Many Americans who have never heard of the Alberta tar sands soon will. The tar sands is one of the largest, dirtiest, and most destructive projects on Earth, and is likely coming to a community near you. The oil industry is expanding facilities to process toxic tar sands oil in the U.S. through a network of refineries and pipelines. With plans to triple refining and transportation of tar sands by 2015, there is no question that air pollution and health problems in communities from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast will increase.
Public health in several U.S. states is already under threat from dramatic increases in refining pollution, and massive pipelines are planned to cross the United States’ largest freshwater aquifer, which supplies one-third of U.S. agriculture.
Tar sands crude contains heavy metals, and refining tar sands releases polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons linked to pre-natal brain damage, and smog and ozone-depleting chemicals and compounds. Exposure to these toxics is linked to asthma, emphysema and other lung diseases. That says nothing of the devastating impacts on air, water, and soil.
With the environmental and health impacts of the tar sands well known, but no sign of an end to the environmental trauma, the Sierra Club’s latest report shows the personal side of the impacts of dirty oil in North American communities. Americans and Canadians are worried about Alberta’s tar sands expansion poisoning their water, destroying their farmland, and contaminating their air.
During her recent election campaign, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley pledged to raise Alberta’s minimum wage from $10.20 an hour to $15...