Alberta government guilty of blocking Pembina

An Alberta court has ruled that the Alberta Government was wrong to block the Pembina Institute from participating in a 2012 oilsands project hearing. The environmental policy think-tank appealed Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development’s refusal to give it status in the project’s regulatory review in September claiming the government’s decision was based on the Pembina Institute’s recent critique of oilsands policy.

“It’s deeply troubling that the Government of Alberta would attempt to block participation in the regulatory process on grounds that Pembina has raised concerns of its oilsands management policies” says Pembina Institute policy director Simon Dyer in response to the ruling. “At a time when evidence is mounting that cumulative environmental impacts from oilsands are exceeding regional thresholds it’s essential that directly affected stakeholders with credible information get a fair hearing.”

In his ruling Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Richard Marceau wrote of the government’s actions “it is difficult to envision a more direct apprehension of bias.”

In 2012 the Pembina Institute along with the Alberta Wilderness Association Toxic Watch Society and Fort McMurray Environmental Association filed a statement of concern with the government in order to present evidence at the review hearing of Southern Pacific Resource Corp’s proposed in situ oilsands project on the MacKay River. The groups leased land in the area and were particularly worried about the effects of a new mine on local waterways.

Though the Pembina Institute was allowed to participate in 14 previous hearings it was prohibited from joining this one. Government documents later obtained by the institute indicated increasing criticism levied at the environmental record of oilsands projects motivated the ministry’s decision because it was felt Pembina would be “less inclined to work co-operatively” with the government.

According to the Pembina Institute there were more than 36000 energy applications in Alberta in 2012 410 of which were for in situ oilsands projects. In the same year the Alberta Energy Regulator held seven hearings on energy-related projects and one hearing for an in situ oilsands project.