Friday, September 10, 2010

Birds Dying in Oil Sands at 30 Times Rate Reported

Does self-reporting work for the tar sands? A new report casts doubt on the industry's ability to accurately monitor its impact on the environment. From the Toronto Star:
A new study says birds are likely dying in oilsands tailings ponds at least 30 times the rate suggested by industry and government.

The results add weight to arguments that depending on industry to monitor its own environmental impact isn’t working, said study author Kevin Timoney, an ecologist whose paper was published Tuesday in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology.
“We need to have credible scientific monitoring,” Timoney said. Bird deaths are currently tracked through industry employees reporting carcasses. The eight-year annual average of such reports, from 2000 to 2007, is 65.
“It’s basically ad hoc,” said Timoney, who decided to take a different approach for the tailings ponds of Suncor, Syncrude and Shell...

...Using averages for the mortality rate of oiled birds, and adjusting for the increased size of tailings ponds over the last two decades, Timoney came up with what he says is a more reasonable estimate for bird deaths in the 120 square kilometres of ponds he studied.

The 14-year median, including raptors, songbirds, shorebirds and gulls, is 1,973 deaths every year. That’s more birds than died in the April 2008 incident that saw Syncrude convicted of charges under the environmental protection legislation earlier this year.
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