UA oil-sands researchers need to talk more to each other

Yesterday, a panel sponsored by the Royal Society of Canada and dominated by University of Alberta scientists released a report,  that some viewed as exonerating for Alberta’s oil-sands reputation. The National Post points to the following paragraph of the report:

“There is no credible evidence to support the commonly repeated media accounts of excess cancer” among native people in the region and no evidence that nearby lakes and rivers are being overused. Thanks mostly to the way oil sands companies use subsurface water (and recycle it over and over through their systems), present water-use levels are “sustainable” and pose no “current threat to aquatic ecosystem viability.”

For some reason, the 2008 study by Schindler et al. (also from the University of Alberta) showing increased toxins from the oil sands, is all but forgotten.

What about the Environment Canada study showing a 50% increase in mercury in shore birds eggs from the Athabasca ?

But then, it turns out that the RSC study was not so exhaustive after all. Today’s Globe and Mail reveals that not all available data has been made available by industry-led monitoring bodies.  One such body, “the Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP), has been criticized in scientific quarters as secretive and is under the scrutiny of three reviews. Former environment minister Jim Prentice ordered one of those reviews after being shown photos this fall of a few malformed fish, and it was delivered Thursday to Environment Canada”.

“That is the problem. To get the actual data, you need the raw data,” not just annual reports, said Kevin Timoney, an Alberta ecologist and oil sands researcher, who was not one of the RSC panelists. “They release just enough so they can say that they did, but they don’t give you enough to see what’s really going on.”

I say that University of Alberta researchers should talk more to each other.

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