May 8, 2008
The Alberta provincial Environment Minister relies on the resource companies to report their own violations of provincial environmental regulations -- such as they are -- and considers it "irrelevant" that the duck problem was not reported by the involved company but by a whistleblower. The Minister predictably refers to the provincial "self-reporting system" as a "true partnership" with the oilsands industry begging the question of just who the senior partner is -- the oil companies or the public who supposedly own the resource as represented by the government that is supposedly looking after the public interest.
If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a noise? If ducks land and sink in a toxic tailings pond and there is no whistleblower around to report it, does it get reported?
What is truly relevant about all of this is the fact that the Alberta government depends on the oil companies to report their own infractions of weak provincial environmental law. The oil companies are very busy making money and it's not surprising that they didn't get around to reporting that they had failed to prevent the ducks from landing in a toxic tailings pond as required by provincial environmental regulations until after the incident had already been reported by a whistleblower. Damn ducks landing on a toxic tailings pond are just an annoying distraction to oil companies focused on making money -- like Indians and environmentalists.
A news article about the tarsands duck debacle and "the Alberta Tories' goofy self-reporting system" is included below.
By Neil Waugh
May 6, 2008
Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and putting a bad spin on what should have been a good news story for Premier Ed Stelmach and his struggling environment honcho Rob Renner.
And the timing was terrible, now that the government's put together a $25 million PR war chest to convince Hillary Clinton and her skeptical Democrats that Alberta's oilsands oil is really environmentally friendly stuff.
The PC's started off with a bang by announcing an "immediate investigation" into how 500 mallards came to be mired in Syncrude's Aurora tailings pond.
But after a week of butt-covering and goofs, government spin doctors are now praying that the story heads south like the ducks, especially after Renner told reporters the fact a whistleblower - and not Syncrude officials - originally phoned in the mallard massacre was "irrelevant".
Stelmach appeared to say the duck deaths were no big deal when he claimed 30,000 birds die in wind turbines every year.
The only reason there are bird-killing wind farms in southern Alberta is because the small amount of juice they produce is bought by governments at premium prices.
And there's already a growing rural backlash to these ugly industrial scars.
Syncrude's American CEO Tom Katinas didn't do the Tories' credibility any good on the weekend with his "heartfelt and sincere" newspaper apology ads claiming his outfit is "co-operating fully" with Renner's environmental cops and calling the duck deaths a "sad event."
Earlier he insisted the scare cannons at the Aurora ponds hadn't been turned on because of "extreme" weather conditions.
Who knew it gets cold in Fort Mac?
Meanwhile, a disturbing rumour of a letter is floating around the legislature that Syncrude was specifically ordered by environment officials to turn on the guns in March, but for some reason appeared to ignore it.
It seemed like every TV camera in town was on the legislature steps yesterday morning when Greenpeace anti-oilsands crusader Mike Hudema teed off on the premier, his environment minister and the Syncrude boss.
"Since the news of the slaughter," the Greenpeacer slammed, "we have heard words of remorse from both the government and the oil industry.
"But with the remorse we have also seen backsliding," he continued.
"Particularly from the Alberta government which has tried to minimize this issue."
Hudema called it "flip-flopping" and "submissiveness."
"An industry that already believes it is losing the battle in the oilsands and in the minds of the public," he blasted, "should not be allowed to report on themselves."
For an organization whose primary purpose is media stunts, the dead Syncrude quackers are so big that Hudema has now set up a dial-a-dead-oilsands-duck hotline.
Is Renner backsliding?
"Not one bit," the Medicine Hat florist gulped.
"I'm taking this situation as seriously as I ever did."
But apparently not serious enough to get a search warrant and seize Syncrude documents to determine exactly why the scare guns hadn't been turned on.
He referred to the Alberta Tories' goofy self-reporting system as a "true partnership" with the oilsands industry.
In the legislature, Liberal Leader Kevin Taft accused deputy premier Ron Stevens of "greenwashing" Alberta's oilsands environmental woes on his trip to Washington last week to try and get ahead of the crusading Democrats.
When NDP Leader Brian Mason attempted to pin down Sustainable Resource Development Minister Ted Morton on how many department officials he has "on the ground" at Fort McMurray protecting the critters and the fish, he got an ideological kickback.
"Evidently for the NDP there's never enough," Morton said.
Meanwhile, the PCs tried to green up their message by announcing $55 million in "emergency" funding to fight the mountain pine beetle.
Which is just $7 million less than Morton has been given in his bare bones fish and wildlife division budget to protect animals and fish for the entire province this year.
Not a good week for Tories or ducks.
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