The Boreal Forest

Groundwater mapping urged to avoid more mine leaks

Alberta needs better groundwater mapping if it wants to avoid leaks like one at a mine pit at Shell Canada's Muskeg River site, says David Schindler, an internationally recognized University of Alberta water expert.

"Concerns over the poor mapping of groundwater in the area have been voiced for many years, and this is an example of the sort of nasty surprises that occur when we are not well prepared at the start," Schindler said Thursday in an e-mail to The Journal.

"Environmental-impact assessments in the oilsands area are a joke -- very short studies that are haphazardly done. This must change or more events like this are sure to follow."

Schindler was reacting to news that salt water containing traces of the poisonous gas, hydrogen sulphide, has been leaking since mid-October at the bottom of a mine pit about 75 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.... Read more »

Ottawa quietly opens protected Arctic wilderness to proposed mining

The federal government is facing a lawsuit after quietly opening a vast tract of a once-protected Arctic wilderness to mining claims.

Ottawa’s move shocked northern aboriginals and environmentalists, and land-claim negotiators say the decision to no longer bar prospectors from a pristine and much-loved part of the Northwest Territories endangers the entire plan for protected areas in the Eastern Arctic.

“This is unprecedented and if it’s not reversed it will lead to the end of the protected-areas strategy,” said Chris Reid, legal adviser to the Dehcho First Nation, which filed a challenge to the government’s decision in Federal Court last week.

The area in question is the Horn Plateau which has been a candidate for designation as a national wildlife area for more than a decade.... Read more »

Federal lab not testing for oilsands chemicals

Environment Canada has been testing the Athabasca River's water quality for more than two decades, but has never tested for chemicals from the oilsands, Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan says.

For years, development of the Alberta oilsands has been plagued by controversy over whether the project is releasing deadly chemicals into the vast Athabasca River system.

Fortunately, the federal Environment Department operates a permanent laboratory on the Athabasca, downstream from the oilsands, and has been testing the water quality of the river for more than two decades.

Unfortunately, the lab has never tested for chemicals from the oilsands.... Read more »

Albertans & Minister applauded for pulling parks back from brink of disaster

November 25th, 2010 - Edmonton & Calgary:  Sierra Club Canada is thanking Albertans for coming to the rescue of their parks and the Minister for, in the nick of time, hearing citizen’s opposition and withdrawing her proposed new parks legislation.  In a scrum at the Alberta Legislature today, the Minister announced she is withdrawing the controversial Bill 29 and undertaking public consultation on the proposed new legislation for Alberta’s parks network.  That network protects 4% of Alberta.
“We can hear a sigh of relief coming from throughout Alberta and points beyond.” says Dianne Pachal, Alberta WILD Director with Sierra Club Canada.  “The best solution would have been to drop the Bill altogether and focus on what Albertans said was their number one priority – establish more parks... Read more »

Is Tar Sands Development Driving Weaker Parks Legislation?

Albertans have been struggling to understand the reasoning behind Bill 29, the Alberta Parks Act, which is proposing to substantially weaken protection of Alberta's network of provincial parks and protected areas. Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) believes that tar sands development is a key driver for the Government of Alberta to pass Bill 29 as swiftly as possible.

The Alberta government has proposed to establish new undefined Conservation Areas for the Lower Athabasca land‐use region. A weakening of protected areas legislation through Bill 29 would allow the government to call these areas Provincial Parks, which sounds impressive, but then zone them for the intensive depletion and destruction of forests, wetlands and water from oilsands development, thus making them meaningless for wildlife protection.... Read more »


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