Monday, May 05, 2008

Syncrude Apologizes - Alberta Investigates - Albertans Expect More

The media’s, special interest groups and citizens mistrust of authority and power is showing itself in follow up coverage on the ducks on toxic ponds stories. The apology advertising by Syncrude in major newspapers over the weekend is not a request for absolution but an acknowledgement of culpability and an undertaking to do better.

The front page newspaper coverage on the weekend shows that the newsworthiness of an acknowledgement by Premier Stelmach that the apology will not stop the probe and investigation. Stelmach is quoted as saying he appreciates the apology “but done not necessarily accept it.” He has promised to ensure “…once the investigation is complete it will be shared with Albertans.”

The ENGO quotes in these stories are casting more doubts on the oil sands companies “management of their waste products” emerging from the “On Tailings Pond” incident is more proof of this endemic mistrust.

Syncrude is promising to do better. Alberta’s international image is tarnished. The linking of Alberta’s claim of “Mission Accomplished” to Washington DC legislators about the ecological integrity of our oil sands to Bush’s similar claim a couple of years ago about Iraq is more collateral damage.

Syncrude is still looking for distressed ducks and have sent three more to Edmonton for care. Of the original five ducks rescued only one has survived and indications are the next three are in better shape and early indications all of them will survive.

Now ConnoPhillips has reported that eight migratory birds had settled on a pond at its Surmount oil sands project and one loon was found dead, although the cause was unclear but they are quoted as “taking this very seriously.” I would not be surprised to see more such admissions from other sources in the near future.

The most important comment made by Syncrude and the Premier on this situation to date was that both parties are working to “ensure” that it does not happen again. Syncrude’s ad said: “We understand you expect the best from Syncrude in environmental management and the protection of wildlife. It’s a value that we share, and we are committed to making the necessary changes opt our long-established practices to help ensure a sad event like this never happens again.”

This is all further acknowledgement of the new expectation levels of the public for ensurance on not just insurance or assurance has been noted in the blog before. There is nothing totally ensurable so that prevention is 100% effective in the world today. But without assuming a higher standard of ecological care we will merely continue to degrade and destroy the environment for the sake of growth and artificial short-sighted “wealth creation.”

This lack of an integrated and long-term approach that respects the social and biological ecology as an integral part of resource development is an unacceptable state of affairs to any thinking Albertan. We citizen/owners/voters have to stay engaged if this is going to really happen.