The supreme court of Canada has agreed that “The growth of modern societies has shown serious problems that can result from anarchic development and use of land, in particular those problems concerning public health and the environment.1” How can we maintain economic growth without major environmental consequences? In 1992, the Canadian Federal government enacted the Environmental Impact Assessment Act as a planning tool in attempts to identify and alleviate the environmental impact of new developments. Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is the process of identifying and reducing the environmental effects of a proposed project before it begins. The (EIA) is a step by step process that begins with the determination if an environmental assessment (EA) is needed, environmental impact statement guidelines, environmental impact statement, the (EA) or review panel report and finally the (EA) decision2.
The Alberta oil sands, or more technically the Alberta bituminous sands, are the largest and most developed bituminous sands and are the third largest crude oil reserve in the world. Described as “Canada’s greatest buried energy treasure”, continued development of this area will result in stable, reliable energy that will promote vast economic growth3. The Alberta oil sands provide jobs, intensify provincial growth, and generate royalties and taxes to help fund government programs5. Although these oil sands provide an array of economic benefits it has inherited the name “dirty oil” due to the mining and refining practices of bitumen, the substance transformed into crude oil. It is much more viscous than conventional crude oil and is too thick to be pumped through a pipeline. Instead, bitumen is mined in open pits much like coal and is refined using super-heated water and chemicals called diluents resulting dilbit, a substance much more usable. It takes 3 barrels of water for every barrel of bitumen to complete this process of extraction making it inefficient and wasteful. This refining method also creates tailing ponds which are dangerous to surrounding wildlife and the water table4.This dilbit is then pumped through various pipelines that cross valuable ecosystems into other parts of Canada and the United States. The mining of Bitumen is one of the largest contributors to air pollution and climate change in Canada and is the fastest growing source of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. On average one barrel of oil from the oil sands will produce three times as many greenhouse gases than conventional crude oil7.
This report is intended to address issues of land use planning, environmental management, natural resources management, and Aboriginal land and environmental interest issues of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act’s role in the continuing development of Alberta tar sands.
The environment assessment act plays a key role in the development of policies intended for land use planning. Either the National Energy Board or the Canadian...