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PostPosted: May 25th, 2008, 11:20 am 
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The oil executives of the big 5 (Shell, BP, Conoco-Phillips, Chevron, Exxon) all acknowledged environmental concerns with the oil sands at a recent Justice Committee hearing before Congress (can watch entire testimony on C-SPAN)… while also acknowledging the crucial necessity to develop domestic sources for oil and gas. Shell is looking at extraction technology in shale that doesn't involve a strip mine. It seems it will be much harder to maintain cover-ups with the additional local and global attention. And some good news for the people of Fort Chipewyan.

This week from the CBC:

1) Grease, oil leaked into Athabasca River in the fall, MLA reveals

2) 'Comprehensive' review of Fort Chipewyan cancer rates announced

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Dr. Michel Sauve, an internal medicine specialist in nearby Fort McMurray, said a full review has been a long time coming.

"There is clearly a great deal of attention onto the oilsands and their effects both environmentally and socially and the government has to respond to those kinds of public concerns and I think this is part of the response and obligations to Albertans," said Sauve, the first doctor to voice concerns about the cancer rates.

"This is a good story for the Fort Chip people who are going to be able to get some answers, something they have been deserving for a long time and the government's been promising for a long time. We need to find out what's going on."

He said he is urging the government to go further in their review than analyzing cancer rates, encouraging officials to test residents' blood and tissue for environmental toxins.


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PostPosted: July 24th, 2008, 10:50 pm 
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11 charged in Greenpeace oilsands protest

Fort McMurray RCMP arrested 11 Greenpeace activists for trespassing at the Syncrude Canada Ltd. Aurora oilsands site at around 12:30 p.m. MT Thursday.

The RCMP were called after Syncrude employees found the activists at the tailings pond, Const. Ali Fayad said.

The Greenpeace activists were trying to block a pipeline dumping tailings waste into one of Syncrude’s giant tailings ponds.

Organization spokeswoman Jessica Wilson said the activists were detained, handed trespassing tickets carrying a $287 fine and released.

"The action was successful in bringing our message directly to the perpetrators of these environmental crimes," Wilson said.

The environmental group said the action is aimed at stopping the pond, located at the Aurora North Site mine, from growing any larger. It is now about six square km, with 1.8 billion litres of toxic waste added daily, according to Wilson.

Greenpeace activists said they entered the site around 11 a.m. Thursday, and easily got past Syncrude security and made it to the lake of waste water. Wilson said the activists were on site for over an hour before they were noticed.

Dave Martin, who also speaks for the organization, talked to CBC News from the side of the tailings pond.

"It's the pond where 500 ducks were killed in April, and we have another team putting up a banner on another major outflow pipe of tailings. We've got about a 60-foot large-scale banner we are putting up on the sides of the berm,” Martin said.

The banner is a giant skull and crossbones, he said, with 'World's Dirtiest Oil: Stop the Tar Sands' on it.

"We're hoping this really sends a message, not only to Syncrude, but to the Stelmach government and the Harper government, to say enough is enough and this has to stop and we have to start caring about our water, climate and about the health of the people that live around here," Martin said.

A Syncrude spokesperson said the Greenpeace action hasn't affected production.

On April 28, about 500 ducks landed on a tailings pond filled with waste from Syncrude's oilsands operation, north of Fort McMurray. Only a handful of birds survived the dip in the toxic water. Most of the ducks were too heavily coated with oil and waste to survive.

Following an investigation, Alberta is still considering whether to charge Syncrude under the province's environmental laws.


http://www.cbc.ca/canada/edmonton/story ... ducks.html

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PostPosted: October 23rd, 2010, 8:49 am 
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Syncrude to pay $3M penalty for duck deaths

Oilsands giant Syncrude Canada will pay a $3-million penalty for the deaths of 1,600 ducks in one of its toxic tailings ponds in April 2008.

Syncrude lawyers and federal and provincial prosecutors presented the deal Friday morning in provincial court in St. Albert, Alta., and Judge Ken Tjosvold accepted it.

Syncrude lawyer Jack Marshall told the court that the company apologizes for the incident and recognizes it must do much better when it comes to protecting wildlife.

Syncrude was fined the maximum under the applicable federal and provincial laws: $300,000 for the federal charge and $500,000 for the provincial charge.

A research project into bird migration and the effectiveness of bird deterrents at the University of Alberta will also receive $1.3 million. Other beneficiaries include the Alberta Conservation Association, which will receive $900,000, and the environmental program at Keyano College in Fort McMurray, which will receive half of the $500,000 provincial fine.

Fine largest in history

"Syncrude is eager to move forward from this incident. It's haunted us and it's something that we sincerely regret and have from the beginning," said Syncrude spokeswoman Cheryl Robb.

"We've learned a lot and we made significant changes to our system and we're ready to move forward."

