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 glacier is seen in the Kenai Mountains on Sept. 6, near Primrose, Alaska. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey have been studying the glaciers in the area since 1966 and their studies show that the warming climate has resulted in sustained glacial mass loss as melting outpaced the accumulation of new snow and ice. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Mark Mancini

On Aug. 18, Iceland held a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change. The deceased party was Okjökull, a historic body of ice that covered 14.6 square miles (38 square kilometers) in the Icelandic Highlands at the turn of the 20th century. But its glory days are long gone. In 2014, having dwindled to less than 1/15 its former size, Okjökull lost its status as an official glacier.

Read More Show Less
Members of Chicago Democratic Socialists of America table at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18. Alex Schwartz

By Alex Schwartz

Among the many vendors at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18 sat three young people peddling neither organic vegetables, gourmet cheese nor handmade crafts. Instead, they offered liberation from capitalism.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
StephanieFrey / iStock / Getty Images

By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Muffins are a popular, sweet treat.

Read More Show Less
Hackney primary school students went to the Town Hall on May 24 in London after school to protest about the climate emergency. Jenny Matthews / In Pictures / Getty Images

By Caroline Hickman

Eco-anxiety is likely to affect more and more people as the climate destabilizes. Already, studies have found that 45 percent of children suffer lasting depression after surviving extreme weather and natural disasters. Some of that emotional turmoil must stem from confusion — why aren't adults doing more to stop climate change?

Read More Show Less
Myrtle warbler. Gillfoto / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Bird watching in the U.S. may be a lot harder than it once was, since bird populations are dropping off in droves, according to a new study.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces the co-founding of The Climate Pledge at the National Press Club on Sept. 19 in Washington, DC. Paul Morigi / Getty Images for Amazon

The day before over 1,500 Amazon.com employees planned a walkout to participate in today's global climate strike, CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled a sweeping plan for the retail and media giant to be carbon neutral by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris agreement schedule.

Read More Show Less

By Winona LaDuke

For the past seven years, the Anishinaabe people have been facing the largest tar sands pipeline project in North America. We still are. In these dying moments of the fossil fuel industry, Water Protectors stand, prepared for yet another battle for the water, wild rice and future of all. We face Enbridge, the largest pipeline company in North America, and the third largest corporation in Canada. We face it unafraid and eyes wide open, for indeed we see the future.

Read More Show Less
The climate crisis often intensifies systems of oppression. Rieko Honma / Stone / Getty Images Plus

By Mara Dolan

We see the effects of the climate crisis all around us in hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, and rising sea levels, but our proximity to these things, and how deeply our lives are changed by them, are not the same for everyone. Frontline groups have been leading the fight for environmental and climate justice for centuries and understand the critical connections between the climate crisis and racial justice, economic justice, migrant justice, and gender justice. Our personal experiences with climate change are shaped by our experiences with race, gender, and class, as the climate crisis often intensifies these systems of oppression.

Read More Show Less