First Nations appeal Alberta Energy Regulator decision to suspend monitoring requirements

First Nations in northern Alberta have filed an enchantment towards the Alberta Power Regulator after it issued sweeping choices final month to droop a lot of environmental monitoring necessities throughout the oil and gasoline trade. 

The Athabasca Chipewyan, Fort McKay and Mikisew Cree First Nations say the 2 choices, made with out session, have clear penalties on the regulator’s capacity to establish and mitigate impacts to their conventional territory. 

“The selections to droop environmental monitoring had been made unilaterally. We weren’t notified — in reality, we might have had no thought this had occurred if it had not been revealed within the press,” Fort McKay Chief Mel Grandjamb acknowledged in a information launch.

“Session would have enabled us to tell the regulator how its monitoring choices impression our Nations.”

The regulator issued the selections below the justification of COVID-19, after oil firms raised considerations about their capacity to observe public well being orders and fulfil a few of their environmental obligations.

Within the enchantment, the First Nations say environmental monitoring is a required situation of any oil challenge’s approval meant to assist shield the human well being of Indigenous communities.

When the AER points choices on the behest of oil firms with out public session, the enchantment argues, the regulator “undermines the integrity of all the statutory regime for power growth within the province.”

“A big a part of our concern is the dearth of due course of,” Chief Archie Waquan of the Mikisew Cree First Nation stated in an announcement. “Business shouldn’t be in a position to petition its personal regulator to chill out approval circumstances with nearly no oversight.” 

AER didn’t reply Sunday to a request for remark concerning the enchantment. 

The suspensions, granted at a time when the province was starting to loosen public well being orders, do not specify which orders can’t be adopted or why. The enchantment argues there may be nothing within the orders that might require a blanket prohibition on monitoring actions. 

“Certainly, most of the actions captured by the selections are automated, carried out remotely or create fewer dangers of transmitting COVID-19 than actions the AER continued to authorize,” in keeping with the enchantment. 

The First Nations additionally criticized the dearth of readability within the choices. For instance, the AER suspended some floor water high quality testing and evaluation, however it’s unclear whether or not that applies to tailings and industrial ponds, the enchantment states.

As a part of the listed suspensions, firms not want to watch for fumes launched by burning or conducting applications to detect and restore leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gasoline.

The choice additionally suspended soil and groundwater monitoring till Sept. 30, aside from “any monitoring that’s mandatory to guard human well being and ecological receptors.” 

When the selections had been issued, AER interim vp Martin Foy stated the suspensions had been solely offered for low-risk monitoring actions discovered to pose a COVID-19 well being concern.

Whereas Foy stated the regulator would elevate the suspension when it is protected to take action, the First Nations’ enchantment states that it could have been logical to tie the choice to the tip of the general public well being emergency. 

Premier Jason Kenney introduced in query interval on the finish of Could that his cupboard wouldn’t renew the 90-day order-in-council declared below the Public Well being Act when it expires on June 15. 

CBC Information has requested the AER to supply copies of the oil firms’ requests to droop monitoring, nevertheless the regulator has stated it didn’t hold an inventory of the requests.

A spokesperson stated the requests, with various ranges of element, had been made to a number of workers via electronic mail or telephone conversations.

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