Environmental monitoring for the oilsands is expected to resume July 15, 2020. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

N.W.T. ignored in Alberta monitoring suspension despite agreement: leaked emails

Omission revealed between governments

EDMONTON — Alberta suspended environmental monitoring for oilsands companies without notifying the Northwest Territories, despite a legally binding agreement to do so.

The omission is revealed in a series of emails between the two governments obtained by The Canadian Press.

“We have been made aware … that the Alberta Energy Regulator has indefinitely suspended several environmental monitoring requirements for major oilsands producers,” wrote Erin Kelly, the N.W.T.’s deputy environment minister to her Alberta counterpart.

“Do you have any information that can be shared about this?”

The May 15 email was written more than a week after Alberta’s regulator suspended a wide array of monitoring over what it said were public-health concerns raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kelly said her government learned about the move from news reports.

Ten days later, Kelly had not received a response.

“This is concerning to many N.W.T. residents, who still maintain subsistence lifestyles,” she wrote May 25.

“With COVID-19 we have even more residents relying on food harvested from the land and it is almost certain that concerns related to reduced monitoring upstream will be brought up during (the upcoming legislative) session.”

Monitoring is expected to resume Wednesday.

The N.W.T. is downstream from the oilsands and in 2015 signed an agreement with Alberta that spelled out clear responsibilities on information-sharing, notification and consultation for cross-boundary waters.

In her second email, Kelly points to that deal.

“The (territory) has not been informed of or discussed new changes to monitoring as per (the agreement). I have yet to receive a response to my last email.”

An Alberta Environment and Parks email shows Kelly’s second note provoked an “urgent” request within the department for a response to her concerns.

In answer to a request for an explanation for the lack of consultation, Alberta’s United Conservative government provided a one-sentence email.

“There have been ongoing discussions and information-sharing with the N.W.T. on the status of ambient water quality monitoring at sites referenced in the Alberta-N.W.T. Bilateral Agreement throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, starting in March,” wrote Alberta Environment spokesman John Muir.

Joslyn Oosenbrug, spokeswoman for the N.W.T. Environment Department, said several meetings were held in June to address the territory’s concerns.

“Alberta has committed to sharing information and discussing any changes to monitoring,” she wrote in an email. ”Communication is ongoing, and includes emails and letters exchanged at the deputy minister and ministerial level.”

However, the territory wants a stronger voice in managing water flowing into its land. It wants a seat on several committees that determine how waters will be monitored “to ensure downstream interests are represented,” Oosenbrug wrote.

Marlin Schmidt, environment critic for Alberta’s Opposition New Democrats, said the snub showed a “lack of respect.”

“It’s really disappointing to me to see the government of Alberta is taking its relationship with other Canadians so lightly right now,” he said.

“When our government is complaining about the poor treatment that we’re allegedly getting from other Canadians, we should be treating (them) with the respect with which we expect to be treated.”

The N.W.T. isn’t the only interested group that wasn’t consulted about the suspensions. First Nations in the oilsands area, environmental groups, Alberta’s chief scientist and the scientific consultants who perform monitoring work all say they were left out of the decision.

The government has said the move was made in response to concerns from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers about operators not being able to meet certain monitoring requirements while complying with COVID-19 orders.

Alberta has yet to release work plans or budget for this year’s field season of a joint federal-provincial program responsible for environmental monitoring outside various oilsands leases. Industry, which funds the efforts, has been lobbying heavily for a less extensive and cheaper plan.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2020.

Albertaoil & gas

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

Just Posted

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

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Maskwacis reporting 37 active cases

Numbers current as of Oct. 19

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Photo submitted/ Millet In Bloom
Town of Millet declared Best Blooming Community

The Town of Millet is being recognized for their efforts to meet the challenges of 2020.

Conservative member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre speaks during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals say Tory effort to set up COVID-19 committee will be a confidence matter

The Tories were originally proposing an ‘anticorruption’ committee

File photo
RCMP’s response to online discussions about anti-racism demonstrations

Ponoka RCMP Staff Sgt.’s comments misattributed online

Shaelynn Decock and her dog Taco, who has been missing since Aug. 26. Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake woman looking for closure for her stolen dog

Shaelynn Decock says it has been two months since she last saw her dog Taco

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday February 4, 2020 in Ottawa. The Alberta government is welcoming news that Ottawa has approved an expansion of the Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. gathering system in Alberta — while condemning federal delays that it says cost this summer’s construction season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta welcomes federal approval of gas pipeline expansion while criticizing delay

The project is expected to create up to 2,920 direct jobs during construction, the federal release said

A Tim Hortons employee hands out coffee from a drive-through window to a customer in Mississauga, Ont., on March 17, 2020. Tim Hortons is ending the practice of double cupping hot drinks, a move the fast food restaurant says will eliminate hundreds of millions of cups from landfills each year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
The end of double cupping: Tim Hortons ditches two cups in favour of one with sleeve

Most recycling facilities in Canada don’t recycle single use paper coffee cups because of a plastic lining

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer doctor Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s chief public health doctor says in the age of social media, fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic has been spreading faster than the virus itself. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
VIDEO: Fake news creates serious issues for battling pandemic, chief public health doc says

Both Tam and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to be responsible about the information they share

A narwhal tusk that was donated to a Goodwill store in northwest Calgary this summer will soon be gifted to the Arctic Institute of North America (Hesam Rezaei)
Narwhal tusk discovered in Calgary Goodwill pile to be donated to university

The tusk had federal hunting tags from 1978 attached that say animal was harvested from the central Arctic

(The Canadian Press)
Alberta-raised Cree actor lands role in Disney’s live-action ‘Peter Pan and Wendy’

Tiger Lily is featured in Disney’s 1953 animated “Peter Pan” film

Most Read