First Nations, environmentalists ask for restart of oilpatch monitoring

First Nations, environmentalists ask for restart of oilpatch monitoring

EDMONTON — Seven environmental and Indigenous groups have asked the Alberta government to restart oilpatch monitoring as soon as possible given that other activities are coming out of the COVID-19 shutdown.

In a letter delivered to the Energy and Environment departments Wednesday, the signatories also urge the government to make public its decision-making criteria for when that work will begin again.

“We’re seeking that understanding and a commitment to fully restore (monitoring),” said Chris Severson-Baker of the Pembina Institute, a clean-energy think tank and one of the signatories.

“Restore the requirements or be transparent about what decision-making criteria you’re going to use.”

Last month, the province’s energy regulator suspended a wide array of environmental monitoring requirements in the entire oilpatch that were originally imposed as licence conditions. The regulator said the decisions were made to protect workers and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Companies no longer have to monitor fumes released by burning, or look for and repair leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Surface water need no longer be tested, unless it escapes into the environment.

Most soil and groundwater monitoring is gone. In-situ oilsands operations no longer have to conduct any wildlife monitoring or research. Reclamation and wetland monitoring is also suspended.

Although some operations must resume Sept. 30, most suspensions have no end date.

Severson-Baker said that as the province releases guidelines on how businesses can safely reopen, it should do the same for environmental monitoring.

“They haven’t articulated a plan,” Severson-Baker said.

“Our assumption is that there is a plan. We’re pretty interested in understanding (it).”

He said signatories anticipate being able to comment on it before it’s implemented.

Spokespeople for the Environment and Energy departments did not immediately answer requests for a response.

Severson-Baker said delaying monitoring longer than necessary will have an economic as well as environmental cost.

In addition to concerns it would create among investors, he said, it would keep small consulting firms that do monitoring work from completing contracts out in the field. Other businesses are already opening, he noted.

“We hope the same clearance is extended to these sorts of (monitoring) activities.”

The letter was signed by the Pembina Institute, the Mikisew Cree First Nation, the Fort Chipewyan Metis, the Smith’s Landing First Nation, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Alberta Wilderness Association and the Environmental Law Centre.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 4, 2020

— Follow @row1960 on Twitter

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Albertans get an extra free order of COVID-19 masks

Packages will be available July 13 at fast food restaurants

COVID-19 scare sees Latvia-bound troops turn around, return to Canada

Those on board face another 14 days in isolation

2 dead, 8 hurt in South Carolina nightclub shooting

Police are searching for two suspects

Ponoka RCMP lay charges following home invasion

33-year-old man who arrived on bicycle is in custody

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

‘You have to show up:’ NDP MP questions virtual attendance of Alberta Tories

NDP MP McPherson says she’s disappointed Tory MPs haven’t been participating in virtual meetings

Flood warning, mandatory evacuation for people in remote Alberta hamlet

A flood warning has been issued for the rain-swollen Smoky River near the Hamlet of Watino

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, Amnesty, sex worker advocates say

‘We need to make sure the existing laws on the books aren’t enforced’

Protesters return to St. Louis area where couple drew guns

Protesters return to St. Louis area where couple drew guns

Heavy rain floods southern Japan, leaving over dozen missing

Heavy rain floods southern Japan, leaving over dozen missing

At Rushmore, Trump says protesters seek to ‘defame’ heroes

At Rushmore, Trump says protesters seek to ‘defame’ heroes

First Nations coalition rejects recommendation to lift Sen. Beyak’s suspension

First Nations coalition rejects recommendation to lift Sen. Beyak’s suspension

Most Read