By Andrea Klassen
Kamloops This Week
Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod said she has been “reassured” about the environmental sustainability of Alberta’s oil sands following a recent tour in Fort McMurray.
McLeod wrapped up a two-day tour that included a helicopter survey of the Syncrude, Sunoco, Albian Sands and CNRL projects and a visit to the Syncrude Canada site — one of the largest in the northern Alberta oil sands.
The Conservative MP said she was “quite amazed”, struck by the scope of the projects, as well as by statistics showing how much cash the oil sands generate.
“In some ways it seemed really big and, in others, if you look, it’s surrounded by thousands of kilometres of forested area,” McLeod said, adding she also took an interest in previously mined portions of the sands that are now being reclaimed.
“They had brought it back to bison roaming, replanted and reintroduced natural species,” she said.
“They’re making some very good strides in terms of technology and reducing. They’re pretty focused on reducing emissions. I think the industry recognizes that they have to continue to make advances.”
McLeod said she was struck by figures showing just how much money is generated from mining and extraction.
“This is eight to 10 per cent, depending on the figures you look at, of our GDP right now,” she said, noting the money isn’t just staying in Alberta.
“It might be a manufacturer in Ontario, it might be someone in British Columbia, but the positive economic impacts are actually countrywide.”
McLeod said she feels other federal politicians need to make a visit to the sands before they form an opinion about the controversial industry.
“What [the tour] really did is, it reassured me there’s significant strides being made in terms of the environmental issues,” she said.
McLeod said she’s still convinced oil pipelines are a good way to transport crude from the oil sands to B.C. and the U.S., provided they are held to high safety standards.
Kinder Morgan of Texas is proposing a $4.1-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to its Burrard Inlet terminal in Burnaby.
The expansion would impact the pipeline as it passes through Kamloops.
Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, who has also been travelling through Alberta and B.C. during the past week, told media on June 11 that criticism of a Enbridge’s handling of a major oil pipeline leak in Michigan should spell the end of the proposed controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.
A report by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board criticized the Calgary-based company for taking 17 hours to respond to a leak that dumped more than three-million litres of crude oil into a river and wetlands in Michigan.
The Northern Gateway line would run from the Alberta oil sands to Kitimat, where oil could be shipped to the Asian market.
McLeod said she is waiting for the results of an environmental assessment of the project before forming an opinion on the pipeline — but said these kind of projects are necessary to get product shipped.
“We need to have pipelines that move the product to market,” she said, noting there needs to be strict standards for companies.
“If it can be done safely, it needs to be done safely, and companies have to be held to a high standard of safety,” she said, adding the federal government included more funding to improve pipeline safety in its last budget.