For Immediate Release
Jan 13, 2010

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Environment Groups Sue to Block Federal Reliance on “Phantom” Mitigation for the Oil Sands


Sierra Legal, on behalf of a coalition of environmental organizations, filed an application yesterday for a Federal Court judicial review of the Joint Panel report assessing the Imperial Oil Kearl Oil Sands project north of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

The Pembina Institute, Sierra Club of Canada, the Toxics Watch Society of Alberta, the Prairie Acid Rain Coalition and Sierra Legal will argue that the Joint Panel failed to properly do its job, and that a proper environmental review must take place before the federal government can decide whether to allow the Kearl Oil Sands project to proceed.

The Joint Panel decided that the project is not likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects, provided that the recommendations and mitigation measures proposed by the Joint Panel are implemented. The Joint Panel came to this conclusion based on “phantom” mitigation measures that are undeveloped and unproven, while acknowledging that no regional system to protect the environment was in place.

“The Joint Panel has rubber-stamped another oil sands mega-project in the absence of clear answers about how to restore wetlands, rehabilitate toxic tailings ponds, protect migratory bird populations, or address escalating greenhouse gas pollution,” said Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute. “The Joint Panel said it was ‘deeply concerned’ about the failure of government to implement systems to protect the environment, but nonetheless decided to give the Kearl Oil Sands project the green light.”

“The panel’s conclusion that a strip mine the size of 20,000 football fields with toxic sludge-filled tailings ponds visible from space will have no significant environmental effects makes a mockery of Canada’s environmental assessment process,” said Stephen Hazell of Sierra Club of Canada.

“The Joint Panel’s job is to identify measures that could be applied now — not at some unknown time in the future — to limit this project’s environmental effects,” stated Sean Nixon with Sierra Legal. “If those measures don’t yet exist, the Joint Panel has to advise the federal government of the true environmental costs of proceeding with the Kearl Oil Sands project.”