Controversial Kearl Tar Sands project goes to court

While Alberta Premier goes to Washington, the Kearl Tar Sands Project is going to court

January 14, 2008

EDMONTON - While Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is in Washington this week seeking to assure Americans that there are no environmental problems associated with dirty tar sands development, Canadian environmental organizations are going to court tomorrow to challenge a massive tar sands operation north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Imperial Oil's proposed Kearl Tar Sands project includes an open-pit mine that would strip 200 square kilometres of Boreal Forest and contribute to the devastation of the region's landscape and wildlife.

Ecojustice lawyer Sean Nixon will be in court on behalf of the Pembina Institute, Sierra Club of Canada, the Toxics Watch Society of Alberta and the Prairie Acid Rain Coalition, arguing that the environmental assessment of the open-pit mine project was flawed and that the project should be halted until a proper assessment has been completed.

"In simple terms, we're arguing that the environmental assessment of the Kearl Tar Sands project was unlawful," said Nixon. "The project's approvals were granted based on a flawed Joint Panel report that relied on unproven measures to address the project's significant environmental effects on the landscape, on wildlife and on the climate. Our lawsuit aims to ensure that the project at least faces the scrutiny required by law before getting the green light."

Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund) filed the lawsuit in Federal Court in March 2007 challenging a Federal-Provincial Joint Panel report that concluded the $5 to 8 billion project is not likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects. Nixon said the report conclusions were largely based on proposed mitigation measures that are undeveloped and unproven.

"The Kearl tar sands project will strip mine an area larger than 20,000 football fields of undisturbed boreal forest and leave behind toxic tailings ponds visible from space." said Chris Severson-Baker of the Pembina Institute. "It is unthinkable that the joint panel would deem this scale of impact insignificant."

Equally disturbing, the Kearl project will accelerate global warming by releasing huge quantities of greenhouse gases.

"In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, the Kearl project is like putting 800,000 passenger vehicles on the road," said Stephen Hazell of Sierra Club of Canada. "We trust that the court will find that this monstrous contamination of the atmosphere meets the legal test of 'significance'. Then perhaps the federal and provincial governments will begin to constrain this mad tar sands rush."

The proceedings will begin on Tuesday, January 15th at 9:30am at the Federal Court building in Edmonton (Scotia Place, Tower 1, 10060 Jasper Avenue). Photographs and B-roll video of oil sands mine development are available at

For further information please contact:

Sean Nixon, Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice (604) 313-3132 cell
Chris Severson-Baker, Pembina Institute 403 899 7423
Stephen Hazell, Sierra Club of Canada (613) 241-4611 or (613) 724-1908 (cell)
Martha Kostuch, Prairie Acid Rain Coalition (403) 845-9720
Myles Kitagawa.Toxics Watch Society of Alberta (780) 907 1231