Botched Investigation Calls Canada’s Environmental Regs Into Question
Alberta’s failure to investigate bird deaths on tar sands/oil sands tailings ponds “casts continued doubt on the Canadian government’s constant assurances to the U.S. government that it has a ‘world class’ environmental regulatory system,” writes Jennifer Skene in a post on NRDC Switchboard.
The story begins with documents from Alberta’s energy regulator, obtained by Greenpeace Canada through a freedom of information request, that show an inadequate provincial response after several hundred migratory birds mistook a series of tailings ponds operated by Canadian Natural Resources (CNRL) for freshwater lakes. “Bird deaths in tar sands waste ponds have been a longstanding problem, and tar sands operators are required to have deterrence systems that meet the Environment Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) requirement of ‘due diligence,’” Skene explains.
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“Unfortunately, there are no binding standards for what constitutes due diligence in the context of deterrence systems. This means that, while there are common industry practices, there are no clear and fixed grounds for violations.”
The documents released by Greenpeace “develop a picture of the Alberta Energy Regulator’s insufficient response” to the CNRL incident, Skene writes. “It had removed key deterrent equipment, such as loud cannons and bioacoustics machines, and had a malfunctioning radar device for detecting birds. CNRL also failed to mitigate the effects of a new facility’s lights, which attract birds.” Yet the Alberta regulator “decided that an investigation was unnecessary because it found that CNRL’s ‘waterfowl deterrent systems were fully operational.’”