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An Up-and-Down Week For the Alberta Tar Sands and the Keystone XL Pipeline

2013/03/24

The Germans are out!

It all started on Tuesday March 19th when 20 scientists from the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers, Germany’s largest and most prestigious research institute, pulled out of the government-funded Helmholtz Alberta Initiative (HAI).  The goal of the HAI was to develop solutions to make coal mining and the tar sands “environmentally sustainable”.

A tailings pond of toxic waste water from the processing of tar sands.  Does this look "environmentally sustainable" to you?  Image: David Dodge, Pembina Institute.

A tailings pond of toxic waste water from the processing of tar sands. Does this look “environmentally sustainable” to you? Image: David Dodge, Pembina Institute.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on where you stand), the scientists from the German research institute feared for their environmental reputation.  According to Frank Messner, head of staff for the Helmhotz Association of German Research Centers, “As an environmental research center we have an independent role as an honest broker and doing research in this constellation could have had reputational problems for us, especially after Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol.”

A moratorium has been imposed on the collaboration while an independent assessment of the Alberta Tar Sands is being conducted.

(For more on why the Alberta Tar Sands are an unsustainable form of energy, click here.)

 

First Nations say they will fight the tar sands

While Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources claims that pipelines to the Pacific coast (Northern Gateway) and Texas (Keystone XL) are in the First Nations’ economic interest, many First Nations groups oppose the pipelines and the tar sands themselves.  And on Wednesday, March 20th, an alliance of First Nations leaders from both Canada and the US went to Parliament Hill in Ottawa to discuss their opposition to both tar sands pipelines.

The Canadian government continues to talk of trying to “respond to the concerns” of these First Nations groups and being able to “develop our natural resources while protecting the environment”.  However, the US-Canada alliance of First Nations is not talking about negotiation.  They are preparing to fight the pipelines in court.  And if all else fails, they are willing to consider “unspecified direct action”.

As the picture below says:

Image: 350.org

Image: 350.org

 

US Senate votes to approve the Keystone XL pipeline

Finally, the week ended with a (very little) bit of good news for those that support the Keystone XL pipeline.  On Friday March 22, 62 US Senators voted to give congress the power to approve the Keystone pipeline.  The thing is, the budget to which this amendment  was attached is very unlikely to pass.  And so, at the end of the day, the final decision of whether or not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline still lies with President Obama.

And if you are wondering “Why did they even bother voting on this amendment?” consider the following:

Image: 350.org

Image: 350.org

 

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