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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach on Wednesday in Ottawa. ((Susan Walsh/Associated Press))

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach said that the challenges about developing the oilsands were discussed during "open and candid" talks with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday night.

Stelmach and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall joined Pelosi and federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice at a dinner in Ottawa.

"Speaker Pelosi and I had an open and candid discussion and it was acknowledged that the development of the oilsands has its challenges," Stelmach said in a statement. "I impressed upon her that Alberta is taking the necessary steps to balance energy security with environmental responsibility and economic growth.

"I also reinforced that Alberta considers the U.S. to be a strong ally and close friend that shares the same democratic principles and environmental values," Stelmach said. "It was also of value to be supported by my New West Partnership colleague Premier Brad Wall, to help illustrate the importance of oilsands development to all of Canada."

Pelosi said that the discussion confirmed that the U.S. and Canada "share a strong commitment to addressing climate change and energy security."

"We share much more than a border, and with respect to our energy future, we are in the same boat," she said in a statement.

"Our discussion focused on more than the oilsands issue; we discussed the need for aggressive research and development on renewable energy and conservation technology.  Our mutual clean-energy goals will drive innovation and create millions of jobs on both sides of the border."

Groups rap Stelmach for defending oilsands

Earlier, several environmental groups accused Stelmach of "misleading" Pelosi and Rep. Ed Markey, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives select committee on energy independence and global warming, about environmental accomplishments in the Alberta oilsands.

"His comments seem particularly galling given that his government was recently caught out on one of its core lines of defence of the tar sands industry," said Rick Smith of the group Environmental Defence.

Stelmach had said he would be informing Pelosi about the jobs the oilsands create, the tax dollars they raise, and the energy security they provide, offering a reliable oil supply on the North American continent.

He had said he would also remind Pelosi that Canada is now the largest supplier of energy into the U.S. market.

Speakers parade

The G8 speakers are gathering in Ottawa for a conference. Who are they? The CBC's Kady O'Malley explains in her Inside Politics blog.

Wall had said he would show Pelosi that Saskatchewan has put money behind its goal to reduce carbon emissions from energy production.

"We're also concerned about environmental sustainability of energy production, and more than concerned about it, more than capping and trading it, we're going to invest dollars to try to find the solutions," he said.

Pelosi is not doing media interviews during her visit, but said in a written statement ahead of the meetings that she wants to learn more about Canada's oilsands.

"We come to learn and listen at a time where the debate in Canada continues over oilsands and the future of energy security in North America," she said.

Markey, who is also a co-author of an environmental bill working its way through the U.S. Senate, accompanied her on the trip.

Oilsands' toll on birds underestimated: scientists

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About a dozen protesters gather on Parliament Hill to demonstrate against the Alberta oilsands in Ottawa on Wednesday. Their demonstration coincides with a visit to the capital by Nancy Pelosi, one of the most powerful lawmakers in the United States, to discuss the oilsands with premiers and federal officials. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

The meetings come as attacks mount against the oilsands. Most recently, a report released Tuesday in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology suggests birds are likely dying in Alberta oilsands tailings ponds at a rate that is at least 30 times higher than that suggested by the oil industry.

Environmentalists in the U.S. have been campaigning against Alberta's oilsands, launching ads this summer urging Americans to reconsider any vacation plans to the province.

Stelmach's meeting with Pelosi is one of a series of meetings set up by U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson. Pelosi will also meet with Quebec Premier Jean Charest, as well as environmental groups and First Nations.

Smith said he plans to tell Pelosi in his scheduled meeting with her on Thursday that the United States can play a role in cleaning up the oilsands.

"That's going to have to come partially as a result of the largest customer of the tar sands — and that is the United States — demanding that the industry do better," he said.

Pelosi is in Ottawa in advance of Thursday's G8 speakers conference, hosted by House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken.

With files from The Canadian Press