Alberta’s oil sands producers have monitored emissions for potential public health impacts with the province’s government for some time, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said.
“Safety is our industry’s top priority and oil sands development must occur in a manner that keeps people safe, and benefits their overall quality of life,” it said in a Feb. 28 statement.
The Calgary trade association is “deeply concerned about suggestions oil sands development is affecting people’s health, most specifically causing cancer among residents of Fort Chipewyan, an aboriginal community located about 220 km north of Fort McMurray,” it noted.
John O’Connor, a physician from Fort Chipewyan, said at a Feb. 26 press conference in Washington, DC, that oil sands operations upstream were releasing significant amounts of carcinogens that could be linked to higher rates of cancer among his patients.
He spoke at a press conference with four other people who live in or have studied communities along the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline. US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) hosted the event in the committee’s hearing room (OGJ Online, Feb. 26, 2014).
In its statement, CAPP noted that a 2009 Alberta Cancer Board study found cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan to be higher than in the province’s general population, and called for more scientific studies by government health authorities on a full range of health concerns and potential causes.
Royal Society of Canada scientists who looked specifically for a link between health issues in Fort Chipewyan and oil sands development reported there was no credible evidence that a relationship with human cancer rates in the community existed, the trade association continued.
“We fully support and have advocated for more scientific health studies but it would be less independent for the oil sands industry to direct such medical health studies ourselves,” it said. “Government and community action to seek solid science is required.”
CAPP said Canadian producers invest as much as $50 million (Can.)/year in the Alberta and federal governments’ Joint Oil Sands Monitoring program, which includes increased monitoring sites, more substances monitored, higher frequency of sampling, a greater level of monitoring sensitivity, and broader geographic coverage.
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