Pembina versus the government

Institute wants to be able to address oilsands development hearings

The Pembina Institute has taken the province to court for denying the institute status to participate in a recent oilsands project hearing. The Pembina Institute is a member of the Oilsands Environmental Coalition along with the Alberta Wilderness Association Toxic Watch Society and Fort McMurray Environmental Association. In 2012 the ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development refused to grant the coalition standing at a hearing into Southern Pacific Resource Corp’s proposed project near Fort McMurray on the grounds the coalition members were not directly affected by the project. The coalition had approval to participate in 14 other oilsands project hearings prior to that.

The environmental policy think-tank argues the government barred the coalition in this and a similar 2009 hearing because of its public stance against oilsands developments. This is based on information Pembina gleaned from internal government communications obtained through a freedom of information request.

In an August 2009 brief the then deputy minister of Alberta Environment was told that coalition members were no longer involved in collaborative projects with the government. The note warned this lack of participation combined with the tone of the institute’s oilsands publications meant coalition members “are now less inclined to work co-operatively…. We should ask the Oilsands Environmental Coalition to prove how they are directly affected on future applications…. With more parties providing submissions there is a need to identify the groups or individuals who are truly directly affected.”

The government has not yet issued an official response to the appeal. The Pembina Institute was not available for comment as of press time.