Canada agrees to monitor oil sands impact

A federal report finds consistent and ongoing evidence that oil sands have a low, but negative, impact on the environment.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Dec. 22, 2017 at 5:56 AM
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Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Monitoring the potential environmental impacts of oil sands development using the best available science is a Canadian priority, officials said.

A federal report from 2015 finds there to be consistent and ongoing evidence of impacts to the ambient environment from the development of oil sands, the thicker type of crude oil found in most inland Canadian basins. Data show the effects are generally not enough for immediate concern, but it remains essential to work to identify any long-term impacts.

Federal government and provincial leaders from Alberta, where most of Canada's inland oil is found, signed a memorandum of understanding to share the responsibility for long-term environmental monitoring of oil sands development.

"Our government is committed to making sure that Canadian resources are developed responsibly and that environmental decision-making is based on the best available science, as well as Indigenous and traditional knowledge," Catherine McKenna, the federal minister of environment and climate change, said in a statement.

Both sides have worked since 2012 on ways to monitor the impact on air, water, land and biodiversity. Federal studies show oil sands development not only disrupts species habitats, but can lead to the exposure of potentially harmful chemicals in the air, land and water. Those impacts diminish in relation to proximity to development and government analysis show some of the chemical substances do occur naturally.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama denied a permit for pipeline company TransCanada to build its Keystone XL pipeline across the border because of environmental concerns.

Indigenous communities backed out of environmental agreements in 2014, arguing most efforts sidelined their treaty rights. That changed starting earlier this year.

"We know that protecting the environment and growing the economy are two sides of the same coin and that this will improve responsible, sustainable progress on both while creating good jobs for indigenous people," Provincial Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said.

The memorandum of understanding, signed Thursday, calls for a focus on the impact of oil sands development on air, water and wildlife quality, as well as biodiversity and land disturbance. The effort gets funding support of up to $39 million (USD).

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