Letter asks Ottawa to force Alberta to reinstate oilpatch monitoring

Letter asks Ottawa to force Alberta to reinstate oilpatch monitoring

EDMONTON — A dozen conservation and Indigenous groups have written federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson asking him to force the Alberta government to reinstate environmental monitoring in the province’s oilpatch.

“We feel the federal government does have something at risk here,” said Gillian Chow-Fraser of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, one of the groups that signed the letter sent Tuesday.

The province’s energy regulator decided earlier this spring that companies no longer have to live up to a wide array of environmental monitoring requirements that are a condition of their licences.

The suspensions include air, water, land and wildlife measures. Most have no end date.

The regulator says the decision was made to protect workers and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chow-Fraser said the suspensions will affect Wood Buffalo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site downstream from Alberta’s oilsands. Federal assessments have already acknowledged the park is under threat and UNESCO has warned that the park’s status could be endangered if environmental problems aren’t addressed in a federal action plan.

“That action plan references all these provincial regulations and regulatory bodies that the plan said should protect the park,” Chow-Fraser said. “Those are the exact regulations that have been unilaterally suspended.”

The signatories want Wilkinson to urge Alberta to end the suspensions and find out how they may have affected ongoing work at Wood Buffalo. They also want him to withhold any pandemic-related aid to the province’s energy industry until the suspensions end.

The groups include the Fort Chipewyan Metis Association, the Northwest Territory Metis Nation and the Smith’s Landing First Nation. Environmental groups include the Alberta Wilderness Association. The mayor of Fort Resolution, N.W.T., has also signed.

Other area First Nations are in favour of the letter.

“We do support it,” said Melody Lepine of the Mikisew Cree.

Wilkinson’s office wasn’t immediately available for comment.

In an email sent Tuesday, the Alberta Energy Regulator said the suspensions could come off as early as Aug. 15 if two ministerial orders from the province’s energy and environment departments are left to expire.

It said that figures supplied by industry suggest that between 95 and 98 per cent of environmental regulations remain in place.

It also said Alberta’s chief scientist, Fred Wrona, believes the suspensions won’t harm the long-term quality of the province’s monitoring data.

Chow-Fraser said waiting for the United Conservative government to decide when monitoring will resume isn’t good enough.

“That’s nice to hear, but we still don’t have any certainty on that.

“They are very vague suspensions. There are no deadlines. We don’t have any certainty that it won’t be several months, half a year, a year.”

Earlier this week, three different northern Alberta First Nations filed a request to appeal the regulator’s decision to suspend monitoring. Their request points out First Nations weren’t consulted, despite the decision’s impacts on their treaty rights.

It also says the suspensions were made without any rationale linking specific activities to COVID-19 risks and despite work continuing at energy facilities. It adds the hold on monitoring came weeks after the province declared a state of emergency over the pandemic and just as Alberta was starting to ease its lockdown.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 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

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City and County of Wetaskiwin reporting active cases

Both the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin have active cases.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

Most Read