STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Alberta Tar Sands to Bring Acid Rain to Saskatchewan

Posted by mhudema on June 14, 2008

Hannah Scissons
Canwest News Service

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

SASKATOON – Alberta’s growing oilsands development could bring acid rain down on neighbouring Saskatchewan, says an environmental expert.

Trent University Prof. Peter Dillon says Saskatchewan could see acid rain similar to what Eastern Canada experienced in past decades.

Dillon spoke in Saskatoon on Tuesday in a presentation sponsored by the Saskatchewan Environmental Society and Environmental Defence.

The damage from the pollution emitted by the oilsands takes years to materialize, but the time to act on it is now, rather than after the damage is already done, Dillon said in an interview.

“Typically, you don’t see impacts for a few decades; that’s the lesson we’ve learned from Eastern Canada, and certainly Europe, as well.”

It’s essential to start collecting data now on the state of the soil, lakes and rivers, so the effects of the pollution from the oilsands near Fort McMurray, Alta., can be properly measured, he said.

The most sensitive parts of northern Saskatchewan, where the soil is thin in the rocky Canadian Shield, will likely be where the effects of acidification are first observed.

Acidification is caused after gases such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are transformed in the atmosphere into pollutants, including sulphuric acid and nitric acid, which fall on water and soil.

When the long-term effects of acid rain started becoming apparent in Eastern Canada and the U.S. – dying fish and forests, for example – the provincial governments stepped in with hard targets for lower emissions. And those targets were successfully met, noted Dillon.

Matt Price, project manager for Environmental Defence, cited a study that showed 65 to 70 per cent of the sulphur put into the air in Alberta is transported east over Saskatchewan.

The absence of any binding emission regulations in Alberta means Saskatchewan is at the mercy of whatever projects are approved on the other side of the border.

Current applications for new projects in Alberta indicate the sulphur-dioxide emissions could grow by 17 per cent during the next three to five years, and nitrogen-oxide emissions will grow by 35 per cent, said Price.

Recent government reports in Alberta also reveal air pollution is growing worse in the oilsands region, even though it’s declining in most of the rest of the province.

Concentrations of hydrogen sulphide, for example, have increased by 30 to 175 per cent since 1999, according to an Alberta Environment report; sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides are also increasing.

“If (a) federal standard came out strong enough and it was implemented well enough and fast enough, then we could probably head off a lot of the worst impacts,” he said. “Now is the time to head this off, while these emissions are growing exponentially.”
© Saskatoon StarPhoenix 2008


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