OTTAWA—Alberta’s oil sands industry could soon get a better idea of how its operations are impacting the environment.
The federal government has finalized an integrated plan for monitoring the effects of Alberta’s oil sands.
The plan will cost $50 million a year to ensure industrial development is done in a responsible way, but the industry itself will be cover the costs, said Environment Minister Peter Kent.
He said the cost will likely fall over the years as the system becomes more efficient.
The federal government will work with the province to implement the plan, which was based on an independent oil sands advisory panel’s recommendations.
The plan will focus on monitoring air quality, biodiversity and water quality in the region.
It’s intended to give industry scientific information to help them develop the resource in a more sustainable way.
One of the things that it will look at is the transport, transformation and deposition of oil sands emissions and how these emissions interact with emissions from other sectors.
Among other improvements, three dozen more monitoring stations for water and air will be added. Air quality measurements will be taken across Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, to determine how far particles from the Athabasca region travel.
Scientists will also develop systems for monitoring effects on nearby wildlife and species.
Minister Kent said data will also help battle international criticism over the multi-billion-dollar industry.
“It will provide the facts and the science to defend the product which some abroad are threatening to boycott,” Kent said.
The Canadian government has been fighting a public relations war over the oilsands for years.
Meanwhile, Washington is in the midst of deciding whether to allow construction of a $7 billion pipeline to transport Canadian crude oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Kent acknowledged that beefed-up monitoring could tip that decision in Canada’s favour, but it is also important for the entire Canadian economy.
“If Canadians want the benefits of billions of dollars invested in state-of-the-art technology, new equipment, the employment and training of workers, we must also take responsibility for protecting the environment,” he said.