Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Report Says Alberta Environmental Monitoring a Failed Experiment

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Report Says Alberta Environmental Monitoring a Failed Experiment

Article excerpt

Report blasts oilsands monitoring

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EDMONTON - An arm's-length agency created as a world-class monitor of the environmental impacts of Alberta's oilsands is instead a "failed experiment" that should be rolled back up into the government, a review has concluded.

A report done for Alberta's environment minister says the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency is needlessly expensive, poorly co-ordinated and split by bureaucratic infighting.

"It is hard to escape the conclusion that AEMERA is a failed experiment in outsourcing a core responsibility of government to an arm's-length body," wrote report author Paul Boothe, director of the Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management at Western University's Ivey School of Business.

"Three years and tens of millions of dollars later, the results are an organization that is still struggling to get established, dysfunctional relationships with its two key partners ... and a failure of all three parties to realize the promise of the ... plan to bring critically needed, world-class environmental monitoring to Alberta's oilsands."

The agency was founded in 2012 after years of criticism over how Alberta was keeping track of the environmental impacts of the then-rapidly expanding oilsands.

The plan was to bring provincial scientists together with resources from Environment Canada to jointly co-ordinate the study of how the industry was affecting the region's air, land and water. The resulting agency was funded by $50 million from industry and another $28 million from the province, which was to fund the expansion of environmental monitoring across the province.

The agency's research plans have been hailed as a dramatic improvement and numerous scientific papers have been published from its work. But Boothe, a former Environment Canada deputy minister, said the organization itself never gelled.

Boothe's report, obtained by The Canadian Press, points out the funding agreement between government and industry expired a year ago and has never been renewed, "in part because of AEMERA's unwillingness to accept (Environment Canada) as an equal partner in oilsands monitoring. …

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