Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

36 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

'Significant' Destruction of Canadian Wildlife Serves 'Public Interest,' says Govt Panel

Federal and provisional regulators acknowledge 'significant' negative impact of Shell tar sands expansion, but approve project anyway

Jon Queally

A panel of government regulators in Canada has determined that a proposed multi-billion dollar expansion of Royal Dutch Shell's tar sands project in Alberta would cause 'significant' damage to the ecosystems of the region and that the oil giant's proposed cleanup plans are likely to be ineffective.

So they blocked the project, right?

No. Instead they have called the expansion vital to the "public interest" and said the nearly forty percent expansion of Shell's Athabasca tar sands project can now proceed to its next phase.

According to its official review, the panel found "that the project would likely have significant adverse environmental effects on wetlands, traditional plant potential areas, wetland-reliant species at risk, migratory birds that are wetland-reliant or species at risk, and biodiversity."

In addition, they continued, "there is also a lack of proposed mitigation measures that have been proven to be effective."

Environmental groups in Canada were outraged, though not necessarily surprised, by the decision.

Simon Dyer, policy director of the Pembina Institute in Canada, said the decision strikes a blow to "aboriginal rights and values, wildlife populations, wetlands, migratory birds and old-growth forests."

“The joint review panel heard from Shell's own analysis that this project will exceed science-based environmental limits for impacts to air quality, wildlife habitat and the Athabasca River," Dyer said, "yet the panel recommended approval of the project anyway."

Dyer said "responsible tar sands" extraction was just a slogan, but told the Globe and Mail he wasn't surprised by the decision by the pro-industry government. "It's the same old stuff," he said.

Conservationists, climate activists, and First Nations have led the fight to curb the pollution caused by Alberta's tar sands mining in recent years.

In June, Eriel Deranger, an activist and spokesperson for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, described the ongoing tar sands expansions on native lands throughout the province as a form of 'cultural genocide.'

"It's a genocide. It's happening slowly, but we are dying off. We're still drinking the water, and we're eating the fish, but it's getting poisoned," Deranger said, speaking at the Hollyhock Social Change Institute in British Columbia.

And in related news, local people along the Athabasca River in Alberta have complained of an "oily sheen" spreading over the surface of the water."There is obviously a petrochemical of some kind in the Athabasca River system in such great quantities from upstream that it is now residing on the shores of Lake Athabasca," said Deranger, who was interviewed by the Canadian Press.

"There are numerous reports of dead fish being found along the delta, within the lake and the river system," she said. "None of the land users have ever heard of or seen anything like this on the Athabasca."

However, with expansion of the region's tar sands projects ongoing, such episodes are "likely" to be much more frequent in the future.

________________________________________________


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just ONE DAY left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'Indefensible': Outrage as New Reporting Shines Light on Biden Deal With McConnell

The president has reportedly agreed to nominate an anti-abortion Republican to a lifetime judgeship. In exchange, McConnell has vowed to stop blocking two Biden picks for term-limited U.S. attorney posts.

Jake Johnson ·


Assange Makes Final Appeal Against US Extradition

"If Julian Assange is not free, neither are we," said a protester at a Friday demonstration against the WikiLeaks founder's impending transfer. "None of us is free."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Payoff for 40 Years of Dark Money': Supreme Court Delivers for Corporate America

"It was the conservative court's larger agenda to gut the regulatory state and decimate executive powers to protect Americans' health and safety," warned one expert.

Jake Johnson ·


NARAL Pro-Choice Endorses Fetterman—Who Vows to End Senate Filibuster to Protect Abortion Rights

"We know we can count on him to boldly fight for abortion rights and access," said the head of one of the nation's largest reproductive rights advocacy groups.

Jon Queally ·


Texas Panel Denounced Over Attempt to Rebrand Slavery as 'Involuntary Relocation'

One progressive group called the proposal "a blatant attempt to whitewash history to fit a racist worldview."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo