Week ending December 15th, 2023


Improving responsible reclamation work in Alberta

Alberta will launch new pilot projects testing ways to speed up oil and gas well site reclamation while protecting the environment.

Reclamation is an important part of oil and gas projects, and it’s essential that well sites are safely, quickly and effectively reclaimed for future generations. Alberta’s government is committed to ensuring companies clean up their sites when decommissioned and is exploring new ways to make that process clearer.

In the coming months, the province will launch two new pilots aimed at helping improve the current reclamation certificate process while maintaining the highest environmental standards. These pilots will test ways to certify portions of reclaimed sites and help reclaim peatlands.

“These pilots demonstrate our commitment to reducing red tape while ensuring that all companies clean up their sites when decommissioned. The pilots are the first step in improving the current reclamation certificate issuance process for well sites and associated facilities. If successful, they will help make the reclamation process faster, clearer and more effective.”

Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas

The Well Site Reduction Pilot will enable the Alberta Energy Regulator to certify portions of a well site that meet government reclamation standards rather than waiting until the entire site is reclaimed. The optional pilot will be limited to up to 100 applications, and landowner consent is required to participate in the program.

The Reclaiming Peatland Pilot will provide a new support tool for well site operators to use when preparing a request to change from peatlands to forest lands. This framework will improve site-specific considerations and logistics related to well or access roads in peatlands.

The Alberta Energy Regulator will launch both pilots in early 2024. Once each is completed, Alberta’s government will carefully assess the results before determining how to proceed.

In addition, Alberta’s government is endorsing the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada’s (PTAC) report on weeds in the forested region, which will make it clearer for operators to apply for reclamation certificates. This report will help operators prepare requests for minor weed variances that contribute to less environmental impact and more cost-effective measures during the reclamation certification process.

Moving forward, Alberta will continue exploring additional ways to strengthen the reclamation process while reducing unnecessary red tape for industry.

Quick facts

  • Under the Well Site Reduction Pilot, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) will be able to issue a reclamation certificate certifying that the portion of a well site meets government reclamation standards on private land.
    • These reclamation certificates will increase the area of land reclamation certified.
    • Landowners must be willing to participate in the site reduction pilot before a reclamation certificate application is submitted.
    • As a pilot, the willingness for landowners to participate in the program will be measured and considered as part of assessing whether to make this permanent in the future.
    • The pilot will be launched by the AER in February 2024 and will run until August 2025. Additional information will be announced when the pilot launches.
  • Under the Reclaiming Peatland Pilot, eligible operators will be able to apply to the AER for clay pad materials to remain in place when reclaiming sites to a forested landscape based on agreed parameters.
    • This pilot is not available within caribou ranges.
    • The pilot will be launched by the AER in February 2024 and will run until July 2025. Additional information will be announced when the pilot launches.
  • PTAC’s report Preparing Variance Justifications for Weeds and Problematic Species on Well Sites and Associated Facilities on Forested Land will help operators prepare and the regulator review requests for minor weed variances that contribute to less environmental impact and more cost-effective measures during the reclamation certification process.



Alberta Contaminated Sites Policy Framework – 2023 Update

Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (EPA) has updated the Contaminated Sites Policy Framework. The updated document can be viewed at: https://open.alberta.ca/publications/contaminated-sites-policy-framework  This revision includes updates to reflect newer policy guidelines that were not available in 2014. This includes:

  • Alberta Tier 1 Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guidelines. (2022),
  • Alberta Tier 2 Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guidelines (2022),
  • Environmental Site Assessment Standard (2016),
  • Exposure Control Guide (Government of Alberta (2016).
  • Risk Management Plan Guide (2017).
  • Guidance for Site-specific Risk Basements in Alberta (2022)
  • Guidance for Selecting Toxicity Reference Values for Alberta Tier 1 and Tier 2 Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guidelines (2017)
  • A Protocol for the Derivation of Groundwater Quality Guidelines for Use at Contaminated Sites (CCME, 2015).
  • A Protocol for the Derivation of Soil Vapour Quality Guidelines for Human Exposures via Inhalation of Vapours (CCME 2014).

The Remediation Regulation (2022) is now included as an important piece of legislation within the Contaminated Sites Policy Framework.   Inquiries related to the Contaminated Sites Policy Framework can be sent to: [email protected].


Alberta – Drinking water safety: Office of the Chief Scientist

Jonathan Thompson, chief scientist of Alberta, issued the following statement on drinking water quality in the Lower Athabasca Region:

“Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (EPA) requires that all water treatment plants in the province have certified operators and that the quality of treated drinking water meets the Canadian guidelines for drinking water set by Health Canada. These guidelines are set to ensure that drinking water is safe for human consumption.

“Drinking water is provided in Fort Chipewyan after treatment by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) treatment facility. In response to concerns around the Kearl incident, the Regulatory Assurance Division at EPA has worked with the RMWB to increase the frequency of drinking water quality monitoring to ensure the safety of users. Since March, Fort Chipewyan has been one of the most intensively monitored water treatment facilities in the province.

“The RMWB has conducted more than 35 enhanced monitoring tests on raw and treated water samples since March, and all treated drinking water samples have met the guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality limits set by Health Canada.

“Additionally, no exceedances in arsenic have been measured in the drinking water. Lab reports of hydrocarbons and toluene in some samples were determined to be false positives due to lab error.

“Drinking water quality monitoring results have been posted on the RMWB website, shared with EPA and the communities, and all results indicate that the drinking water is safe.

“In addition to water quality monitoring to ensure local facilities are treating water to appropriate standards and the quality of drinking water is safe for consumption, EPA also monitors ambient surface water quality.”

AER directs the Orphan Well Association to provide care of all Tallahassee Exploration Inc. sites

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) is escalating enforcement against Tallahassee Exploration and has instructed the Orphan Well Association (OWA) to take necessary actions, known as reasonable care and measures (RCAM), at all Tallahassee-licensed sites.

