EDMONTON — A Washington-based coalition of environmental groups is taking another tongue-in-cheek shot at the Alberta government with a newspaper ad targeting oilsands development.
The ad from the Natural Resources Defence Council features a faux postcard from Premier Ed Stelmach inviting western U.S. governors – who begin meetings Sunday with western premiers in Jackson Hole, Wyo. – to hold their next get-together near the tarsands.
“We can watch as pristine boreal forests and wetlands are destroyed to produce some of the dirtiest oil,” reads the postcard, which sits atop two vacation-style snapshots of an open-pit mine and an oil plant spewing smoke.
“Sunsets over the giant toxic waste lagoons are spectacular – just hope the ducks don’t land as they fly over looking for a place to nest!”
The ad is scheduled to run Monday in the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper, and is timed to coincide with the meeting in Jackson Hole.
It’s the latest attack on the environmental record of the Alberta oil industry, which made international news in April when 500 ducks died after landing in an oilsands tailings pond.
Earlier this week, Greenpeace put up a new satirical website offering mock tours of the province’s industrial northeast, tempting travellers with black sand beaches, toxic lakes and clearcut forests.
It recommends starting the day with a “propane cannon wake-up call” and suggests a little open-pit paragliding over the vast oilsands mines.
Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the Washington-based coalition said the two campaigns were developed separately but she was “thrilled” at their timing.
“We certainly talk to each other, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’re co-ordinated,” she said in an interview from Washington. “I think what you’re seeing is that a lot of groups on both sides of the border are very concerned about the tarsands.”
Casey-Lefkowitz said in addition to the ad, the defence council has sent a more serious letter to the governors and premiers, explaining their concerns.
“The oilsands development is expanding at a rate that’s too high for environmental protection to keep up,” she explained. “What we’re seeing is that the boreal forest eco-system is being destroyed and huge toxic tailings ponds are being created that are indeed proving a hazard to wildlife.”
She said there have also been health concerns expressed by many in aboriginal communities near the development.
“What Alberta’s leaders are not focusing enough on is that there is a real desire to have oil development done in a way that doesn’t hurt the environment,” she said.
“Alberta is so far behind right now in really getting a grip on cleaning up the tarsands. It’s important for them right now to be focusing not on public relations, but focusing on actually cleaning up the situation.”
Before leaving for the Wyoming conference, Stelmach admitted Alberta is “now in the cross-hairs” of various environmental groups and other agencies around North America that are denouncing the huge volume of greenhouse gas emissions from the province’s massive oilsands plants.
And it isn’t just environmental groups.
The U.S. government is currently drafting a law that could limit American agencies from using oilsands fuels because of the large volume of emissions created in their production.
Presidential hopeful Barack Obama is also talking about curbing imports of “dirty” oil from various sources, including Canada’s oilsands.
America’s big-city mayors also recently passed a resolution urging a ban on the use of fuel from the oilsands in municipal vehicles in the U.S.
Stelmach said he would try and convince the U.S. governors to stay onside with Alberta by reminding them how Canada has “protected the backs” of Americans in several wars.