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PART 2: The Pembina Institute responds to federal environmental cuts

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PART 2: The Pembina Institute’s Nathan Lemphers, MCP, Senior Policy Analyst, reacts to Alberta Primetime broadcast

The Pembina Institute is a Canadian non-profit think tank that promotes sustainable energy solutions through research, education, consulting and advocacy. They envision a world where our needs are met while protecting the earth’s living systems and guarantees clean air, land and water, prevents adverse effects of climate change, as well as maintaining a just and global community. However, the relentless pursuit of corporations installing pipelines across the land and ecosystems of Canada and the United States is counterproductive to this vision of the world.

Even though Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent assures the people of Alberta in the broadcast that they would not be left vulnerable to disasters from pipeline oil spills, Lemphers strongly disagrees when he describes what effects the federal cuts will have. “It will limit the ability for the federal government to quickly respond with on the ground personnel.”

Kent explained that the National Energy Board in Calgary is the lead agency that will deal with the oil spills. But Lemphers suggests it was not good enough when the Lake Wabamun spill proved the emergency response inadequate. “What was in place before these cuts was inadequate given what happened with the Wabamun spill. The federal government didn’t have the expertise to effectively respond in that circumstance. For the consolidation for their person in Ottawa, it remains to be seen how they can improve their overall oversight of environmental emergencies.”

The Lake Wabamun oil spill occurred in August 2005 when a derailment of 43 CN rail cars caused 1.3 million litres of bunker oil and other chemicals to spill into the lake and popular recreation area. The Paul First Nation, located on the shore of the lake, sued CN Rail for $505 million, the federal government for $200 million and the Province of Alberta for $70 million, arguing that fishing and hunting near the lake was impossible after the spill. But even more disturbing were the findings of what did not occur in this analysis of what went terribly wrong: [url=http://www.tc.gc.ca/media/documents/rsa-lsf/wabamun.pdf t=_blank]Report to the Railway Safety Act Review Advisory Panel, The Lake Wabamun Disaster: A Catalyst for Change[/url]. The inadequacies of the emergency response in August 2005 at Lake Wabamun are very disturbing. The effectiveness of emergency responses to future oil spills is doubtful especially with these current cuts and possible increased oilsands production if TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline and Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline are approved.

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