On September 15, 2023, the AER issued an order to Tallahassee with respect to reasonable care and measures of the company’s licences and sites. Tallahassee failed to comply with all requirements of the order. Ongoing inspections of the sites continued to determine that Tallahassee was not providing reasonable care and measures to prevent risks to public safety and the environment. On November 27, the AER issued a new RCAM order, rescinding the September 15 order.

Under the new RCAM Order, the OWA will undertake actions, including ensuring the safe depressurization of pipeline systems, the safe shut-in of various wells and facilities, and providing and managing emergency response.

Tallahassee and its contractors are restricted from taking actions at the sites without OWA approval. Tallahassee is responsible for covering costs incurred by the OWA and must actively cooperate, provide necessary information, and refrain from selling or removing infrastructure associated with the sites.

Tallahassee Exploration Inc. holds licenses granted by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) for various sites, including wells, facilities, and pipelines. These assets remain licensed to Tallahassee Exploration and have not been orphaned to the OWA.

The AER’s orders can be found on the compliance dashboard.

Order issued to Tallahassee Exploration Inc.

September 19, 2023 – On September 15, 2023, the AER issued a reasonable care and measures (RCAM) order to Tallahassee Exploration Inc. (Tallahassee) as the company has repeatedly failed to comply with regulatory requirements and address compliance issues in a timely manner.

The AER’s order requires Tallahassee to take several actions, which include:

  • submitting a plan outlining actions it will take to properly manage its sites, address outstanding compliance issues, ensure ability to respond to an incident or emergency, and perform remedial work related to previous incidents;
  • submitting an Abandonment Plan with specific actions and timelines, for all overdue mineral lease-expired wells within six months from the date of this order;
  • complete delineation for historical spills and submit a plan for remedial action relating to these incidents; and
  • provide written updates every two weeks to the AER with details on the progress of the work required under the order.

In addition, Tallahassee is required to submit financial information, such as interim quarterly financial statements and third-party audited annual financial statements.

The AER has issued this order to ensure the sites licensed to Tallahassee will not pose a risk to public safety or the environment, and to prevent impairment or damage to the sites. Learn more about reasonable care and measures orders on aer.ca.

A copy of the reasonable care and measures order issued to Tallahassee can be found on the AER’s Compliance Dashboard.


Suncor Fort Hills Site, Surface Runoff Release

On Monday, October 9, 2023, Suncor reported to the EDGE call centre an unplanned release of approximately 662 cubic metres of surface runoff from a containment pond located adjacent to the Fort Hills Oil Sands Project into the Athabasca River.

The pond the water was released from is not related to mining, extraction, or tailings processes, and contains precipitation and snow melt water. Suncor has taken water quality samples of the pond, and the results indicate that the water that was released into the river was within release criteria parameters for discharge. An AER Inspector visited the site on Tuesday, October 10, 2023, and confirmed that the release had been stopped.

On November 24, 2023, Suncor informed the AER that further investigation of this matter indicated the unplanned release volume may have been closer to 10,000 cubic metres. Suncor has also informed the AER that the unplanned release may have been in effect since June 2022 and believe the cause of the release is likely to be a faulty valve.

Inspectors from the AER visited the site on November 24, and established the valve is not currently leaking. We will be reviewing all sampling data from June 2022 to November 2023. The AER have also directed Suncor to provide rationale for the estimated volume released from the pond.

Suncor and the AER notified communities and stakeholders in the area on October 10, 2023. Following receipt of the updated information, further notifications were made by Suncor and the AER on November 24, 2023. Environment Canada and Climate Change has also been notified through Alberta’s EDGE notification system.

The incident has been referred to the AER’s investigation team for triage.

The AER will provide updates as information becomes available.


Alberta Energy Regulator Denies Request for Reconsideration by Alberta Wilderness Association

The AER is committed to ensuring the responsible development of energy resources in Alberta. Our decision-making process involves rigorous evaluation and ongoing oversight to ensure public safety and environmental protection throughout the full lifecycle of energy development.

After careful evaluation, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has denied the Alberta Wilderness Association’s (AWA) request for reconsideration regarding the McClelland Lake Wetland Complex Operational Plan (MLWC). Read the full decision here.

In the decision letter, the AER states there is no new information presented by the AWA that justifies a re-evaluation of the decision authorizing the MLWC Operational Plan.

The AER’s decision to authorize any energy project is based on adherence to strict conditions and requirements. Our role extends beyond approval issuance to enforce these conditions throughout project lifecycle, which includes strict requirements for responsible abandonment, remediation, and reclamation.

Water Act conditions are also in place to safeguard the environment at this site. If an operator fails to meet the AER’s requirements, the AER may apply one or more compliance and enforcement tools to bring operators back into compliance with our requirements.

The AER remains committed to transparent communication and ongoing engagement with stakeholders and Indigenous Communities – all while ensuring Alberta’s energy resources are developed safely and responsibly.


Canada introduces framework to cap greenhouse gas pollution from oil and gas sector

December 7, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario

Canadians are making decisions and choices today that will profoundly impact the world we leave to our children and grandchildren. Climate action pays immediate dividends in good jobs and cleaner air and water, but it also opens up more opportunities for the generations that will follow. Every sector of the economy has a part to play in cutting pollution, particularly the oil and gas sector—one of a few where greenhouse gas pollution levels continue to increase.

Today, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, introduced Canada’s draft framework to cap pollution from the oil and gas sector to reduce emissions and remain competitive in a shifting global market. No sector of the economy should be allowed to emit unlimited pollution—not when we are all driving toward the same goal of net zero by 2050 to ward off the worst impacts of the climate crisis. The proposed emissions cap sets a limit on pollution, not production.

The proposed Regulatory Framework for an Oil and Gas Sector Greenhouse Gas Emissions Cap was developed following extensive engagement with industry, Indigenous groups, provinces and territories, and stakeholders. It proposes to cap 2030 emissions at 35 to 38 percent below 2019 levels, while providing compliance flexibilities to emit up to a level about 20 to 23 percent below 2019 levels. The greenhouse gas pollution cap puts a limit on the amount that the sector can pollute and will be key to making sure we reduce our emissions as a country, on the road to reaching net zero by 2050.

