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Alberta Tar Sands Ed Stelmach

alberta’s throne speech. take two.

With everything going on these days from the NHL playoffs, to Dick Pound and the Beijing Olympics, and RCMP “raids” on Conservative Party offices (an issue on which I tend to agree with Paul Wells) did anyone notice that Alberta had a Speech from the Throne this week? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t.

As this is Alberta’s second Throne Speech of the year, the lessened fanfare is understandable. The first Throne Speech of 2008, which coincided with the election call, seemed to consist largely of the Tories’ last minute change of heart on Health Care Premiums (which they promised to scrap in four years) and their vigilant fight against the Pine Beetle (something that was noticeably absent from the second speech).

A large part of this week’s Throne Speech delivered by Lieutenant Governor Norman Kwong, focused on a new direction for “greener energy,” which I can only assume has something to do with the Tories nuclear agenda for the Peace Country. As much as I would hope that Tory Premier Ed Stelmach and Environment Minister Rob Renner’s new green agenda is more than just hot air, I wouldn’t blame Albertans for having a hard time believing that an outspoken defender of the tarsands current environmental record is serious about protecting the environment, rather than just changing political perceptions.

A report card released earlier this year by the World Wildlife Fund highlighted the weak-environmental performance of tarsands developments in Alberta:

the most comprehensive comparative assessment of 10 of Alberta’s operating, approved or applied for oil sands mines. The mines, for the most part, get a failing grade.

The average score among all oil sands projects surveyed was only 33 per cent, demonstrating substantial room for improvement across the sector. The leading operation in the survey was the Albian Sands Muskeg River Mine, scoring 56 per cent. The weakest operations were Syncrude and the proposed Synenco Northern Lights Mine both with scores of 18 per cent.

Oil sands mines were ranked on 20 different environmental indicators in five categories: environmental management, land impacts, air pollution, water use, and management of greenhouse gases. Companies were invited to complete the survey questionnaire and provided with two opportunities to comment on their performance. In total, seven of the 10 projects participated in the survey. Three companies, Total E&P, Syncrude and Canadian Natural declined to respond.

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