Alberta, Ottawa to release review on oilsands monitoring program

Program was due to have been fully implemented by the end of last year, but uncertainties with it remain

Jason Franson/CP

Jason Franson/CP

EDMONTON – The first review of environmental monitoring set up by Alberta and Ottawa in the oilsands region is expected to be released today.

The independent review is to assess how effective the program has been in measuring the impact of industry development. It is also to lay out how well the jointly run program is tracking changes in the area.

The program, funded by $50 million from industry, was set up in 2012 after intense criticism of how the Alberta government was doing the job. It was designed by federal and Alberta scientists and is run by both levels of government.

It was supposed to have been fully implemented by the end of last year, but uncertainties with the program remain.

It lacks involvement from local First Nations, who pulled out in protest over what they say was inadequate attention to their environmental concerns.

There are also questions about whether the program’s funding is adequate. A mobile air-testing unit had to be pulled off the road when it was decided there wasn’t enough money in the budget to pay for repairs.

Officials with Alberta’s monitoring agency have said the organization has only been fully operational for about a year and is still evaluating the real cost of comprehensive and scientifically sound monitoring in the oilsands region and the rest of Alberta.

The new program was initiated after scientific studies indicated that, while overall levels remained low, contaminants in the land and water around oilsands developments were increasing.

Two peer reviews, as well as an expert scientific panel from the Royal Society of Canada, were also harshly critical.

Jim Prentice, federal environment minister at the time, pressured the Alberta government to change its approach.

The new oilsands program is administered by the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluating and Reporting Agency. That agency is eventually to conduct environmental monitoring over the entire province.


Alberta, Ottawa to release review on oilsands monitoring program

  1. All this talk of “monitoring” smacks of the “tragedy of the commons” that has already played out in Canada — the cod fishery of the once Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

    Sure, its a trillion dollar industry — but what are we going to do with that money when we’ve unsustainably depleted a very essential non-negotiable Canadian resource? We can’t sell oil if we’re dying of thirst.

    There needs to be a balance in innovations in controlling pollutants, that is, balanced with innovations in understanding what happens to all that WATER downstream that seems to cover an expansive area, if any lesson has been learned from that collapsed ecosystem in the North Atlantic.

    The locals aren’t getting enough credit in this piece.

  2. Scientists criticizing scientists…what a surprise. How do you think all those articles get pulled out of all those scholarly journals after being initially published? Now it is Notley who isn’t doing a good enough job and the scientists who whined that Harper told them to shut up aren’t doing a good job. When are the the smart scientists who cured illnesses and made incredible scientific breakthroughs through Harper but were suppressed and told to shut up going to come out and tell their stories?

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