Pollution from Alberta Energy Operations Travels Hundreds of Kilometres
Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from Alberta coal plants, tar sands/oil sands operations, and oil refineries travel hundreds of kilometres across Canada’s prairie provinces, according to a series of Environment Canada videos highlighted in a release last week by the Pembina Institute and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.
The high-resolution videos were originally shown at the Oil Sands Monitoring Symposium in February, and were just recently posted online.
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“A picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s certainly true in this case,” Pembina states on its website. “Many of the images show air emissions modelling results across the entire province—something that can be hard to grasp otherwise. In particular, these images show the dispersion and deposition of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, which are of particular concern to the public for health reasons.”
“Pollutants from industrial activities and other activities can be transported far downwind, so they can be transferred hundreds of kilometres downwind from where they are actually emitted,” agreed Bob Myrick, director of air evaluation and reporting at the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency.
CAPE’s Dr. Joe Vipond said the province’s coal-fired electricity plants are driving air pollution levels above national standards in communities like Red Deer, Alberta. “These coal plants have viable alternatives, they’re not bringing any money into the government pockets, and they’re having incredible health impacts on Albertans,” he told CBC. Previously, CAPE calculated that coal generation costs the province $300 million in annual health expenditures, leading to nearly 100 premature deaths, 700 emergency room visits, 80 hospital admissions, and untold asthma attacks.
“This kind of visual modelling hasn’t been available to the public in the past,” Pembina notes. “These images deserve to be viewed and understood.”