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

Shell Breaks Global Warming Promise for Oil Sands Projects

Royal Dutch Shell has abandoned its written agreements to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution at its Jackpine Mine and Muskeg River Mine Expansion oil sands projects. The commitments, made to the Oil Sands Environmental Coalition (OSEC), helped inform the decision by the governments of Alberta and Canada to grant regulatory approval for the projects in 2004 and 2006, respectively.

“We have a long track record of actively working with oil sands companies, government and other stakeholders to address the environmental impacts of oil sands development,” said Marlo Raynolds, Executive Director of the Pembina Institute. “Shell’s decision to break these binding agreements calls into question its claims of environmental leadership. Shell seems to believe it can break promises to Canadians with impunity.”

Breaking its negotiated agreement to reduce GHG emissions from these projects is a significant step backwards for Shell, a company that has sought recognition as a leader in the oil sands for its approach to climate change.

Prior to the approval of both projects, Shell had committed to setting GHG pollution reduction targets in 2007 “to reduce emissions to better than the most likely commercial alternative on a full-cycle basis.” Without these commitments, Shell’s GHG pollution from these projects will increase by an estimated 900,000 tonnes, which is equivalent to adding 200,000 cars to the road in Canada.

“Shell has built its reputation in Canada by promising to address the environmental and social concerns of stakeholders and communities. Dropping its commitment raises the question of whether these types of promises are driven by ethics or tactics,” said Simon Dyer, Oil Sands Program Director at the Pembina Institute. “Shell’s betrayal of both stakeholders and the governments that approved these projects will undoubtedly reinforce the growing mistrust that Canadians have of the
oil sands industry, especially on environmental matters.”

In approving Shell’s projects, the Joint Review Panel struck by the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) and the Government of Canada explicitly noted that they would review Shell’s approval in the event that the company failed to fulfill commitments that had been presented as evidence. On behalf of OSEC, today the Pembina Institute and Ecojustice filed an affidavit with the ERCB and the Government of Canada requesting that the approval of these projects be re-considered through a new public hearing.

“The Joint Review Panels were presented with these commitments as evidence, and it informed their decision. That evidence no longer reflects reality,” said Barry Robinson, a staff lawyer with Ecojustice who will represent OSEC. “We are confident that the ERCB and the Government of Canada will stand by their word and re-evaluate these projects in light of this new evidence by promptly convening public hearings.”

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