Ecojustice Blog – Climate change Posted on October 29, 2012 (updated: February 17, 2015)

Oilsands – more crude production, more problems

Melissa GorrieLawyer

In Canada, mega pipeline projects, climate change, and the destruction of vital ecosystems can be increasingly traced back to one tarry source: Alberta’s oilsands.

More oilsands development means more demand for risky pipelines, more emissions leading to climate change and more degradation of the air, water, and land we all depend on.

Informed by a deep understanding of what it takes to steward a healthy environment — one that supports all Canadians — Ecojustice is committed to helping slow the relentless pace of oilsands development that is sending our natural systems into distress. Our conviction is grounded in fact: An avalanche of scientific data tells us that we cannot continue to rip up northern Alberta and expect to escape the harsh consequences of our actions.

That’s why today, Ecojustice is representing environmental interests at hearings on Shell Canada’s plans to expand its Jackpine oilsands mine in Northern Alberta. We’ll be presenting evidence that paints a clear picture: that this project is not in the public’s best interest.

Jackpine mine, located north of Fort McMurray, Alta., already produces 200,000 barrels of tarry crude every day. Now Shell wants to increase production by another 100,000 barrels a day.

The problem is that there are already at least 11 other oilsands projects planned for the region – in addition to those already found on the landscape. When you consider the cumulative effects of these oilsands projects, plus those of planned logging and expected forest fires, it is clear that the region is being pushed beyond its natural limits. Further oilsands development, in the form of expanding the Jackpine mine, isn’t just a bad idea; it’s a recipe for disaster.

Shell’s own environmental assessment shows its proposal will harm fish and wildlife, damage wetlands and old growth forests, pollute the air and cause the acidification of land and lakes. It will leave a legacy of toxic waste, damage two significant rivers, and produce greenhouse gas pollution that will push Canada’s and Alberta’s climate targets further out of reach.

The company’s proposal also fails to include adequate measures to prevent, reduce or mitigate the project’s negative impacts.

Oilsands developments, like this project, will only exacerbate two of the biggest environmental crises of our time: a warming climate and biodiversity loss. And in return for all this destruction, we’ll get more tarry bitumen that needs to be moved out of landlocked Alberta by pipelines like Enbridge’s controversial Northern Gateway project.

Ecojustice and our client, the Oil Sands Environmental Coalition, say thanks — but no thanks.

Rather than make a mess now and attempt to clean it up later, we’re of the opinion that we should take precautions to stop messes from happening in the first place. It’s the only way we’ll be able to curb global warming; ensure that all Canadians have access to clean air, water and land; and help our country’s rich array of plants, animals and peoples not just survive, but thrive.

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