Provincial Crown prosecutor Susan McRory said she was pleased the judge accepted the terms of the sentencing agreement.

"The company has taken responsibility, the laws have been enforced, and the penalty will hopefully prevent anything like this from ever happening again," she said.

Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert wouldn't comment specifically on the court decision but said it sends a message to industry that the province will take action if environmental policies are breached.

"This whole process … shows that if there is a breach of an environmental regulation or legislation, that we are prepared to take action," he said. "We did and the process unfolded and this is the culmination of it."

In Vancouver, federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice said the fine was the largest in Canadian history for an environmental offence.

"I think this shows that we have strong environmental laws in Canada and that we will enforce them," Prentice said.

"What happened with the duck incident in the oilsands was completely unacceptable, it was an embarrassment to Canada when it took place, and so, the severity of the fine really reflects that."

'Slap on the wrist': Greenpeace

But Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema said the sentence was disappointing.

"A $3-million fine to a multi-billion dollar company equates to a slap on the wrist," he said.

"This doesn't send a very strong message to the industry that Alberta or the federal government is really serious about enforcing our legislation or that crimes like this can't happen in the future."

Hudema said the fine could have been higher if Syncrude was levied an amount for each duck that perished in the tailings pond.

Syncrude was found guilty in June on federal and provincial environmental charges over the duck deaths in its Aurora tailings pond in 2008.

Sentencing was supposed to take place in August, but that was put on hold when it appeared the sides were close to working out a deal. The trial earlier this year took two months.

Syncrude tried to argue that it made a mistake but shouldn't be punished. The company claimed it failed to have enough air cannons in place to scare migratory birds away from the tailings pond.

The argument failed and guilty verdicts were returned, marking the first time an oilsands company had been sanctioned in court for failing to operate a tailings pond properly.



http://www.cbc.ca/canada/edmonton/story ... ncing.html

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PostPosted: October 23rd, 2010, 11:07 am 
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Yep ... I like the idea that $1.95 million of the fine is going to various environmental and wildlife projects. Here in the States, some have suggested the government should have ordered the end of long-term storage of mining and industrial wastes in massive open air tailings ponds. The Alberta Government even has a website detailing what some of these alternative waste treatment processes might potentially look like.
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The Government of Alberta is working with industry and researchers to develop new tailings performance criteria, management technologies and practical solutions to reduce and potentially eliminate tailings ponds as we know them today.


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PostPosted: October 24th, 2010, 4:54 am 
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How many birds are they "allowed" to kill? Is one, or "just a few" OK? I cut down a tree this summer and killed a nest full of baby birds.

IIRC there are buildings in Toronto that kill hundreds of birds a year. There used to be the odd protest, but no million dollar fines that I recall. And a robin died smashing into my kitchen window a while back.

People that build windmills are supposed to do it such that they minimize bird kills, but all windmills kill some birds (and bats), and some reportedly kill thousands. Again there is the occasional protest, but I've never heard of quotas for windmills - when there total kills reach 6 or 1600 do they have to pay a fine and spend more money on cannons and stuff?

It seems to depend more on ideology, political correctness and fashion than environmentalism and science.


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PostPosted: October 24th, 2010, 9:28 am 
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Krusty wrote:
How many birds are they "allowed" to kill? Is one, or "just a few" OK?

The issue before the court was not "bird deaths" (1,603 in number when it was all said and done) but negligence by Syncrude. The bird deaths highlighted a pattern of cost cutting, lack of oversight of established tailings ponds management criteria (such as deployment of scarecrows and cannons), and then not informing the public about the incident, which they are obligated to do. Considering the highly toxic nature of these tailings, and the risk to public and environmental health should there be a problem with the ponds (currently one of the largest water control structures in Canada), these are pretty substantive concerns.


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PostPosted: October 24th, 2010, 4:03 pm 
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Point taken. Thx.


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PostPosted: October 26th, 2010, 11:35 pm 
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i think there were more ducks killed this week

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PostPosted: October 27th, 2010, 9:12 am 
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Red Lake Rob wrote:
i think there were more ducks killed this week


http://www.cbc.ca/canada/edmonton/story ... -pond.html

Quote:
Oilsands tailings ponds kill more ducks
230 dead birds at Syncrude facility, small tolls at Suncor and Shell ponds
Last Updated: Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just hours after the Alberta government announced that ducks had landed on a Syncrude tailings pond, officials said similar incidents had occurred at ponds belonging to Shell and Suncor.

Earlier Tuesday, the province announced that ducks had been discovered on a tailings pond at Syncrude's Mildred Lake facility on Monday night. About 230 birds that made contact with the pond's toxic brew of bitumen-extraction byproducts had to be euthanized, according to Syncrude.

