Supreme Error

December 8, 2013

Late Friday afternoon, likely trying to slip it under the radar (it is the prime time any administration tries to bury something it doesn’t want known), the Canadian Environment Minister (a misnomer, I would say in this case) approved a huge expansion to one of Shell’s tarsands operations in Alberta – approved it despite even admitting it would “cause significant adverse environmental effects.”

The ministry’s report concluded the project would result in severe and irreversible damage, including the permanent loss of thousands of hectares of wetlands, harming migratory birds, multiple wildlife species, and wiping out “traditional plants used for generations.”  Continuing, it expressed doubt at any potential for mitigation, and that impacts would likely approach levels that the environment couldn’t support.

For an administration that has sought to discredit science in any form and muzzle its scientists, this is a pretty surprising disclosure.

However, the expansion was labeled “justified in the circumstances.”

Pardon me, but I am baffled?  “Justified”?  By what measure?  By what circumstances?  Note that this report may only be noting the destruction of the immediate area of the expansion, I’m not sure if it even takes into consideration the huge depletion of freshwater resources, the impact and danger of long-term tailings ponds and runoff, and the immense energy and emissions required to access and process the tar, and the dangers of shipping it across yet more of the rapidly dwindling lungs of the planet in the form of our wilderness areas… and even without that consideration I’m at a loss for a justification to strip mine and poison an area that approaches the size of the City of San Francisco.  And this is just one project.

Equally galling to me is that beyond this bizarre logic the minister is acting without even keeping her own agreements.  The ministry promised to give a 35-day stay to approval to the local population (out of a request for 90) to work through the concerns of safety and long term impact.  They didn’t even wait until the 35 days were up.  They just said, “Tough luck, we’re doing it.”

I strongly assert this is a wrongheaded move in so many ways.  Please join me in taking action.  Additionally, consider supporting:  National Resources Defence Council –  Earthjustice –  Sierra Club of Canada.

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