Tech & Science

Alberta Energy Regulator to launch third party probe of Kearl oilsands tailings leak

Alberta’s energy regulator says it is seeking investigators to investigate an oil sands tailings water release that has been undisclosed for nine months.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the regulator told First Nations, government and other stakeholders about the two releases at Imperial Oil’s Karl Oil Sands mine north of Fort McMurry, Alta. It said it is looking for a “qualified impartial third party” to review whether it has been notified as such.

Imperial notified authorities of discolored water in one of its tailings ponds in May, but the region’s indigenous peoples were not informed of the ongoing investigation. Nor did the federal, Alberta, or Northwest Territories governments.

Infiltration was not reported until 9 months after an additional 5.3 million liters of tailings escaped the containment pond.

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“I have been in regular contact with[the regulator’s]CEO, Laurie Pushor, and he has provided both an opportunity to independently elaborate on the facts surrounding the[regulatory agency’s]response and It’s about learning and growing accordingly,” said David Goldie, chairman of the regulator, in a release.

The investigative decision was taken on March 16 and announced almost two weeks later on Tuesday.

The regulator said the investigation would look at issues around notification and the timing of notification to indigenous communities and other stakeholders. Also consider “other potential process issues”.

The report of the investigation will be made public, the regulator said. However, it did not disclose a timeline for hiring investigators or how long the work would take.

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“The board will have no further comment pending confirmation of the final findings,” the regulator said.

This will be our second official look into what happened before and after the Kearl release.

The House of Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has invited Imperial mayors and regulators to a meeting. The Commission also welcomes communications from Environment Canada, the NWT, and her First Nations of the seven regions.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

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