The working group tasked with investigating what a provincial environmental monitoring system would entail made its report public on October 17.
The report recommends an environmental monitor be an “arm’s length” body reporting publicly and to the minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD).
Howard Tennant, chair of the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Panel, said at a press conference that the monitoring body must have a focused mandate with a stable funding stream commensurate with what the government expects it to achieve. He also said the agency should be established immediately, with attention first given to the Lower Athabasca region.
“We really are approaching a crossroads in our history,” Tenant said. “The scale and the pace of development has generated extensive debate in this province… at times that debate has become rather polarized…. Albertans need the facts.”
The report says the monitoring agency will only be successful if it is founded on the principle that it is scientifically credible and its work is open to the public.
The government has already responded by saying it will follow recommendations to establish an arm’s-length environmental monitoring agency, which will begin its work collecting data on land, air, water and biodiversity in the oilsands. The agency will later expand to monitoring environmental quality indicators across the province.