Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Birds and Tar Sands Tailings Ponds Don't Mix

On the way home from work today I was listening to the local CBC news, when I heard about a flock of about 500 birds that had landed in one of Syncrude's tailings ponds. Many birds have died and hundreds of others are in the process of dying an oil-soaked death. And it wasn't Syncrude who reported the problem. No, it was an anonymous tipster. Gotta love all that responsibility and accountability, eh?

Apparently the oil companies are supposed to ensure, as a condition of their license, that they have effective means of keeping birds away from the toxic lakes, for obvious reasons. But, this time there was a flaw in the "waterfowl protection plan." (Wow, that fancy name makes it sound so organized and foolproof!) I guess Syncrude staff hadn't been able to deploy the noise-making propane air cannons on one of the huge tailings ponds yet, due to the recent unusually cold weather. (Climate change, anyone?) The cold weather didn't deter the ducks from migrating through their usual route though - they use environmental signals other than temperature to time their migration. (Gee, if they'd only realized how cold it's been, this woulda never happened!)

And the audacity of these left-leaning ducks, to create this terrible PR problem for the Alberta Conservatives, right after being "bullied" by the Greenpeace environmentalists last week too. I guess the ducks aren't on the Conservative's payroll. Silly, stupid ducks. Oops, did I blog that outloud?

But it's all good, because the government will fine Syncrude a whole million dollars if they are found to be negligent. Maybe they can use the fine money to add to their 25 million dollar PR budget to convince the world that the Alberta tar sands are environmentally friendly. Really. They are. 25 million bucks can't be wrong!

Update May 1 2008: Only five ducks were saved from the toxic lake, and it is uncertain if any of these mallards will live for long. The premier of Alberta, Ed Stelmach, said he "mean[s] business" when he insists that the oil companies comply to the conditions of their operating license. But I don't know, maybe he just means "business as usual." After all, his "Environment" minister had this to say:

Alberta's environment Minister Rob Renner said Wednesday the incident has put a major dent in Alberta's efforts to counter the message being spread by environment groups that the massive northern oil sands projects are taking a major toll on the environment.

"It's a real blow to our messaging that we are working very, very hard [to] ensure that we do have sustainable development," Renner said.

So, this tragedy wasn't a blow to the drowning ducks themselves, or to the environment. No, it was a blow to the MESSAGING of the government. A blow to the spin they're trying create with the 25 million dollars of tax payers' money that is going to their PR campaign to greenwash the tarsands operation. How sad, that their messaging efforts have to contend with such a 'blow.' This guy shouldn't be called the environment minister, he should be called the greenwashing minister. Sickening.

Read the complete article from the Kansas City Star here

Picture of a duck covered in oil from a 2006 oil spill courtesy the BBC.


Verde said...

Oh dear, were you able to wash any of those ducks?

Theresa said...

Not many, so far. The ice around the pond apparently means that boats can't be easily launched and will have to be lowered in by crane. So time's wasting and ducks are dying.

Simply Authentic said...

so incredibly sad...i didn't even know that places like that existed.....how could they let something like that exist?

Theresa said...

It's just terrible. This is part of the price of oil from the Alberta Oil Sands. When protesters in the US and other countries label tar sands oil as "dirty," it really is. It's literally and morally dirty.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see Ed Stelmach and his gang thrown into that lake they call a tail pond, and see if they could swim in that sludge.