Environmental Issues In Alberta

The cleanup of last year’s release of 7,400 barrels of oil in the Primrose oil fields (Alberta) has already cost Canadian Natural Resources $60 million.  But, according to an article in the New York Times, the real potential cost may yet be looming in the form of decreased production.

The environmental issue at hand, is whether the high-pressure steam process used (referred to as “huff and puff”) to release the subsurface bitumen, fractured the “caprock” or if the release is the result of a malfunction.  Environmental groups believe it was the former of the two while Steve Laut, president of Canadian Natural Resources said that this scenario is highly improbable.

The investigation of the cause of the release has energy and investment experts watching the Primrose developments carefully.  Depending on the findings and regulatory response, it could slow oil sands production in other areas of Alberta.  Morningstar oil equity analyst David McColl said, “The implications of caprock integrity is an unknown that could have significant implications for the small producers and beyond that for the larger producers as well.”

All eyes will be on the Alberta Energy Regulator who is “authorized to make decisions on applications for energy development, monitoring for compliance assurance, decommissioning of developments, and all other aspects of energy resource activities.”  Determining the facts from this incident may prove to be relatively minor when compared to actually communicating those findings to the various stakeholders.

Whether it is a release to the environment, a question of compliance, or an enforcement action – they all point to the need for a sound environmental communication policy.  Of course, as all environmental professionals know and understand; remaining proactive on all environmental issues is the best policy.

If you would like to read this New York Times article, click here.

If you have questions about environmental compliance, assessments or remediation, or litigation support, contact Christopher Paré (cpare@dragun.com) at 519-979-7300 ext. 114.





Early Canadian Environmental Pioneer Discusses his Former Organization

Environmental professionals in Canada are likely more focused on immediate issues such as finding more effective ways to remediate TCE or gasoline in groundwater, conducting a Phase one or Phase two assessment, or completing a Toxic Substance Reduction Plan.  But long before many of the current environmental policies and initiatives, Dr. Patrick Moore an early Canadian environmental pioneer, helped focus the nation and the world on environmental and humanitarian issues.

As you may be aware, Dr. Moore, the founder of Greenpeace, parted ways with the organization in 1986.  Why he left the group, he once was so passionate about, was the focus of a recent interview in the on line British publication, Spiked.

Dr. Moore was bluntly asked why he “fights” the group he founded in 1972.  He said, “Greenpeace was not just about the environment, but also about the people.  Dr. Moore went on to say that “Greenpeace now characterizes people as enemies of the earth.”   But, it was when Greenpeace “came up with the crazy idea of banning chlorine worldwide” he realized he could no longer support Greenpeace.  Dr. Moore said to his former colleagues, “Dear God, guys, listen up! You cannot prohibit chemical elements.”

Dr. Moore goes on to say, “Greenpeace is against mining, not only certain kinds of mining, but any.”   As he later points out, “But how do we get cell phones and bicycles and rapid transit, buildings and windmills?”

One of Dr. Moore’s current campaigns is the use of Golden Rice, this puts him at direct odds with his former organization.  Golden Rice is a genetically modified version of rice designed by Ingo Potrykus to combat vitamin-A deficiency, which is responsible for the death of two million children every year.  Greenpeace, among others, has fought to keep Golden Rice from being used because it is a genetically modified plant.   Though invented 15 years ago, Golden Rice languishes because of opposition.  Dr. Moore said, “If vitamin-A deficiency were a disease such as malaria, and someone invented a drug that cured the disease, it would not take long before people would use it.”

Speaking about those regions stuck in the “drudgery” of subsistence farming, “grinding poverty” and an invariably short life span, Dr. Moore says, “The mechanisation of agriculture is the key to fighting poverty.  Modern agricultural methods also automatically lead to a decline in population growth.  People move to the city, women receive more education, emancipate themselves and do not spend their entire life barefoot and pregnant.”

The interview provides additional insight into Dr. Moore’s unabashed viewpoints; you can read the article here.

The global environmental issues that Dr. Moore and others are addressing are crucial, considering that basic nutritional needs are not being met for many.  However, we play a role locally as well.  For example, a manufacturing company in compliance not only protects the local environment, but it also helps maintain the local economy.  And a properly designed environmental remediation effort avoids waste, both in terms of money and energy.  While these are not likely to capture headlines or get us an interview in a magazine, they are reflective of the commonly used phrase – “Think globally, act locally.”