The greenhouse gas pollution cap will spur reductions over time at a pace and scale needed to ensure the sector achieves net-zero emissions by 2050, which aligns with provincial and industry commitments. This framework comes at a critical time for Canada, with many Canadians having seen firsthand the impacts of the climate crisis—from floods, heatwaves, and wildfires to economic loss and health impacts.

The greenhouse gas pollution cap has been designed to ensure greenhouse gas emissions from the sector decline, while providing compliance flexibilities to respond to global demand for oil and gas. Facilities will be able to buy a limited amount of carbon offset credits or contribute to a decarbonization fund, which would hold them accountable for a limited volume of emissions above the greenhouse gas pollution cap. These compliance flexibility options will both help reduce emissions—offsets will result in reductions in other sectors, and proceeds from the decarbonization fund will be reinvested to support emissions reductions within the oil and gas sector.

The proposed emissions cap is part of a suite of measures designed to help Canada’s important oil and gas sector remain competitive in a global economy that is rapidly moving to net zero, supporting the talented and skilled energy workers of the sector. Alongside the introduction of the draft Regulatory Framework, Minister Wilkinson has released a Roadmap for the Decarbonization of Canada’s Oil and Gas Sector that sets out the many measures being taken by the Government of Canada, provinces and territories, and the investment community to build a strong, sustainable energy resource sector that can thrive in the 21st century.

The Government of Canada will continue engaging with industry, Indigenous groups, provinces, territories, and all other stakeholders to get this system right. Written comments in response to the Framework should be submitted by February 5, 2024.

At a time when oil and gas companies are reaching record profits, this emissions cap and the suite of complementary measures will stimulate the kinds of investment needed to create and maintain good-paying jobs. The oil and gas sector has time and again proven its ability to innovate, and today marks another step forward in our shared work to keep our air clean and build a strong, thriving economy that works for everyone.

Quick facts
  • According to the most recent National Inventory Report, Canada’s oil and gas sector accounted for 28 percent of national emissions in 2021, making it the largest contributor to Canada’s emissions, followed by the transportation sector at 22 percent.
  • Capping the greenhouse gas pollution from the oil and gas sector is one of the key measures outlined in Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP), released in March 2022, that is a sector-by-sector roadmap to cut emissions to achieve 40 to 45 percent below our 2005 pollution levels in the most cost-effective way possible, while building a stronger economy for the 21st century.
  • Today, the Government of Canada also published the first Progress Report on the 2030 ERP to provide an update on progress toward the 2030 target, based on Canada’s most recent inventory of historical emissions and recently updated emissions projections. The publication is timely, as Canada participates in the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), where ambitious mitigation action is front and centre.
  • The Government of Canada proposes to implement the national cap-and-trade system through regulations to be made under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The Government is planning to publish draft regulations by mid-2024.
  • Cap-and-trade is a market-based system where the regulator issues a quantity of emissions allowances, and may allow for some compliance flexibilities, that together act as a limit on emissions from covered sources.
  • The cap-and-trade system would cover all direct greenhouse gas emissions, while also accounting for indirect emissions related to the production of oil and gas and carbon storage. The greenhouse gases covered would include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and others. Each emission allowance will be equivalent to one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2e).
  • The greenhouse gas pollution cap would regulate upstream oil and gas facilities, including offshore facilities, and would also apply to liquefied natural gas facilities. These subsectors represent the majority of emissions from the oil and gas sector—the upstream subsector represented 85 percent of sector emissions in 2021. The emissions cap will cover activities such as oil sands, conventional oil production, natural gas production and processing, and production of liquified natural gas.


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Draft Oil and Gas Methane Regulations Amendments published in December 2023 to reduce emissions by 75 percent


In 2016, Canada and the United States issued the Joint Statement on Climate, Energy, and Arctic Leadership and resolved to work together to implement their respective commitments under the Paris Agreement. Building on a history of joint activity to reduce air emissions, both countries adopted a target to reduce emissions of methane from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025 and committed to regulating their respective oil and gas sectors to achieve this target. Canada fulfilled its commitment in April 2018 when the Regulations Respecting Reduction in the Release of Methane and Certain Volatile Organic Compounds (Upstream Oil and Gas Sector) were finalized.

In 2021, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), Canada joined 110 countries in endorsing the Global Methane Pledge, which committed countries to take economy-wide action to reduce total methane by at least 30 percent by 2030. As part of its endorsement, Canada was the first country in the world to set an ambitious target to achieve at least a 75 percent reduction in oil and gas sector methane emissions below 2012 levels by 2030. This initiative builds on the April 2018 regulations, which were designed to achieve a reduction of 40 to 45 percent by 2025. In December 2021, a federal review report, titled Review of Canada’s Methane Regulations for the Upstream Oil and Gas Sector was published, concluding that Canada is on track to meet its 2025 target.

In September 2022, the Government published Faster and Further: Canada’s Methane Strategy, outlining mitigating measures to reduce the largest sources of methane emissions. It reiterated the commitment to strengthen methane regulations to achieve at least a 75 percent reduction of oil and gas methane emissions below 2012 levels by 2030, and to publish proposed amendments to the methane Regulations in 2023.

In November 2022, Environment and Climate Change Canada published a draft regulatory framework for consultation. An update was released in September 2023. There has been extensive consultation on the development and design of the proposed regulations.

Addressing fugitive methane emissions and accurate reporting of methane emissions

Methane is released directly into the atmosphere during oil and gas exploration and production. Oil and gas facilities are the largest industrial emitters of methane in Canada—they release about half of total methane emissions. These releases occur during normal operation of equipment and from leaks. To comply with Canada’s existing methane Regulations, industry had to adopt practices to monitor for leaks and ensure that repairs happen to reduce the amount of gas intentionally vented into the air.

