Athabasca River

Tue, 2014-06-24 17:11Carol Linnitt
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New Campaign Spoofs Suncor's "What Yes Can Do" Green PR Blitz

Suncor, SumofUs, what yes can do

A new website launched today by the corporate accountability group SumofUs.org asks ordinary Canadians to take a closer look at oilsands major Suncor's latest ad campaign, What Yes Can Do.”

By launching their own version of the ad campaign at www.whatyescando.org, SumofUs.org is questioning the disparity between “what yes can do” as Suncor puts it, and “what yes has done” in the Alberta oilsands.

SumofUs.org points out Suncor's green ad campaign, which emphasizes the corporation's efforts to preserve “…an environment for generations to come,” doesn't square with the company's own lobbying effort to limit protections for the Athabasca River. 

More than five years ago, a panel of experts recommended an end to water withdrawals from the Athabasca River during certain times of the year, when water levels are at their lowest. The cut-off would protect fish hatchlings and other aquatic life from dying off during low river flow.

All companies operating in the Alberta oilsands agreed to the recommended cut-off, but Suncor, along with Syncrude, are lobbying the Alberta government for an exemption

Sat, 2013-07-06 15:08Brendan DeMelle
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Deadly Quebec Oil Train Disaster and Athabasca River Spill On Same Day as Tar Sands Healing Walk

Today, as hundreds of people joined First Nations leaders to walk 14 kilometers through the tar sands in Fort McMurray on the Tar Sands Healing Walk, news of several new oil disasters spread through the crowd and over social media networks.

Details are sparse so far on an oil spill reported in the Athabasca River near the Poplar Grove First Nation. Members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation oil spill response team report seeing a 5 kilometer-wide oil slick spanning the width of the river. Stay tuned for details. **Update July 11: ACFN testing reveals the oily sheen on the river likely resulted from a blue-green algae bloom.**

Meanwhile, in the eastern Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, rescue workers are searching for survivors of a series of deadly explosions that followed the derailment of a train carrying crude oil originating from North Dakota's Bakken Shale. 

At least one person is dead, an estimated 60 town residents are missing, crude oil has spilled into Megantic Lake and the Chaudiere River, and the inferno has destroyed some 30 buildings. The disaster in the middle of the night led to the evacuation of 1,000 residents.

The first explosion occurred shortly after 1 a.m., sending fireballs through the downtown core, where a popular bar with an unknown number of patrons was reportedly destroyed completely. Residents, who say the first blast felt like “an atomic bomb,” ran towards the scene of the first explosion, only to be surprised by several more explosions.

Tue, 2013-06-11 19:10Heather Libby and Carol Linnitt
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Fort McMurray, Home to 176 Square km of Tar Sands Tailings Ponds, Overwhelmed by Floods

On Friday the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), the Alberta government's industry regulator, released a report stating that tar sands companies have failed to comply with pre-existing agreements to limit the amount of water used in tar sands extraction and processing as well as the amount of polluted water that ends up in the region's growing toxic tailings ponds.

The release of the report coincides with massive floods near Fort McMurray, wreaking havoc on the city's infrastructure. Since Friday the region has seen between 80 and 180mm of precipitation. Major highways have been closed, roads have been partially washed out, buildings flooded and homes evacuated. The city of Fort McMurray officially declared a state of emergency today, while unseasonably high temperatures prompt snow melt and rain is forecast to continue throughout the week.

The immediate question is apparent: what threat does the flooding pose to the massive tailings ponds lining the Athabasca River and the millions of litres of toxic contaminants they contain?

Fri, 2013-01-18 05:00Carol Linnitt
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Federal Study Reignites Pollution Concern in Expanding Tar Sands Region

Dr. David Schindler, the scientist who sounded the alarm on tar sands contamination back in 2010, has suddenly found his research backed by an Environment Canada study recently published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The federal study, which confirmed Schindler’s hotly-contested research, has reignited concerns over the pace and scale of development in the Athabasca region, an area now beset with a host of ecological and human health concerns. 

Wed, 2012-11-14 21:04Carol Linnitt
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Toxic Tar Sands: Scientists Document Spread of Pollution, Water Contamination, Effects on Fish

Today federal scientists from Environment Canada presented research at an international toxicology conference in the U.S. that indicates contaminants from the Alberta tar sands are polluting the landscape on a scale much larger than previously thought.

