Alberta group crowdfunds in effort to press government on tar sands spills

Image from Keepers of the Athabasca.

Image from Keepers of the Athabasca.

Edmonton – Canadian governments and the oil industry have spent millions on advertising to promote the tar sands in Alberta.

For groups that hold opposing views on the controversial development, it’s hard to compete with the slick ad campaigns that have clogged the media waves across the country.

The Alberta-based Keepers of the Athabasca – a coalition of First Nations, Metis, Inuit and non-native environmentalists – launched a crowdfunding project to raise money to help them get their message out.

The group wants the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) to turn down an application by Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) to resume high pressure steaming at its troubled Primrose tar sands site, and is planning to create a billboard to send its message loud and clear.

“We just want the government to do its job and protect the environment and local communities by turning down CNRL’s application,” said Jesse Cardinal with Keepers of the Athabasca. “Hopefully, if we can raise the money for the billboard through crowdfunding, it will pressure the AER to do just that. We simply don’t have the resources the oil company has.”

CNRL, a Calgary company, has overseen ongoing record oil spills and leaks at four of its wells near Cold Lake, Alberta — over the last year, more than 12,000 barrels of a bitumen-water mix have seeped into the surrounding ecosystem. Even though the AER is still investigating the cause of the spills, CNRL has applied to start high-pressure steaming an area just 500 metres away from one of the spill sites.

“Until the AER has completed its investigation, found the cause, identified a solution and CNRL has fully cleaned up its current mess, it shouldn’t be allowed to add to the damage,” Cardinal added. “CNRL had a similar spill in 2009 and the regulator let it continue. Now we have four spills. The AER cannot make the same mistake again.”

The Keepers of the Athabasca is supported by other environmental groups, including Greenpeace Canada and the Mother Earth Co-operative. The fundraising initiative can be viewed online at: