Canada to monitor tar sands, eyes key U.S. pipeline

Thu Jul 21, 2011 1:56pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will boost monitoring of pollution from its oil-rich tar sands and hopes this will speed up Washington's approval of a proposed $7 billion pipeline to transport heavy Canadian crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast, Environment Minister Peter Kent said on Thursday.

Environmentalists have long campaigned against developing the tar sands of northern Alberta -- the world's third largest oil reserve -- on the grounds that development produces unacceptable amounts of greenhouse gases and other toxins.

Kent unveiled a plan to start monitoring air and water quality in northern Alberta as well as the effects of the oil sands on biodiversity. The program, to be funded by the energy industry, will initially cost around C$50 million ($53 million) a year and should start soon, he said.

"It will provide the facts and the science to defend the product, which some abroad are threatening to boycott. There is already a great deal of disinformation and misinformation," Kent told a news conference.

Output from the tar sands is set to double to 3 million barrels per day by 2020.

Opposition in the United States is mounting to TransCanada Corp's planned Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry 700,000 barrels of tar sands crude per day from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The U.S. State Department has said it expects to make a decision on whether to approve it by yearend.

Asked whether he thought the new monitoring plan might go some way to speeding up the U.S. approval process, Kent replied: "Yes. The short answer is yes."   Continued...

<p>A truck drives down a street at Syncrude's oil tar sands operation near Fort McMurray, Alberta in this May 23, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Todd Korol/Files</p>