Critics demand stronger action to tackle increased oil sands pollution

Critics demand stronger action to tackle increased oil sands pollution

Alberta’s oil sand aerial CC BY 2.5 | Wikimedia Commons.

Canadian environmentalists and opposition politicians aren’t happy with the Alberta government’s response to monitoring data that shows higher than “trigger” levels of air pollutants around oil sands operations.

The renewed criticism comes after provincial authorities published a new air and water quality report that reveals elevated, yet legal, levels of pollution.

Critics demand stronger action to tackle increased oil sands pollution

Source: Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.

Levels of sulphur dioxide and nitrous dioxide — two chemicals that contribute to acid rain and smog — hit three on a scale where four is the maximum, mostly between Fort McMurray and Fort McKay.

When pollution hits those warning levels, the government is required to take action. So far authorities are conducting further investigations into possible pollution sources.

But the Pembina Institute, an environmental research body, says that it is not enough. The think-tank is concerned the government is still investigating the source of levels recorded 18 months ago.

Amin Asadollahi, oil sands program director with the Pembina Institute, said that shows a lack of urgency about the issue.

“When air pollution is serious enough to exceed these trigger limits, it is supposed to prompt management action to reduce pollution from industrial facilities to ensure we don’t exceed any of the hard limits set for the region — simply doing more monitoring and investigation is not enough,” Asadollahi, said in a statement.

Alberta New Democrat Rachel Notley also said the province should be moving on the results now instead of waiting until the chemicals become dangerous.

“If we are hitting the trigger points now, we need some meaningful action,” she was quoted as saying by The Edmonton Journal.

Industry figures suggest contaminant levels will continue to grow with new development.

The Alberta government’s response will be publicly available on the Environment and Sustainable Resource Development website by the end of the year.