Despite the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s recommendation to move forward with an investigation last August, representatives from the United States, Canada and Mexico collectively passed a motion forbidding the CEC to look into Alberta tailings ponds as of this afternoon. The CEC, NAFTA’s environmental watchdog group, can no longer investigate impacts caused by Alberta tailings ponds, a body of liquid waste produced by tar sands. In 2010, two environmental groups and three private citizens called upon the CEC to study the impacts of tailings ponds on nearby rivers and creeks, which have also been found to emit strong pollutants into the air. If these tailings ponds were to be found leaking toxic chemicals into fish-bearing fresh waterways, these activities would be in direct violation of the federal Fisheries Act.
- Canada’s federal government is doing whatever it can to push its oil industry interests — even if it means getting in the way of science. The Harper administration has long been accused of muzzling scientists across the country, using tactics like shutting down federal libraries, and even forbidding federal meteorologists from addressing climate change in their weather forecasts. By continuously shutting out Canada’s intellectual voices — especially when evidence presented doesn’t correlate with federal economic interests — the conservative government is actively undermining any effort to move towards a cleaner, healthier future.
- By cosigning this resolution, the United States’ credibility as a future climate leader comes into question. In the last few months, the US took strong strides for the climate when they agreed to significantly reduce its carbon emissions alongside China. Supporting Canada’s decision to forbid such an investigation on the environmental impacts of tailings ponds puts the US in an awkward position, setting itself up for accusations of going back on their commitments.
- The impacts of a fossil fuel-driven industry on both the environment and the economy aren’t worthwhile risks for the Harper administration. Not only do tailings ponds risk poisoning water sources, they have been found to emit strong pollutants into the air. Meanwhile, crude prices continue dropping and causing more job losses, leading Canada’s prime minister to finally admit on the record that there is “more to the Canadian economy than oil.” With upcoming elections next fall, rather than stalling any further processes that challenge Canada’s future as a tar sands economy, the federal government has an opportunity to lead the transition towards a 100% clean energy future that is healthy for both communities and the economy.
- NAFTA probe of Alberta’s tailings ponds blocked by Canada (CBC)
- NAFTA scrutiny of oilsands tailings ponds opposed by Canada (CBC)
- NAFTA won’t investigate oilsands tailings ponds (Vancouver Sun)
- The war on brains (Toronto Star)
- Harper says there’s more to the Canadian economy than oil (Globe and Mail)
- Opinion: Alberta cannot just sit and wait for the next oil boom (Globe and Mail)
- Press release: Statement by Environmental Defence’s Dale Marshall on Canada blocking NAFTA’s environmental watchdog from investigating leaking toxic tailings ponds (Environmental Defence)
- Fact sheet: Tar Sands Air and Water Issues (TSSN)
- “It shows that the Canadian government is willing to circumvent institutions that make sure Canada upholds environmental laws.”– Dale Marshall, Environmental Defence
- MT @StuJT NAFTA Commission urinates on environmental side deal; myth that trade + enviro-protection compatible disintegrates
- MT @richardlorello NAFTA probe of Alberta tailings ponds blocked by Canada, gov circumvents institutions that uphold enviro laws