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Feds should lobby less, regulate more, oil sands report says

The federal government is shirking its obligations to regulate Alberta’s oil sands, a new report concludes.

“Ottawa has so far failed to live up to its duties to enforce existing federal environmental laws in the oil sands and to chart a sustainable future for Canada,” reads the report, released Wednesday by the Pembina Institute, Equiterre and Environmental Defence.

Green observers often accuse the Alberta and Canadian governments of being too cozy with oil sands companies, resulting in little environmental management.

Federal environment minister Jim Prentice recently set up a panel to study pollution in the Athabasca River after a peer-reviewed study raised questions about water safety. (And Alberta appointed its own scientific panel soon after).

Today’s report applauds the initiative, but argues government action must go further. It says that existing laws – if enforced – could conserve vital waterways, protect endangered species and manage greenhouse gas emissions.

Canadian policymakers appear dedicated to blocking climate change initiatives in other countries, it suggests.

“Instead of fixing [oil sands] problems through effective regulations to manage cumulative environmental effects, the federal government has been lobbying governments in the U.S. and E.U. in an attempt to shield the industry from environmental measures elsewhere,” the report reads.

The Tyee published a report earlier this summer showing how oil companies and Canadian policymakers have lobbied against U.S. climate change legislation. And a Tyee report today shows a similar strategy in Europe.

From a long-term perspective, the three environmental groups argue Canada’s economy depends on embracing clean energy.

“While the oil sands industry provides economic benefits and jobs for Canadians today, Canada must adequately invest in the transition to clean energy or risk getting left behind the emerging clean energy superpowers of the E.U., China and the U.S.,” the report concludes.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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