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Careful of which line to cross

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - Updated: 6:51 PM

American environmental groups that have blocked domestic oil development are raising the ire of Canadians for trying to limit drilling in their oil-rich western provinces.

President Barack Obama denied a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that would have brought oil from Canada to Texas. There was opposition from environmental groups to the project, even though the southern leg of the line from Oklahoma to the Texas Gulf had already been approved. But environmental groups in the United States are also lobbying against drilling in areas such as the 54,000-square-mile Athabasca oil sand fields of Alberta, USA Today reported.

Athabasca comprises the largest oil fields in Canada, but environmentalists fear that the corrosive nature of the oil puts it at higher risk of causing leaks.

Environmentalists object to increased oil development, arguing that it could deter investment in alternative wind or solar energy and make it more difficult to combat global warming. "If expansion of tar sands goes unchecked, it will be impossible to reach our goals to reduce global-warming pollution, and will have serious impacts for both people and wildlife," the U.S. National Wildlife Federation said.

While welcomed by some Canadians, others accuse U.S.-based groups and foundations of illegally funding anti-drilling groups.

"This is the story of American interference in Canada under the guise of charity," Vivian Krause, a Vancouver researcher, told USA Today. Among the groups cited for interference were the U.S. Tides Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Canadian leaders say they will instead push for development of a "Northern Gateway" pipeline that would send the oil to Asia rather than the United States, which imports more oil from Canada than from any other country. "Certain people in the United States would like to see Canada be one giant national park for the northern half of North America," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Canadian government is also funding auditors to investigate some charities, which are prohibited from engaging in partisan politics and limited in what they can do to influence public-policy decisions.

U.S. environmentalists seeking to influence Canadian policy will need to be wary of crossing that line.

-- The Batavia Daily News


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