Ottawa Initiates Own Oil Sands Probe

AHN News Staff

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (AHN) – Canadian Environment Minister Jim Prentice announced on Thursday the creation of a six-member panel to review Alberta’s controversial oil sands projects. The review was prompted by rising number of complaints against the tar sands due to its negative impact on the environment, particularly water pollution which had led to deformed fish catch from the Athabasca River.

Prentice said the panel will be made up of a chairwoman and five members who are independent and respective academicians. The panel will finish the review in two months. Prentice did not yet name the members of the panel.

With the announcement, Prentice rejected a proposal by Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner to set up a joint investigation. Renner admitted he was surprised by Prentice’s announcement.

While Renner stressed Alberta has lead jurisdiction, Prentice insisted water management is a federal responsibility. Renner acknowledged that Ottawa’s review will lead to future revisions on the province’s way of monitoring water quality. Renner created Alberta’s own investigating team because of differences between the findings by environmental groups and the province’s study on the impact of the tar sands on water quality.

While the oil sands projects have boosted the financial stock of Alberta, pro-environment groups are questioning the long-term effect of the venture on the province. Aborigine groups have lately joined the growing voice against the oil sands by lobbying in Washington to stop a planned expansion of an oil pipeline to transport oil from Alberta to the U.S.

This week, Canadian-born director James Cameron – who megged the Hollywood blockbuster “Avatar” – inspected the oil sands and joined the voices against the venture. However, while Cameron’s high-profile visit was covered extensively by Canadian press, reports said American and British media generally ignored the event.

YouTube postings of the Cameron visit had less than 40 views each, while the remaining U.S. coverage of the event was mainly done through blogs. A green blogger from Los Angeles theorized the cold shoulder given to the Cameron story may have been due to fatigue over celebrity opinion of environmental issues.

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