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Oilsands Producers Get Failing Grade on Environment

A new report card has given a failing grade to nine of 10 Alberta oilsands producers on their environmental performance.

The study by the Pembina Institute and the World Wildlife Fund ranked 10 operating and proposed oilsands mines on 20 different environmental indicators, including environmental management, land impacts, air pollution, water use and management of greenhouse gases.

The report said seven of the 10 producers participated in the study and only one was given a passing grade.

While Albian's Muskeg mine ranked highest with a 56 per cent grade, Syncrude and Syneco ranked last, with only 18 per cent. The average score among all oilsands projects surveyed was only 33 per cent.

"We found that oilsands companies are making weak efforts to manage their environmental impacts," Dan Woynillowicz of the Pembina Institute said in a statement.

"We found only one mining operation came close to a passing grade and that substantial improvements in environmental performance were possible for all projects." Continue Article

The study found that the companies "lagged in several key areas." It noted, for example, that the Albian Muskeg River Mine was the only operation that had voluntary targets to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Rob Powell, spokesman for the World Wildlife Fund, said companies are not the only ones to blame.

"I think the government has taken rather a laissez-faire approach to regulating this industry, relying too heavily on voluntary efforts by the company. And in many cases, the companies haven't chosen to do those things. They haven't established targets for reducing their emissions, for example."

It also found that no project or company has publicly reported targets to reduce water usage from the Athabasca River.

No company scored better than 50 per cent on the five water-related questions, and only three scored any marks at all for plans to deal with greenhouse gas production, with Albian's existing Muskeg mine racking up a 66 per cent grade.

The report made a number of recommendations, including the need for greater transparency from government and industry on environmental performance and a stronger commitment to voluntary reductions in environmental impacts.

With files from the Canadian Press

© 2008 CBC News

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