NAFTA votes against investigating oil sands tailings ponds
NAFTA's environmental watchdog voted unanimously not to investigate oil sands tailings ponds pollution, despite recommendations from staff to launch a probe. It's the third time a NAFTA probe has been blocked by the Canadian government, pending a decision on Canada's controversial Keystone XL oil sands pipeline proposal.
"It sounds pretty political to me," said Dale Marshall of Environmental Defence, one of the groups that requested an investigation. "It's possible [Keystone XL] has something to do with it. It's clear that Canada's environmental record is being put into the balance when the U.S. State Department or President are looking at Keystone XL."
NAFTA's Commission on Environmental Co-operation (CEC) was created in 1995 to provide a safeguard that the trade agreement wouldn't come at the expense of clean air, water and land. In a written ruling, the CEC explained that the main reason it wouldn't investigate is because of a pending court case involving a Fort McMurray environmental investigator, Tony Boschmann, who claimed chemicals from a Suncor tailings pond were flowing into the Athabasca River.
Marshall doesn't buy that argument.
"That case is over," he said. "They dismissed Boschmann's case...and the appeal process ended last August, so it's already done."
Marshall added that there wasn't very much uncertainty at this point over tailings pond pollution seeping into surrounding areas.
"Environment Canada themselves have published reports in scientific journals, saying there are contaminants found downstream of the tar sands," he said.