“LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES”
The following article is part of a creative sentencing order from the Alberta Court of Justice.
I have prepared this article as part of a creative sentencing order from the Alberta Court of Justice, in order to inform others about the consequences of mistakes I made as an environmental services provider.
For many years I worked for the same company in the environmental consulting industry.
One of our services was to provide peer reviews of third party documents and reports for our clients, which we submitted to Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP). My role was as an environmental regulatory coordinator, which included marketing, client relations, and coordinating projects. I also conducted peer reviews of similar documents in other provinces, but I did not have the qualifications to peer review the same in Alberta. Our company had only one person who was qualified to complete peer reviews.
That employee left the company and we could not find anyone to replace them. This left us without anyone to complete peer reviews, just before the busy season a few months after. Our company was struggling financially after the COVID-19 pandemic and a shortage of staff. We were under a lot of pressure to get work and keep work. It didn’t seem possible to turn down contracts for third party reviews, and I thought I could convince the former employee to help with verification on the side, just to get us through this busy time. But that didn’t happen.
I had not successfully completed the training required by AEP in order to conduct peer reviews in Alberta as the reporting deadline was approaching. Our clients were important to us. I made a bad decision as the only solution I could see was to use the former employee’s signature. So I made the decision to use the former employee’s signature and email credentials, posing as them in e-mails and on peer review documents. I also sent a required “Verification Online Training Quiz” into AEP using their name and email address confirming that the training and quiz had been completed by them when it had not.
I know that this was the wrong thing to do. But at the time I thought, “what harm could it do?” It didn’t seem like anybody would be hurt by my actions. I was also under a tremendous amount of stress at the time. I was recovering from a major ongoing medical event and I was afraid I would lose my job if we did not complete the work. I just wasn’t thinking clearly.
It didn’t take long before the former employee found out I had impersonated them and reported my conduct to their professional regulator. Shortly thereafter our sub-contractors and that regulator contacted my company. The company subcontracted qualified peer reviewers to re-do the peer reviews, and I was let go immediately after these reviews were completed.
As a result of my actions, I was charged with providing false and misleading information to AEP and have pled guilty. As a result, I have been fined $10,000 and have been ordered not to participate in any more similar consulting or auditing positions for a period of three years.
I cannot begin to express my regret for my actions and only hope someone else will learn
from my mistakes. I truly regret the terrible decisions I’ve made, every single day. Because of my poor decisions I am no longer employed. With my serious medical issues and my age, I am unable to find suitable employment. This has been a terrible time in my life.
I hope that anyone else who is thinking that a signature is just a signature remembers my story and takes the time to think about the potential consequences.
“The regulator’s first performance report shows how Alberta’s promise to take bold and strong action under the liability management framework to clean up inactive oil and gas sites is making a big difference.
“The AER report demonstrates the progress made in moving oil and gas infrastructure through stages of closure work. For example, in 2022, the number of inactive wells in Alberta decreased to 83,000 from 91,000 – a nine per cent reduction.
“Industry is doing its part. In 2022, companies spent approximately $700 million to clean up liabilities – exceeding the closure spending requirements of the AER by 65 per cent. In total, more than $1.2 billion was spent on cleanup and closure work in 2022.
“In 2022, a mandatory closure spending quota was introduced by the AER, requiring industry to spend at least $422 million collectively on closure and cleanup work. At the same time, the Alberta Site Rehabilitation Program provided grants to service sector companies to conduct closure work, and the Orphan Well Association continued its cleanup of orphan sites.”
Brian Jean, Minister of Energy and Minerals
“The AER report shows that Alberta is making real progress in cleaning up oil and gas sites using the highest environmental standards. This report shows more sites reclaimed, more funds invested into more cleanup work and more action being taken with industry at sites across the province. Our government has made this a priority, and we are delivering.
“We will keep building on this momentum. In the coming weeks we have two new pilot projects – the Well Site Reduction Pilot and the Reclaiming Peatland Pilot – that will begin testing ways to make the current reclamation certificate issuance process faster, clearer and more effective. As this moves forward, we will continue looking at new ways to speed up closure and cleanup work while maintaining world-class environmental standards, and at ways to reclaim sites as quickly, safely and effectively as possible for future generations.”
Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas
The Alberta Energy Regulator publishes first annual Liability Management Performance Report
In total, more than $1.2 billion spent on closure and cleanup activities in 2022
CALGARY, ALBERTA, JANUARY 17, 2024 – Today, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) published the 2022 Liability Management Performance Report. The online report is the first of what will be an annual publication on how the conventional oil and gas sector is managing the closure and cleanup of oil and gas wells, pipelines, and other facilities across the province.
The report aims at improving transparency of industry’s management of conventional oil and gas liabilities as well as to develop performance measure baselines and ongoing assessments of the industry as a whole and licensees specifically.
