It’s been almost nine months.

You can do a lot in nine months. In nine months you can make and give birth to a baby. For Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL), all they’ve done at their Cold Lake tar sands in-situ site is spill baby spill.

CNRL tar sands spill

It was almost nine months ago when the first of four tar sands spills was discovered on CNRL’s Cold Lake in-situ site, and they’ve just continued seeping.

Here’s a brief recap of the events:

CNRL’s first spill was discovered, by accident, on May 20th. The second and third spills were discovered at the beginning of June. It wasn’t until the fourth spill was reported and the public actually found out about the spills (mostly from a scientist whistleblower) more than a month later, that the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) finally ordered CNRL to start restricting steam injections. 

Apparently, the Alberta government didn’t think the first three unstoppable spills were worth doing something about. It let CNRL keep operating.

Even after the fourth spill, the AER didn’t restrict CNRL operations in the area and on January 3rd the company spilled another 27,000 liters of crude bitumen.

Now, almost nine months later, nearly two million liters of bitumen emulsion has been spilled, 216 animals have died, 515 cubic metres of vegetation oiled, 14,491 metric tonnes of soil removed, one lake was partially drained and the spills are still continuing.

The unstoppable and unexplained nature of the spills raises a lot of questions regarding the safety of in-situ tar sands technology. 

Rather than pausing, the Alberta government has rejected calls for a broader safety inquiry and instead continues to approve new tar sands in-situ projects, hailing them as the ‘environmentally friendly’ option. The Alberta government and the AER have also failed to pull CNRL’s lease, despite its latest spill earlier this year.

It’s time the Alberta government got tough - pulled CNRL’s Cold Lake lease and launched a broader safety inquiry.

Our communities deserve no less.

Follow Mike on twitter @mikehudema