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January 17, 2011
Organizations Decry Canadian Tar Sands Development by European Companies
    by Robert Kropp

The UK Tar Sands Network leads an effort to call attention to a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement that could open Europe up to imports of tar sands oil.


This week, officials from Canada and the European Union are meeting to negotiate a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) that, according to the UK Tar Sands Network and other organizations, could lead to the import to Europe of oil extracted from tar sands located in Canada.

Described in a 2008
report as "the most destructive project on Earth," the controversial practice of tar sands, or oil sands, extraction requires the consumption of three barrels of natural gas to create one barrel of oil. The practice also leaks approximately three million gallons of contaminated water into surrounding rivers and groundwater each day, in addition to emitting high levels of greenhouse gases (GHG). Tar sands extraction has been identified as having a significant role in Canada's GHG emissions in 2007, which were 26% higher than 1990 levels and 34% higher than the target it agreed to in the Kyoto Protocol.

"We are concerned that the CETA negotiations will give dramatic new powers to European oil companies like Shell, BP and Total, allowing them to legally challenge any attempts to regulate their activities in the tar sands for social or environmental reasons. In order to prevent dangerous climate change we need to be shutting the tar sands down, not helping our companies invest in them," Suzanne Dhaliwal of the UK Tar Sands Network stated in a
press release from BankTrack.

The practice has had significant impacts as well on the health and way of life of First Nations communities living downstream from operations in Alberta, Canada.

Clayton Thomas-Muller, Tar Sands Campaigner for the
Indigenous Environmental Network, stated, "First Nations' access to basic human necessities is supposedly protected by domestic and international law but CETA, by encouraging more extraction projects and giving that kind of investment strong new protections, threatens First Nations' access to clean drinking water, land and sustenance."

During the 2010 proxy season, shareowner resolutions targeting oil sands extraction were filed by
Green Century Capital Management at BP, Shell, ConocoPhillips, and ExxonMobil. The resolutions won substantial percentages of votes at the companies' annual general meetings, including more than 30% at ConocoPhillips.

Based in the Netherlands, BankTrack is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) whose priorities include educating society about the effects of financial institutions on people and the environment.

 

 
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