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Monday, February 25, 2008

Partial Oil Sands Moratorium Has Industry and ENGO Support!

The proposal for a partial moratorium on further oil sands development to lands can be freed up for conservation as reported in the Globe and Mail today is huge for the future of Alberta.

The conservation initiative sponsored by some members of the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA) shows enlightened leadership from some key players the energy industry corporate sector, some thought leaders in the environmental movement, aboriginal groups in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

CEMA has been around for awhile and a bit lethargic on dealing with issues but this initiative is a blockbuster positive move. The industry names are the Who’s Who in the Alberta energy sector and they are calling for a slowdown of new surface and subsurface rights in the Athabasca region of oil sands development. CNRL and EnCana don’t agree with the slowdown idea, no surprise. However strong advocates of corporate social responsibility like Nexen and OPTI Canada are also opposed and that is a surprise. Syncrude abstained and UTS Energy is in favour of the moratorium concept but has concerns of conservation site impacts where they adjoin project sites.

The lack of reclamation in oil sands to date and the harsh challenging realities of tailing ponds and actually achieving the needed reclamation standards expected on open pit mines especially is a real concern. One of the mitigation means is to provide off sets in other areas to compensate for the habitat, forest and biodiversity damage inherent in open pit oil sands development. This CEMA initiative is a profoundly important integrated step in that direction. Having the support of the various diverse interests and sometimes completing philosophical approaches is a major move in the right direction.

Ed Stelmach is a big proponent of the pending Land Use Framework. We at Cambridge Strategies know from our Oil Sands Survey results that land use is an emerging issue. Habitat, GHG, water and reclamation are the urgent and important oil sands issues for Albertans. Conservation areas that serve those ends using a land use framework as the tool to achieve those ends is the best policy approach going forward.

Thank you CEMA and especially corporations and ENGOs like Petro-Canada, Suncor Inc., Shell Canada, Imperial Oil, Devon Canada and ConocoPhillips and the Pembina Institute who are all on side. Congratulations on a great start to a new consciousness about responsible and sustainable oil sands development.