Under the draft methane amendments, the Government of Canada is enhancing the emissions-monitoring requirements through a risk-based approach to structure inspections for fugitive emissions—facilities with equipment that has greater potential for emissions must undertake more frequent inspections. All inspections must be conducted using instruments with a standard minimum detection limit, and repair timelines will depend on emissions rates. Further, the draft regulations introduce an audit system, requiring one annual third-party inspection to validate company program results. The first set of requirements under the proposed measures will come into force in January 2027.

Improving methane monitoring

In parallel, the Government of Canada continues to monitor and support measurement work to better understand methane emissions.

Continuous improvements to quantify and report Canada’s emissions are essential to ensure Canada’s national inventory estimates are based on the best available science and data. This includes regularly engaging with technical experts to identify knowledge gaps and prioritize input to the scientific process that underlies greenhouse gas reporting.

Significant improvements and revisions to oil and gas emissions estimates have been incorporated into the National Inventory Report over the past few years. A new model to estimate fugitive emissions of methane from oil and gas facilities was integrated into the 2022 edition of the National Inventory Report, with further refinements in the 2023 edition. Between the 2021 and 2023 National Inventory Reports, improvements to oil and gas emissions estimates resulted in upward revisions to previously published data. However, oil and gas methane emissions have decreased since 2005.

As described in the National Inventory Report Improvement Plan (Chapter 8), Environment and Climate Change Canada is analyzing atmospheric measurements of methane from Canada’s oil and gas industry. Recent field campaigns in British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan are being evaluated to further improve the accuracy of National Inventory Report estimates.

To support Canada’s ambitious methane reduction plan, the Government of Canada also announced today a $30 million investment to establish a Methane Centre of Excellence in the near term that will improve our understanding and reporting of methane emissions, with a focus on collaborative initiatives to support data and measurement.

Supporting provincial action on methane

The Government of Canada recognizes the important role of provincial governments in reducing methane.

Equivalency agreements with Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan are currently in place for the 2018 methane Regulations. Each agreement is valid for a maximum of five years.

Equivalency agreements under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act are a formal regulatory process that requires robust analysis to demonstrate that provincial regulations meet the requirements to replace federal regulations. The development of the agreement requires that the provincial regime meets or exceeds federal greenhouse gas outcomes, and that the underlying legislation provides for a resident’s right to complain. It also includes a public consultation process.

Canada’s draft amendments to achieve further methane emissions reductions reflects the results of consultations conducted over the last year on the approach to driving further methane reductions from oil and gas activities.

Canada will continue to collaborate with and consult oil- and gas-producing provinces, Indigenous partners, industry, and interested stakeholders over the coming months to ensure that the final methane regulatory amendments achieve the best result possible.

Canada and the United States

In November 2022 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), Canada and the United States agreed to increase cooperation on reducing oil and gas emissions, with a special focus on methane, since it is one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to combat climate change.

At COP28, both countries reinforced their commitment to rapidly reducing methane and volatile organic compound emissions from the oil and gas sector by putting in place more stringent methane regulations.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s methane requirements are broadly comparable to the proposed amendments, with requirements to manage key sources of methane and volatile organic compound emissions. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s rules include requirements for leak detection and repair, and management of vented and flared emissions. They also require zero emissions from pneumatic pumps, with some exceptions.

Canada’s enhanced regulatory approach is similarly a source-based approach, with strict limits and controls on all key methane emissions: leaks, vents, flares, and pneumatic equipment. There is also the potential to opt in to a performance-based approach, if a robust plan is developed.

Both countries have also addressed oil and gas methane emissions through various funding programs. Canada’s programs include the $750 million Emissions Reduction Fund and the $1.7 billion Orphan and Inactive Oil and Gas Wells Fund, both announced in 2020. The United States established a $1.6 billion Methane Emissions Reduction Program in 2022 and committed $4.7 billion to address orphaned oil and gas wells in 2021.

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CCME: Public Review and Comment: Canadian Soil Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Environmental and Human Health for Cadmium

December 11, 2023 in Public Review

Draft Canadian soil quality guidelines for the protection of environmental and human health for cadmium and its scientific criteria document are available for public review and comment until January 19, 2024. The documents are available in English and French.

Please submit comments to:

Olivier Berreville
Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment
360 – 123 Main Street
Winnipeg, MB    R3C 1A3
Email: [email protected]


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

(Source: CBC News) Alberta needs an open public inquiry into how the province ensures oilsands producers can pay to clean up after themselves, says a report released Wednesday by a group of university researchers.

Co-author Martin Olszynski of the University of Calgary said 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.

“We are in a changing time,” he said.

“(The current system) is deliberately, entirely blinkered to this structural change to the global oil market.”

For the first time, a United Nations climate summit of nearly 200 countries agreed this week to the need to move away from coal, oil and gas.

The report, from the university’s School of Public Policy, concludes the provincial government’s Mine Financial Security Program is inadequate to ensure Albertans won’t be picking up the tab for oilsands cleanup, estimated at anywhere from $45 billion to $130 billion, with $2 billion currently in reserve.

That cleanup isn’t expected to start for decades and the current regime allows companies to delay posting surety until their mines are near the end of their lives. That means there will be less money for cleanup just as it starts to be needed, Olszynski said.

The current program relies on oilsands companies to remain healthy decades into the future, he said. He points to major environmental problems with bankrupt coal companies in the United States as a cautionary tale.

“Companies can and do enter into financial distress,” he said.

As well, even though the Alberta Energy Regulator has called plans to remediate tailings ponds scientifically unproven, there’s no Plan B other than leaving tailings in place and covering them with fresh water.

Regulatory documents show tailings are already seeping into groundwater outside the ponds.

“We’re told seepage is normal. But yet when it comes to those concentrated tailings that are toxic, that somehow there’s not a problem,” Olszynski said.

Alberta Environment spokesperson Ryan Fournier said the government is committed to ensuring industry cleans up its own mess.

“The large difference in total reclamation liability to security held by the regulator is due to the fact that no oilsands mine has yet reached a point where financial security is required,” he said in an email.

“They are using mostly collateral to secure their reclamation liabilities.”

Kendall Dilling of Pathways Alliance, a group of oilsands producers, said producers will reclaim all the land they now use.

