THE TRUTH ABOUT TAR SANDS

April 20, 2008

Here is a copy of the handbills that will be distributed this thursday Noon in Regina, Scarth Street mall as part of one of many ongoing information sharing projects…

April is Earth Month, a time to think about the damage we are doing to the earth systems that give us life.

In Saskatchewan, the environment is facing a big new threat from tar sands (also called oil sands) development in the province and in Alberta. Tar sands oil is one of the dirtiest sources of energy in the world. The processes used to extract the tarry oil, known as bitumen, are causing an ecological and a human catastrophe.

    ! Greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands production are 5 times those of conventional oil production. The Alberta oil sands are the single biggest contributor to the growth of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. In Saskatchewan, oil sands exploration is already well underway, with production slated to start in 2009. Saskatchewan will not be able to meet its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 32% by 2020 if it continues with its oil sands development.
    ! It takes 2 – 4.5 barrels of fresh water to produce 1 barrel of tar sands oil. Tar sands development is the source of the fastest growing water loss and contamination in Canada. Much of the water is lost to the water cycle forever as it is too toxic to be recoverable. In Alberta, water spewing from tar sands production has infected fish and wildlife, causing sickness among First Nations communities downstream.
    ! Acid rain from Alberta oil sands production is already affecting Saskatchewan’s lakes. According to the Environmental Defence Fund, 70% of the  sulphur that enters Alberta’s airshed as a result of oil sands production ends up in Saskatchewan. Acid rain has an adverse effect on lakes, rivers, forests, soils, buildings, and human health.
    ! Tar sands extraction processes blight the landscape and have huge effects on human and animal life over a very large area. In Saskatchewan, the bitumen is too deep to be surface mined, as it is in many locations in Alberta. Instead, what is known as the in situ extraction method will be used: the injection of steam and other solvents down a well to make the bitumen flow. For each well-site that is built, a substantial area of forest has to be  cleared. The process also requires a huge infrastructure of pipes that crisscross the landscape, interfering with wildlife and human activity.
    ! First Nations rights are being ignored by governments and oil companies in the race for oil sands development. Oilsand Quest, incorporated in Colorado, is the leading oil sands company in Saskatchewan, with land-lease holdings of over 500,000 acres in the province’s northwest. An Oilsands Quest representative recently stated in a CBC interview that the company does not have to recognize Dene hunting rights in the area as hunters have no licenced right. First Nations traditional lands in both Alberta and Saskatchewan are being destroyed for tar sands exploration and extraction.
    ! Aside from environmental and public health degradation, the people of Saskatchewan will derive very little from oil sands development. Saskatchewan royalty rates are among the lowest in the world. In a recent interview, Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd stated that the government has no intention of raising them. Most of the oil companies in Saskatchewan are subsidiaries of American corporations. Most of the oil will be exported to the US in the form of crude oil.

Sources: CBC, Leader Post, Globe and Mail, tarsandswatch.org, oilsandsquest.com

Earlier in April, a number of First Nations and non-Aboriginal organizations came together to form a coalition called Keepers of the Water, Saskatchewan. Keepers of the Water is calling for a moratorium on oil sands development in Alberta and Saskatchewan until an environmental and health impact assessment has been conducted and a legal framework to protect environmental and human health has been implemented.

Voice your concerns about tar sands development in Saskatchewan by contacting

Premier Brad Wall: 787-9433; premier@gov.sk.ca

Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd: 787-9124; minister.ER@gov.sk.ca

Minister of the Environment Nancy Heppner: 787-0393; minister.env@gov.sk.ca

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