(Refiles to remove extraneous word "rich" from first
* Canada to monitor air and water quality, biodiversity
* Canada hopes plan will speed approval of key pipeline
* Tar sands output set to double by 2020; greens worried
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, July 21 Canada will boost monitoring of
pollution from its oil-rich tar sands and hopes this will speed
up Washington's approval of a proposed $7 billion pipeline to
transport heavy Canadian crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast,
Environment Minister Peter Kent said on Thursday.
Environmentalists have long campaigned against developing
the tar sands of northern Alberta -- the world's third largest
oil reserve -- on the grounds that development produces
unacceptable amounts of greenhouse gases and other toxins.
Kent unveiled a plan to start monitoring air and water
quality in northern Alberta as well as the effects of the oil
sands on biodiversity. The program, to be funded by the energy
industry, will initially cost around C$50 million ($53 million)
a year and should start soon, he said.
"It will provide the facts and the science to defend the
product, which some abroad are threatening to boycott. There is
already a great deal of disinformation and misinformation,"
Kent told a news conference.
Output from the tar sands is set to double to 3 million
barrels per day by 2020.
Opposition in the United States is mounting to TransCanada
Corp's (TRP.TO) planned Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry
700,000 barrels of tar sands crude per day from Alberta to the
U.S. Gulf Coast.
The U.S. State Department has said it expects to make a
decision on whether to approve it by yearend.
Asked whether he thought the new monitoring plan might go
some way to speeding up the U.S. approval process, Kent
replied: "Yes. The short answer is yes."
He continued: "I think that there is a fair amount of
informational catch-up to be done both in the United States and
its various governmental agencies and in Europe."
Kent said he met Lisa Jackson, administrator of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, last month to "correct some of
the misinformation that I know has passed her desk".
Critics say Canada's Conservative government -- a vocal
backer of the oil sands -- is far too beholden to the energy
industry. Alberta is a stronghold of Conservative support.
Ottawa says oil from the tar sands will help the United
States cut supplies from less democratic nations.
Kent called the tar sands oil a "great resource", adding
that the point of the monitoring plan was "not to prosecute the
industry. It's to identify problems and to fix them."
He said Ottawa would work with the government of Alberta,
which says it is serious about monitoring the operations of the
industry that is its biggest revenue generator.
Alberta has formed its own panel to study the issue over
water pollution after a study showed that despite contentions
from the industry and government, tar sands operations were
sending contaminants into the northern Alberta watershed.
(With additional reporting by Jeffrey Jones in Calgary;
editing by Peter Galloway)