“The results of this report are a robust and clear indication that the industry is improving in the cleanup of oil and gas wells, pipelines, and facilities,” said Laurie Pushor, AER president and CEO. “While this report is showing significant improvement, continued focus and effort is required to ensure the sustained downward trend in reducing inactive well count in the future.”
The report shows that in 2022, industry spent $696 million on cleanup, exceeding the $422 million spend requirement by 65%.
Additionally, 90% of licensees were compliant with their closure quota, leaving 51 noncompliant licensees with an outstanding amount of $4.2 million in missed closure quota. The 51 companies are listed in the report.
In total, more than $1.2 billion was spent on closure and cleanup activities in 2022. This includes industry spend and closure activities funded by the Government of Alberta’s Site Rehabilitation Program (SRP) and the industry-funded Orphan Well Association (OWA).
Industry operators continue to work on the backlog of inactive infrastructure. In 2022, the inactive well count decreased by 9% – from 91 000 to 83 000.
Industry members are currently submitting closure spend data for 2023, with a deadline of March 31, 2024, to complete their reporting. The 2023 report will be released before the end of 2024.
As part of the new Liability Management Framework, the AER implemented the Inventory Reduction Program in 2022, which includes an industry-wide spend requirement and mandatory closure spend quotas for licensees in the oil and gas sector who have inactive liability (used to determine the licensee’s portion of the industry-wide spend requirement).
Mandatory closure-spend quotas specify the minimum amount a licensee must spend on closure work each year. In 2022, the industry-wide spend requirement was $422 million. The industry closure-spend requirements for 2023 and 2024 were each set at $700 million.
Watersheds are areas of land that drain rainfall and melted snow into streams, rivers and lakes. Healthy and resilient watersheds play an important role in preventing drought, reducing the risk of floods and supporting healthy communities and ecosystems.
This year, Alberta’s government is providing $3.5 million to fund eight projects in communities across the province through the Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program. These projects will help restore riverbanks and watersheds, stabilize stream banks and improve natural drainage, supporting communities affected by recent droughts and floods.
“It has never been more important to improve the resiliency of Alberta’s watersheds. By working with local communities and partners, we are helping mitigate the impact of future floods and droughts in communities across the province while creating healthier water bodies for future generations.”
Each year, communities and local partners receive project funding through the Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program to increase the natural ability of Alberta’s watersheds to reduce the intensity, magnitude, duration and effects from flooding and droughts.
Projects receiving funding are led by stewardship organizations, non-profits, Indigenous communities and municipalities to restore critical wetland and riparian areas while promoting the ongoing stewardship and preservation of critical watersheds.
“This vital grant will boost community resilience across the Oldman watershed at a critical time when southwest Alberta is facing extreme drought conditions. It will allow us to restore the essential natural infrastructure that reduces drought impacts for those being affected the most – agricultural producers, First Nations and municipalities.”
“This grant is terrific news. It enables us to provide direct support to our municipal partners and participating acreage owners, who, through their collective and collaborative efforts, will have a real impact on drought and flood mitigation, as well as enhancing biodiversity and ecosystem services, and supporting watershed resiliency provincewide.”
“This grant is fantastic news. With increasing drought prevalence and climatic pressures, these funds will help us to promote and implement best management practices to ensure the long-term sustainability and viability of our watershed.”
“Being a river valley community, this grant is great news. This funding will help support continued watershed restoration work along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River through bioengineering to reduce the amount of exposed slopes that are vulnerable to flooding and erosion.”
“ALUS is grateful to the Government of Alberta for their support through the Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program. This generous funding breathes life into our project, Tributaries to Resiliency: Farm-level Action and Community Connection. Through this project, agricultural producers are building ecological and economic resilience by adding natural infrastructure to the landscape and undertaking community engagement. With ALUS, Alberta’s farmers and ranchers are enhancing water quality, mitigating the effects of drought, flood and extreme heat and supporting biodiversity. Their efforts are contributing to a resilient and prosperous future for all Albertans.”
“Delta Waterfowl applauds the approach of funding local communities, empowering them to restore wetlands and the many benefits they provide. These grants will enable farmers and ranchers to help make the land more resilient, especially in dry times, providing long-term benefits for farm communities and society at large.”
To date, Alberta’s government has allocated more than $46.5 million to flood and drought resilience projects through the Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program. Since 2014, this funding has supported the restoration, enhancement and conservation of 5,475 hectares of wetlands and riparian areas and 320 kilometres of streambank.
More information on the newly funded projects and how to apply for future funding is available online.
- Priority watersheds were identified based on indicators of watershed resilience, such as their high risk and consequence for flood and drought across the province.
