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Waterfowl Die in Fowl Water as the Maple Leaf Oozes Oil

Posted By Sarah Backhouse On May 14, 2008 @ 12:22 am In Green Report / Media | No Comments

I’ve gotta say that I hate noise-makers. I don’t like them on New Year’s celebrations or birthdays, or even when some idiot feels the road is more his than someone else’s and lets them know with an ear-splitting honk. As far as I’m concerned, the world is noisy enough and there’s little need to add to that.

But here’s an exception where it would have come in handy. MSNBC reports that 500 ducks died after landing on a toxic pond in Fort McMurray, Alberta. This is the first time in 30 years that such an incident has occurred in the Syncrude Canada Ltd.-owned oil sands. Aside from the obvious query of why we need a toxic pond in the first place, Alberta Premier, Ed Stemlach, has questioned why noise-making cannons were not deployed to scare off the birds.

Says Alberta Environment Minister, Rob Renner: “This is a tragedy and this is unacceptable and we’re going to do everything within our power to find out why it occurred and more importantly, to prevent it from occurring again.” He’s definitely right on the tragedy part: so far, only three birds have been recovered alive. A spokesperson from Syncrude said noise-makers are used from spring on, but that recent heavy snowfall delayed deployment of this crucial equipment — something that could cost Syncrude up to $1 million in fines. What’s worse, it seems the company didn’t report the incident to the authorities, leaving the government to find out via a tipster.

But back to my original question re: the need for a toxic pond. It seems the duck drama comes at a bad time for Alberta Deputy Premier Ron Stevens, who’s in Washington trying to convince policy makers to exempt Alberta’s oil sands project from a new law that restricts imports of “dirty oil”. Environmentalists disagree, taking out advertising in a Capitol Hill newspaper that “has the maple leaf oozing oil”. Home to vast reserves of oil sands (“a tar-like bitumen that is extracted using mining techniques”), Canada is second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of crude oil reserves.

But that doesn’t give them the right to kill ducks through negligence.

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