Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Sorry State of Environmental Conscience of Tarsands Operators

It is not my normal practice in this blog to forwrd whole new stories. However, I have written several articles in the blog about the tar sands and I wanted to add this to that portfolio. I will add no comment, letting the article speak for itself.
Report compares environmental performance of oilsands companies; none good

Thu Jan 10, 12:12 AM
Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

EDMONTON - A new report comparing the environmental performance of Alberta's oilsands producers against each other has found that even the winners have little to brag about.
And the groundbreaking study by the Pembina Institute and the World Wildlife Fund, released Thursday, suggests the provincial government's reliance on industry to voluntarily do the right thing for the land, water and air of northern Alberta has failed.
"These are the largest petrochemical companies in the world," said Rob Powell, one of the report's authors.
"It just seems that for some reason they're getting away with not stepping up to the plate, and the government has to answer for that."
The report compares 10 operating and proposed oilsands mines using data supplied by the companies and publicly available government sources. It asks 20 questions grouped around the topics of environmental management, land, air emissions, water and climate change.
Companies were asked if they had third-party verification of their environmental management (only Albian Sands and Imperial did), or if they had targets to reduce their water use or air emissions (none did). Other questions concerned land reclamation plans, tailings production and public reporting.
All data was adjusted to be comparable. Only mining operations were considered. The companies had chances to comment on the data last June and again in September.
The answers to each question were scored and the results expressed as a percentage of the possible maximum.
The best the Alberta industry could do was Albian's 56 per cent for its existing Muskeg mine. Syncrude and Syneco ranked last, with only 18 per cent.
The 10 companies examined in the report, in the order of their ranking, are Albian Sands Muskeg, Total E&P, Petro-Canada Oil Sands (TSX: PCA.TO), Shell Canada (TSX: SHC.TO), Imperial Oil (TSX: IMO.TO), Suncor (TSX: SU.TO), Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., (TSX: CNQ.TO), Albian Sands Muskeg expansion, Syncrude and Syneco.
The most dismal results were for water use and climate. No company scored better than 50 per cent on the five water-related questions, and only three scored any marks at all for plans to deal with greenhouse gas production - although Albian's existing Muskeg mine racked up 66 per cent.
The wide variation in scores and the fact different companies dominated different categories means they aren't sharing best practices and the government's not making them, said Powell.
"We're not getting the kind of regulatory oversight that's required to achieve a reasonable standard of environmental performance. Why are they not insisting that these companies perform to the best available current standard?"
Powell says it's particularly telling that Albian's proposed expansion to its Muskeg mine ranks far lower than its existing project, scoring only 26 per cent.
The report estimates what would happen if all companies performed to the highest level in each category.
Emissions of two contributors to acid rain, nitrous dioxide and sulphur dioxide, could be cut by 79 and 47 per cent. Tailings could be eliminated. Water sucked from the Athabasca River could be reduced by 59 per cent.
Emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, could fall by 66 per cent.
"This is not pie in the sky," Powell said. "These are all things that companies are either doing now or that some companies that have sought approval say they will be able to do."
The first of the report's short list of five recommendations is that government needs to enforce acceptable standards and continuously improve them.
"Our survey clearly shows that a reliance on voluntary implementation of best practices is not resulting in adequate environmental management," it says.
It also criticizes government reluctance to provide information on environmental performance.
"The government actually collects some of this information but they don't share it with the public," said Powell. "A great deal of digging was required (for this report)."
Recommendations for industry include implementation of best practices and making information available in a consistent format that makes comparison possible.
"All of the companies could do better and our hope is that companies will compare themselves," said Powell.


thor said...

What do you drive I hope its a horse, if not you should buy one. All you people heat your homes and drive every day so quit whining or you might get what you ask for and then will freeze to death in the first cold snap.

Richard Embleton said...

Never ask a surgeon if you need surgery. Never seek the truth from someone whose salary depends on telling lies. Never suggest to someone from Fort MacMurray that tar sands operators need to clean up their act. It's too high a price, my friend. There are other alternatives, if projects lke the tar sands would quit sucking up the funds.