- More than 11,000 Albertans have participated in training workshops funded through this program on natural restoration techniques and other practices that enhance watershed resiliency.
- The next application deadline for Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program funding is Sept. 15.
(Source: ESEMag.comA new study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) agency found that nine of 11 ice control product formulations commonly used at airports contain phosphorus in levels that can drive overgrowth of algae.
The six-year study analyzed areas around Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but the deicing products examined are extensively used at more than 200 airports in the U.S. that experience freezing conditions.
The deicing products have a high biochemical oxygen demand and chemical oxygen demand and can degrade aquatic ecosystems through oxygen depletion. Freezing point depressants such as propylene glycol and ethylene glycol, as well as additives in anti-icing fluids and pavement deicers, can also be toxic to aquatic organisms.
Airport deicers were found to contribute to total phosphorus (TP) in 84% of the water samples collected at downstream sites during deicing events, and TP concentrations at those sites exceeded aquatic life benchmarks in 70% of samples collected during deicing, the study found.
“Monitoring ice control product runoff is an important part of an airport’s pollution prevention plan, and in many cases, these plans include monitoring of phosphorus runoff,” says USGS physical scientist and study co-author Owen Stefaniak, in a statement. “But accounting for the true source of phosphorus observed in airport runoff can be a real challenge for airport managers. Since these products contain proprietary ingredients not disclosed by the manufacturers, the airlines have no way to know how much phosphorus they are applying when they deice a plane.”
Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport uses extensive deicer collection systems such as deicing pads (areas that drain to recovery tanks) and vehicles with high-powered suction devices designed to capture ice control products from pavement. However, preventing all runoff from aircraft and runway deicing operations during inclement weather while maintaining flight schedules is not typically possible.
The study notes that ice control product applications occur during freezing weather and phosphorus may not have the same environmental impact as it would during warmer months, when plant and algae growth is much greater.
Use of deicing products is required by the Federal Aviation Administration during periods of ice and snow accumulation on aircraft. Stormwater runoff from airports is regulated by the states with guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and managed by airports. The EPA has designated spent deicers as regulated industrial wastewater.
“New airports are required by law to collect 60% of their [deicing] runoff while existing airports are handled by a site-specific permitting process. Any uncollected spent deicing products can run off to nearby surface waters or enter the local groundwater,” the study states.
The study, Airport Deicers: An Unrecognized Source of Phosphorus Loading in Receiving Waters, was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Microplastics are everywhere: Is it possible to reduce our exposure?
(Source: BBC News)A new study has found that bottled water contains hundreds of thousands of nanoplastics. With tiny plastic fragments infiltrating every part of human existence, can we ever hope to avoid them?
Microplastics have been found on every part of the planet. The tiny particles of this anthropogenic material have been found buried in Antarctic sea ice, inside the guts of marine animals inhabiting the deepest ocean trenches, and in drinking water around the world.
Now a new study has found that bottled water can contain up to 100 times more tiny pieces of plastic than was previously estimated. The average litre of bottled water contains almost a quarter of a million nanoplastic fragments, according to a study by researchers at Columbia and Rutgers universities in the US. The researchers analysed five samples of three common bottled water brands and found nanoplastic levels ranging from 110,000 to 400,000 per litre, with an average of around 240,000. The scientists say much of the plastic appears to be coming from the bottle itself and that it is not known whether the ingestion of plastic poses a serious health risk.
A major review of the scientific evidence by the World Health Organization in 2019 and 2020 concluded there was still too little research to determine if consuming or inhaling microplastics posed a risk to human health. It did warn, however, that the smallest fragments – measuring less than 10 micrometres in size – are likely to be taken up biologically. WHO has called for a reduction in plastic pollution to reduce human exposure.
But is it really possible to avoid microplastics? Here’s what we know about where they are found.
Plastics aren’t just ubiquitous in water. They are also spread widely on agricultural land and can even end up in the food we eat. According to a 2022 analysis, sewage sludge, which is used as crop fertiliser, has contaminated almost 20 million acres (80,937sq km) of US farmland. This sludge contains microplastics and PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), also known as “forever chemicals”. A study from Cardiff University in the UK found that 86 trillion to 710 trillion microplastic particles contaminate European farmland each year.
This means that, unwittingly, we may be eating tiny plastic fragments with every bite we take. But some plants seem to take up these plastics more than others. For example, some analysis seems to indicate that plastics tend to accumulate in plant roots, meaning leafy vegetables such as lettuces may have lower concentrations than carrots, radishes and turnips. While the health effects of ingesting microplastics are still not clear, they have been found to make their way into the human bloodstream. (Find out more about how microplastics are infiltrating the fruit and vegetables you eat.)
