PLANT

Environmental monitoring panel operational by 2014, Alberta says

The proposed Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency still has no leaders, scientific advisers or permanent funding mechanism.

October 30, 2013   by The Canadian Press

EDMONTON – The pressure is on for the Alberta government to get its long-promised environmental monitoring panel running, says one of the government’s advisers on the project.

“I hope that act gets passed in the next two weeks,” Howard Tennant said earlier this week, after the Alberta government introduced legislation to create the arm’s-length monitoring agency.

“That starts the process,” said Tennant, who led the advisory panel on the agency’s creation. “If it doesn’t, we’re in deep trouble.”

Tennant said Alberta’s oilsands customers are watching closely to see how serious the government is about ensuring the province’s resources are developed responsibly.

“(US President Barack) Obama’s not all crazy in this area and the State Department is holding the world (up) to say there has to be some standards there,” said Tennant, referring to American hesitation about approving pipelines that would take Alberta bitumen south.

The federal government is concerned enough to have tendered a contract to buy $18 million worth of international advertising to reassure potential trading partners about Canadian environmental policies.

The proposed Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency has no leaders, scientific advisers or permanent funding mechanism.

First Nations say they’ve been left out of the process. One group has already announced it won’t participate in the government’s oilsands monitoring and another is dissatisfied.

Environment Minister Diana McQueen knows there’s a lot to do to get the agency on its feet by the government’s announced target of early 2014.

“It is an aggressive timeline, but we’re pretty certain we can meet that.”

McQueen added finding the right people to run the agency will be the biggest challenge.

The agency would be likely to receive up to $15 million a year from the province as it took over functions from Alberta Environment, in addition to $50 million the oilpatch has agreed to pay for three years.

McQueen acknowledged the agency won’t have much credibility if local people and aboriginals aren’t supportive.

“We do additional consultation with aboriginals and Metis because it is a special relationship,” she said.

©The Canadian Press


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