Oil Sands Introduction
Central to the advocacy work of AWA is the protection and preservation of intact, representative ecosystems across Alberta.There is a fundamental need for the maintenance of wilderness that is free of industrial incursion. Outside of such areas, exploration and development must be conducted in an environmentally responsible manner.
What's in a Word?
The terms Oil sands, Tar Sands and Bitumen Sands are all in usage in Alberta. The term Tar Sands was used in the earlier days of industrial development, but was later largely replaced by the more benign-sounding Oil Sands. The product contained within the sands is in fact more akin to bitumen than either oil or tar. On these pages, AWA uses the term "Oil Sands" as the one in most popular usage, though this is not intended to align AWA to any one position in relation to the resource or its extraction.
Due to the severe risks to global biodiversity and ecosystem function from greenhouse gas emissions, AWA is unable to support the development of Alberta’s bitumen/oil sands deposits, due to their higher intensity greenhouse gas emissions.
Recognizing that oil sands development is proceeding, AWA believes that regional land, air and water impacts of oil sands exploration and development must be regulated to uphold Alberta’s and Canada’s international obligations to maintain and restore biodiversity, to protect species at risk, and to use water resources sustainably in a manner that is consistent with the maintenance of wilderness values.
There are significant environmental impacts associated with oilsands exploration, extraction, transport, and processing, for which extensive scientific evidence exists. Some effects can be mitigated by technological innovation and stringent regulatory requirements, but until these technologies are proven, a precautionary approach must be employed. Planning development today, on the basis of future technology being developed to mitigate the impact is fundamentally flawed.
Full-field life-cycle planning must be required for all new developments including phase-out, remediation, and reclamation planning. Adequate reclamation liability must be assessed on a per-project basis that accounts for all remediation and reclamation costs, and does not leave Albertans vulnerable to major financial risks.
AWA believes both the provincial and federal governments must act quickly to develop more stringent science-based environmental regulations that would inform a world-class air, water, and biodiversity monitoring system. Similarly, the public must be confident that these regulations will be enforced. Until a world-class monitoring system has been developed, AWA recommends that a precautionary approach must be taken, and that new leases should not be issued. AWA also supports accessible and meaningful consultation processes with all stakeholders, especially where treaty rights are implicated.