STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Residents Say NO to Upgraders

Posted by mhudema on June 19, 2008

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EDMONTON _ Plans for massive multibillion-dollar projects in an area of Alberta known as Upgrader Alley are galvanizing opposition from landowners and residents who fear they are about to be surrounded by polluters.

Some fear toxic emissions will foul the air. Others say existing petroleum and chemical plants northeast of Edmonton are already belching too many harmful substances.

Still others are using the term “cancer alley” for the portion of Sturgeon County where the sprawling upgraders that transform gooey bitumen into synthetic oil are being built.

“Among our neighbours there has been one brain tumour, two leukemias, two lung cancers and one woman with three rounds of breast cancer,” Maureen Chichak said Thursday at a news conference organized by a grassroots group of concerned residents.

“I mean for a small population base, to me that seems like a lot of people dying of cancer.”

Several dozen residents have come together as Citizens for Responsible Development to oppose a proposed $14-billion Petro-Canada (TSX:PCA) upgrader now under review by the province´s energy regulator.

The Petro-Canada project may be the easiest target at this point, but a half-dozen other upgraders are also in the planning stages.

Petro-Canada spokesman Peter Symons says hearings later this month by the Energy Resources Conservation Board will give all residents a chance to voice their concerns.

Symons says Petro-Canada has come away from meetings in the past and made changes that responded to environmental concerns.

“We heard concerns about water and for that reason we´re using 100 per cent recycled waste water,” he said. “We´re using some of the latest land management techniques to construct the upgrader.”

Premier Ed Stelmach´s Progressive Conservative government has welcomed the projects, although the Tories have also promised to cap total emissions.

But a recent report by the Pembina Institute concluded that the province should not approve all the upgraders until there´s a solid plan to limit both pollution and fresh water use.

The report says the nine upgraders expected to begin operating by 2020 would consume 10 times as much water as the City of Edmonton each year and spew 45 megatonnes of greenhouses gases _ the equivalent to what´s produced by 10 million vehicles.

The government says that delaying the upgraders would drive away investment and lead to more bitumen being shipped out of Alberta for processing, which would cost thousands of jobs.

Barb Collier, a third-generation farmer in the area, says all Albertans need to be aware of what´s happening with industrial projects and their potentially harmful impacts.

“How can you live in Alberta, especially in the Edmonton area, and not know what´s happening in your backyard? she asked in an interview. “People need to sit up and start to take notice.”

Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema suggested Alberta´s frenzied oilsands development is running out of control with far too little concern for the environment and people´s health.

“When a situation is out of control, you don´t add more fuel to the fire,” he said. “This government´s strategy is to add more and more fuel to this fire when it´s already burning out of control.”

Leila Darwish with the Sierra Club says there must come a point where “enough is enough.”

“People are talking about cancer, health concerns and losing their land,” said Darwish. “We´re basically turning the heartland into a wasteland.”

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