ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE and NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL

New report highlights the risks of continued expansion of oil sands tailings ponds and the rising liability for cleanup that Albertans face

Ottawa, ON – The volume of oil sands tailing ponds are now over 1 trillion litres, while the cost of cleanup is now greater than total lifetime royalty revenues collected by Alberta from oil sands companies, according to a new report released today by Canada’s Environmental Defence and the U.S.’s Natural Resources Defense Council.

The report shows that while Alberta’s Tailings Management Framework is supposed to lead to a reduction in the volume of liquid tailings as soon as possible, plans by the oil sands industry indicate that tailings could continue to increase for another 20 years.

“Alberta’s rules managing oil sands tailings should not let companies continue expanding tailings ponds or allow more than half a century for the land to be reclaimed,” said Anthony Swift, Natural Resources Defense Council. “Albertans are at risk of being left holding the bag, having to pay for cleaning up the mess after oil sands companies have packed up and gone.”

The two environmental groups and Daniel T’seleie of the K’ahsho Got’ine Dene First Nation are also making a submission to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), the NAFTA environment tribunal, to request an investigation into whether the Canadian government is failing to enforce the Fisheries Act by allowing oil sands tailings ponds to leak into Alberta water bodies. The environmental groups and Mr. T’seleie argue that there is abundant evidence that oil sands tailings ponds are leaking toxic chemicals into the Athabasca River and surrounding groundwater, that the government and oil sands companies know about the contamination, and that they are failing to address it.

“Research clearly shows that toxic chemicals are leaking from tailings ponds, contaminating rivers and groundwater in Alberta,” said Dale Marshall, Environmental Defence. “This is a clear violation of the federal Fisheries Act. The tar sands industry needs to be forced to clean up its act and change the way it deals with toxic waste.”

“When the cumulative impacts of climate change and industry pollution limit our ability to hunt, fish, and gather on our lands, it fundamentally impacts our culture, language, spirituality, and identity as Indigenous Peoples,” said Daniel T’seleie.

Download the report on Alberta’s tailings ponds here.

Download the submission to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation here.

View clocks illustrating the growth of tailings ponds and rising cleanup costs here.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all. Environmental Defence has climate change, toxics, land-use and water programs across Canada.

About the NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL (www.nrdc.org): NRDC is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Allen Braude, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext 247; 416-356-2587 (cell) abraude@environmentaldefence.ca

Jake Thompson, Natural Resources Defense Council, 202-289-2387, jthompson@nrdc.org