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Communist Party-Alberta Statement on the Forest Fire Emergency


Even as recent rains have helped in reducing the number of fires from 97 to 88 between Monday and Tuesday afternoon,  as of this afternoon there are still 24 out-of-control,  with 12 evacuation orders affecting indigenous communities, towns and whole counties,  and more than 24,000 Albertans forced to flee from their homes.   The province‚Äôs resources to fight the fires are overwhelmed,  and firefighters from other regions and the military have been called on to help.    
The CP-A expresses its concern for those immediately affected,  but we must also underline that the trend is unmistakable - fire season is beginning earlier and the danger is growing from year to year in Alberta,  and this corresponds with more fires, more floods,  more killer heat waves on a world-wide scale.   It would be absurd to pretend that this is not climate change going on before our very eyes.
It becomes more urgent every day to put the breaks on green house gas emissions and mitigate the damage already done.   For Alberta to do its share in protecting itself and the rest of the world from worse catastrophes,  we must massively restructure our economy to break our dependence on fossil fuel extraction.   
Fortunately,  Alberta has abundance of resources to convert to wind and solar power,  and the conversion could be a massive source of jobs as well - the transition to a green economy will be challenging,  but there is no reason not to anticipate an economic boom if we do so wholeheartedly.
But what it will take is the political will.   We call on the labour movement and all those concerned with environmental health, indigenous rights, and the prosperity and well-being of Albertans to break the stranglehold of the energy corporations on the economy and the politics of Alberta, to demand that the incoming government impose a fair tax burden on the windfall profits of energy corporations, reverse the enormous subsidies that have gone into fossil fuel extraction over decades, to make use of the accumulated experience of our energy sector workers and the enormous wealth accumulated by the companies who exploit them,  convert our energy base,  retrofit and build new green housing,  develop a green transportation system and greatly improve our health, education and social services.

Communist Party-Alberta Statement on Orphan Wells, Tailings Ponds, and the Environment

As of 2020,  of the 17,500 orphaned and abandoned wells in the two provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan,  15,700 still needed to be plugged and reclaimed. Between 2017 and 2022 the number of orphaned wells in both provinces grew at a rate of 35 per cent each year. Why is this important? Because Alberta's and Saskatchewan's unplugged and inactive wells produce an average of 16,000 metric tonnes of methane gas a year.  Methane is one of the worst greenhouse gases, aside from other effects on health. Methane can have up to 86 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 20 year period and 34 times the impact over a 100 year period. These are completely unnecessary emissions.   The federal government gave one billion to the province to clean up orphan wells with the intention of employing energy sector workers who were unemployed during COVID, and appreciating that oil prices were low. But without strings attached, this money did not go to wells that were insolvent. A joint study by Oxfam and the Parkland institute has since concluded that the funding failed to move the needle on orphan well cleanup. Just under one half of the traceable funds in Alberta went to financially viable companies who would have been obligated to clean them anyway. As a result, the report said, there likely won't be enough funding left to clean up the province's actual orphan wells. That is utterly disgusting.
Federal environment minister Steven Guilbeault has announced that his government is developing regulations that would allow for so called treated tailings wastewater to be drained into the Athabasca River as early as 2025 when the current pond will run out of capacity.  How are these tailings supposed to be treated?  Keepers of the Water science adviser Paul Belanger has pointed out that tailing waste was recognized as a big problem in the 70's and 90's. Scientists in the Alberta Oil Sands Research Authority (AOSTRA) were seriously looking at solutions. Patents were applied for related to workable solutions. Under Ralph Klein, who was known for giving to industry what they wanted, AOSTRA was reorganized and became a government department which is now called Alberta innovates. Independent research was lost and the work on tailing pond reduction and treatment was no longer on the agenda. Research was then directed by industry in this new research arm.  Klein also reduced royalties.
Over ten years ago the Stelmach government came up with a directive to start cleaning up the tailings ponds. Industry said it was too hard and too expensive so they would not comply. The next Alberta premier cancelled the directive. The tailings ponds continue to grow in size. There was no direction by any level of government. When the Communist Party talks about the state and business being married and one and the same in state monopoly capitalism there is no better example.
The oil companies are really running things here,  and their only objective is profits. Alberta - Northern Alberta in particular -  is a trash bin to be thrown away along with all that live there, animals and humans. Essentially we are the garbage. Capitalism knows no other logic but the bottom line. This is where corporate competition leads us. The industry designed program to obtain yet more subsidies to supposedly tackle the orphan well problem, RSTAR,  is simply an extension of this atrocious record. With these examples of theft and deceit we have to ask, did we elect them to rob us?

The Communist Party - Alberta proposes an Oil Marketing Board as a method of getting some control of this environmental vacuum. All fossil fuel will be sold to the Board which will sell it at the highest price possible. Prices for oil paid to producers will be reduced by the costs of clean up and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition the marketing board will help fund a green transition to more renewable energy sources in solar, wind and geothermal. The companies will find environmentally dangerous fossil fuel products unprofitable.
The Alberta Energy Regulator, which is basically the industry regulating itself, should be eliminated and replaced with a regulator that is under democratic control through elected officials.
Indigenous people have been victimized by the destruction of their sources of food and water through spills and leaks. This has shown up in some communities with high rates of unusual cancers. In our program we pledge to respect existing Indigenous treaty rights as well as self-government/ self-determination, environmental protection, and economic development including Indigenous land rights.   Indigenous communities should be equal partners in controlling the whole process of protecting the environment including hiring the monitors.
As workers we have created all the wealth that the oil companies have in their possession. We have been left with a poorer environment, an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, an increase in fires, and a potentially even more polluted water system when these tailings are dumped.
All Albertans should benefit from the wealth we as workers create.

 
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