By December 21, 2017 Read More →

Indigenous participation key to renewed oil sands monitoring agreement

Photo: Alberta Environment and Parks.

Some Indigenous communities withdrew from Joint Oil Sands Monitoring agreement in 2014 over treaty rights

Canada and Alberta signed a memorandum of understanding Thursday that renews environmental monitoring of oil sands production in northern Alberta and provides for greater Indigenous involvement in monitoring priorities and decisions.

Catherine McKenna, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, and Shannon Phillips, Alberta minister of environment and parks, said the data will provide objective information to help make evidence-based development decisions for the protection of our environment in the region. Research, data and information generated by the program will be “scientifically credible and publicly available.”

Alberta Minister of Environment and Parks Shannon Phillips.

“We know that protecting the environment and growing the economy are two sides of the same coin and that this will improve responsible, sustainable progress on both while creating good jobs for Indigenous people,” said Phillips.

Industry will provide up to $50 million annually to fund the renewed agreement.

Since 2012, Alberta and Canada have worked to implement an environmental monitoring program for the oil sands that integrates air, water, land and biodiversity while enhancing understanding of the cumulative effects of oil sands activities.Some Indigenous communities publicly withdrew from the previous Joint Oil Sands Monitoring agreement in 2014, stating that it did not explicitly address treaty rights and lacked meaningful Indigenous input.In order to strengthen efforts in reconciliation, regular consultations with Indigenous peoples began in early 2017 and remain ongoing, with clear support to date from many communities.

Building on existing monitoring, where possible, the approach to program implementation is adaptive to ensure that the program is responsive to emerging priorities, information, knowledge and input from key stakeholders and Indigenous peoples. The implementation plan is funded by industry up to $50 million annually.

Catherine McKenna, Canadian environment minister.

In 2015, an external expert peer-review of the scientific integrity of the monitoring system concluded that the existing program was a substantial improvement over previous monitoring programs, but areas for improvement were also highlighted.

Discussions remain ongoing with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) and the oil sands industry to ensure their industrial expertise and information informs oil sands monitoring, according to a press release.

“I’m proud to continue working with Alberta to ensure that reliable, robust and transparent environmental monitoring of oil sands development remains a priority,” said McKenna.

“A strong economy depends on a healthy environment. Our government is committed to making sure that Canadian resources are developed responsibly and that environmental decision-making is based on the best available science, as well as Indigenous and traditional knowledge.”

Posted in: Canada

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