Suncor stated that "a small number of oiled birds" were euthanized on the advice of Alberta fish and wildlife officials, but it did not specify how many had been killed. Shell issued a statement saying two birds had been found dead and two other oiled birds had been seen at its Muskeg River tailings pond but could not be captured.

"We are co-operating fully with regulators and are working to minimize waterfowl losses," Scott Sullivan, Syncrude president and CEO, said in a written statement. "This is very unfortunate, especially given the significant efforts we have taken to improve our deterrent system."

Companies are citing freezing rain in the area as a factor in the incidents.

Syncrude said the "unusual bird activity" was due to freezing rain in the area, which made it difficult for the birds to fly. The birds that landed on roads and parking lots were easily approached, likely meaning they were fatigued.

The Mildred Lake incident came days after Syncrude agreed to pay a $3-million penalty for the deaths of 1,600 ducks in another tailings pond in April 2008, in a deal its lawyers reached with the provincial and federal Crown prosecutors.

“I cannot express how disappointed and frustrated I am that this incident occurred,” said Environment Minister Rob Renner. “Albertans deserve answers to why this happened again, and we will do everything we can to get those answers quickly.”

Provincial officials were on site investigating and ensuring Syncrude was preventing further birds from landing. Renner said air cannons that are supposed to scare migratory birds away from the tailings pond were operating Monday. But he confirmed there was freezing rain, which sometimes results in birds landing anyway.

Syncrude spokeswoman Cheryl Robb said staff discovered the birds around 10:15 p.m. Monday.

"Our deterrence system was in full operation at the time but our staff got extra air cannons, flare guns and air horns to try and scare the birds away but with no luck," she said.

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach called the situation "aggravating and frustrating," especially coming so soon after Syncrude was fined $3 million on Friday for the 2008 deaths.

Stelmach said he wants to know why and how this incident happened, and whether the deterrents were in place.

During a news conference, Stelmach was asked what effect Monday's incident would have on Alberta's attempts to improve the image of the oilsands.

"It doesn't help," he said. "But on the other hand, we are always very clear that no matter what resource you develop, there are some environmental risks, and this is one of them."

Increase penalties: NDP

"I'm more than disappointed. I'm angry," Alberta NDP MLA Rachel Notley said. "For the last two years, since the last time this happened, the government has done nothing but invest money in PR.

"What needs to happen is the government needs to finally take this seriously. They need to take action, they need to enforce their own standards, they need to increase penalties, so they actually serve as a deterrent. That's not happening right now." Notley said the latest incident creates an impression that the province isn't taking its obligation to develop and clean up the oilsands seriously enough.

According to Greenpeace, the industry should stop using tailings ponds. "The fact is that these toxic tailings lakes pose an ongoing threat, not just to bird populations but to animals and to downstream communities as well," said Greenpeace Alberta campaigner Mike Hudema.

In its operating approval, Alberta requires Syncrude to ensure birds do not land on the tailings ponds.

After the 2008 duck deaths, Syncrude invested millions in bird deterrent systems and started running them year-round, Robb said. "This has hit us really hard and we are continually learning as a company," she said. " We will want to understand what's happened in this situation."

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PostPosted: October 27th, 2010, 10:09 am 
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Red Lake Rob wrote:
$1million per bird I hope.

Oil companies, record profits and record destruction of our planet. When will it stop.



If biblical answers are allowed on this board: It will stop only when the Messiah returns .. Revelation says if that was not to happen "there would be no flesh left alive" on this planet. Our planet's 'civilization' is nothing but mass greed and the worship of money and anything money will buy. Corporations are only giving what the vast majority of the people of this planet want.

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PostPosted: October 29th, 2010, 11:36 am 
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Opinion piece from the National Post.


Quote:
Ducks fly at their own risk

Friday, Oct. 29, 2010

A photograph has been making the rounds on the Internet of a bison being chased by a grizzly bear along a road in Yellowstone National Park.

It's a remarkable shot because the bison in question appears to have escaped the clutches of the bear mid-mauling. Chunks of its fur are missing, and it is literally running for its life, with a rather angry-looking Yogi in determined pursuit.

A park official told a Montana television station this week that the photo is real. Not that anyone at Yellowstone is searching for the bear, or its presumed victim. It's just one of those brutal things that happen in nature.

You know what else happens in nature? Birds migrate. And so, this week, Alberta energy giant Syncrude again finds itself as the scourge of the oil sands because some of those birds took a detour and landed on one of its toxic wastewater ponds. Officials estimate that 350 ducks had to be euthanized as a result. This, mere days after Syncrude was ordered to pay a record $3-million fine for allowing 1,600 waterfowl to perish on its ponds in a 2008 incident.