Recommendations from our editor
While editing this article, it reminded me of this photograph that shocked the world into taking notice of the impact plastic pollution can have on wildlife, but also that this pollution can inadvertently help to reveal new insights about our oceans too. (From Richard Gray)
The backlash against single-use plastics has seen many companies seeking to use alternatives that claim to be more biodegradable or compostable. But in some cases these alternatives may actually be compounding the microplastic problem. Research by scientists at the University of Plymouth in the UK found that bags labelled as “biodegradable” can take years to disintegrate, and even then they mostly break down into smaller pieces rather than their component chemical parts. (Learn more about why biodegradables won’t solve the plastic crisis in this article by Kelly Oakes.)
Swapping out plastic packaging could potentially help to reduce exposure – tap water has lower levels of microplastics than water from plastic bottles. But it would also have environmental repercussions. While glass bottles have a high recycling rate, they also have a higher environmental footprint than plastic and other packaging used for liquids such as drinks cartons and aluminium cans. This is because the mining of silica, which glass is made of, can cause significant environmental damage, including land deterioration and biodiversity loss. Even with these non-plastic receptacles, it’s hard to escape microplastics entirely. Studies led by Sherri Mason at Pennsylvania State University have found they are not only present in tap water, where most of the plastic contamination comes from clothing fibres, but also sea salt and even beer. Read more about whether glass or plastic is better for the environment.
A species of beetle larvae that can devour polystyrene has also offered a potential solution
Fortunately, there is some hope. Researchers are developing a number of approaches to help get rid of the plastic pollution in our environment. One approach has been to turn to fungi and bacteria that feed on plastic, breaking it down in the process. A species of beetle larvae that can devour polystyrene has also offered another potential solution. Others are looking at using water filtration techniques or chemical treatments that can remove microplastics. (Read about how magnets could be used to fight microplastic pollution.)
Upcoming Industry Events
October 16-18, 2024
Fairmont Banff Springs
Call for Abstracts / 65 Super Early Bird Passes Remaining
ESAA is pleased to announce that early bird registration is open for the 23rd edition of RemTech.
RemTech 2024 will feature technical talks, 2 receptions, 55 exhibits, networking opportunities and three great keynotes.
Professor of Health Law and Science Policy, University of Alberta
Chief Climate Correspondent, CNN
The Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould
Former Member of Parliament, Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada,
New this year: 100 passes are available at a Super Early Bird Price. (65 passes remaining at this price) $850 Members and $1,250 Non-Members. When the 100 passes are sold, regular early bird rates will be in effect and available until May 31st. Registration details at: https://esaa.org/remtech/
Call for Abstracts
Complete details for the 2024 call for abstracts is available at: https://esaa.org/remtech/call-
Sponsors / Exhibitors
Previous sponsors and exhibitors will be contacted in early February to secure your previous sponsorship level and exhibit space. Once their deadline to respond passes, remaining spots will be offered to companies on the waiting list.
The Fairmont Banff Springs will be accepting reservations shortly. Accommodations for RemTech™ 2024 delegates start at $265 per night plus $16 resort fee (tipping of bell and housekeeping not required) per night depending on the type and occupancy of the room. Rates do not include taxes and surcharges. Rate also includes 2 free drinks (per room) at any Fairmont Banff Springs bar (valid during RemTech, October 16-18, 2024). Full details available soon along with the reservation link.
Full RemTech 2024 details can be found at: https://esaa.org/remtech/
ESAAs 9 Week On-line Yoga Class – You can still join!
We just finished our first week and it was AMAZING.
Thank you to everyone who signed up and made it out this week it was great to see you!
If you missed registering and still wanted to join you still can – there’s 10 weeks left!
Melany James from Soul Strength Yoga & Fitness will lead our weekly on-line Vinyasa class. The beautiful part of Yoga is all classes are customizable to your level of fitness. Don’t be discouraged if you are a beginner and don’t miss out because you are a seasoned Yogi.
Classes run January 16, 2024 to March 21, 2024
- Times are 12:05 – 12:55pm & 8 – 9pm MST
** All classes are Vinyasa Flow except Thursday 12:05-12:55 will be gentle flow**
- $5.00 per class
- $40.00 for the remaining 9 classes (Reduced rate)
Weekly Sponsorship Opportunities are Available;
- $99.00 Weekly Sponsorship
** Each Sponsorship comes with a full 11 week class pass for 1 member **
ESAA Job Board
Check out the new improved ESAA Job Board. Members can post ads for free.
- Hydrogeologist, Environmental Engineer or Environmental Scientist,
- Summer Students and Seasonal Staff,
- Intermediate Environmental Scientist,
- Emissions Technologist,
- Intermediate Wildlife Biologist,
- Intermediate Vegetation and Wetland Ecologist,
- Environmental Construction Monitor,