Oil Sands Watch | Pembina Institute


Responsible Oil Sands Development

Albertans and Canadians are increasingly concerned when they look at the way Alberta’s oil sands are being developed. Amidst growing urgency about the need to fight global warming, the oil sands have emerged as Canada’s fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas pollution.

Other impacts — from drawing down the Athabasca River to the creation of toxic tailings dumps, to hundreds of square kilometers of strip-mining and drilling in the boreal forest — are growing just as rapidly.

What is a moratorium?

A moratorium is a temporary pause in the approval of new oil sands projects and granting of new oil sands leases until the right policies are in place to guide future development so that it’s environmentally, socially and economically responsible.

Alberta Can Do Better

Many of the environmental, social and economic impacts being felt across Alberta can be traced back to the decision to develop the oil sands as fast as possible rather than at a manageable pace. As a result, while oil sands projects have expanded rapidly, government policies and planning have fallen far behind, leaving a serious environmental, social and infrastructure deficit.

A Chance to Get It Right

As the manager of Albertans’ resources, the Government of Alberta is responsible for making changes. It owes it to Albertans to place a moratorium on new oil sands project approvals and lease sales until the necessary policies and safeguards are in place.

It’s Time for a Plan

Six Steps for Responsible Oil Sands Development

1. Limit Environmental Impacts

Apply science-based precautionary limits that tell us when ecosystems are threatened, so that we can make informed decisions about whether and how oil sands projects proceed.

2. Address Cumulative Impacts

Improve the systems and approaches for monitoring and addressing the impacts of oil sands development on the climate, air, fresh water, boreal forest and wildlife.

3. Focus on Quality of Life

Manage the rate of oil sands growth so as to maximize the benefits to Albertans' quality of life, and ensure that social services and infrastructure can keep pace.

4. Think Like an Owner

Reform the oil sands royalty regime so that Albertans obtain maximum value from the development of the resources they own.

5. Make Better Decisions for Albertans

Reform the Energy and Utilities Board's decision-making process so that the public interest comes first and only responsible oil sands projects proceed.

6. Plan for the Future

Take advantage of Alberta's prosperity so as to build a more diversified, green and competitive future that includes low-impact renewable energies and responsible energy use.