photo: Darren Kirby via flickr
A quick update on the slow motion oil spill that is the Alberta Tar Sands and how the death of birds is just one of the huge environmental problems here: The Winnipeg Free Press reports that the long-running trial of Syncrude over the death of some 1,600 ducks in one of its toxic tailing ponds has concluded, with Syncrude found guilty. Syncrude Failed to Deploy Duck Deterrent Systems in Snow Storm
Judge Ken Tjosvold:
It should have been obvious to Syncrude that deterrence should have been in place in the spring as soon as reasonably possible. Syncrude dud not deploy deterrence early enough or quickly enough. I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Syncrude could have acted lawfully by using due diligence to deter birds from the basin...and it did not do so.
The crux of the case was whether or not Syncrude deployed noise-producing duck deterrent systems early enough in the season. Defending its actions, Syncrude maintained that a snowstorm had delayed their deployment. In the snowstorm, with no other place to land, other bodies of water being ice-covered, the birds landed in the toxic tailing pond. There, soaked with toxic sludge, they became unable to fly and either were eaten by ravens or sank to the bottom dead.
A lawyer for Syncrude said that holding the company liable for the deaths would have dire consequences for the entire tar sands industry.
Too Bad Syncrude's Lawyer Is Exaggerating Impact of Ruling
Which, though largely posturing on the lawyer's part, would be great if it were the case. As TreeHugger has reported on countless occasions, extracting oil from tar sands in Canada and oil shale in the US is an environmental disaster constantly in the making, even if in Alberta it occurs largely out of the public eye. From the perspective of high carbon emissions, the amount of energy required to produce a barrel of oil from the stuff, the clearing of boreal forest, the effect on groundwater, it's all a mess of the highest order.
This doesn't much matter to the oil companies (which Shell and BP figure prominently) going after this bountiful though devastatingly polluting source of oil, as easily accessible supplies both onshore and offshore become increasingly depleted.
More on Alberta Tar Sands:
Duck Death Toll Triples to 1,606 at Alberta Tar Sands Site
Tar Sands Poised to Become the Next Fossil Fuel Disaster
Tar Sands Companies Spoil Our Water, Our Air, Our Livelihood: Cree Elder (Video)
Canadian Tar Sands Look Like Tolkein's Mordor Says UN Water Advisor