An international group of ethical funds with investments in Alberta's oilsands is concerned the industry's environmental performance could be creating financial risk.

"We recognize the economic significance of the resource," the group says in a statement to be released Monday.

"But (we) are concerned that the current approach to development, particularly the management of the environmental and social impacts, threatens the long-term viability of the oilsands as an investment."

The statement is signed by 49 funds.

Some are controlled by labour and church groups, such as the United Church of Canada and the Canadian Labour Congress. There are also public-sector pension funds from both sides of the border and private funds from Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

Together, they control about $2 trillion, some of which is invested in companies active in the oilsands. Their statement was co-ordinated and released by the Boston-based group Ceres, which works to advance environmental causes through the financial sector.

The funds say the oilsands industry is not reducing its greenhouse gas emissions or its water use fast enough. They're concerned about the lack of information on land reclamation liabilities and worry about lawsuits from aboriginal groups.

"We're certainly not claiming that the industry is ignoring these issues," said Andrew Logan of Ceres. "What we're saying is that we need to dramatically speed up the pace of innovation."

Ceres considers greenhouse gas emissions a risk because the industry's rosy forecasts of U.S. export growth don't account for the potential impact of low-carbon fuel standards, now under consideration or implemented in 14 U.S. states.

Ceres estimated in 2010 that if such regulations eventually cover half of the U.S. market, the export potential for oilsands crude would be reduced by 25 per cent. If such regulations were implemented federally, markets for the oilsands fuel could shrink by a third.

"Most companies don't really have targets around reducing their greenhouse gas emissions or their water use," Logan said. "What we're looking for is specifics."

Dan Wicklum of Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance said his recently formed group of 12 major oilsands producers is starting to do just that.

"Companies certainly want to push themselves," he said. "We're just developing the process that we would use to engage and set our goals ... The companies have committed to set a goal."

The funds also say industry hasn't released enough information about how much it will cost to clean up after itself.

"Disclosure by oilsands companies of reclamation costs has been poor," says the statement.

Alberta's auditor general has pointed out the amount of money salted away for reclamation is inadequate and the statement says unaccounted reclamation liabilities could reach $33 billion by 2025 — liabilities that could fall to investors.

Janet Annesley of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers denied investors are at risk.

"Reclamation plans are in place before any project operations may commence and liabilities are fully funded by oil sands mine operators at all times through cash, assets or a combination of both," she wrote in an email.

The statement adds legal threats from aboriginal groups, such as the constitutional challenge recently filed against Shell's proposed Jackpine mine expansion, have been growing.

"The risk of a court ruling in their favour is increasing and could lead to the suspension of an oilsands project," it says.

Annesley also downplayed that risk.

"Oil sands development does not go ahead without direct and meaningful Aboriginal consultation," she wrote.

"Oil sands operators will continue to work with governments and Aboriginal groups to clarify the consultation and accommodation process for the benefit of all parties over the longer term."

Wicklum said his group has already been in contact with Ceres about its concerns.

"When I take a look at what they're asking for, it's really exactly what the industry wants —meaningful engagement with stakeholders," he said. "We've committed to set regional environmental performance goals, to listen and to respond and accelerate the pace of environmental performance improvement."

The fact that Wicklum's group exists at all is a step forward, said Logan.

"The problems in the oilsands are really beyond the ability of any one company to solve," he said. "The formation of COSIA does suggest to me there's a real appetite to put real resources into these problems in a way that wasn't the case a couple of years ago.

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  • 10. Oil And Gas Accounts For 4.8 Per Cent Of GDP

    The oil and gas industries accounted for around $65 billion of economic activity in Canada annually in recent years, or slightly less than 5 per cent of GDP. Source: <a href="http://www.ceri.ca/docs/2010-10-05CERIOilandGasReport.pdf" target="_hplink">Canada Energy Research Institute</a>

  • 9. Oil Exports Have Grown Tenfold Since 1980

    Canada exported some 12,000 cubic metres of oil per day in 1980. By 2010, that number had grown to 112,000 cubic metres daily. Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=9&SheetID=224" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>

  • 8. Refining Didn't Grow At All As Exports Boomed

    Canada refined 300,000 cubic metres daily in 1980; in 2010, that number was slightly down, to 291,000, even though exports of oil had grown tenfold in that time. Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=7&SheetID=104" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>

  • 7. 97 Per Cent Of Oil Exports Go To The U.S.

    Despite talk by the federal government that it wants to open Asian markets to Canadian oil, the vast majority of exports still go to the United States -- 97 per cent as of 2009. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>

  • 6. Canada Has World's 2nd-Largest Proven Oil Reserves

    Canada's proven reserves of 175 billion barrels of oil -- the vast majority of it trapped in the oil sands -- is the second-largest oil stash in the world, after Saudi Arabia's 267 billion. Source: <a href="http://www.ogj.com/index.html" target="_hplink">Oil & Gas Journal</a>

  • 5. Two-Thirds Of Oil Sands Bitumen Goes To U.S.

    One-third of Canada's oil sands bitumen stays in the country, and is refined into gasoline, heating oil and diesel. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>

  • 4. Alberta Is Two-Thirds Of The Industry

    Despite its reputation as the undisputed centre of Canada's oil industry, Alberta accounts for only two-thirds of energy production. British Columbia and Saskatchewan are the second and third-largest producers. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>

  • 3. Alberta Will Reap $1.2 Trillion From Oil Sands

    Alberta' government <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/27/alberta-oil-sands-royalties-ceri_n_1382640.html" target="_hplink">will reap $1.2 trillion in royalties from the oil sands over the next 35 years</a>, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute.

  • 2. Canadian Oil Consumption Has Stayed Flat

    Thanks to improvements in energy efficiency, and a weakening of the country's manufacturing base, oil consumption in Canada has had virtually no net change in 30 years. Consumption went from 287,000 cubic metres daily in 1980 to 260,000 cubic metres daily in 2010. Source: Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=6&SheetID=99" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>

  • 1. 250,000 Jobs.. Plus Many More?

    The National Energy Board says oil and gas employs 257,000 people in Canada, not including gas station employees. And the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says the oil sands alone <a href="http://www.capp.ca/aboutUs/mediaCentre/NewsReleases/Pages/OilsandsaCanadianjobcreator.aspx" target="_hplink">will grow from 75,000 jobs to 905,000 jobs by 2035</a> -- assuming, of course, the price of oil holds up.



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