatch, a climate change campaigner with Environmental Defence. “People in Saskatchewan should be very concerned that neither the federal nor provincial governments are getting to the bottom of this.

“So what is it that they don’t want people to know? There’s obviously a problem — any layperson can tell that. Why are they not funding studies to ensure human health?”

The report, titled Canada’s Toxic Tar Sands: The Most Destructive Project on Earth, outlines the environmental and human health effects of the oilsands and offers the federal government solutions, Hatch said.

“It’s a toxic nightmare — it really is,” he said. “To fly over the Alberta oilsands as it is — and it’s only just beginning — it’s a toxic moonscape.”

The group is calling on the federal government to step in and force the cleanup or work with the Alberta government to address environmental issues, he said.

In the past 12 years, at a Saskatchewan site (which was not identified) 200 kilometres downwind from the oilsands, the mean level of acid in precipitation had increased, the report stated, with measurements going from pH 5.3 to 4.1. Normal rainfall has a pH of 5.6.

Saskatchewan Environment ran 10 monitoring stations across the oilsands in the northwest of the province and found a buildup of nitrogen from Alberta, the report stated in a section called Raining Acid on Saskatchewan.

“On the toxic front, it’s really a looming human health disaster,” Hatch said.

Environment Minster Nancy Heppner had little to say about the report Friday.

Asked about the environmental impact of the Alberta oilsands projects, Heppner said she didn’t have any details.

“I’ve heard things, that water’s being contaminated and those sorts of things. I don’t have any specifics. I haven’t seen the report you are talking about today and obviously there’s more information we’ll be looking at to make sure that if there were mistakes made on the Alberta side that we won’t be making those here,” Heppner told reporters at the legislature just before leaving for a climate change conference in Australia.

However, she said the government is concerned about acid rain from the oilsands.

“I understand there’s some concern and we’ve met with some people, some residents of northern Saskatchewan, who are concerned about acidification of our lakes and that’s something we’re going to look at,” said Heppner.

NDP environment critic Sandra Morin questioned Heppner’s lack of knowledge about the report.

Morin said “she had no reason to doubt” the report’s characterization of the oilsands as “the most destructive project on Earth.”

“It’s incredibly distressing that 70 per cent of the acid rain, the contamination, is going to be affecting Saskatchewan. Clearly, with the development happening there and 70 per cent of those emissions affecting Saskatchewan people, one has to be concerned about the further development of the oilsands in Alberta, which is supposed to triple in the next 10 years, not to mention the further development of the oilsands projects that are happening in Saskatchewan.”

The Saskatchewan Party government is supportive of oilsands projects in this province, but Heppner said the environment won’t be sacrificed.

“We are committed as a government going forward with development to make sure the environment is protected. There are environmental impact assessments that are done for projects and that will certainly be the case going forward. We do not want our environment to be destroyed while we develop our province,” she said.

Officials from the Ministry of Environment were unavailable for comment Friday.

A representative from Oilsands Quest, a company leading the development of the oilsands industry in Saskatchewan, was also unavailable for comment Friday.

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I  love this car more every day.

Solar car completes 1st round-the-world trip

These ones too.

Car that runs on air!

Air Car (1 of 2) from France

Air Car (2 of 2) from Australia

The UN’s carbon trading system in numbers

The United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism was intended to offer rich countries an efficient market mechanism to achieve some of of their emission-cutting obligations at lower cost by installing green technology in developing countries. Since the Kyoto Protocol came into force in 2005, more than 1,800 projects have been registered.

In other words Carbon Credits means going into another country setting up a facility and selling the product. Privatization and profit.

This does nothing to remove pollution from ones country just an opportunity for profit in another country.

Pollution should be removed from your own country, not using another country to make it look like you are removing pollution from your own.

Carbon Credits are bogus.

Added May 15 2012

Stop Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker project

Please Sign petition below.

http://freedomtrain2012.nationbuilder.com/

Added September 7 2010

More birds dying in Alberta oil sands than first reported

‘Secret’ Environment Canada presentation warns of oilsands’ impact on habitat December 22, 2011

“Canada”Trouble in Toryland: their Dirty Tricks catalogue March 2 2012

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