oilsands

Thu, 2011-03-24 10:56Emma Pullman
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Koch Brothers Set Up Shop in Tar Sands Territory

The Koch Brothers, architects of the Tea Party and bankrollers of climate-change denial, have recently set up shop to lobby the Alberta government, according to the Edmonton Journal.

Alberta’s lobbyist registry shows that on March 15, 2011, Koch Industries signed up to lobby the province on energy and resource development policy issues, as well as taxation and economic development.  The registry shows the company’s lobbying activities started March 3, with no fixed end date.

Koch Industries spokeswoman Melissa Cohlmia did not say what the company’s objectives are in lobbying the Alberta government, but her one-sentence statement noted that, “Koch companies want to add value by providing quality services and products our customers desire and value in a way that is compliant with all laws and regulations”.

“Compliant with all laws and regulations” seems a bit dubious given the pro-industry and anti-environment lobbying connections to Koch’s Alberta activities we uncovered. 

Thu, 2011-02-10 10:56Emma Pullman
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Koch Brothers Win Big If Keystone XL Pipeline Is Approved

The Keystone XL pipeline, currently awaiting a thumbs up or down on a presidential permit, has been the subject of ferocious debate.  While proponents tout the pipeline project as a boon to national security, and a move that would reduce America’s dependence on “unethical oil”, Its opponents are fearful of the environmental nightmare it would create (to say nothing of the immnent threat of future devastating spills like last year’s Michigan Kalamazoo spill).  The pipeline, if built, would increase siginificantly the import of dirty tar sands bitumen from Canada’s oil sands to the U.S. by as much as 510,000 barrels a day.

What’s been left out of the fierce debate over the pipeline, according to SolveClimate News, is the prospect that if president Obama okayed the Keystone XL pipeline, he would be handing a major victory and great financial opportunity to Charles and David Koch, his staunchest political enemies and the most powerful opponents of his clean economy agenda.

Thu, 2011-01-06 16:27Emma Pullman
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Breaking News: Fire Breaks Out At Tar Sands Site in Alberta

Thursday afternoon, fire broke out at the Horizon oilsands site near Fort McKay in northern Alberta.  Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., which owns the site, confirmed that the fire was set off by an explosion around 5:30 PM Eastern Time Thursday.

The fire itself started in an upgrader across from the plant where bitumen is converted into crude oil.  The 480-foot coker structure, which uses heat to convert bitumen into crude oil caught fire.  Individuals at the site claimed that the explosion caused flames and smoke to shoot hundreds of feet into the air. 

Thu, 2010-11-18 12:02Emma Pullman
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Toxic Tar Sands Coming to a Community Near You: Profiles From The Front Lines

Many Americans who have never heard of the Alberta tar sands soon will. The tar sands is one of the largest, dirtiest, and most destructive projects on Earth, and is likely coming to a community near you.  The oil industry is expanding facilities to process toxic tar sands oil in the U.S. through a network of refineries and pipelines.  With plans to triple refining and transportation of tar sands by 2015, there is no question that air pollution and health problems in communities from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast will increase.

Public health in several U.S. states is already under threat from dramatic increases in refining pollution, and massive pipelines are planned to cross the United States’ largest freshwater aquifer, which supplies one-third of U.S. agriculture.

Tar sands crude contains heavy metals, and refining tar sands releases polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons linked to pre-natal brain damage, and smog and ozone-depleting chemicals and compounds.  Exposure to these toxics is linked to asthma, emphysema and other lung diseases.  That says nothing of the devastating impacts on air, water, and soil.

With the environmental and health impacts of the tar sands well known, but no sign of an end to the environmental trauma, the Sierra Club’s latest report shows the personal side of the impacts of dirty oil in North American communities. Americans and Canadians are worried about Alberta’s tar sands expansion poisoning their water, destroying their farmland, and contaminating their air. 

Mon, 2010-11-08 14:25Emma Pullman
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75 Groups from Canada, US and Europe Call for End to Toxic Tar Sands Tailings

Photo courtesy of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council

75 groups from across Canada, the U.S. and Europe have signed a petition calling on the federal and Alberta governments to immediately phase out existing tailings lakes and deny any proposed project that would create new tailings lakes. Greenpeace issued the call-out last week, and 45 groups across Canada, including 23 Alberta-based groups, six U.S. groups, and one group from Europe have signed on to support a moratorium on destructive tar sands practices.  To date, there have been over 600 signatories to the petition.  

Greenpeace’s petition comes as European members of Parliament (MEPs) wrapped up their tour of the Alberta tar sands late last week.  European members of Parliament were visiting to weigh in on the controversial dirty crude and were to report back on their findings regarding fuel legislation that could inhibit or impact the use of tar sands products. At stake is possible legislation and restriction on the importation of the dirty crude, or the labeling of it as “dirty” or “high carbon”.

Thu, 2010-10-21 12:14Emma Pullman
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Vancouver Sun and Canada West Foundation Are Wrong About Tar Sands; Regulation Is Critical For Healthy Economy

Barbara Yaffe’s outrageous opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun argues that environmentalists ought to shift their focus in their rallying calls against the tar sands. Yesterday, the Pembina Institute, Equiterre and Environmental Defence made a united call to the Harper government to start being more stringent in its enforcement of environmental laws, and to do more to respect aboriginal treaty rights in Canada’s tar sands. 

The environmentalists’ report, Duty calls: Federal Responsibility in Canada’s Oilsands aptly argues that filthy tar sands development is on track to derail any and all of Ottawa’s targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Duty Calls outlines Ottawa’s responsbility for environmental management in the oil sands and explores what’s at stake if Ottawa continues to neglect this responsibility.  

Our political leaders have been more talk than walk in terms of managing the tar sands, but the Vancouver Sun’s Yaffe argues that politicians must have their reasons. She refers to William Kimber of the Alberta-based Canada West Foundation, who argues that, as filthy as the Fort McMurray enterprise is, we can’t dispute that it’s fuelling the economy. It’s the age-old, foolish ‘economy vs. environment’ positioning that is a non-starter when you consider that there would be no economy without the value of environmental resources.

What the Vancouver Sun fails to note is that the ongoing deregulation of the tar sands benefits Big Oil more than the residents of Alberta or the environment, and that’s a serious problem in the long term, both for the environment and the economy. Failing to regulate the tar sands leaves the federal government exposed to ongoing and sustained legal challenges, and exposes the oil sands industry to tougher environmental restrictions in the international marketplace. Continued federal absence leaves Canadians vulnerable to the economic uncertainty resulting from tying the value of the Canadian dollar to the price of oil.

The Vancouver Sun also fails to highlight the tar sands’ flagrant use of water, the toxic tailings ponds, and their role as the highest source of greenhouse gases in Canada. And these woes are only going to increase. According to the report, projects that have already been approved will see tar sands production increase to 4 million barrels a day. If all projects currently in the approval process proceed, we’ll be looking at nearly twice that.

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