Canada's poor environment record could hit energy exports: watchdog

Tue Nov 5, 2013 2:19pm EST
 
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is doing a bad job of protecting the environment, an official watchdog said on Tuesday, suggesting a poor image for the country on green issues could harm Canadian companies seeking to export crude oil and natural gas.

The damning report by Neil Maxwell, interim commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, puts more pressure on the Conservative government, which is already under fire for what critics say is a poor environmental record.

"Government has not met key commitments, deadlines and obligations to protect Canada's wildlife and natural spaces," Maxwell told a news conference.

The report will undoubtedly boost the spirits of green activists in the United States who want President Barack Obama to block TransCanada Corp's proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude from the Alberta oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Environmentalists oppose development of the Alberta tar sands on the grounds that extracting oil from the clay-like bitumen there is very energy-intensive and greenhouse gas emissions are high.

Maxwell referred to "the wide and persistent gap between what the government commits to do and what it is achieving" and said the federal environment ministry has missed key deadlines to protect migratory birds, failed to protect wildlife habitat and has done nowhere near enough to protect species at risk.

Parks Canada, which runs Canada's national parks, is struggling to try to protect ecosystems, he added.

"The approval processes currently under way for large oil and gas pipelines in North America have shown that widespread acceptance of resource development depends, in part, on due consideration for protecting nature," Maxwell said.   Continued...