“The Mine Financial Security Program secures the full liability for the reclamation of these sites,” he said.

That program is currently undergoing review by the provincial government. But Olszynski said that review is too secretive.

“Right now, everything is being done behind closed doors.”

He said a public review is being held into renewable energy, an industry whose reclamation issues, if any, are decades in the future and far less complex. Why not for oilsands reclamation?

“It’s a question of fair treatment,” he said.

Carla Conkin, a lawyer with decades of experience in mine regulation, said Albertans should be concerned.

“There’s no question that what they’ve set out in this report is well based,” she said.

Conkin said Alberta is developing a similar pattern to what she’s seen in other jurisdictions that have been stuck with hugely expensive bills from unreclaimed mines.

“As the mine becomes less profitable, reclamation is one of the things that isn’t going to get funded.”

Environmental risk from mines can’t be simply left ignored until their resource is gone, she said.

“If you don’t have a system to deal with ongoing risk, you’re running into a situation where those liabilities are compounding without notice.”


They live near a former wood treatment plant. Now they anxiously await results of a cancer investigation

(Source: CBC News) Dume Bera wades through waist-high weeds as he steps into his backyard for the first time in years.

His children watch from inside the house, behind windows that are always shut tight. No one in Bera’s household ever touches the soil.

A married father of three, the 43-year-old Bera is afraid of the contaminated soil found near his northeast Edmonton home and what it means for the health of his family.

“I worry. I worry every day about my sons,” he says as walks along an overgrown fenceline affixed with a warning sign.

“We were hoping the government would help us, but they have abandoned us.”

Bera’s home overlooks a former Domtar wood treatment plant, which is now slated to become a new neighbourhood.

Remediation work on the former creosote plant — now an empty field north of Yellowhead Trail and south of Hermitage Road — was approved this month by Alberta Environment.

Despite the completed cleanup, people living near the site continue to wait for answers about what the industrial history of their neighbourhood means for their future health.

An epidemiological investigation into elevated rates of cancer found among nearby residents is now more than three years overdue, with no timeline for completion.

Reports suggest the area where Bera’s home now stands was once used for the storage of raw, untreated wood. But testing in his backyard found dangerous concentrations of toxic chemicals.

‘Losing hope’

Bera said crews cleaning up the site offered to excavate part of his yard. But he didn’t want his family in the home when the soil was dug up; his yard remains untouched.

He said his children often struggle to breathe, and frequent hospital visits have left him wondering if the soil is making them sick.

“I am losing hope,” he said. “They said they would help us … but they abandoned my family.”

The delay of the health study is the latest frustration for area residents in a decades-long battle over contamination found on the brownfield site.

The plant operated from 1924 until 1987, using toxic preservatives such as creosote to treat railway ties, telephone poles and other wood products. Chemical waste seeped deep into the soil.

Domtar officials declined an interview request. The company no longer owns the land. Cherokee Canada Inc., the new owner,

In 2018, more than 100 area residents received letters warning them that their homes were near contaminated lands.

Fences were put up, along with signs warning that the soil was toxic with hazardous levels of dioxins, furans and polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

The following year, the province announced a cancer study after an initial assessment identified elevated cancer rates in people who lived near the former plant.

An association was found between a longer length of residency and certain types of cancer — breast and endometrial cancer in women, and lung cancer in men.

Soil testing also showed more than 180 samples from nearly 1,500 specimens had levels of toxins exceeding health guidelines.

The province promised a more thorough investigation into why residents were at an elevated risk and if contamination from the plant was to blame.

Years after dangerous industrial contamination was discovered on the site of a former Domtar plant in Edmonton, the lands are now poised for redevelopment. But with remediation complete, an investigation into elevated rates of cancer in the area remains incomplete.

Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services and the Public Health Agency of Canada launched the study. Federal epidemiologists were dispatched to Edmonton in 2019 to begin the work.

Results of the study were to be made public by spring 2020. What progress has been made to date remains unclear.

In a statement, Alberta Health blamed the ongoing delays on the COVID-19 pandemic. It said an epidemiologist at the University of Alberta will analyze the research before results are subjected to scientific peer review.

“We remain committed to completing the epidemiological study and will release the findings publicly when they are ready,” an Alberta Health spokesperson said.

After the Domtar plant closed, there was some remediation, including excavation work in nearby backyards. But millions of tonnes of contaminated earth remained.

Cherokee, a Toronto-based firm that specializes in redeveloping brownfield sites, purchased the plant lands in 2010 and planned to turn the area into a residential development.

Some homes, including Bera’s, were built to the west of the main plant property but Cherokee was soon locked in a regulatory fight to continue the build.

In 2016, following an investigation into the construction of a 900-metre-long berm on site, the province ordered Domtar and Cherokee to immediately remove all contaminated material.

The berm – 40 metres wide and four metres tall – was constructed with contaminated soil, according to site inspection reports.s

Cherokee and Domtar appealed the order on grounds that a cleanup, estimated to cost $52 million, was unnecessary.

Alberta’s Environmental Appeals Board sided with the companies. The board ruled that removing all contaminated soil from the site would put pose a higher risk to human health — that it would be safer to bury some of the polluted soil deeper in the ground.

In 2019, Shannon Phillips, Alberta’s environment minister at the time, accepted the recommendations and quashed the previous orders.

Phillips issued a new ministerial order and new environmental protection orders outlining remediation plans, including timelines for dust control and health risk assessments.

In the fall of 2022, remediation began on four parcels, including a city-owned greenbelt and the now-empty plant lands that are slated for infill development.

A map of Edmonton's Domtar site.
A map shows the former site of the Domtar creosote plant. (CBC)

Alberta Environment signed off this month on the cleanup of the lands slated for infill development. Excavation of contaminated soils has been completed and deemed acceptable, the ministry said.

More than 95,000 tonnes of soil with the highest levels of contamination was trucked away. Soil with low levels of contamination was used to backfill an excavation site where there are no plans for future residential development.

The province said risk management and long-term monitoring plans, completed last year, will manage the risk of residual contamination and ensure polluted soil buried on site is not disturbed.

