June 20, 2017 4:52 pm

Former head of oilsands advisory group regrets ‘Mordor’ comparison: ‘it wasn’t productive’

Environmental activist Tzeporah Berman.

Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press/File

The former head of the Alberta Oilsands Advisory Group (OSAG) is backtracking on her comments comparing Alberta’s oilsands to Mordor.

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Tzephorah Berman’s comparison of the oilsands to the fictional land of fire and death mentioned in the Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein didn’t sit well with many Albertans when she was appointed the head of the OSAG in July 2016.

READ MORE: Alberta names oilsands climate advisory panel

While appearing on the Ryan Jespersen Show on 630 CHED Tuesday morning, Berman said she regretted the comparison.

“Let’s be clear, it is a huge industrial project and there are lots of concerns but, at the same time, this is difficult stuff,” she said. “It wasn’t productive.”

“I’ve been working hard over the last year to figure out how to be honest about my concerns, but also respectful about the difficult position folks are in who do work in this industry.”

LISTEN: Tzephorah Berman speaks with 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen

The backlash was swift against Berman with Albertans and members of opposition parties calling for her resignation.

“It’s been a hard year. You see a lot of attacks on Twitter, but what people don’t see are people reaching out to create common ground, to create conversations,” she said.

“It doesn’t mean I don’t have concerns, but I think there’s a way to have concerns…where we do it in a way that is respectful of folks who are working in the industry.”

READ MORE: COMMENTARY: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s pandering to environmentalists has backfired

Last week it was revealed that Berman would be stepping down from the OSAG at the end of the month, approximately one year into her original two-year term. The government called the move a “mutual decision.”

“I have a lot of respect for the people who are at the table,” Berman said. “You have people who are working hard with integrity and the culture that’s being created at that table is something I’ve never seen before. It really is a respectful dialogue on differences.”

READ MORE: Alberta Oil Sands Advisory Group co-chair’s departure a ‘mutual decision’: government

In addition to Berman, former Greenpeace Canada managing director Karen Mahon, CPAWS Northern Alberta executive director Alison Ronson, Shell Canada’s Christa Seaman, and Lloyd Visser from ConocoPhillips will be departing from the advisory group.

With files from John Himpe, Newstalk 770


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