Tar Sands Operations Killing More Than Ducks
Edmonton – An information request has forced the Alberta government to reveal that in addition to the infamous dead ducks, 164 animals, including 27 bears, were killed between 2000 and 2008 on operations in the Alberta tar sands.
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) request was filed by independent scientist Kevin Timoney and sought material from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (SRD). The disclosed SRD information covers only three oil companies and shows reported deaths of 27 black bears, 67 deer, 31 red fox, 21 coyote, as well as moose, muskrats, beavers, voles, martens, wolves, and bats.
“This shows that the cost of tar sands operations is more than ducks, and more than what we’re being shown. As citizens we should be horrified to hear that 27 black bears have been killed on these toxic sites — and these are just the numbers that industry has reported,” said Sheila Muxlow, Prairie Director for the Sierra Club of Canada. “The government can’t keep letting these companies police and patrol themselves.”
The SRD material detailed the specific species of animal and how many died, but doesn’t include specific causes of death. The possible reasons cited include euthanasia of problem wildlife, drowning or oiling from tailings, animals hitting infrastructure or vehicles and electrocution. The numbers pertain to Syncrude, Albian Sands and Suncor operations.
“The death toll from tar sands operations keeps rising,” said Mike Hudema, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. “These animals should be flourishing in this province’s vast wilderness, not dying in our toxic backyard. The collateral damage of the tar sands has become too great. This is more evidence that we must begin now to transition away from this dirty resource and toward a sustainable, clean energy economy.”
The Alberta government does not routinely reveal the death toll of birds and animals self-reported by the oil industry in the tar sands. Almost every year, the province has made deep cuts to the environmental budget, including monitoring and enforcement.
“Estimates of bird and wildlife mortality depend upon search effort, methods, sampling design, and observer training,” said independent scientist Kevin Timoney. “The numbers of dead animals reported to government and released in the FOIP underestimated true mortality because they were derived from ad hoc reporting by companies rather than from a scientifically valid and statistically robust sampling design.”
This information comes as Syncrude is in court on charges under provincial and federal legislation for being negligent and failing in its duty to protect the 1,600 migratory birds that died after landing on one of its tailings pond in 2008. The federal prosecutor in the case has called into question whether the existence of toxic tailings ponds is legal under federal law.
Of the three operations detailed in the FOIP, Syncrude claimed the majority of animals, including 43 deer, 20 red fox and eight black bears.