Scientists to probe oil sands pollution claims
OTTAWA — A panel of scientific experts will have 60 days to investigate new research suggesting that oilsands operations are contaminating the Athabasca River and endangering human health, Environment Minister Jim Prentice said Thursday.
“We are determined to develop Canada’s oilsands in a manner that it sustainable and environmentally sensitive,” said Mr. Prentice in a statement. “This independent review by some of Canada’s most respected scientists is a critical step in ensuring that environmental issues are balanced with economic considerations.”
Industry representatives have suggested pollution in the river is coming from natural deposits, but several prominent scientists, including David Schindler from the University of Alberta, have concluded the evidence overwhelmingly suggests the industrial activity is to blame.
The panel will be chaired by Elizabeth Dowdeswell, who also is president of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Council of Canadian Academies which advises the government on science issues. Dowdeswell also became the first women to be executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme in 1992 and has served as an assistant deputy minister at Environment Canada from 1989 to 1992.
The other members of Prentice’s new scientific panel of experts are Peter J. Dillon, Subhasis Ghoshal, Andrew D. Miall, Joseph Rasmussen and John P. Smol.
Mr. Prentice said their report would be made public on the department’s website.