The Boreal Forest

More mercury in eggs downstream of oilsands

EDMONTON - A study by Environment Canada indicates levels of toxic mercury in the eggs of water birds downstream from the oilsands industry seem to have grown by nearly 50 per cent over the last three decades.

The study, one of the few to compare the region's ecosystem before and after its industrial boom, doesn't tie the increased mercury specifically to energy development.

But the report's author says its findings suggest that the Athabasca River is the source of at least some of that mercury.

"The fact that we see higher mercury at the sites that are downstream of the Athabasca River would suggest that the Athabasca is a significant source," said biologist Craig Hebert, whose study is now under peer review prior to publication.
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Alberta waiving $3B over 2 years

A new report finds the Alberta government relinquished about $1.5 billion in potential energy income last year from a series of royalty reduction programs and drilling stimulus initiatives designed to spur oil-patch activity.

With the additional $1.4 billion in uncollected royalties projected for the current budget year, the province is expecting it will forfeit nearly $3 billion from the incentive programs over two years.

The Alberta Energy 2009-10 annual report released Thursday also notes that "measurement uncertainty" in petroleum production volumes initially reported to government will mean royalty revenue paid to the province last year could be off by $175 million on natural gas alone.

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What Does Avatar Have In Common With Canada’s Oil Sands?

And God gazed upon the vastness of the Canadian oil sands and pronounced them to be a curse.

Correction: an incipient curse—one that would materialize unless Alberta orders an immediate halt to development and cleans up its environmental act.

And no, it really wasn’t the Supreme Being in that helicopter over the blighted landscape near Fort McMurray. It was famed movie director James Cameron, the genius behind Titanic and Avatar. It was just the Canadian media that gave the impression that God had come down for a visit, dogging every step of his three-day tour and parsing every word he uttered. The media seemed to be looking to somehow paint Alberta’s oil sands development as a threat to its native peoples in the same way big business was hell bent on ruining the lives of the peaceful blue people of Pandora in he movie Avatar.... Read more »

Avatar's Cameron doesn't slag oilsands

Turns out the oilsands was not ready for its closeup.

But it might be -- in about five years, if it loses the unsightly open pit mines and ditches the toxic tailings ponds. And stops emitting so much greenhouse gas.

Hollywood movie director James Cameron passed judgment on the oilsands on Wednesday in a verdict that was remarkably measured and reasonable and didn't once repeat his notorious reference to the world's largest energy production project as a "black eye".

Neither did he call it a "curse" as did aboriginal leaders while co-hosting a news conference with Cameron.... Read more »

Oilsands water concerns focus of panel

Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice has announced the appointment of a six-person advisory panel to look into the water-testing regime in the Athabasca River around Alberta's oilsands.

The group will advise Prentice on the current state of research and will recommend a new system, if necessary, the minister said Thursday in Ottawa. The panel has 60 days to make its recommendations.

"The purpose of the inquiry and the work of these scientist is to tell us what a state-of-the-art, world-class monitoring system should look like. To get the best scientific advice on that," Prentice said.

The announcement comes in response to criticism about water monitoring in the Athabasca watershed in northern Alberta. In particular, a peer-reviewed study published by University of Alberta water scientist David Schindler found elevated levels of cadmium, mercury, lead and other toxic elements in the Athabasca River.... Read more »

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