STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Hundreds Pack Upgrader Hearing

Posted by mhudema on June 24, 2008

Hundreds of concerned residents from Stratcona and Sturgeon counties pack a Fort Saskchewan hearing into a Petro Canada upgrader on June 23, 2008.

Hundreds flock to upgrader hearing in Fort Sask.

Amanda Ferguson, Updated: Mon Jun. 23 2008 17:10:26

Hundreds of people packed a Fort Saskatchewan hall Monday knowing they won’t be able to have their say on a potential new oilsands upgrader for days.

Yet as they crowded into the room to sit in front of a three-member panel for the Energy Resources Conservation Board, they knew they were already getting their point across.

Armed with signs, masks and cheers — more than one hundred people took their cause to a local hotel to protest the latest in a growing list of upgrader projects slated for the Fort Hills area.

“I can’t even comprehend what that’s going to be,” local resident Wayne Groot said. “It’s just massive. We’re going to be inundated with huge amounts of traffic, noise, lights.”

The hearing is to determine whether the ERCB will give Petro-Canada the final green light to build a large upgrader about 40 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.

The $7-billion upgrader will process bitumen from the Fort Hills oil sands mine, located about 90 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, into light synthetic crude oil.

Despite the fact residents won’t get their say until Thursday, Greenpeace activist Mike Hudema said he is confident their voices are already being heard.

“Definitely what we hope comes out of it is that the project is turned down until much more assessment can be done and until we can really find out what the key parts of the culmination of all these different upgraders are going to be on the area,” he said.

By noon into the first day of the hearing, only the Metis Nation filed an application requesting to be consulted before the project is approved.

Their application was later denied.

Petro Canada is scheduled to make its submissions during the next two weeks.

Company spokesman Neil Camarta told CTV News he expects the company to convince the board that their latest project is both environmentally safe and sustainable.

“We’re using the most efficient technology we can get our hands on,” he said. “This is a new upgrader so we have the opportunity to do that. So from an environmental perspective, we’re not just meeting all the expected emission standards, we’re exceeding them.”

The Shell Scotford upgrader is reportedly the only upgrader currently open and operating near Fort Saskatchewan.

Another eight upgraders are being planned for the area.

Groot said he can already see the Shell Scotford plant from his porch — and he isn’t ready to welcome any more to the neighbourhood.

“If we look from the edge of our building to the end of our quarter that’s going to be all upgrader,” he said.

Other residents living in Sturgeon County said they fear their quality of life will suffer if more upgraders are approved.

“My kids refuse to move back and farm with us because it’s noisy,” she said. “It’s terrible and it’s going to get worse.”

The meeting is scheduled to run for two weeks.

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