Sunday, October 12, 2008

Oil sands will pollute Great Lakes, report warns

Oil Sands will pollute Great Lakes, report warns

Massive refinery expansions for processing crude threaten to wipe out clean-up progress around world's largest body of fresh water

October 8, 2008

The environmental impacts of Alberta's oil sands will not be restricted to Western Canada, researchers say, but will extend thousands of kilometres away to the Great Lakes, threatening water and air quality around the world's largest body of fresh water.

In a new report, the University of Toronto's Munk Centre says the massive refinery expansions needed to process tar sands crude, and the new pipeline networks for transporting the fuel, amount to a "pollution delivery system" connecting Alberta to the Great Lakes region of Canada and the U.S.

It warns that the refineries will be using the Great Lakes "as a cheap supply" source for their copious water needs and the area's air "as a pollution dump."
The report, which is being released today at a conference at the university, says that as many as 17 major refinery expansions around the lakes are being considered for turning the tar-like Alberta bitumen into gasoline and other petroleum products. While not all will be undertaken, enough of them will be to have a regional environmental impact.

Proposed pipeline and refinery projects around the lakes are expected to lead to total investments of more than $31-billion (U.S.) by 2015, spending similar in scale to expenditures at many oil sands projects. For this reason, the report says the various projects, when taken together, threaten to "wipe out many of the pollution control gains" achieved around the lakes since the 1970s.

The massive expenditures are needed because typical refineries can't process heavy crude derived from tar sands without costly upgrades.

"This expansion promises to bring with it an exponential increase in pollution, discharges into waterways including the Great Lakes, destruction of wetlands, toxic air emissions, acid rain, and huge increases in greenhouse gas emissions," it says.
Most of the projected spending is on the U.S. side of the lakes. Only one major refinery project has been announced for the Canadian side, but that expansion, at a Shell refinery in Sarnia, was put on hold in July because of surging costs.

However, two big Canadian companies, TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. with its Keystone project, and Enbridge Inc., with its Alberta Clipper project, are vying to build pipelines to bring crude from the tar sands to U.S. refineries around the lakes.
The report says the environmental effects in Alberta from tar sands development - from dying ducks caught in tailings ponds to massive carbon dioxide emissions - are well known, but the implications for the Great Lakes "are less well-understood and less extensively explored."

Policy makers around the lakes, in both Canada and the U.S., are largely unaware that the tar sands will lead to massive industrial development in their region, and consequently have no strategy to minimize the environmental impacts, it says.
Some of the harshest criticism is for the Ontario government, which it characterizes as "remarkably unengaged" over how tar sands oil will affect the province and "doesn't seem to even be asking the key questions, let alone contemplating the possible policy answers."

end of excerpt.

More about the refineries and activism from the Alliance for the Great Lakes:

Alliance for the Great Lakes

Public outcry and pressure is the only thing that will stop this. This is nothing less than a crime against our Earth and humanity. Humans definitely need an intervention for this addiction. We are destroying the very waterways that we will need to give us sustenence in years to come, especially with a rising population. Climate change is already taking its toll on the water tables of the Great Lakes, and we will now pollute what is left?! This is pure greed and willful ignorance. And the fact that nothing much has changed since my last entry on this Oil Sands Development Not Sustainable is sad.

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