tar sands

Sun, 2014-08-17 13:50Carol Linnitt
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The Oilsands Cancer Story Part 3: The Spotlight Turns on Fort Chip Doctor

Fort Chipewyan Cemetery. Fort Chip, located downstream of the oilsands, has higher than average cancer rates.

This is the third installment in a three-part series on Dr. John O'Connor, the family physician to first identify higher-than-average cancer rates and rare forms of cancer in communities downstream of the Alberta oilsands.

Part 3: The Spotlight Turns On Fort Chip Doctor

After the story of Fort Chip’s health problems broke, Health Canada sent physicians out to the small, northern community.

Dr. John O’Connor said one of the Health Canada doctors went into the local nursing station and, in front of a reporter, filled a mug with Fort Chip water and drank from it, saying, ‘See, there’s nothing wrong with it.’

That was such a kick in the face for everyone,” O’Connor said. “Just a complete dismissal of their concerns.”

Health Canada eventually requested the charts of the patients who had died. Six weeks later they announced the findings of a report that concluded cancer rates were no higher in Fort Chip than expected.

For O’Connor, however, the numbers “just didn’t match up.”

Wed, 2014-08-06 10:01Guest
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Canada Needs Some Serious Climate Honesty

climate oilsands, kris krug, mark jaccard, harper government

This is a guest post by Mark Jaccard, professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University. 

In 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government asked me and four other economists if we agreed with its study showing huge costs for Canada to meet its Kyoto commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2010. We all publicly agreed, much to the chagrin of the Liberals, NDP and Greens, who argued that Kyoto was still achievable without crashing the economy. It wasn’t.

As economists, we knew that the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien should have implemented effective policies right after signing Kyoto in 1997. It takes at least a decade to significantly reduce emissions via energy efficiency, switching to renewables, and perhaps capturing carbon dioxide from coal plants and oilsands. Each year of delay jacks up costs.

Mr. Harper’s government knew this too. Years later, when environment minister Peter Kent formally withdrew Canada from Kyoto, he charged the previous Liberal government with “incompetence” for not enacting necessary policies in time to meet their target.

Mon, 2014-08-04 12:05Carol Linnitt
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The Oilsands Cancer Story Part 2: Deformed Fish, Dying Muskrats Cause Doctor To Sound Alarm

Robert Grandjambe Jr. Shows DeSmog Sick Fish from Lake Athabasca

This is the second installment of a three-part series on Dr. John O'Connor, the family physician to first identify higher-than-average cancer rates and rare forms of cancer in communities downstream of the Alberta oilsands.

Part 2: Deformed Fish, Dying Muskrats Cause Doctor To Sound Alarm

When Dr. John O’Connor arrived in Fort Chipewyan in 2000, it took him a little while to get familiar with the population.

The town was a bit larger than his previous post of Fort MacKay, with a population of around 1,000 at that time. Locals had few options when it came to medical care. Their town was 300 kilometres north of Fort McMurray and accessible only by plane in the summer or by ice road for a few of the colder months.

O’Connor recognized it was a close-knit community and yet hard to get a foothold in.

You had to be trusted to gain their respect, I guess,” he said.

Most doctors hadn’t established a continuous practice up there, O’Connor said, so the community hadn’t received continuous care by the same medical expert for many years.

What they were looking for was one pair of eyes, one pair of hands. Consistency,” he recounts.

That was one of the reasons why I was approached to provide service. So that made it easier to get to know people and for them to get to know me.”

O’Connor immediately began poring over patient files, piecing together what a series of seasonal doctors had left behind. Patients there felt there was no continuity between what rotating doctors would say about their symptoms.

Tue, 2014-07-15 15:53Kevin Grandia
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New Map Shows Dramatic Time Lapse of Tar Sands Deforestation

Alberta oilsands development tar sands

A time-lapsed map released today by the World Resources Institute using satellite imagery from Global Forest Watch shows how much forest is being lost in Northern Alberta to make way for major industrial operations, mainly to extract oil from the tar sands, also referred to as the oilsands.

According to the data compiled by Global Forest Watch, industrial development and forest fires in Canada's tar sands region have cleared or degraded almost 2 million acres (775,000 hectares) of boreal forest since 2000.

The pink regions depict forest loss. Watch what happens at year 2010:

Sat, 2014-07-12 08:00Derek Leahy
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Is Canada Putting All of Its Eggs in the Oilsands Basket?

Eggs in basket

The recent shelving of the Joslyn mine oilsands project in Alberta is a reminder of the fragile economics of the oilsands. No economic formula could be found to make the $11 billion project work and it has been put on hold indefinitely.           

Oil major Total E&P, the biggest partner in the project, said the Joslyn mine project “cannot be (financially) sustainable in the long term.” Interestingly, Total did not blame lack of new pipelines for squeezing profit margins either.

You run the risk in developing fossil fuels that one day will either become fully depleted or too expensive to extract,” Philip Gass, a policy analyst at the International Institute of Sustainable Development, said from Winnipeg.

It would be difficult to deny Canada has economically benefited from developing the oilsands, a particularly difficult and expensive fossil fuel to mine and refine into light fuels — but failing to diversify the Canadian economy beyond an oil and gas ‘energy superpower’ makes for a very uncertain economic future for Canada.