Groundwater samples will be taken from 32 wells each year. Soil vapour samples will be collected twice annually.

If the sampling indicates “unexpected concentrations” of contaminants, corrective actions will be taken, the province said. It said monitoring reports will be provided to community members on request.

“Management of contamination below the recreational areas of the bermed soils and the greenbelt areas is considered possible without causing adverse effect,” the province said.

Decisions about how and when the land can be redeveloped now rest with the City of Edmonton. The city said it has has received an application for rezoning of the former Domtar lands to residential, parks and public utility development.

City officials said a team with expertise in contaminated sites would typically be involved in reviewing development proposals for properties with a known history of contamination. However, in this case, Alberta Environment was solely responsible for ensuring remediation was completed, the city said.

Remediation has also wrapped up on a city-owned greenbelt in the Overlanders neighbourhood that was formerly the site of a series of wastewater ditches for the plant.

In August, an environmental protection order for the greenbelt was rescinded.

Fences that had kept residents out for years came down in early November.

Coreen Sheridan, whose home of 18 years backs onto the property, said communication about remediation has been sporadic and the greenbelt was opened to public access without notice.

She once fed her family from a vegetable garden on the lot; her children played there.

Sheridan said she was relieved to see the fences come down but wants a clearer picture of the health risks her family may have faced.

“My husband fought cancer twice since those fences went up,” she said. “Is it because of where we’ve lived that he got this? I don’t know that there’s ever going to be evidence or proof, whether it is or it isn’t.”

In a statement to CBC, Alberta Health Services said risk to public health from the greenbelt is now considered low.

Sheridan said she has lost confidence in Cherokee, the province and the city. She said residents deserve more transparency around testing, and for the results of the cancer study to be made public.

“They told us that it was such a hazard, that we were living right next to this horrible zone that you can’t go into,” she said.

“Now, all of a sudden, they’ve determined this is safe? But they haven’t communicated that to us. They haven’t told us what they found or reassured us that it is a safe place.”


Public Comment Period_Proposed Amendment to Schedule 1 of Species at Risk Act

On Saturday, December 9, 2023, a proposed Order to amend Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) was published in Part I of the Canada Gazette for the Chestnut-collared Longspur and nine other wildlife species. Three of these species are found in the Prairie Provinces: Plains Hog–nosed Snake and the Manitoba Oakworm Moth are proposed to be added/listed as Special Concern species, and the Chestnut-collared Longspur is proposed for up-listing from Threatened to Endangered.

This marks the beginning of a 30-day public comment period on the RIAS/proposed Order, that will end on Monday January 8, 2024.

The proposed Order and the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS) are in the attached PDF, and can be found on the Species at Risk Registry here: Canada Gazette, Part 1, Volume 157, Number 49: Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (Chestnut-collared Longspur and Nine Other Wildlife Species). The RIAS is a social and economic analysis of the comments received during the pre-listing consultation periods held previously (in 2021, labeled as Batch 18), and informs the Minister’s final recommendation on whether to amend Schedule 1 and list/reclassify/remove a species or not.

Here is where you can find information in the pdf (see p. 3762-3794):

  • Regulatory Impact Assessment Statement (RIAS) Starts on p. 3762
  • Background on Species and their COSEWIC Assessment begins on p.3763
  • Consultation process for the Batch 18 pre-listing consultations begins on p.3767
    • Summary of the comments received begins on p. 3768
  • RIAS Analysis begins on p. 3770
  • Socio-economic and cultural values for Indigenous peoples begins on p.3772
  • Summary of the costs and benefits begins on p.3785
  • Proposed Order begins on p. 3792

If you would like to provide comments on the proposed amendments to Schedule 1, you can enter them directly on-line.  Please review the submission instructions (here: https://canadagazette.gc.ca/consult/consult-eng.html#a1 ) and submit your comments on the Canada Gazette, Part 1, Volume 157, Number 49: Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (Chestnut-collared Longspur and Nine Other Wildlife Species). Comments that comply with the Canada Gazette’s terms of use will be posted verbatim on Canada Gazette, Part I after the consultation period is closed.

At the close of the comment period, the Minister of the Environment will take into consideration comments and any additional information received and make a final listing recommendation to the Governor in Council for each species.

If a species is “listed”, a recovery strategy or a management plan must be published within the timelines set out in SARA.

Species proposed for addition or reclassification to Schedule 1 of SARA (Prairie species highlighted in yellow)

TaxonSpeciesScientific NameRange
Species proposed for addition to Schedule 1 (9)
Endangered (5)
MolluscsShagreenInflectarius inflectusON
MolluscsToothed GlobeMesodon zaletusON
ArthropodsReversed Haploa MothHaploa reversaON
PlantsGillman’s GoldenrodSolidago gillmanii ON
MossesSlender Yoke-mossZygodon gracilisBC
Threatened (1)
MolluscsCarolina MantleslugPhilomycus carolinianusON
Special Concern (3)        
ReptilesPlains Hog–nosed SnakeHeterodon nasicusAB, SK, MB
ArthropodsManitoba Oakworm MothAnisota manitobensisMB
PlantsPuvirnituq Mountain DrabaDraba puvirnituqiiQC
Reclassifications: Up-list (1)
From Threatened to Endangered (1)      
BirdsChestnut-collared LongspurCalcarius ornatusAB, SK, MB


US appeals court rejects ‘broad’ lawsuit against PFAS makers

(Source: esemag.com)

The plaintiff told the court that his use of firefighting foams over his 40-year career led to PFAS contamination within his body, but was unable to tell the court who manufactured the foams. Photo Credit: Dushlik, stock.adobe.com

An Ohio appeals court has vacated a lower court’s approval of a massive class action lawsuit against several major manufacturers of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS, suggesting claims of liability were too broad.‘

The dismissed lawsuit is among thousands that have been filed against 3M, DuPont and Corteva Inc., among others in recent years, over alleged PFAS contamination. In this instance, lead plaintiff and former firefighter, Kevin Hardwick, sought liability against 10 manufacturers over five PFAS compounds found in his bloodstream.

