Tar Sands Solutions Network

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Tar sands development disturbs a staggering amount of pristine boreal forest, creates giant toxic lakes that will be left behind, and will kill millions of songbirds, fish and caribou. 

Vast open-pit mines, and the proliferation of roads, pipelines and well sites have already removed tens of thousands of acres of wetlands and forest, and fragmented or destroyed wildlife habitat. If tar sands expansion plans are realized, it will forever undermine the ecological health of 140,000 square kilometres of boreal forest, an area the size of Florida and 20 per cent of Alberta’s land base.

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Overview:
Tar sands expansion degrades the health of 20% of Alberta's land  
Key Issues:
- Only 0.15% of disturbed land has ever been "reclaimed" 
- Caribou and multiple bird species will be extirpated 
Current Status:
Federal and Provincial protection laws are inadequate and sensitive ecosystems are being destoyed  

Although tar sands companies are required to reclaim the lands they have disrupted, only one of the 715 square kilometres – just 0.15 per cent – of land that has been disturbed by tar sands mining operations has been certified as “reclaimed,” and there are no plans (because it is impossible) to restore the drained and destroyed wetlands that cover 60 per cent of the area. Even if reclamation takes places, the boreal forest will never be returned to its natural state, just a sterile but convenient shadow of its former self.

With tar sands development set to triple over the next two decades, it will put at risk some of North America’s most beloved wildlife species. Following steep declines over the last 20 years, there are only 900 woodland caribou, a legally listed threatened species, left in the tar sands region, and scientists predict that the expansion of tar sands development will push them to extinction. Over 30 million birds will be lost over the next 20 years due to tar sands development. 

Toxic tailings ponds, which now cover 176 square kilometres, will eventually expand to 250 square kilometres and will never be removed. The acutely toxic tailings will simply be allowed to settle to the bottom of large pits, which will be “capped” with fresh water. This is a highly controversial reclamation strategy, and there is no evidence that using these “end pit lakes” as toxic waste dumps is a safe, long-term strategy for reclaiming tailings waste.

These tailings ponds have already killed thousands of songbirds and waterfowl, and they threaten North America’s only natural whooping crane population, which migrates over the tar sands on its way to its breeding grounds.

The only way to avoid creating a vast ravaged, empty, and toxic landscape is to prevent the expansion of the tar sands, and eventually phase this dirty energy source out of existence.

Updates & Resources

Paris agreement signals global shift off fossil fuels and to clean economy

Feature

Merran Smith | Clean Energy Canada - December 14th 2015

Blog Post: As the two-week marathon of climate talks wraps up today in Paris, the release of the final agreement text is already generating the predictable round of mixed reactions. But regardless of what has or has not been accomplished at COP21, there’s reason to be optimistic. That’s because solving climate change has a lot to do with the global clean energy transition that’s already underway. The various actions countries are agreeing to under the Paris Agreement will only accelerate that transition.

Paris: It’s up to us to close the gap between rhetoric and reality

Feature

December 13th 2015

Visual: On December 12th, 2015, world governments meeting in Paris produced a landmark climate agreement. The deal followed two weeks of intense negotiations and waves of global mobilization by the climate movement. While there’s so much this deal leaves undone and so much work still to do, the Paris Agreement does finally send a signal to the world that the age of fossil fuels is over. Now it’s up to us to close the gap between rhetoric and reality. We’re ready.

After Paris: The climate talks end and the movement continues

Feature

Jamie Henn | 350.org - December 12th 2015

Press Clipping: The new climate agreement isn't radical, and it isn’t enough. It's unacceptable that the fossil fuel industry has forced us to wait this long for a global agreement on climate change, especially now that we know companies like Exxon knew their product was fueling climate change 25 years ago. But I still think the Paris agreement gives us a new tool to fight with.

Talking Paris: Whatever happens, we’re already winning

Catherine Abreu | Ecology Action Center - December 11th 2015

Blog Post: I know that whatever the final document says, I and my countless amazing colleagues here in Paris and back home are going to work our butts off to make sure that our home provinces, Canada and the rest of the world do all we need to do to ensure a just transition to a 100 percent renewable energy system by 2050.I know that we are already successful because the transition we seek is well underway and gaining momentum.

NAS study on diluted bitumen spills confirms the need for stricter oversight

Feature

Joshua Axelrod | NRDC - December 9th 2015

Blog Post: The National Academy of Sciences has confirmed that diluted bitumen from Alberta's tar sands differs substantially from other types of oil commonly moved by pipeline across the U.S. These differences can lead to extremely difficult spill response situations where oil that initially floated begins to submerge and finally sink after only a brief period of weathering. On top of this, the NAS also found that our first responders and the various local, state, and federal agencies that respond to oil spills are poorly equipped to deal with spills of diluted bitumen.

WesPac Energy withdraws California oil terminal proposal

Eddie Scher | Forest Ethics - December 9th 2015

Blog Post: On November 16, WesPac Energy formally withdrew its proposed 242,000 barrel-per-day oil storage and transfer facility in Pittsburg, California. The crude oil facility would have included a marine port for oil tankers, more than a dozen oil storage tanks, an oil train offloading terminal, and multiple pipelines to local refineries. “We knew that WesPac was not good for our community and having them as our neighbor would do nothing to make Pittsburg a better place to live” says Kalli Graham, co-founder of the Pittsburg Defense Council."

5 reasons to actually be optimistic about the Paris Climate Conference

John Upton | Grist - December 8th 2015

Press Clipping: Peering closely at the climate talks underway in Paris could be a formula for depression. But, as this year’s historic round of United Nations climate talks enters its crucial closing week with ministers arriving in Paris to take over from their underlings as they try to seal a deal by week’s end, here are five reasons to consider staying upbeat.