Reaction has been swift. "In light of the courts just making their decision last week, it's certainly aggravating and frustrating," said Premier Ed Stelmach. Federal government members were similarly troubled. "This government takes this incident very seriously," said Mark Warawa, parliamentary secretary to Environment Minister Jim Prentice, in Parliament on Wednesday. "This is completely unacceptable."

It's a shame the ducks aren't around to see all the hand-wringing in their honour. But lost in the fuss over the deaths is a little perspective.

Birds migrate, and for a long time humans have been constructing things that our avian friends smash into. Electrical power lines are estimated to account for 150 million bird deaths a year in the United States. A further 50 million or so are thought to be killed by smacking into telecommunications towers for services such as cellphones and digital television.

Both those figures, incidentally, are provided by the American Wind Energy Association, which itself is combatting accusations that wind turbines are unnecessary bird killers -- the "Cuisinarts of the sky" are accused of being responsible for about 75,000 avian deaths in the United States annually.

And sometimes, birds don't slam into things humans have built, we slam into them. Another 60 to 80 million deaths annually are attributed to collisions with cars and trucks on North American roads.

Yet another of Canada's most notorious bird killers is located a long way from the oil sands. The skyscrapers of downtown Toronto, especially those with the temerity to leave their lights on at night, are giant, deadly obstacles to migrating birds.

There are even legions of volunteers who collect the deceased -- and sometimes, the wounded -- small birds that are scattered about the sidewalks of the financial district any given morning. It's thought that about a million such birds rattle off the glass of the silent killers such as First Canadian Place each year.

National Post writer Joe O'Connor spent a morning with a cleanup crew last spring, where volunteers recounted how high winds and low clouds had turned the downtown core into a veritable killing field of American redstarts, rose-breasted grosbeaks and the like. They counted as many as 300 dead birds, or about as many as died on the Mildred Lake tailings pond this week, thus earning Syncrude the wrath of every politician within reach of a microphone.

Syncrude, not surprisingly, has been penitent. Also a little puzzled. It is, chief executive Scott Sullivan said, trying to determine why its systems designed to ward ducks off from the toxic ponds didn't work.

"Our deterrent systems were fully deployed prior to this incident," he said.

"And our experience when the systems are fully deployed, we have been very successful in avoiding this kind of incident." Some officials have noted that a storm might be to blame. When ducks are coated by freezing rain, they are forced to land. I'm not sure any amount of fine would force Syncrude to figure out how to control the weather.

Syncrude would rather obviously be wise to eliminate the toxins from the ponds, or get rid of the ponds themselves. But until it can, should it bear the brunt of all the anti-oil sands rhetoric every time an incident like this happens? No one tut-tutted the nation's banks on that spring morning that their Toronto office buildings claimed the rose-breasted grosbeaks.

A U.S. study of bird deaths due to wind turbines, meanwhile, also identified another major killer of winged creatures: cats. House pets are thought to kill "hundreds of millions" of birds each year. It's a total that would require an awful lot of tailings ponds to match.



http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/col ... z13lZLRkfa

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PostPosted: October 29th, 2010, 12:07 pm 
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So we're told these things are fully preventable, environmental protection measure are adequate, and then we find out this is not the case, and that these are not "isolated" incidents. Frustrating, indeed! Birds migrate. So too do tailing ponds leak. This National Post story is a total red herring from the real issues decided by the courts, long-standing environmental concerns of regulators (which are very real), and the larger public relations nightmare for Syncrude (and how this impacts other companies trying to work credibly in the Alberta oil patch). They need to find an alternative to these tailings ponds (or manage them in a different way). There's plenty of wealth in the ground to pay for new research, new technology, innovation, all the rest.

The etymology of the term "red herring" is interesting (perhaps we need to update the term to "oily duck" or "wind blown bat"). It was originally thought to derive from the use of herring to train dogs to "follow a scent" (and then break them of the habit to follow the more faint trail of a fox or badger). A herring was also thought to be used by escaped convicts to throw off the pursuit of hounds from their trail.


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PostPosted: October 29th, 2010, 12:44 pm 
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Yeah, that's the NP's opinion. The poisoning of the landscape, by atmospheric fallout and with the tailings ponds is more significant than the bird deaths.

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PostPosted: October 29th, 2010, 12:47 pm 
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FT: let's just tell the NP that they forgot in their litany of dead birds the symbolic canary in the coal mine... :wink:

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PostPosted: October 29th, 2010, 1:09 pm 
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I like the article and for an "opinion" piece it does a great job of posing a question rather than beating you over the head with an opinion.

Erhard & Idylwyld- Don't you think it's fair to ask why a dead duck in northern Alberta is worth more than a dead rose-breasted grossbeak in Toronto?

If you want to read any opinion into the article then I think it would be more appropriate to take away the impression that skyscraper owners and tenants in Toronto should also be held liable for killing birds.

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