Posted by: JohnnyRook | December 29, 2008

Do Dead Ducks in Alberta Presage a Tennessee-Style Leak in Alberta?

In April of this year, 500 ducks were found dead in one of Syncrude Canada’s tailings ponds. The Alberta provincial government is still trying to decide whether to file charges against the company. Complicated matter like this take time, don’t you know?

The Dead Duck Incident occurred only a few days after the Alberta Provincial Government, which is in the hands of the Conservatives, (Alberta is Canada’s Texas) announced that it would undertake a multimillion dollar PR campaign “to boost the province’s ‘brand’ in the face of criticism of the environmental toll of the oilsands.” Oil sands is what the oil companies have taken to calling tar sands in an attempt to make them sound more appealing.

[The] $25 million campaign to “brand” Alberta as a province that cares about the environment has been labelled a “greenwash” by critics, and aboriginal groups living downstream from the oilsands continue to raise concerns — and court challenges — based on their belief that oilsands discharge has polluted the Athabasca River, and is poisoning their fish and their people.

The term “dirty oil” has become a label that sticks.

Are dirty tar sands really that much different from dirty coal? The recent disaster in Tennessee where a leak from a pond holding toxic sludge from a TVA coal-fired power plant released 1.7 million cubic yards of fly-ash containing sludge, destroying 15 homes and covering 400 acres up to a height of 4-6 feet should remind Albertans of the dangers posed by these poorly regulated toxic holding ponds. It should also remind them of the dangers of regulatory agencies more interested in serving the the people they are supposed to be regulating, rather than the public at large.

Canadian regulatory agencies, at least in the hands of conservatives, seem to be as derelict in their duty as their American counterparts.

Early in the year, a report from the Environmental Defence Organization — titled Canada’s Toxic Tarsands: The Most Destructive Project on Earth — accused the federal government of being “missing in action” by failing to enforce federal laws to clean up oil extraction from the oilsands in Alberta.

In February, as Stelmach campaigned in the provincial election, he was confronted by the protester concerned oilsands projects are poisoning the Mikisew Cree. People living in the area around Fort Chipewyan believe their health is being adversely affected by oilsands development, causing a cluster of rare cancers.

Currently 9% of US oil imports come from Canadian tarsands. This despite the fact that oil made from tarsands produces 52% more CO2 emissions, from field to tank than does standard petroleum from Saudi Arabia.

Canadian development of tarsands is stupid, immoral and short-sighted. The US shares the culpability for importing petroleum produced in this fashion. Tarsands, like coal, pose specific threats to the people who live near the places where they are mined (or consumed in the case of coal) and a general threat to us all as they are the dirtiest forms of fossil fuels as regards greenhouse gas emissions.

It is high time to stop using fossil fuels. This year we lost 500 ducks in Alberta and 15 homes in Tennessee from localized pollution that still threatens others because government agencies refuse to enforce the law. How many more people died from the less direct effects of Climaticide? How many more will die in 2009? Far too many if governments continue to kowtow to oil and coal companies and utilities who for the sake of profits are willing to put other peoples lives at risk, be it from leaking toxic tailing ponds or CO2 emissions.

Also check out this fine post by David Sassoon at Solve Climate.



  1. I rightfully do not trust anyhting the Alberta government says as well

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