In Internal Canadian Documents, a Warning on Oil Sands

26 Dec
December 22, 2011, 4:27 pm

In Internal Canadian Documents, a Warning on Oil Sands

By IAN AUSTEN
Excavations of oil sands pits north of Fort McMurray in Alberta.Associated PressExcavations of oil sands pits north of Fort McMurray in Alberta.
Green: Politics

Internal government documents show that Canada’s scientific and environmental bureaucracy does not share the Conservative government’s view that oil sands projects in Alberta have relatively little negative impact on the environment.

Postmedia News, a publisher that owns several major Canadian newspapers including The National Post in Toronto, obtained the previously confidential material through Canada’s access-to-information laws.

Peter Kent, the environment minister, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have said that oil sands projects are being unfairly attacked by environmental groups that are exaggerating their effects.

But in a a PowerPoint presentation, Environment Canada, the federal environmental agency, said that contamination of the Athabasca River, which flows north from the oils sands, is “a high-profile concern” and that that there are “questions about possible effects on health of wildlife and downstream communities.”

The presentation also noted that the increase in greenhouse gas emissions related to the oil sands would equal the increase in emissions from all other sources in Canada by 2020. And it raised concerns about other forms of air pollution from the projects.

Last week Mr. Kent announced that Canada was withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the time, he dismissed the contribution of oil sands to global climate change.

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