Alberta Energy Regulator suspends environment monitoring for oilpatch over COVID

Alberta Energy Regulator suspends environment monitoring for oilpatch over COVID

CALGARY — Recent environmental monitoring exemptions for the oilsands have been broadened to include Alberta’s entire energy industry.

The Alberta Energy Regulator says the decisions, posted Wednesday on its website, are in response to public-health concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

They were made to protect those doing the monitoring and the communities they work in, said the regulator’s vice-president, Martin Foy.

“These activities were moving a lot of people from jurisdictions that maybe were a higher risk to smaller communities and potentially putting those communities at risk,” he said Thursday.

“We have assessed the risk associated with the suspensions and found it to be very low.”

The list of suspensions is long.

Companies no longer have to monitor fumes released by burning, or look for and repair leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Surface waters need no longer be tested, unless they escape into the environment — and that water need no longer be tested in a lab.

Soil and groundwater monitoring is gone, “with the exception of any monitoring that is necessary to protect human health and ecological receptors,” the decisions say.

Those efforts must resume by Sept. 30, the only suspensions with a sunset date.

“We didn’t want to create an expectation amongst industry that (the suspensions) couldn’t be lifted at any time,” said Foy.

In-situ oilsands operations no longer have to conduct any wildlife monitoring, including research programs and population estimates. That includes remotely operated monitoring, although bird deterrents must remain in place.

“These are events that require contractors from outside of Alberta going up to the facilities, installing the equipment and maintaining the equipment,” Foy said.

Reclamation and wetland monitoring is also suspended, as are research requirements.

The Opposition New Democrats suggested the pandemic was being used as a cover for changes the industry has long sought.

“This has nothing to do with COVID-19,” said environment critic Marlin Schmidt. “This is a sneaky and underhanded attempt by Jason Kenney and his UCP government to push their outdated and extreme ideological agenda forward under the shadow of a pandemic.”

Foy denied that charge.

“I would 100 per cent say that isn’t the case.”

Mel Grandjamb, chief of the Fort McKay First Nation, said earlier this month that the oilsands decision was made without consultation, despite his band being in the middle of the region.

The federal and Ontario governments have suspended requirements to report data because of COVID-19, but it must still be collected.

Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada has said his group isn’t aware of any other jurisdiction in the world that has gone as far as Alberta to roll back environmental protections during the pandemic, including the United States under President Donald Trump.

Foy suggested that’s because Alberta’s monitoring requirements are more stringent than elsewhere.

“We have requirements at the AER that are world-leading. Other jurisdictions might not have the same.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2020

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton. Follow @row1960 on Twitter

The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Just Posted

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Alberta reports 100 new cases of COVID-19

The Central zone sits at 218 active cases

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

(Black Press File Photo)
Sylvan Lake RCMP charge youth with weapons offences

The public helped to identify the individual involved in an incident at the pier earlier this month

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

Most Read