A central tenet of industrial development is the polluter-pays principle: Those who profit must pay for the mess generated by pulling resources from the ground or turning raw materials into goods. If you want to own the upside, you’ve got to own the downside.
This principle is widely agreed upon, yet through decades of development, everyone knows it has not always been the rule. There are many examples. Take the Giant Mine, near Yellowknife.
It was one of Canada’s oldest gold mines, but after trading through various corporate hands numerous times, the last owner went bust and left behind 237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide. Giant is part of a $2.2-billion taxpayer-funded cleanup of eight abandoned northern mines that will take 15 years.
A shift began in the late 1990s. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999 enshrined the polluter-pays principle. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favour of the Quebec government against Imperial Oil in a polluter-pays case.
For the rest of this editorial: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/editorials/article-the-oil-sands-have-a-future-and-it-includes-polluter-pays/