Adjourn Tar Sands Hearings Says Sierra Club Prairie

FORT MCMURRAY, EDMONTON — The Panel reviewing the Total Joslyn North tar sands mine  should adjourn its hearings until a sustainability framework is prepared says Sierra Club Prairie.

“Total’s environmental assessment is completely inadequate, especially the assessment of cumulative effects of the Project” says Sheila Muxlow, director of Sierra Club Prairie .  “We support the adjournment request of the Oil Sands Environmental Coalition and urge the Panel to take some additional time to develop a sustainability framework that protects the ecosystems and communities in the Athabasca Region.”

“To serve the public interest, the Panel must ask whether or not a new tar sands mine will make a positive contribution to ecological, economic and social sustainability and contribute to a clean sustainable energy future for Alberta” asserts Muxlow. “The Panel needs to address sustainability holistically by accepting the context of existing environmental pollution, the need for control of the pace and scale of tar sands developments; and equity concerns between and within generations.  Such a sustainability assessment would need to address environmental impacts, Treaty rights and social justice concerns and address economic development as a whole. It is not a question of balance – all of these criteria are interdependent and equally important.”

Sierra Club Prairie notes that sustainability assessments have been used before with the assessment of large projects. The Joint Review Panel for the Mackenzie Gas Project used a sustainability assessment to examine cumulative effects on the ecosystems, long term economic stability, and strategic use of the resource. The panel was even able to provide constructive criticisms to improve government regulations.

“Over three years ago, the joint review panel for the Kearl tar sands project emphasized that the Governments of Alberta and Canada must give priority attention to critical challenges related to cumulative impacts on the air, land and water” said Stephen Hazell, Sierra Club Prairie’s representative at the hearings.  "Both levels of government have evaded these responsibilities for too long. It's time for the Joslyn North Panel to bring us into the 21st century and require these sustainable long-term solutions as the most crucial aspect of its public interest determination.”

The Joint Review Panel for the Joslyn Mine hearing is comprised of members from Alberta's ERCB as well as a Government of Canada appointee. Alberta's Environmental Resources and Conservation Board has been under criticism for its 100% approval rating of tar sands mining projects despite mounting social, environmental and climate change impacts.

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