Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Head in the (oil) sand.

For the last three months, bitumen has been leaking to the surface of northern Alberta wetlands at an uncontrollable rate, and no one knows how to stop it.  Yet, Alberta's own Minister of the Environment, Diana McQueen, has made no public statement, other than to say our environmental regulations are tough.  Our premier, who showed so much leadership during the flooding of southern Alberta, is also noticeably absent.  And now the leader of the official opposition is writing op. ed. pieces for the NY Times, telling Americans why Alberta's bitumen is their best option for energy.

No one in our own government (or the official opposition) appears outraged by this massive, and continuing spill. That this tragic leak has killed wildlife and polluted the traditional lands of several Metis and First Nations communities rates no indignation.

Quite possibly, the ramifications of this spill are simply too dire for our government to consider.  If it turns out the seeping bitumen is a fundamental flaw in the injection process, rather than a one-off problem with an old well casing, it brings into question why leases were approved without the due diligence required to ensure our environment is sufficiently protected.  Better--it seems--just to cross our fingers and hope the seeping stops.  We've seen this lack of accountability over and over when it comes to holding industry to the standards Albertans agree are some of the best in the world.

While CNRL has apologized for what they have call "the incident," neither they nor the government has any idea when (or how) the spill can be brought under control.  In the meantime, our environment minister is nowhere to be found.  Our premier continues to expound to fellow premiers and American politicians about our "world-class" regulatory process.  Even our official opposition leader is spending her time writing pieces to the NY Times to convince Americans their own government is wrong about using Alberta's energy resources. 

Alberta has developed many state-of-the-art energy extraction methods.  However, that becomes meaningless when our political leaders ignore disasters such as the Primrose spill, in lieu of preaching standards they have no intention of enforcing.  In the marketplace, integrity means something in the long run, and Alberta's integrity is at stake.  It's time to enforce the regulations based on our values to build strong communities by building a viable, responsible and sustainable economy.  That cannot be done by ignoring problems.

William Munsey
Alberta Party

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