Ottawa, ON – As Alberta Premier Alison Redford visits Washington this week, today Environmental Defence, ForestEthics Advocacy and Canadian Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) sent an open letter to the U.S. State Department about the failures of the tar sands industry and the Alberta government to reduce the direct impacts of tar sands on the environment and human health.
“Current air pollution from the tar sands is already reaching Alberta’s existing limits on air pollution, limits which are less health protective than those set by the World Health Organization as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” the open letter states. “In Alberta, tar sands companies frequently break existing environmental rules without consequences. This approach does not reflect responsible resource management.” 

The letter references a new report, Reality Check: Air Pollution and the Tar Sands, released today about systemic failures in the regulatory system by both industry and the provincial regulator to limit air pollution from the tar sands.

If built, Keystone XL would worsen these problems by enabling tar sands expansion. If production triples as industry wants, it would mean a 230 per cent increase in nitrogen oxides pollution, a 160 per cent increase in sulphur dioxide emissions and a 190 per cent increase in particulate matter – each of these can damage both human and environmental health.

“If Keystone goes ahead, it will increase tar sands output significantly and push the world toward its GHG limit,” said Gideon Forman, CAPE Executive Director. “And that’s not just our doctors’ view. It’s the position of leading scientific publications, including Scientific American. As well, air pollution kills about 20,000 Canadians a year and with tar sands expansion, it will only get worse. If we care about our health we need to leave tar sands oil in the ground.” 

The State Department is completing its Final Environmental Impact Statement of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which will consider Alberta’s management of tar sands operations. This week Premier Redford is in Washington promoting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

“Saying the tar sands are responsibly managed from an environmental perspective is like saying you’re on track with a diet while eating six chocolate cakes a day,” said Hannah McKinnon of Environmental Defence. “You can’t protect the environment while pushing to expand the tar sands. Industry is failing to live up to existing weak regulations and the regulator is not punishing oil companies that break the rules. It’s a recipe for disaster, not responsible resource management.”

Canadians and Americans deserve a clean energy future that keeps our communities, our air, our water and our climate safe for today and future generations. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a lynchpin for the expansion of an industrial project that is devastating Northern Alberta and standing between Canada and its climate promises.

“The President must say no to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline if he is serious about taking action on climate change. His decision could be a turning point for climate change and other impacts of tar sands like air pollution. The wrong decision could lock both Canada and the U.S. into a future you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy,” said Ben West of ForestEthics Advocacy.

Read the Open Letter here.

Read the report: Reality Check: Air Pollution and the Tar Sands. This is the latest in a series of reports countering Big Oil’s claims about environmental management in the tar sands. Groups involved in the report are Environmental Defence, Natural Resources Defense Council,, Forest Ethics and CAPE.

Visit: for the truth about the tar sands.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Naomi Carniol, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext. 258; 416-570-2878 (cell)