Environmental Investigation of Oil Sands Tailings Ponds Unlikely, and Alberta GHG Emissions Regulations Stalled

The Commission on Environmental Co-operation (CEC) was created under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to resolve environmental disputes and to provide an outlet for the public’s environmental concerns. In 2010, Environmental Defense Canada and the Natural Resources Defense Council led a public submission which alleged that tailings ponds from Alberta’s oil sands were leaking four billion liters each year, and that the federal government was not enforcing its own Fisheries Act to prevent damage to the Athabasca River. In July, 2015, the CEC ruled that the complaint merited further investigation, but according to a CBC report of January 12, the government is attempting to stop any such investigation. See NAFTA scrutiny of oilsands tailings ponds opposed by Canada. The entire record of the complaint, with all documentation, is available at the CEC website. In the meantime, four Alberta regulations for greenhouse gas emissions, previously set to expire on December 31, have been extended till June, to allow “government to explore new approaches and partnership opportunities” for a new climate change policy framework in 2015. The regulations affected are: The Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER), Specified Gas Reporting Regulation (SGRR), Administrative Penalty Regulation, and the Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund Administration Regulation. See the government’s news release (Dec. 19) and an explanation of the current framework.

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