February 28th, 2024

Alberta researchers call for public inquiry into program to ensure oilsands cleanup

By The Canadian Press on December 13, 2023.

An oil worker holds raw oilsands near Fort McMurray, Alta., on July 9, 2008. Alberta university researchers are calling for an open public inquiry into a provincial program designed to ensure oilsands producers can pay to clean up after themselves. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Alberta university researchers are calling for an open public inquiry into a provincial program designed to ensure oilsands producers can pay to clean up after themselves.

They say the agreement at an international climate meeting to transition away from fossil fuels makes it all the more imperative that there’s enough money left to clean up tailings ponds and other impacts when the mines complete their useful life.

Co-author Martin Olszynski at the University of Calgary says the government’s current plan allows companies to delay paying for remediation until production starts to decline – meaning there will be less money for cleanup just as it starts to be needed.

He says the current tailings pond plans are scientifically unproven and won’t return the land to something that can be used for other purposes.

He and his colleagues are calling for an inquiry similar to the one being held into renewable energy in Alberta, especially after delegates at the COP28 meeting in Dubai agreed the world needs to move from the use of oil, gas and coal.

Neither industry representatives nor government spokespeople were immediately available for comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 13, 2023.

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