Edmonton

Alberta NDP leader calls for resumption of environmental monitoring at oil and gas sites

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley is calling on the government to resume all environmental monitoring after three First Nations filed an appeal with the Alberta Energy Regulator. 

Most monitoring suspended in response to public health concerns of COVID-19, AEC says

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley wants the AER to immediately resume environmental monitoring of oil and gas projects. (Alberta NDP )

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley is calling on the Alberta government to resume all environmental monitoring after three First Nations filed an appeal of the suspension with the Alberta Energy Regulator. 

The Athabasca Chipewyan, Fort McKay and Mikisew Cree First Nations say the Alberta Energy Regulator failed to consult with them on last month's decision to suspend many environmental monitoring requirements.

 The AER said the suspensions, which affect oil sands and in situ mines, and conventional oil and gas projects, were in response to public health concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The leaders of the First Nations say they learned of the suspensions through media reports.

Notley told the legislature on Monday the AER  is "riding roughshod" over the constitutionally-protected rights of Treaty 8 First Nations by not providing prior notice. 

"When their lawyers asked the AER for copies of the documents that generated the decision to suspend monitoring they were told nothing was written down," she said. 

"This kind of back-of-the-napkin deal making will generate years of litigation and cost our economy billions of dollars in reputational damage. To the premier, will he direct the resumption of environmental monitoring immediately?"

Premier Jason Kenney responded his government would not override a decision of the AER. 

"No Mr Speaker, we will not replicate the NDP tendency to interfere in independent decisions," Kenney said.

Some of the suspensions instituted by the AER end on Sept. 30, but many others have no restart date.

Some of the monitoring subject to the suspension includes most soil and groundwater monitoring, most surface water testing, and wildlife monitoring near in-situ oilsands operations. 

The First Nations say it isn't clear to them how remote activities like wildlife monitoring could be risky during a pandemic. 

With files from The Canadian Press

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