We will pay for oilsands monitoring

The new federal environmental monitoring plan stopped me short on Page 11 of the first part on Air Monitoring. There is an image that shows the NO2 (nitrous oxide) monitoring related to North America. We’re a little pale dot compared to the bright orange and red gash of pollution down east in Canada and the U.S. and California.

The new federal environmental monitoring plan stopped me short on Page 11 of the first part on Air Monitoring. There is an image that shows the NO2 (nitrous oxide) monitoring related to North America. We’re a little pale dot compared to the bright orange and red gash of pollution down east in Canada and the U.S. and California.

In light of this evidence, I am wondering why we need the world-class monitoring system?

Let’s go back to the Standing Committee on the Environment testimony. Dr. D. George Dixon is vice-president of the University of Waterloo and 20-year veteran of oilsands aquatic toxicology related to mining. He had this to say about the status quo of industry monitoring itself with provincial/federal oversight:

“Mr. Francis Scarpaleggia: Don’t you think it’s odd that the industry is monitoring itself on such an important issue?

“Dr. D. George Dixon: … in the majority of cases in which there is material being released from the industry into a receiving environment, it is up to industry to do the monitoring under the surveillance and audit of either the provincial or federal government. It has to do with the amount of human resources available within those ministries. Don’t get the impression that the companies have a licence to run wild. From what I can see, the audit procedure is pretty rigorous. …”

He is saying that government ministries don’t have enough human power to do the monitoring, that government audits are rigorous, and that almost all industries do the same thing.

Good heavens! Does that mean every mining company, every industry in Canada should also have world-class monitoring? Many are far more toxic than the oilsands. Must we hire hundreds of people to federal and provincial workers, just to monitor at a world-class level? I doubt those hundreds of environmental specialists even exist in the HR pool.

But wait — federal Environment Minister Peter Kent said that industry would pay for this.

Let me get this straight. Industry presently pays about $4 million a year for RAMP — the water monitoring program that does not include all company monitoring, and does not include WBEA (air).

So Kent is apparently assuming that this industry will gratefully take an annual hit of 12.5 times part of their current budgeted aquatics monitoring tab, just to monitor more … what?

It appears he never consulted with industry or the taxpayer.

Because Kent is wrong.

Industry won’t be paying for it.

You and I will.

As noted in a fall 2010 document from the Oil Sands Research and Information Network (OSRIN) at the University of Alberta, authored by James and Vold:

“It is important to recognize that industry monitoring costs are eligible expenses for royalty calculation purposes (i.e., they reduce royalties payable), which means that the public is ultimately paying for a portion of the costs when industry pays for monitoring.

One implication is that the amount of monitoring and reporting can be established at the level commensurate with the public‘s need for assurance and willingness to pay based on the perceived need.” (https://era.library.ualberta.ca/public/view/item/uuid:7df75ac3-198c-40a8-8e53-3bccc04532b6)

Fellow taxpayers — beware of eco-nuts driving up your taxes through demanding ever more strenuous environmental infrastructure and monitoring.

Although some naive Big Oil haters may be rubbing their hands in glee as they think they are tearing $50 million chunks of fleshy profit from the behemoth of industry, the truth is that the expenses of oilsands companies (just like those of every other business) are deductible before taxable (both federal and provincial) profits are calculated.

I don’t perceive a need to monitor the oilsands with such an expensive world-class system. I don’t want to add more government workers or bureaucracy.

I’m not willing to pay more taxes to satisfy global eco-hypocrites in New York, London, Paris and Toronto, who daily produce volumes of “municipal tailings ponds.”

Those people have destroyed wetlands, run roughshod over wildlife, polluted rivers to death, produce thousands of tons of household waste every day (12,000 tons per day for New York!). But they want the environmental gold standard from us — with our gold!

Put stop payment on my world-class oilsands monitoring cheque. We in Alberta already have some of the most stringent environmental regulations in the world for oilsands. Let’s not also have the most overdone, silliest (despite being most “scientific”) and most expensive.

Why the hype for the world-class standard the rest of the world doesn’t keep?

How about adequate, effective and cost-efficient?

Something we can afford that monitors what we need to know, not everything there is to know. Like what we already have — with tweaking.

Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka-based freelance columnist.