Environmental Group Calls for Public Health Protections and Impact Assessment

WASHINGTON (Oct. 3, 2006) -- The Alberta government should slow the pace of oil sands development and impose a moratorium on new projects because decades of unregulated development have caused serious deterioration in the quality of life and boreal forest ecosystems in the province, the Natural Resources Defense Council, a U.S.-based environmental organization, said today.

In comments submitted at the request of the Alberta government, the NRDC said a pause in oil sands development would allow Canada to fully develop strategies to protect public health, combat global warming, preserve boreal forest, promote investments and improve water quality and quantity.

NRDC's written comments were sent to the government-convened multi-stakeholder committee, which is playing a central role in the "Oil Sands Consultation Visioning Process."

"Fueling our addiction to fossil fuels is a short-sighted response to our collective energy crisis. Rather than trying to drill our way out, we should be investing in renewable sources of energy and in greater efficiency in our homes and vehicles," said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of NRDC's Canada program.

"Before the United States commits to infrastructure projects within U.S. borders that would support the oil sands industry, it is important for the U.S. public and investors to understand the environmental and public health impacts of the oil sands industry and associated pipeline development," added Melanie Nakagawa, an NRDC international program attorney. Nakagawa testified before the multi-stakeholders committee last month in Bonnyville, Alberta.

In its written comments, NRDC said that oil sands development should proceed at a pace that Alberta's fragile boreal ecosystem can sustain -- in contrast to the current pace that is rushing along with little regard for long-term consequences to the citizens of Alberta or their environment.

By addressing the array of social, economic and environmental concerns wrought by the exploitation of oil sands, the governments of Canada and of Alberta can emerge as a world leader in the development of sustainable energy, according to Casey-Lefkowitz and Nakagawa.

NRDC's written comments are available online, click here to download.