Canada’s relentless pursuit of natural resource development has left it exposed to financial and environmental disasters of epic proportions, a recent audit claims. In his report, Canada’s commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, Scott Vaughn, claims that the government has dropped the environmental ball and is not adequately monitoring mining in the North, fracking of shale gas wells across the country and offshore drilling in the Atlantic.
The expected 300 percent increase in oil tanker traffic in the Atlantic alone could lead to an oil spill which the country is completely unprepared for and for which tax payers will have to foot the bill as oil company liabilities have not been adjusted in decades.
This is not the first report that claims the government is turning a blind eye to pipeline and fracking infractions*; “you end up with a portrait where there are some serious questions about the federal capacity to safeguard Canada’s environment,” Vaughan said.
“We know that there’s a boom in natural resources in this country. I think what we need now, given the gaps, given the problems that we’ve found, is a boom in environmental protection in this country as well. Because these need to move hand in hand. You can’t have environmental protection trying to catch up with legacy issues that have been left because of a boom in natural resources. I think this is a cautionary tale from this report: right now there is an imbalance,” Vaughn said.
“These findings, when considered with our concerns regarding preparedness to effectively respond to a major oil spill, show clearly that Canadians are exposed to environmental risks and the financial implications that go with them,” Vaughan said. The situation was compounded when last summer’s omnibus bill C-45 removed government protection from 2.5 million waterways, leaving only 62 rivers and 97 lakes under government supervision.
While opposition MPs accuse the government of sacrificing the environment to resource development, Ottawa claims its reviewing current legislation and that the spring will see new policies that bring the outdated legislation in line with developments.
For now, the situation becomes increasingly dire as the 200,000 fracking wells (a number that is expected to double in the next 20 years) as well as other oil and gas exploration and drilling activities are exempt from reporting releases of pollutants to Environment Canada.
* Fracking infractions? Yup, that just happened!
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