Floods in Manitoba and Quebec are destroying homes and threatening this year’s crops. Wildfires in Alberta are burning homes and forests, while driving away the crews that were trying to clean up one of the largest oil spills in Canadian history.

One could be forgiven for thinking Mother Nature was trying to tell us something. For as Graham Thompson of the Edmonton Journal wrote today, this kind of “freakish” weather may be here to stay: “What scientists can tell us is that as the climate warms we'll experience more extreme weather events leading to floods, droughts, forest fires and crop failures. In other words, it's what we're seeing now.”

Sometimes, however, the impact of our fossil fuel-driven energy system on the environment is a lot more direct. Josh Wingrove’s story in the Globe and Mail on Saturday made the point that when it comes to the company and government response to the 28,000 barrel oil spill near the community of Little Buffalo in Alberta, we have a lot more questions than answers.  

Yesterday, Greenpeace campaigner Melina Laboucan-Massimo – who is from Little Buffalo – wrote to Alberta’s Environment Minister about the possibility of the wildfires reaching the site of the oil spill. We recognize that the emergency workers are doing their best under very difficult situation, but we wanted to ensure that unique issues surrounding the spill site aren’t overlooked.

As of yesterday, there were three fires in the area of the spill. Today, Melina was hearing from relatives that ash is raining from the sky. She noted that the clean-up crews have been evacuated, but the oil would still be combustible and could threaten the pipeline itself if it is still exposed. There would also likely be issues around the intensity of the fire and toxic releases that would differentiate the oil spill site from a ‘normal’ forest fire. 

She ended the letter by saying:

“As a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation, I would like to be able to reassure my relatives and friends in the area that there is a contingency plan for protecting the spill site should the wildfires draw closer. I know the community would appreciate timely information and have concerns with respect to the lack of transparency to date.  I hope and expect that a clear plan of action for one of Alberta's oldest communities is being finalized now. Any details you could provide would be appreciated.”

We'll keep you updated as we learn more.