Canada could find itself an energy superpower overspecialized in the ‘old economy’ (resource extraction) in a world rapidly trying to cut carbon emissions and avoid catastrophic climate change,” Andrew Jackson, a senior policy advisor with the Broadbent Institute, told DeSmog Canada.

Fri, 2014-07-04 12:15Carol Linnitt
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New Poll: Canadians Overestimate Oilsands Contribution to Economy, Yet Still Want Clean Shift

Alex MacLean, oilsands, keystone xl, tar sands

A new poll released Friday shows the majority of Canadians assume development in the Alberta oilsands has a much larger impact on nation’s economy than it actually does.

According to the poll, conducted by Environics and commissioned by Environmental Defence, 41 per cent of Canadians believe the importance of the oilsands to the economy is six to 24 times higher than it actually is. And a full 57 per cent of Canadians overestimate the value of oilsands to the country’s economy.

The oilsands, according to Statistics Canada, account for only 2 per cent of the national GDP.

Despite the misconception, however, 66 per cent of Canadians still support a transition to a cleaner economy that would limit dependence on the oilsands.

In addition, 76 per cent of Canadians believe that, in light of climate change, the country should shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy.

Wed, 2014-07-02 10:42Carol Linnitt
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PHOTOS: Famed Photographer Alex MacLean’s New Photos of Canada’s Oilsands are Shocking

Alex MacLean, oilsands, keystone xl, tar sands

Alex MacLean is one of America’s most famed and iconic aerial photographers. His perspective on human structures, from bodies sunbathing at the beach to complex, overlapping highway systems, always seems to hint at a larger symbolic meaning hidden in the mundane. By photographing from above, MacLean shows the sequences and patterns of human activity, including the scope of our impact on natural systems. His work reminds us of the law of proximity: the things closest to us are often the hardest to see.

Recently MacLean traveled to the Alberta oilsands in western Canada. There, working with journalist Dan Grossman, MacLean used his unique eye to capture some new and astounding images of one of the world’s largest industrial projects. Their work, funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, will form part of a larger, forthcoming report for GlobalPost.

DeSmog Canada caught up with MacLean to ask him about his experience photographing one of Canada’s most politicized resources and the source of the proposed Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines.

Sat, 2014-06-28 10:04Mike De Souza
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Chief Allan Adam: Oilsands Health Study to “Knock Socks” Off Industry, Government

Chief Allan Adam

This article originally appeared on MikeDeSouza.com.

A new study from the University of Manitoba will soon challenge industry and government claims downplaying environmental health impacts of oilsands development, said the chief of a First Nations community Friday.

When that report comes out, it’s going to blow the socks off industry and government,” Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation told native and non-native supporters gathered at a campsite for an outdoor weekend retreat near major oilsands projects. “We went ahead and did our own independent studies and we found some very stunning results.”

First Nations communities have alleged that toxic pollution from oilsands operators is contaminating their air, water and food. Representatives from industry and the federal and provincial governments have pointed to research suggesting the toxins aren’t yet at unsafe levels.

Environment Canada has sometimes declined requests from journalists asking for interviews with federal scientists doing this research.

Thu, 2014-06-26 12:19Stephen Leahy
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Experts Call for Moratorium on New Oilsands Development Until Climate, Environmental Impacts Assessed

A moratorium on any new oilsands expansion is imperative given Canada’s failure to properly assess the total environmental and climate impacts Canadian and U.S. experts say in the prestigious science journal Nature.

Even with a moratorium it will be very difficult for Canada to meet its international promise to reduce CO2 emissions that are overheating the planet according to government documents as previously reported by DeSmog.

Continuing to approve pipelines and new projects guarantees Canada will not meet the Harper government’s Copenhagen emissions reduction target,” said Wendy Palen, an ecologist at Simon Fraser University. 

These are the plain facts Canadians need to be aware of,” Palen, a co-author of the Nature commentary, told DeSmog.

Canadians also have no idea of the overall ‘big picture’ of the impacts of oilsands production and transport because each project is assessed in isolation.

Tue, 2014-06-24 17:11Carol Linnitt
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New Campaign Spoofs Suncor's "What Yes Can Do" Green PR Blitz

Suncor, SumofUs, what yes can do

A new website launched today by the corporate accountability group SumofUs.org asks ordinary Canadians to take a closer look at oilsands major Suncor's latest ad campaign, What Yes Can Do.”

By launching their own version of the ad campaign at www.whatyescando.org, SumofUs.org is questioning the disparity between “what yes can do” as Suncor puts it, and “what yes has done” in the Alberta oilsands.

SumofUs.org points out Suncor's green ad campaign, which emphasizes the corporation's efforts to preserve “…an environment for generations to come,” doesn't square with the company's own lobbying effort to limit protections for the Athabasca River. 

More than five years ago, a panel of experts recommended an end to water withdrawals from the Athabasca River during certain times of the year, when water levels are at their lowest. The cut-off would protect fish hatchlings and other aquatic life from dying off during low river flow.

All companies operating in the Alberta oilsands agreed to the recommended cut-off, but Suncor, along with Syncrude, are lobbying the Alberta government for an exemption

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