Rainforest Action Network Releases Seventy-Foot Banner Over Niagara Falls to 'Welcome' Prime Minister Harper to the U.S.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

CONTACTS: Nell Greenberg, 510.847.9777; Eriel Deranger, 587.785.1558

Hi-res photos, video and interviews with climbers available

Banner: Canadian Tar Sands Oil Undermines North America's Clean Energy Future

Niagara Falls- Three concerned U.S. citizens have just released a vivid 70-foot banner above the Niagara Falls. Just one day before Prime Minister Harper's first official visit to the U.S. to meet with President Obama, the banner is intended to call attention to Harper's efforts to lock up the U.S. market for tar sands oil, and the threat tar sands holds for the climate. Against the dramatic Niagara Falls background, the most well recognized border between the U.S. and Canada, the banner is intended to send the message that Canadian tar sands oil threatens North America's clean energy future. The banner reads: clean energy future with an arrow pointing in one direction, and tar sands oil with an arrow pointing in the other.

During Harper's first official trip to meet Obama in the U.S., the two leaders are expected to discuss climate change and energy policy ahead of the upcoming G20 Summit. Canada supplies 19% of U.S. oil imports, more than half of which now comes from the tar sands, making the region the largest single source of U.S. oil imports. Unconventional tar sands oil is derived from lower-grade, difficult and expensive-to-access raw materials that have enormous consequences for air quality, drinking water and the climate.

"Tar sands oil, the dirtiest oil on Earth, has no place in our clean energy future," said Brant Olson, director of the tar sands campaign for the Rainforest Action Network. "President Obama's meeting with Prime Minister Harper will be a moment of truth. Is President Obama serious about moving the country toward a clean energy economy or will he allow pollution to be piped in from Canada?"

Tar sands oil has serious environmental, climate and human health impacts. Described by the United Nations Environment Program as one of the world's top "environmental hot spots," global warming pollution from tar sands production is three times that of conventional crude oil.

Tomorrow's visit to the U.S. by Prime Minister Harper is the latest attempt by Canadian Federal and Provincial officials to lock in subsidies for 22 new and expanded refinery projects and oil pipelines crisscrossing 28 states, which would transport and process the dirty tar sands oil. Many are concerned that Prime Minister Harper wants to protect the tar sands oil industry from climate regulation, even though it is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

"Climate change, one of the biggest security threats of our time, is something Canada and the United States face together. Extracting tar sands oil, which sends three times more climate-changing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than conventional oil, puts us all at risk," said Eriel Deranger a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Rainforest Action Network's Tar Sands Campaigner in Alberta.

Opposition to tar sands oil has been rising on both sides of the border. Just last month, four Native American and environmental groups sued Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Deputy Secretary James Steinberg and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over Enbridge Energy's Alberta Clipper pipeline. If built, the 1,375 mile pipeline would pump 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Northern Alberta to Midwestern refineries.

"Americans need to know that tar sands oil from Canada will prevent progress on climate change," said Logan Price, one of the lead climbers in today's action. "Expansion of tar sands oil consumption in the U.S. undermines domestic and international efforts to achieve real greenhouse gas emissions reductions."

Canada has no regulations to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and the federal government's climate change plan would allow total pollution from the tar sands to increase almost 70 percent by 2020. Tar sands oil production is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and was recently cited as one of the most important reasons Canada will miss its Kyoto targets by over 30%.

Mining oil from tar sands requires churning up huge tracts of ancient boreal forest and polluting so much clean water with poisonous chemicals that the resulting waste ponds can be seen from outer space. The health impacts to Alberta's First Nation communities are severe, with cancer rates up in some communities as much as 400 times its usual frequency. In addition, as this oil spills into the U.S., communities living near oil refineries face increased air and water pollution from tar sands oil, which contains 11 times more sulfur and nickel and five times more lead than conventional oil.

Despite hopes that carbon capture and storage (CCS) can solve the problem, recent reports commissioned by the Governments of Alberta and Canada show that just a small percentage of the carbon dioxide released in the tar sands could be captured through this expensive and unproven technology.

To follow today's action online through live blogs, video and photos, visit www.ran.org/tarsands. You can also follow the climbers on a live Twitter.com text loop at "follow ran actions". High resolution images and b-roll available upon request.

For quick facts on tar sands and the protest, visit www.ran/org/tarsands


Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break America's addiction to fossil fuels, protect endangered forests and indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org



Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org