The future of Alberta’s sprawling tailings ponds is in serious crisis.
As of right now, there is no clear understanding if or how oilsands companies are going to clean up the 1.2 trillion litres of toxic petrochemical waste covering over 220 square kilometres in the province’s northeast.
On Monday, Environmental Defence and the U.S.’s Natural Resources Defense Council published a report that pegged potential costs for cleanup and reclamation at a staggering $51.3 billion: $44.5 billion for cleanup, with an additional $6.8 billion for rehabilitation and monitoring.
That amount exceeds the $41.3 billion in royalties collected by the province of Alberta between 1970 and 2016.
“Increasingly, as an Albertan, I am concerned that these will become public liabilities,” Martin Olszynski, law professor at the University of Calgary and expert in environmental law, tells DeSmog Canada.