Oil sands monitoring program, too little too late
Re: “Oil sands are responsible,” LTE June 22
So Blake Richards (MP for Wild Rose) is “absolutely” proud of his government’s environmental record on the oil sands even if it, the largest oil development in the world, was located upstream of Airdrie. That was Richards’ June 22 response to my previous letter concerning Stephen Harper’s Conservative government’s record on the environment.
Richards went on to state that they have initiated a world-class monitoring program to monitor the environmental effects. This new monitoring program will not only monitor the water but will also monitor the air, land, animals and vegetation. Well, I say it’s about time given the massive scale of the oil sands and the fact that developments have been ongoing for more than 50 years.
Furthermore a monitoring program is just that, one that collects data to determine whether impacts are occurring or not. It does not reduce or eliminate environmental impacts. This only happens after years of data collection and after it is concluded that a significant impact has indeed occurred. Only then do government regulators and industrial leaders start to figure out how, when and where impacts are occurring; and what can be done to minimize them.
Meanwhile, while the “world-class monitoring program” is being setup over the next three years and the inherent problems of this wide-ranging, complex and costly program are worked out, over many more years; the largest oil development in the world is on schedule to double its oil output by 2020 and to keep increasing production to 2030, and beyond.
Richards rationalizes the above as a balanced approach between economic growth and environmental protection. I submit that this is far from being a balanced approach and one that clearly favours industrial development. And, I submit that if the Alberta oil sands were in fact upstream of any Canadian city, the balance would be much more equitable. Or, even one which would clearly favour protecting human health and the environment above all else.
Equitable protection may be afforded to our northern forests and rivers, and to the people of Fort Chipewyan once the new monitoring program is finally up and running. However, I fear that this program may be too little, too late given the all out rush to increase oil production regardless of the consequences.
For most Albertans and Canadians, the oil sands are “out of sight and out of mind” and it’s too easy to accept the short-term argument for economic gain and too easy to forget that the true cost of cleaning up and restoring the natural environment will be borne by our children and by generations of Albertans to come.
John Durbin, Airdrie