Group Concerned About Climate Change Challenges Oil Sands Development

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The Leader-Post (Saskatchewan)

Group Concerned About Climate Change Challenges Oil Sands Development

by
Angela Hall

SASKATCHEWAN - As companies bid Monday for the chance to explore Saskatchewan's oilsands, those opposed to such development made their voices heard at the Legislative Building.0812 02 1

About a dozen people with placards reading "Tar Sands = Climate Change" and "Get informed Saskatchewan" urged the provincial government to stop issuing exploratory permits for the oilsands until further study is done.

The event, organized by the local chapter of the Council of Canadians, coincided with the province's August sale of oil and natural gas rights, which offered oilsands rights for only the second time.

The August 2007 sale included six exploration licenses related to oilsands, covering 54,000 hectares. Monday's sale had four exploratory permits up for bid encompassing 328,000 hectares.

"We have a responsibility in Saskatchewan to stop this before we add more problems to the problem of climate change," Larissa Shasko, one of those participating in the rally, said of the oilsands exploration.

"This is a very sad day for me, especially as a youth, for this day really, for me, signifies the beginning of no return."

Shasko, who is prairie regional co-ordinator for the youth wing of the Green Party, said there should be more study of environmental impacts before a decision is made to pursue oilsands exploration in the province.

However, Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd said the government is committed to ensuring any oilsands development is as environmentally, economically and socially sustainable as possible.

He cited the development of a northwest Saskatchewan land use plan as one way activities in the area are being guided.

"This has the potential to be a very large type of development, but we are working to ensure it's being done in a responsible fashion," said Boyd.

Boyd said development in Saskatchewan also won't mirror that of Alberta, as oil reserves are much deeper here and won't be extracted through open pit mining.

"The environmental footprint will be very, very modest in comparison to what many people think of as traditional oilsands developments," Boyd said.

"If you went down to the Estevan-Weyburn area and looked at a conventional well, it would be very similar to what you would see in the northwest in a type of oilsands development there."

The groups gathered Monday said those assurances from the government aren't enough.

"Most tar sands will still need water, will still need energy," said Jim Elliot, chairman of the Regina chapter of the Council of Canadians.

"I don't how much different it will be. I think we need to have, again, a full assessment of that well before we actually go ahead and make a decision on going ahead with it."

Regina resident Sue Deranger, a member of Alberta's Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, said Saskatchewan needs to learn from problems caused by development in Alberta.

She said oilsands developments have taken a toll in Fort Chipewyan, where there have been claims of unusually high cancer rates.

"We need to be concerned," she said.

"We need to be proactive."

© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2008

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