A team lead by federal scientist Jane Kirk discovered contaminants in lakes as far as 100 kilometers away from tar sands operations. The federal research confirms and expands upon the hotly contested findings of aquatic scientist David Schindler who, in 2010, found pollution from the tar sands accumulating on the landscape up to 50 kilometers away.

“That means the footprint is four times bigger than we found,” Schindler told Postmedia News.

Senior scientist Derek Muir, who presented some of the findings at Wednesday's conference, said the contaminated region is “potentially larger than we might have anticipated.” The 'legacy' of chemicals in lake sediment gives evidence that tar sands pollution has been traveling long distances for decades. Samples show the build up of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, known to cause cancer in humans and to be toxic to aquatic animals, in 6 remote and undisturbed lakes up to 100 kilometers away from tar sands operations.

The pollutants are “petrogenic” in nature, meaning they are petroleum derived, and have steadily and dramatically increased since the 1970s, showing the contaminant levels “seem to parallel the development of the oilsands industry,” Muir said.

Thu, 2012-11-08 10:33Carol Linnitt
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"Stephen Harper Hates Science": Federal Scientists Muzzled to Protect Tar Sands Reputation

The Canadian government is working hard behind the scenes to cover up the negative effects that tar sands extraction is having on the local environment, wildlife, communities and the global climate. According to Access to Information documents obtained by Postmedia's Mike De Souza, the Stephen Harper government has actively suppressed the release of vital information regarding the spread of tar sands contamination by muzzling federal scientists.

The gag order, according to De Souza, came on the heels of a newly researched government report in November 2011 which confirmed the findings of University of Alberta scientists Erin N. Kelly and David Schindler. The scientists discovered concentrations of toxics such as heavy metals were higher near tar sands operations, showing a positive correlation between tar sands activity and the spread of contaminants in the local environment.

The government of Canada and the government of Alberta denied the correlation, saying local waterways tested showed no signs of toxic contamination and reports of mutated and cancerous fish downstream from the tar sands were unfounded.

Tue, 2012-10-02 17:43Carol Linnitt
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First Nation Challenges Shell Canada's Jackpine Mine Expansion, Citing Constitutional Treaty Rights

Yesterday the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) announced their plans to constitutionally challenge Shell Oil Canada's expansion of the Jackpine Mine tar sands project. The project expansion would threaten the resources needed to sustain rights protected under Treaty 8, which the ACFN signed in 1899 at Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca. A joint federal-provincial review panel will hear the challenge - the first of its kind to appear before such a group - on October 23rd, 6 days before the Jackpine Mine expansion application will make its own appearance before the panel on October 29.

The Jackpine Mine expansion would disturb 12,719 hectares of land and destroy 21 kilometers of the culturally significant Muskeg River, according to ACFN's press release issued yesterday
 
In addition, greenhouse gas emissions from the project would total 2.36 megatons of CO2 equivalent each year - an increase of 5.2 per cent in tar sands emissions from 2009, or roughly 281,000 cars on the road. Since Shell proposed the expansion in 2007, 11 additional projects have been proposed in the tar sands region.
Thu, 2012-05-31 09:37Guest
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What is Harper Afraid Of?

Sun, 2011-07-10 11:10TJ Scolnick
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Independent Panel Tells Alberta To Clean Up Tar Sands Impacts On Water

The much anticipated findings [pdf] from the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Panel, appointed to make recommendations on how to fix Alberta’s failing tar sands pollution monitoring system, were recently released to the public.

The panel was convened in January in response to co-authored research, published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, from David Schindler, a University of Alberta biologist and one of Canada’s top scientists.

Over the past several years, Schindler and his team have studied the high levels of mercury, lead and eleven other toxic elements in the oil sands’ main fresh water source, the Athabasca River. Their results contradict those from the Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP), a government-supported and industry-funded agency which has long claimed that water quality is not impacted by tar sands development.

Siding with Schindler, the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Panel’s final report states that existing water monitoring systems are insufficient, ineffective, and unable to assess the cumulative effects of tar sands production on the environment. To improve the situation, the panel calls for government action and makes some 20 recommendations organized around three main conclusions:

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