Appeals court Circuit Judge Raymond Kethledge ruled on the lawsuit in a written opinion that noted “seldom is so ambitious a case filed on so slight a basis.”

Kethledge added that the chemicals are “ubiquitous” in modern life and that Hardwick “does not know what companies manufactured the particular chemicals in his bloodstream; nor does he know, or indeed have much idea, whether those chemicals might someday make him sick; nor, as a result of those chemicals, does he have any sickness or symptoms now.”

Hardwick told the court that his use of firefighting foams over his 40-year career led to PFAS contamination within his body, but was unable to tell the court who manufactured the foams.

Had the court approved the lawsuit, it would have opened the door for nearly 12 million Ohio residents to hold the manufacturers liable for PFAS contamination.

In a statement, 3M’s corporate leaders said they were “pleased” with the appeal court’s dismissal of the suit.

In June, 3M agreed to a record $12.5-billion nationwide class settlement with public water systems that detect PFAS chemicals in their drinking water supplies.

That same month, three other PFAS manufacturers, including Chemours Co., DuPont de Nemours Inc., and Corteva Inc., reached an agreement in principle to settle PFAS-related claims for $1.1 billion. The companies said the agreement resolved claims made against them by hundreds of water providers across the country, who say they are responsible to help pay for PFAS contamination and cleanup.





Remediation Technology News and Resource

(The following are selected items from the US EPA’s Tech Direct – http://clu-in.org/techdirect/)


Upcoming Live Internet Seminars

ITRC Sediment Cap Chemical Isolation Training – January 18, 2024, 1:00PM-3:00PM EST (18:00-20:00 GMT). In 2023, ITRC published the Sediment Cap Chemical Isolation Guidance to supplement the 2014 Contaminated Sediments Remediation Guidance with the goal of improving consistency in sediment cap performance outcomes. Sediment capping is a commonly selected remediation approach and numerous designs have been completed. Previous cap designs have been evaluated in multiple ways, and these varying approaches have led to some differences in selection of chemical design criteria, construction tolerance specifications, and monitoring/maintenance objectives for sites with similar characteristics and contaminants, leading to different expectations for long-term performance and reliability. The Sediment Cap Chemical Isolation Training will cover several key elements of the recommended framework. For more information and to register, see https://www.itrcweb.org or https://clu-in.org/live.

ITRC: Pump & Treat Optimization – January 30, 2024, 1:00PM-3:15PM EST (18:00-20:15 GMT). This training aims to summarize existing information and best practices while also developing a systemic and adaptive optimization framework specifically for P&T well-network design and management. P&T systems have been one of the most commonly used methods for hydraulic containment and treatment of contaminated groundwater at sites with large groundwater plumes. This method cleans up groundwater contaminated with dissolved chemicals by pumping groundwater from wells to an above-ground treatment system that removes the contaminants. The primary audience for this training is environmental project decision-makers, which may include federal, state, tribal, and various local agency employees; contractors to these agencies; and potentially liable parties and their engineers and consultants as well as involved stakeholders. Generally, those involved in designing, building and operating, and optimizing pump & treat systems would benefit. For more information and to register, see https://www.itrcweb.org or https://www.clu-in.org/live.

New Documents and Web Resources

Green Remediation Best Management Practices: Waste Cover Systems and Integrated Site Reuse Planning (EPA 542-F-23-002). Remediation at thousands of sites across the United States involves addressing hazardous waste from former industrial landfills, aged municipal landfills, illegal dumps or waste piles. When properly designed and maintained, a final cover system could provide opportunities to reuse a site for purposes such as renewable energy production and greenspace preservation. Integrated site cleanup and reuse planning can provide economies of scale and avoid later retrofitting of remedial components if site conditions or administrative goals change over time. The updated EPA fact sheet on this topic describes best management practices to reduce the environmental footprint of constructing, maintaining and monitoring a waste cover system and highlights sites where such integrated planning is anticipated to enhance long-term site sustainability and resilience. To view or download, please visithttps://www.clu-in.org/s.focus/c/pub/i/3007/

Climate Adaptation Profile: General Motors (Central Foundry Division). EPA recently released a climate adaptation profile describing measures taken at the 218-acre General Motors site that borders the St. Lawrence River and Raquette River near Massena, New York. Remedial action at this National Priorities List site has involved excavating, dredging, solidifying and consolidating contaminated soil and sediment for onsite capping or offsite disposal. Current work focuses on maintaining the cover systems, extracting contaminated groundwater for ex situ treatment, and addressing contaminated soil and sediment at adjacent tribal land of the Mohawk Territory of Akwesasne. The site is vulnerable to riverine and upland flooding associated with extreme precipitation events or rapid snowmelt. Additionally, the site’s shoreline/subaqueous sediment cap is vulnerable to more intense wave action and more frequent ice jams. Climate adaptation measures have included designing the site’s landfill cap to shed more than three times the surface water capacity required by New York regulations; integrating a six-inch layer of stone armor in the subaqueous portion of the sediment cap; and constructing an engineered wetland that retains excess stormwater shed from the landfill cap. To protect the groundwater extraction system from saturated soil and freeze conditions, the system’s mechanical and electrical controls were installed in waterproof vaults positioned at depths below the site’s frost line. To view or download, please visit https://www.epa.gov/superfund/climate-adaptation-profile-general-motors-central-foundry-division.

