Quantcast

Tar Sands Emissions Linked to Serious Health Problems in Alberta

Energy

In a landmark report to Alberta’s energy regulator, a panel of experts has concluded that odors from a controversial tar sands processing plant are linked to human health impacts.

The report, which was published yesterday, examined the emissions from Baytex Energy’s Peace River plant, which has been the subject of a number of health complaints from local residents over the last few years. The situation has been so bad that seven families have been forced to leave. 

View of smoke plumes emitted from the Syncrude upgrader plant north of Fort McMurray, northern Alberta, Canada. Photo credit: Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

The residents have complained that the plant—which essentially boils bitumen—has been making them sick, and they have been suffering symptoms such as severe headaches, dizziness, sinus problems, vomiting, muscle spasms and fatigue, amongst others.

Now the report by the Albertan Energy Regulator (AER) has called on the odors to be stopped. The report concludes: “odors caused by heavy oil operations in the Peace River area need to be eliminated to the extent possible as they have the potential to cause some of the health symptoms of area residents.”

The Panel also recommended “that further study be conducted to examine linkages between odors and emissions and health effects.”

Meanwhile the report gives the company four months to capture all the odors.

It has been welcomed by local landowners who have been experiencing health problems. “This validates what we have been saying for years—that the tank-top emissions are causing health problems,” said one such landowner Brian Labrecque. “It’s been a very long road and we are relieved the AER is showing some teeth and holding industry accountable.”

He is backed up by environmental groups. Mike Hudema of Greenpeace said the panel’s report “reaffirms what the local residents have known for years—that the emissions were part of the reasons the families were getting sick.”

However Baytex’s spokesman Andrew Loosley belligerently replied that studies undertaken by the company “tell us the air is safe,” although the company is moving to install technology that captures the odors.

Environmental groups are also now calling for technologies to ensure that odors are captured to be applied across the wider tar sands region. Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute told the Globe and Mail, “The same technological solution can be used to prevent odors, health risks and greenhouse-gas emissions throughout the province.”

Meanwhile legal action against the plant trying to force a temporary injunction also continues. A judgement is expected sometime this month.

--------

YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE 

Report Reveals High Risk, No Reward of Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline Expansion

Koch Brothers Are Largest Lease Holders in Alberta Tar Sands 

Alberta Doctors Reluctant to Treat Patients Who Draw Connection Between Tar Sands and Health

--------

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A Starbucks barista prepares a drink at a Starbucks Coffee Shop location in New York. Ramin Talaie / Corbis via Getty Images

By Cathy Cassata

Are you getting your fill of Starbucks' new Almondmilk Honey Flat White, Oatmilk Honey Latte, and Coconutmilk Latte, but wondering just how healthy they are?

Read More
Radiation warning sign at the Union Carbide uranium mill in Rifle, Colorado, in 1972. Credit: National Archives / Environmental Protection Agency, public domain

By Sharon Kelly

Back in April last year, the Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency decided it was "not necessary" to update the rules for toxic waste from oil and gas wells. Torrents of wastewater flow daily from the nation's 1.5 million active oil and gas wells and the agency's own research has warned it may pose risks to the country's drinking water supplies.

Read More
Sponsored
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in a "Friday for Future" youth demonstration in a street of Davos on Jan. 24, 2020 on the sideline of the World Economic Forum annual meeting. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP via Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pretended not to know who Greta Thunberg is, and then he told her to get a degree in economics before giving world leaders advice, as The Guardian reported.

Read More
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite on the Suomi NPP satellite acquired this image of forest fire smoke hovering over North America on Aug. 15, 2018. NASA Earth Observatory

New York City isn't known for having the cleanest air, but researchers traced recent air pollution spikes there to two surprising sources — fires hundreds of miles away in Canada and the southeastern U.S.

Read More
If temperatures continue to rise, the world is at risk from global sea-level rise, which will flood many coastal cities as seen above in Bangladesh. NurPhoto / Contributor / Getty Images

The mounting climate emergency may spur the next global financial crisis and the world's central banks are woefully ill equipped to handle the consequences, according to a new book-length report by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), as S&P Global reported. Located in Basel, Switzerland, the BIS is an umbrella organization for the world's central banks.

Read More