Smithsonian assessment and University of Toronto study: oilsands operations’ release of carcinogenic compounds underestimated

4 Feb

oil sands fernhurst sussex

 Further grounds for objection to the Sussex applications?

The Financial Times reports that solicitors for residents near the village of Fernhurst, West Sussex (above), have written to Celtique Energie and Ed Davey, the energy secretary, to deny the company permission to prospect for oil under their property; last year objectors in Wisborough Green lodged so many online objections with South Downs National Park Authority that its system crashed.

A University of Toronto study, published on February 4th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, has concluded that the emission levels of some toxic air pollutants in the Alberta oilsands have been greatly underestimated.

oilsands canada mining

CBC News reports:

“When dealing with chemicals that have such great potential to harm people and animals, it is absolutely vital that we truly understand how, and how much they are being released into the environment,” Abha Parajulee, lead author of a paper on oilsands pollution, said in a news release . . . This study included indirect pathways for the pollutants to enter the air, such as evaporation from tailing ponds and additional polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)released during the transport and storage of other waste materials from oilsands operations.

“Tailing ponds are not the end of the journey for the pollutants they contain. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons PAHs are highly volatile, meaning they escape into the air much more than many people think,” Parajulee said.

Before commenting that the higher levels of PAHs in the area aren’t dangerous in the short term but are significantly higher – one hundred to one thousand times greater – than reported in mining companies’ environmental impact assessments and Canada’s official National Pollutant Release Inventory, Smithsonian researchers add that the mining of tar sands,

The EPA lists PAHs as priority pollutants [PDF] because in animal-based lab experiments they’ve led to tumors, interfered with the immune system and caused reproductive problems

The Smithsonian’s downbeat conclusion is, “If nothing else, it is concerning that throughout decades of oil extraction in Athabasca, environmental impact assessments have dramatically underestimated the emissions levels of a key air pollutant”.

A more active concern is manifested by Celtique’s chief executive

Geoff Davies said the company had chosen the site at Fernhurst because “geologically it’s the most likely place that shales could work”. He said the landowners’ tactics threatened to strangle Britain’s shale industry at birth: “If this happens all over the country, it will delay the evaluation of resources that could make a big contribution to the UK’s oil and gas reserves, to taxation and employment.”

The public comments after hearing Owen Paterson’s opinion: ‘I would like to see shale gas exploited all over rural parts of the UK’:

  • Perhaps the fracking could start in Paterson’s and Cameron’s back gardens. After all they’re telling us it’s harmless.
  • Methane is 86 times more powerful than carbon in bringing about temperature rise in climate change. When is the government going to wake up and invest in renewables. They know it is the only answer. They just want to get rich before the planet collapses.
  • Trash UK for cash? No thanks. 40 fracking sites and 12 Nuclear reactors? There will be nothing left of these lovely islands. Groningen in Holland is paying out big time for earthquake damage to local homes, don’t take my word for it, look it up*.
  • Cheque’s in the post Paterson?


The complete study
*Ed:; January, Dutch government decision to reduce fracking:

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