Alberta to establish arm’s-length environmental monitoring agency; work to begin in the oil sands region
18 October 2012
The government of Alberta (Canada) will build what it calls the most comprehensive environmental monitoring program in Canada with the establishment of a new arm’s-length environmental monitoring agency. The new science-based agency will begin work in the oil sands region and will focus on what is monitored, how it’s monitored and where it’s monitored. This will include integrated and coordinated monitoring of land, air, water and biodiversity.
Following the key recommendation of the independent Environmental Monitoring Working Group report released by the Alberta government, the agency is to be built on credible science, research and data collection. A management board named by Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Diana McQueen will immediately begin work to set up the new agency.
The work of the six-member management board will focus on how the new science-based agency will operate, long-term funding options and establishing a Science Advisory Board to provide input and advice on monitoring efforts. The initial focus of the new agency will be on the Lower Athabasca area with the ability to expand to the rest of the province.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) supports the establishment of the provincial monitoring agency, said CAPP vice-president David Pryce.
This is an important mechanism to further the implementation of scientifically credible monitoring which can be used to confirm and assure responsible development.—David Pryce
The work of the management board will be supported through Environment and Sustainable Resource Development’s operating budget. Funding for the management board’s work for the remainder of this fiscal year could be up to one million dollars and an estimated $3 - $5 million for next year (2013/14).
While the new agency is being established, environmental monitoring in the oil sands region will continue to be led through a joint federal-provincial program announced in February. To date, that program has added new water quality sites on the Athabasca River and Muskeg River system; increased air monitoring by adding more sampling sites; and, improved bio-diversity monitoring to include all oil sands producing areas. Up to $50 million a year is being provided by industry in the region to support the joint federal-provincial environmental monitoring plan.
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