Stop Tar Sands Oil Expansion and Infrastructure

August 10, 2015
Tar sands mining in Fort McMurray, Alberta
Dan Barnes Photography/iStock

Tar sands oil is one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet. Vast amounts of water and energy are needed to strip-mine and drill Canada's tar sands deposits—a heavy black substance mixed with sand and clay—and turn the extracted bitumen into usable crude oil. The process generates toxic waste that contaminates local air and water. And from the time it's mined until it leaves the tailpipe as vehicle exhaust, a gallon of gas from tar sands oil generates 17 percent more climate change pollution than conventional gas.

NRDC is leading the charge against this dangerous fuel. Using the courts, political pressure, and grassroots power, we're fighting to keep dirty tar sands oil in the ground. Our scientists shine a spotlight on the pollution from  tar sands and supply research that documents cancer-causing pollutants in the air around Alberta's massive tar sands pits. We report on contamination from the millions of gallons of toxic wastewater generated each day by tar sands mines. And we reveal what producing this dirty fuel does to Alberta’s Boreal forest, where it threatens the nesting grounds of many of North America’s birds.

NRDC experts have also brought climate change to the forefront of the tar sands debate. We analyzed how much carbon tar sands oil produces and assessed the climate impact of the Keystone XL pipeline, concluding that building it would unleash a massive expansion of tar sands development and cause a dramatic increase in carbon pollution. We used these findings to beat back Congressional efforts to approve the pipeline, and we encouraged the president to reject it.

Keystone XL was just the beginning of the oil industry's plans to triple tar sands production by 2030, and NRDC is fighting on all fronts to stop this dangerous expansion. We partner with First Nations and other allies in the United States and Canada to halt proposed pipelines in British Columbia, Quebec, and New England. We expose the hazards of tar sands oil spills—which are harder to clean up than conventional crude—along pipelines and railways. And we use litigation and advocacy to block legislative efforts to fast-track tar sands infrastructure.