STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Greenpeace Blocks Syncrude Toxic Lake

Posted by mhudema on July 24, 2008

News Release:

Greenpeace activists obstruct Syncrude tar sands operation

24 July 2008 (Fort McMurray) — Braving toxic fumes and the same toxic tailings waste that earlier this year killed 500 ducks, Greenpeace activists entered Syncrude’s Aurora North tar sands operation and blocked a pipe into the two-kilometre wide tailings pond.

Shortly after 11:00 a.m today, 11 Greenpeace activists blocked the pipe to prevent further toxic contamination of Alberta’s environment. The activists capped the opening of the pipe, locking a large device in place while several other activists erected a triangular banner over another pipe depicting a skull and crossbones which hung above the pipe’s opening, giving the illusion of toxic water gushing from the “mouth” of the skull. Several other activists deployed a massive banner along the bank of the tailings pond, reading “World’s Dirtiest Oil: Stop the Tar Sands.”

“Big oil companies are pillaging Alberta’s natural resources, robbing freshwater from the Athabasca River to make giant lakes of toxic sludge that are killing wildlife and poisoning local communities,” said Mike Hudema, a tar sands campaigner with Greenpeace. “Today we brought our message to the perpetrators of this environmental crime – it’s time to put the brakes to the tar sands.”

The tar sands are the largest user of ground water in Alberta. Current projects are licensed to remove more than 450 million cubic metres of water from the Athabasca River each year, equivalent to about two and a half times the water the City of Calgary uses annually. Additionally, elevated levels of rare cancers and auto-immune diseases have been plaguing and killing members of downstream communities like Fort Chipewyan, diseases which have been linked to the industrial pollution from the tar sands.

“For dozens of Alberta communities, the Athabasca River is their lifeline and when it is threatened, the health and the way of life of those communities is put at risk,” said Greenpeace Tar Sands Campaigner Heather Milton-Lightening. “Our activists feel that the risk these communities face daily is far more significant than the risk we took today. If the government refuses to stand up for their rights, we will.”

Greenpeace is calling for no new approvals on tar sands projects as a first step; the introduction of legislation to ensure that no new tailings ponds are built or expanded; that all existing ponds be cleaned up and fully reclaimed; and that stiffer penalties be implemented for oil companies that fail to meet imposed environmental regulations. In March of this year, 500 ducks landed on the very same Syncrude tailings pond, despite clear environmental regulations that required Syncrude to have appropriate wildlife deterrents in place.

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Note to editors: Greenpeace climate coordinator Dave Martin is available for comment from inside the operation. He can be reached at (416) 627-5004.

High-resolution photos and HD video will be available at http://www.greenpeace.ca/gallery.

For more information, please contact:

Jessica Wilson, Media and Public Relations Officer, 778-228-5404
Mike Hudema, Tar Sands Campaigner, 780-504-5601
Heather Milton-Lightening, Tar Sands Campaigner, 780-504-5567

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