Stelmach, Pelosi to talk environment

EDMONTON — Assuring one of the most powerful legislators in the U.S. that Alberta’s oilsands are being developed responsibly will be main focus of a meeting between that province’s premier Ed Stelmach and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi this week.

EDMONTON — Assuring one of the most powerful legislators in the U.S. that Alberta’s oilsands are being developed responsibly will be main focus of a meeting between that province’s premier Ed Stelmach and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi this week.

“Our goal there is to appeal to her sense of reason, to communicate very clearly that we continue to be focused on environmental improvement in developing the oilsands,” Stelmach said Tuesday. “Environment is the first and most important issue.”

The meeting, one of a series set up by U.S. ambassador to Canada David Jacobson, will take place Wednesday.

Pelosi will also meet with environmental groups and First Nations.

A spokesman for the Pembina Institute said it plans to tell Pelosi that Alberta has to improve how it plans and monitors the developments. Marlo Reynolds, who will be at the meeting, said Alberta and Canada are developing the resource without considering how it will affect efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Stelmach said he also plans to remind Pelosi that Canada is now the largest supplier of energy into the U.S. market. Most of that oil comes from the oilsands.

He said he’ll also remind her of the jobs and investment that depend on developing the resource.

Alberta New Democrat environment critic Rachel Notley said the way to protect those jobs, however, is to improve environmental monitoring in the oilsands.

She pointed out two scientific studies have been released this month alone suggesting the environmental impact is much higher than government figures say.

“Hollow assurances with no action is like sizzle without the steak,” Notley said.

Although Alberta officials have met many times before with prominent American politicians, including former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney, this will be the first time they’ve met with Pelosi. Alberta maintains an office in the U.S. capital to help get its message out on the province’s energy industry.

“We have got to talk about what we’ve accomplished on the environment,” said Stelmach.

Also on Tuesday, a scientific paper was published suggested that bird mortality in the tailings ponds for the oilsands is about 30 times higher than government and industry figures say.

It’s the latest in a series of reports that come to radically different conclusions than the government about the environmental impact of the industry.

Premiers Brad Wall of Saskatchewan and Jean Charest of Quebec have also been invited to meet with Pelosi.