Pembina Institute along with environmental law group Ecojustice say they concerned about potential impacts the Teck Resources’ $20.6-billion Frontier Oil Sands open pit mine would have on climate after a Joint Review Panel recommended approving the project.
If built, the Frontier Oil Sands Mine would occupy 293 square kilometres of land near Wood Buffalo National Park in northeast Alberta and would be one of the largest oil sands projects.
According to a press release issued by Pembina, despite finding that the mine would have significant adverse impacts on the environment, the Panel concluded that that the impacts are justified and that the project is in the public’s interest.
“Moreover, despite previous legal precedent, the Panel failed to recognize the adverse climate impacts or explain why the emissions impacts of this project are not significant,” Pembina argued in the press release.
Without including those from the Teck Frontier mine, cumulative emissions from previously approved oil sands projects, if all went ahead with construction, would reach 130 Mt. This is far in excess of the 100 Mt limit the Government of Alberta legislated under the Rachel Notley government.
The Panel noted that there was uncertainty about how the 100 Mt policy will be implemented and when the limit would be reached.
As well, the Panel found that the project would not be “best-in-class” in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
Pembina says a project of this magnitude would require decades of sustained high oil prices to run its operations and cover the $2.9 billion final clean up bill at the end of the mine’s 40 year lifespan.
The environmental think tank says most credible energy projections show global oil demand could peak then decline between 2030 and 2040. “This calls into question the profitability of long-term oil projects that increasingly may compete with other low-carbon energy sources.”
Duncan Kenyon, Regional Director of Alberta for the Pembina Institute says “If Canada chooses to approve this project, it needs to reconcile how this mine fits into our 2030 and 2050 national climate goals, and prevent any liability from landing on the backs of taxpayers.” He added “The oil and gas sector has done a lot to benefit Alberta’s economy, but the 21st century will demand something more of us.”
Teck’s Frontier Oil Sands mine is expected to produce over 260,000 barrels of crude oil per day and would generate six megatonnes of annual emissions, according to Pembina’s analysis.
“New projects should be required to meet best-in-class standards for greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ecojustice lawyer Barry Robinson. “It makes no sense to approve projects that are worse than existing operations in terms of emissions.”
Robinson says that according to Pembina’s evidence, actual emissions from the Frontier Oil Sands mine would be the equivalent of adding hundreds of thousands of cars to the road per year.
“This project will make it more difficult for Canada to achieve its climate commitments under the Paris accord,” added Robinson.
Both Ecojustice and the Pembina Institute say they are urging the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change to keep in mind that the Panel has not properly addressed this project’s significant climate impacts, and has further failed to provide conditions that mitigate those impacts.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna will make a final decision whether to recommend that Cabinet approve the mine.