Posted on January 18, 2010 (updated: January 18, 2010)

Alberta is on a path to water scarcity and contamination

Calgary, Alberta – Today, Ecojustice and the Pembina Institute will present evidence that oil sands development threatens Alberta’s freshwater at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development Hearings, also known as the Oil and Water Hearings. The groups will show that the federal government’s mismanagement of oil sands development has failed to protect the environment.

“The federal government has been missing in action in terms of regulating the oil sands industry, and its absence has come at the expense of the environment and the long-term interests of Canadians,” says Simon Dyer, Oil Sands Program Director at the Pembina Institute. “Their failure to act has created severe risks, ranging from contamination by leaking tailings lakes to the collapse  of fisheries. Ironically, this unchecked development even threatens the future of the oil sands mining industry itself.”

The evidence presented by Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund) and the Pembina Institute will demonstrate a pattern of neglect related to oil sands development and its impacts on water.

The government failures include

  • failing to protect the water flows of the Athabasca River
  • failing to address the issue of leaking toxic tailings lakes, which have already grown to cover an area greater than the City of Vancouver
  • failing to provide adequate oversight and involvement in environmental monitoring and management for oil sands development.

The Pembina Institute and Ecojustice call on the federal government to take immediate measures to protect Alberta from water contamination, scarcity and the loss of wetlands. According to Ecojustice counsel Karin Buss, “It is not appropriate for the Government of Canada to rely on Alberta officials to protect such a precious resource as water, especially when the province has shown little interest in proactively managing the impacts of oil sands development to date.”

“The federal government has the power and responsibility to protect fish habitat and ensure that sufficient water flows in the Athabasca River are maintained,” says Buss. “The federal government should be taking a lead role instead of deferring to Alberta and allowing these environmental threats to increase.”


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