Environmental Monitoring in Alberta
Albertans have high expectations we excel at both energy production and environmental protection - we can have it both ways.
Environmental monitoring agency
Alberta will have an arms-length agency to oversee environmental monitoring across the province - beginning in the oil sands region. This is the key recommendation of the Environmental Monitoring Working Group report.
A management board will oversee the creation of the agency, led by Dr. Howard Tennant, former president and vice-chancellor of the University of Lethbridge. The team of scientific, academic, and business experts will operate until the agency is legally established under Alberta law.
The provincial arms-length environmental monitoring system will be unlike any other in Canada and the world. Its centrally-coordinated system will integrate the monitoring, evaluation and reporting of air, land, water and wildlife. The information will be scientifically credible, accessible and open.
This is the next step in our new approach to how we develop and manage our natural resources. It's a more integrated and coordinated approach that includes regional planning under the provincial Land-use Framework and a single regulator for oil, gas, oil sands, and coal - this is referred to as the Regulatory Enhancement Project.
Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring
The Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring commits to a new, integrated, and transparent environmental monitoring program, starting in the oil sands region, that will be one of the most progressive and comprehensive of any industrially-developed region in the world. It will improve our understanding of the current state of the environment and enhance our ability to detect environmental change and manage cumulative effects.
How is this different?
In the past, monitoring programs and networks were set up independently of each other to meet specific needs. The new cumulative effects management approach will enhance, improve, and integrate relevant parts of existing monitoring efforts to give government and industry the scientific foundation necessary to ensure the environmentally sustainable development of the oil sands. This is consistent with the Government of Alberta’s plans for a province-wide environmental monitoring system.
What does this mean?
Enhanced monitoring in the oil sands region has already begun, with increased sampling locations, parameters and frequency, including:
- new air, surface water and groundwater monitoring stations; and
- sampling in areas never regularly monitored before, such as river ice and snow.
Monitoring programs will expand to include:
- additional monitoring locations;
- initiation of new air, water and biodiversity studies;
- improved data management; and
- data sharing to ensure the highest data quality, consistency, and transparency.
Monitoring activities will be phased in over the next three years to ensure installation of necessary infrastructure, incremental enhancement of activities and appropriate integration with existing monitoring activities in the region. By the time the three-year plan is fully-implemented in 2015:
- the number of sampling sites will be higher and over a larger area;
- the number and types of parameters being sampled will increase;
- the frequency (how many times) that sampling occurs each year will be significantly increased;
- the methodologies for monitoring for both air and water will be improved; and
- an integrated, open data management program will be created.
The Governments of Alberta and Canada will work together over the next three years as partners to implement a world class monitoring program for the oil sands that integrates all environmental components - air quality, water quality, water quantity, aquatic ecosystems, terrestrial biodiversity and habitat.
Implementation will be under the joint direction and management of the two governments to ensure a comprehensive, integrated and joint approach. Specifically, implementation will be co-led by Environment Canada (EC) and Alberta Environment and Water Assistant Deputy Ministers responsible for science and monitoring. They will work with other government departments responsible for terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity, lands, forests and fish habitat.
The monitoring program will undergo external expert peer review after year three and at five-year intervals thereafter to ensure that scientific integrity is maintained. An annual report on the status of implementation will be made public. In addition, the data from the monitoring program and the methodology used to produce it will be made public on an ongoing basis. Combined with the periodic peer review, it will create a highly transparent and rigorous monitoring program.
The implementation plan has been developed by scientists from the two governments, working closely together. It reflects the Integrated Environmental Monitoring Plan for the Oil Sands that was released in July 2011, and which was developed in collaboration with over 100 provincial, territorial and academic scientists.
The two governments are working cooperatively to develop and implement an integrated data management system that will enable open and transparent public access to a single source of credible oil sands environmental monitoring data and supporting information.
Audio / VideoDiana McQueen and Dr. Tennant announce arms-length agency (Oct 17)Audio: Diana McQueen (Oct 17)Diana McQueen at Joint Monitoring announcement (Feb 3) Peter Kent at Joint Monitoring announcement (Feb 3)
Next steps for joint oil sands program (April 22, 2013)
Environmental monitoring panel submits report (July 5, 2011)
- Environmental Monitoring Working Group Report (June 2012)
- Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring (Feb 2012)
- Oil Sands Information Portal (OSIP)
- OSIP Fact Sheet
- April 2013 - the Joint Oil Sand Monitoring Portal is launched
- June 2012 - the Environmental Monitoring Working Group submitted an implemention plan for an arms-length monitoring agency and recommendations for governance and funding structure.
- February 2012 - the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring outlines a new, integrated, and transparent environmental monitoring program for Alberta's Oil Sands.
- July 2011 – Environment Canada released the Integrated Oil Sands Environment Monitoring Plan, which outlined recommendations for governance, data management, funding, scientific oversight, implementation, and working with others.
- March 2011 – the Water Monitoring Data Review Committee report and recommendations reinforced the need for a robust, comprehensive monitoring system for the oil sands region.
- January 2011 – the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Panel was tasked to build a world-class monitoring system for the entire province, starting in the oil sands region.