Research Brief 347: High-Temperature Biochar for Arsenic Remediation. Adding biochar produced at a high temperature may be an effective way to immobilize arsenic in sediment, according to researchers partially funded by the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP). The study, led by Owen Duckworth, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill SRP Center, in partnership with researchers from the Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture, University of São Paulo, Brazil, also provided further insight into the conditions that influenced the effectiveness of biochar for soil remediation. For more information and to read the brief, please visit https://tools.niehs.nih.gov/srp/researchbriefs/view.cfm?Brief_ID=347

Technology Innovation News Survey Corner. The Technology Innovation News Survey contains market/commercialization information; reports on demonstrations, feasibility studies and research; and other news relevant to the hazardous waste community interested in technology development. Recent issues, complete archives, and subscription information is available at https://www.clu-in.org/products/tins/. The following resources were included in recent issues:

    • Horizontal Directional Drilling and Horizontal Wells to Enhance Remediation at Complex Sites
    • Industrial SCWO for the Treatment of PFAS/AFFF Within a Water Matrix
    • Superfund Environmental Justice Best Practices


EUGRIS Corner. New Documents on EUGRIS, the platform for European contaminated soil and water information. More than four resources, events, projects and news items were added to EUGRIS in November 2023. These can be viewed at http://www.eugris.info/whatsnew.asp . Then select the appropriate month and year for the updates in which you are interested. The following resource was posted on EUGRIS:

Case Studies and Analysis of Sustainable Remediation Techniques and Technologies (CL:AIRE 2023). CL:AIRE’s Concawe bulletins describe the deployment of sustainable remediation techniques and technologies on sites in Europe. Each bulletin includes a description of the project context and conceptual site model along with a sustainability assessment. These bulletins form Appendix 1 of the Concawe report – Case Studies and Analysis of Sustainable Remediation Techniques and Technologies. The report aims to fill in a recognised gap in the provision of detailed case studies documenting the practical implementation of sustainable remediation, and facilitate further refinement of guidance. It contains a cross comparison analysis of the ten case studies, seeking to help practitioners compare these case studies to their own projects. View or download from https://www.claire.co.uk/information-centre/cl-aire-publications?start=4.


Upcoming Industry Events


Canadian Environmental and Engineering Executives Conference (CE3C)

January 24-25, 2024

Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Vancouver

The Canadian Environmental and Engineering Executives Conference (CE3C) was specifically created as an exclusive forum for executives at the highest level of the environmental engineering and consulting industry in Canada.  Since the inaugural conference in October 2018 demand has been high for this event; Presidents, CEOs, COOs, CFOs, senior executives, and owners from across the country have attended.

The panel discussions provide a comprehensive overview of the current trends and challenges within the environmental and engineering consulting domain, strategic business development, and the evolving landscape of Human Resources, particularly in enhancing employee engagement. These sessions are designed to equip attendees with practical insights and strategies to effectively navigate the intricacies of the industry.

On the second day, the conference agenda highlights the “Keynote Forum” where notable figures, Michael Campbell and Nik Nanos, will examine the economic, political, and international factors impacting Canadian business, with a specific focus on the environmental and engineering consulting industry.

CE3C is not merely a congregation of professionals, but rather a catalyst for industry evolution, and an incredible platform for networking and collaboration. Witness the confluence of ideas, strategies, and professional camaraderie, all set against the serene backdrop of Vancouver. Join us and be part of the narrative driving the future of the Environmental and Engineering Consulting sector in Canada.

Detailed program at: https://ce3c.ca/program/.

Contact [email protected] for information or visit https://ce3c.ca/.


Alberta Wetlands: From Classification to Policy

January 23-24, 2024

Aquality is pleased to announce thatregistration for “Alberta Wetlands: From Classification to Policy” is now open!

The course material includes wetland classification, the ecosystem roles andfunctions of wetlands, wetland hydrology, and an examination of characteristicsof peatlands and mineral wetlands. Federal, provincial, and municipal policies,regulations, and legislations affecting wetlands in Alberta, particularly theAlberta Wetland Policy (2013), will be discussed. Wetland assessments includingboth desktop delineations and field assessments, ABWRET assessments, andeconomic valuation of wetlands will be examined. Wetland avoidance, mitigation,compensation/replacement guidelines, and WAIR/WAIF applications will also beaddressed.

This 2-day course will be taking place both online via Zoom and in person inEdmonton, AB on January 23rd to January 24th, 2024. The course will run from9:00 am – 4:30 pm both days.

This comprehensive course is designed to help consultants, industryprofessionals, resource managers, not-for-profit organizations, and governmentregulators understand the theoretical component used in wetland assessments. Ifyou or any of your colleagues are interested in registering, you can visit ourwebsite at http://www.wetlandpolicy.ca/alberta-wetlands-from-classification-to-policyto register and obtain further information.

Website Link To Register: http://www.wetlandpolicy.ca/alberta-wetlands-from-classification-to-policy


Spring SST Training Course

Equilibrium Environmental has scheduled a full 4-day SST Version 3.0 certification course for the dates shown below.  It is not mandatory for practitioners who are already certified in a previous version of the tool to retake the full certification course / exam, though it is highly recommended to have taken at least a 2-day update course or audit the full course as a refresher (but with no exam) if certified prior to Version 3.0.

Full 4 day certification course

This 4 day course includes over three days of instruction on theory, software tool operation, and case studies, with the exam on the fourth day (four-hour comprehensive exam). Students achieving a passing mark (80%) will obtain AEPA certification and a certificate number registered at AEPA for submitting SST assessments. The course will include instruction on the newest Version 3.0 including the subsoil SAR/sodium module, along with some comparisons to the previous version to provide context for the numerous updates/upgrades in Version 3.0.

Dates:        Tue April 9 – Friday April 12, 2024

Location:    Online

For further information, please email [email protected] or contact Equilibrium Environmental at 403-286-9374 or visit www.eqm.ca for a copy of the registration form. Please do not respond to this email.

Announcing Smart Remediation 2024: Topics & Ticket Information

The 14th annual SMART Remediation Seminar Series will consist of two in-person events: Toronto and Ottawa. Early bird registration is still open for both events from now until December 31!

Toronto: January 25, 2024
Ottawa: February 8, 2024

This year we have another great lineup of interesting talks on a wide variety of topics, including Emerging Contaminants, Excess Soils, Chlorinated Solvents and Life or Something Like It!

For more information or to register, please visit www.smartremediation.com/upcoming-events/.


ESAA Job Board

Check out the new improved ESAA Job Board.  Members can post ads for free.

Current Listings:
  • Environmental Specialist – Summit
  • Sustainability & Environment Coordinator – Lafarge Canada




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