Bloomberg News

Canada, Alberta to Outline Oil Sands Monitoring Program

February 02, 2012

(Updates with environmental group comment in fourth paragraph.)

Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) -- The government of Canada and the province of Alberta will outline its program for monitoring the environmental impact of the oil sands industry, an Alberta environment ministry spokeswoman said.

Federal environment minister Peter Kent and his Alberta counterpart, Diana McQueen, will make an announcement tomorrow in Edmonton, the provincial capital, the federal environment ministry said in a statement on its website today. The briefing will address oil sands scrutiny, said Alberta environment ministry spokeswoman Jessica Potter, without providing further details.

A panel, co-chaired by former TransCanada Corp. Chief Executive Officer Hal Kvisle, was appointed in January 2011 by the provincial government to make recommendations on how to improve efforts to track air and water pollution caused by oil sands development. The advisers made 20 recommendations, including the establishment of a new monitoring system, integration between provincial and federal agencies and a publicly-accessible data management program.

“It’s essential that this be an independent body,” Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema said in a phone interview. “We can’t have the federal or provincial governments running this because there’s a credibility problem. It’s good to have more data, but not if it has to go through the spin machine first.”

Exxon Mobil Corp. and Suncor Energy Inc. are among the companies extracting bitumen from the province’s oil sands. The industry has come under greater scrutiny as investment increases by about C$20 billion ($20 billion) annually. Bitumen mining creates toxic waste ponds and causes the destruction of forests and animal habitats, in addition to growing greenhouse gas emissions, the Pembina Institute, a Canadian environmental group, said in a report in 2011.

Energy producers have invested C$123 billion in Canada’s oil sands since 1997, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute. CERI predicts that these companies will invest a further C$137 billion by 2020 to tap into the 173 billion barrels of estimated reserves.

Adam Sweet, a spokesman for Kent, declined to provide more information on tomorrow’s briefing when contacted by Bloomberg News.

--With assistance from Andrew Mayeda in Ottawa . Editors: Aaron Sheldrick, Baldave Singh

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeremy van Loon in Calgary at jvanloon@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan Warren at susanwarren@bloomberg.net


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