Sierra Club of Canada News Release

For release, Monday, October 6, 2003

Regional Environmental Assessment Needed for Oil Sand Region
Rapid Oil Sand Expansion Threatens Ecology of Athabasca Region, says group

Fort McMurray – The federal and Alberta governments must take an innovative step and enact Canada’s first regional environmental assessment if the ecology of the Athabasca region of north-eastern Alberta is to be protected from the onslaught of proposed oil sand development, says the Sierra Club of Canada.

“Canadian environmental regulators weren’t designed to manage the scale and pace of industrial development proposed for the region,” said Elizabeth May, Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada. “If government doesn’t step in to ensure a comprehensive and environmentally sound planning strategy for the region both our environmental protection processes and the boreal forest will be bulldozed by oil sand development.”

Currently, over 20 oil sands developments are proposed for the Athabasca region. Alarmingly, says the Sierra Club, this onslaught of development is being evaluated on a project by project basis, despite the probability of unforeseen and undesirable cumulative effects from this proliferation of development.

“Canadians should be worried. What may be an economic boom for the oil industry will, if left unchecked, be an environmental bust for Canadians” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Director of the Sierra Club of Canada’s Atmosphere and Energy campaign.

The Sierra Club of Canada will be asking a federal-provincial joint panel of the Alberta Utilities and Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to deny a proposal by Shell Canada for the Jackpine oil sand development at hearings set to start today in Fort McMurray.

The environmental organisation also notes that the current boom in oil sands development will dramatically increase Canada’s Greenhouse Gas emissions over the next several decades, putting even greater pressure on other parts of the Canadian economy to lower emissions.

Canadian Natural Resources Limited recently asked the Alberta Utilities and Energy Board to approve its proposed Horizon project, which would produce 1% of all of Canada’s GHG emissions in 2010. If approved, the project would operate and produce GHG emissions for at least forty-years, which is unacceptable, according to the Sierra Club, considering that Canada will probably need to reduce its GHG emissions by up to 50% during the same period.

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