Churches to probe impacts of Canadian oil sands

Thu May 14, 2009 3:38pm EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - A coalition of church leaders will fan out across northern Alberta next week for a fact-finding mission that will help formulate an official stance on the environmental impact of oil sands development.

Officials with Kairos, a multidenominational social justice group, joined by some aboriginal leaders, will talk with oil sands developers, labor organizations, local authorities and congregations about the impact of the massive energy projects, an issue garnering global attention.

Kairos's work could prove controversial as many members of faiths that are part of the organization work in, or benefit from, the oil sands industry while others oppose it, Sara Stratton, education and campaigns coordinator for Kairos, said on Thursday.

"That's why you spend a lot of time talking and thinking it through, and why you don't make decisions from an office in Toronto," Stratton said.

The delegation includes leaders from the Anglican Church of Canada, Mennonite Central Committee, Presbyterian Church of Canada, United Church of Canada, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, among others.

Alberta's oil sands represent the largest deposits of crude outside Saudi Arabia, and are seen as a major source of secure energy supplies for the United States.

Environmental groups have mounted major campaigns to spotlight the impact of mining and processing on air, land and water.

They have concentrated on high emissions of greenhouse gases, deforestation and toxic tailings ponds, where more than 1,600 ducks were coated with oil sands residue last year and were killed.   Continued...