Federal Court sends Alberta oilsands project back to review panel

Posted by admin on Mar 5th, 2008

CBC. Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Federal Court has ordered an environmental review panel to justify its decision to allow a $7 billion oilsands project in northern Alberta to go ahead. The ruling, released Wednesday, comes after four Prairie environmental groups went to court in January to try to stop Imperial Oil’s Kearl project, saying the federal-provincial review panel that approved it had not adequately assessed the potential environmental damage.The Federal Court has ruled that the latest oilsands project approved for the Fort McMurray area must go back to an environmental review panel.

Imperial Oil hopes to mine 200 square kilometres of boreal forest north of Fort McMurray to reach the oilsands underneath.

Justice Danièle Tremblay-Lamer ruled the panel had not proven to her satisfaction that any environmental impacts can be mitigated.

She questioned the panel’s finding that the project would not lead to a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

“Given the amount of greenhouse gases that will be emitted and given the evidence that the targets will not address the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, it was incumbent upon the Panel to provide a justification for its recommendation on this particular issue,” Tremblay-Lamer wrote.

The Sierra Club, one of the groups that launched the suit, immediately welcomed the ruling.

“This decision pretty clearly says the panel needs to go back and do a better job of assessing the environmental impacts of the Kearl oilsands project,” said Sierra Club spokesman Jean Langlois. “They have failed to do so to a standard that meets the law.”

Gordon Wong, a spokesman for Imperial Oil, said late Wednesday that he didn’t expect the ruling to delay the oilsands project.

“All it’s asking or directing the joint panel to do is to provide its rationale for how it came to a conclusion in one area. [It] doesn’t direct Imperial to undertake or ask us to refrain from taking any particular course of action,” Wong said.

The company hopes to have the project running by 2010, with production pegged at 300,000 barrels of bitumen a day.

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