Protesters target oil sands before Harper meets Obama

Tue Sep 15, 2009 3:23pm EDT
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By Ayesha Rascoe and Jeffrey Jones

WASHINGTON/CALGARY (Reuters) - Environmentalists shut down a Canadian oil sands mine on Tuesday in a series of protests on the eve of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit with President Barack Obama, aimed at pressing their case that the projects undermine the fight against climate change.

Green groups accused Harper's government of trying to hamper U.S. efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions by seeking protections for Canada's oil sands industry, a major supplier of crude oil to the United States.

Harper meets with Obama at the White House on Wednesday, with climate and environmental issues expected to be on the agenda.

In northern Alberta, Royal Dutch Shell Plc suspended production at its Albian Sands Muskeg River mine after 25 activists from Greenpeace blockaded a massive dump truck and mining shovel to protest against oil sands development.

Shell, which owns 60 percent of the 155,000 barrel a day operation, said it temporarily shut down operation to ensure that the activists and its staff did not get hurt.

"Shell's No. 1 concern is their safety and our preference is for a negotiated end to this demonstration," the company said in a statement. "We have invited the group into our administrative building to sit down with management to discuss their concerns."

It said Greenpeace has not tried to contact Shell to discuss environmental initiatives it is employing at the site.

Numerous Canadian and U.S. environmental groups have intensified campaigns against oil sands development, which they say is damaging to air, land, water and local communities.   Continued...