An oilsands study was recently reported by David Schindler from the University of Alberta. The gist of Dr. Schindler’s report is that toxic metals, arsenic and carcinogenic chemicals are being emitted into the watershed and atmosphere by the companies developing Alberta’s oilsands. It is tragic that these companies have allowed their greed for high profits to override any sense of social and ecological responsibility. It is possible to filter-out these pollutants from the water used. The chemicals and heavy metals released from the plant stacks into the air could also be filtered-out. Of course, this would be an added expense which would reduce profits.
We all know that current corporate culture encourages this kind of behaviour so that is why we expect the steward of our resources, the Alberta government, to legislate and enforce regulations that will make sure our environment isn’t damaged by these companies. Instead, the current government has taken the attitude that a certain amount of pollution and environmental damage is the price we must pay to have these resources developed so that we can have some jobs and royalties.
This price doesn’t have to be paid. We can demand that high environmental standards be met. It they aren’t, we should discipline the transgressors by assessing large fines and remediation costs or even by withdrawing their licences to develop the oilsands. If these companies aren’t willing to continue operations under these conditions, let them leave. Safe, accessible sources of oil are becoming very scarce and there are many other investors anxious to develop our oilsands.