Alberta relaxes its environmental rules to help the industry

L’Alberta assouplit ses règles environnementales pour aider l’industrie

Photo: Jason Franson, The canadian Press
The prime minister, alberta’s Jason Kenney and the minister of alberta Environment, Jason Nixon.

Alberta requires more industries to file their reports environmental periodicals, under the authority of the state of health emergency declared by the province to combat the pandemic of COVID-19.

Since all of the environmental regulatory system in Alberta is based on the voluntary statements of the industry, the decree suspends in fact this regulation in the province, said Shaun Fluker, professor of law at the University of Calgary.

“We don’t send leaders in the field to ensure the respect of the regulations, he recalled. “This gap [in information] means without a doubt that we not only suspend the environmental reports : we have suspended the operation of the regulatory system. We lose the ability to exercise measures of compliance and enforcement. “

The suspension applies to the three major environmental laws that are at the heart of the protection of the environment in Alberta. It does not apply, however, to the systems of drinking water supply. The department’s spokesperson, Jess Sinclair, said that the decision had been made to give a little respite to companies in the energy sector, which are facing a reduction of workforce due to the pandemic.

The decree, signed on Tuesday by the minister of the Environment, Jason Nixon, lasts at least 60 days and up to 90 days. But the professor Fluker believes that this could be longer — as long as the state of public health emergency will be in effect.

The decree also stipulates that companies should continue to collate the required information and transmit it to the department ” upon request “. But Mr. Fluker remains skeptical, and he laments the blur that will persist in the meantime. “The longer this gap persists, the more likely it is that we will not address the violations of some standards in place to protect human health and the environment. “

Greenpeace International has not been able to find a few examples of other governments that have used the pandemic to loosen their environmental rules. “In the United States, the oil lobby has convinced the administration to Trump to use the health emergency as a cover to roll back environmental laws, and it seems that (prime minister Jason) Kenney is looking forward to do the same,” said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada.

Anna McIntosh, of the law firm environment Écojustice, recalled, moreover, that the Régie de l’énergie Alberta had not extended to his side, the timelines for the assessment of new projects. “The mechanism for issuing permits for projects operating at full capacity in Alberta, while the environmental monitoring takes the edge. “

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