Reports critical of oilsands keep piling up

‘There needs to be an end to industry monitoring itself’

Alberta’s oilsands tailings ponds are killing birds at a rate 30 times higher than government and industry figures imply according to a new study.

Ecologist Kevin Timoney who co-authored the report calls industry self-reporting of bird deaths “ad hoc” and says it consistently underestimates actual mortality.

He “conservatively” estimates the average annual number of bird deaths is close to 2000. Industry says the average is 65.

“There needs to be an end to industry monitoring itself” says Timoney. “The government needs to do its obligation… it’s had entirely too much of a hands-off approach.”

Timoney’s study comes on the heels of a scathing report released last week by University of Alberta scientists that linked toxic pollutants in the Athabasca River to oilsands development.

“We’re committed to reducing the risk of bird mortalities in the oilsands” Premier Ed Stelmach said on Tuesday. “When we get to dry tailings ponds I’m sure that we won’t have any of the same issues that we have with bird mortality that we do today.”

In April the premier ordered industry to eliminate wet tailings ponds within a “few years.” Yet last month the province’s oil and gas regulator relaxed its own rules around tailings waste and green-lighted Imperial Oil’s new Kearl oilsands project.

Email: thowell@ffwd.greatwest.ca