STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Alberta Should Say No to Upgraders

Posted by mhudema on June 17, 2008

Alta shouldn’t approve Edmonton oilsands refineries without greener rules: report

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By: John Cotter, THE CANADIAN PRESS

EDMONTON – Alberta should not approve as many as six more oilsands upgraders near Edmonton until the province has a solid plan to limit the huge amount of fresh water they will use and to better manage the pollution they will produce, a new study says.

The Pembina Institute’s Oilsands Fever report, released on Monday, says nine bitumen upgraders are expected to begin operating just northeast of the capital between 2015 and 2020.

Together they would consume 10 times as much water as the City of Edmonton each year and spew 45 megatonnes of greenhouses gases – the equivalent to an amount produced by 10 million vehicles, the report says.

“Many people do not yet realize the scale and pace of development that will transform agricultural land and natural areas into an industrial complex about three-quarters the size of Edmonton,” said Mary Griffiths, the report’s lead author.

“The Alberta government has the opportunity to avoid environmental and social problems now being experienced in the Fort McMurray area. Through proactive planning those mistakes can be avoided.”

Companies are choosing to locate the upgraders, which transform gooey bitumen into synthetic oil, near Edmonton to avoid competition for workers and the high cost of doing business in northeastern Alberta, the report says.

The Edmonton-area upgraders would process up to two million barrels per day and would require railway lines, roads, pipelines and electrical transmission lines.

The Scotford upgrader operated by Shell Canada is already expanding, the report says.

BA Energy-Value Creation’s Heartland plant and North West Upgrading Inc.’s North West upgrader are under construction. Applications for five other upgraders have been submitted to the province and one firm has land holdings for another.

Griffiths said while Alberta Environment is taking some action, the province should not approve new projects until cumulative environmental impact and integrated growth management plans are complete.

Alberta Energy spokesman Jason Chance said Pembina’s call for a delay on expanding “Upgrader Alley” is not feasible and will not be considered.

Such a move would drive investment away and lead to more bitumen being shipped out of the province for processing, which would cost thousands of jobs, he said.

“It would undermine investor confidence in our economy. There has to be a balance struck here,” Chance said. “The exporting of raw bitumen to other jurisdictions is something that Albertans oppose most strenuously. Our goal is to do as much upgrading in Alberta as possible. Any time you are expanding an industry there are environmental impacts.”

Ed Stelmach spoke out strongly against shipping raw bitumen out of Alberta when he was a candidate during the Progressive Conservative leadership campaign before he became premier.

Chance said the cumulative environmental impact and area managements plans for the upgraders are being developed as the applications for the projects are being reviewed.

“We can address the very real environmental issues – whether they are air, land or greenhouse gas emissions – while maintaining the province’s economic advantage.”

EnCana CEO Randy Eresman said it’s a given that new projects must meet higher environmental standards.

“Every expansion, new oilsands development is going to have some level of environmental criticism and may be slowed down or affected by having to work to higher environmental standards than have been previously in place,” Eresman said in Calgary.

The Edmonton-area upgraders are projected to burn twice the volume of natural gas that households in Edmonton use in a year and an amount of electricity almost equal to the total output of Epcor’s Genesee power plant west of the capital.

The Pembina Institute wants the government to require that the upgraders use carbon capture and storage technology.

The report also recommends that the projects be carbon neutral and that the province put strict limits on air pollution.

It is estimated the upgraders would use more than six per cent of the flow of water in the North Saskatchewan River.

“New projects should only proceed when there is a truly effective process in place to limit the cumulative impacts and when we know how to manage growth, instead of letting it manage us,” the report says.

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