Week ending May 10th, 2024

Alberta: Committee launched to help reclaim tailings ponds

Alberta’s new Oil Sands Mine Water Steering Committee will look at options to speed up oil sands mine water management and tailings ponds reclamation.

Alberta is launching the new Oil Sands Mine Water Steering Committee to speed up the reclamation of oil sands tailings ponds. The expert committee will study potential policies and measures for and suggest options that would best allow for reclamation to occur as quickly and safely as possible. Alberta’s government will use the committee’s work to create an accelerated plan to reclaim the water in oil sands tailing ponds and eventually return the land for use by future generations.

“Managing oil sands mine water and reclaiming tailings ponds is a complex issue that requires collaboration. This committee will look at all the feasible options for addressing oil sands mine water and tailings ponds and suggest ways to safely reclaim the land and ensure our waterways remain clean for future generations.”

Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas

Tailings ponds are a complex issue that likely cannot be addressed through just one solution. Significant technical research and analysis has been conducted by industry, as well as the province’s Oil Sands Mine Water Science Team. There have also been past discussions with local Indigenous communities on this issue, and the Crown-Indigenous Working Group for the Potential Oil Sands Mining Effluent Regulations has issued several reports examining different options. However, no clear consensus has been identified and research is still emerging. The steering committee is expected to evaluate a wide range of options for addressing oil sands mine water and reclaiming tailings ponds in an accelerated timeframe.

To do this, the steering committee will review all relevant research and engage with communities, industry and governments to ensure that many perspectives and potential solutions are considered. More information will be shared in the coming months on how the public can submit technical information. All viable solutions to this challenging issue will be considered.

“This is an important step forward to responsibly address oil sands mine water and reclaim tailings ponds more swiftly and effectively.”

Tany Yao, MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo

The province is looking forward to the committee’s advice to help develop an accelerated plan for addressing tailings ponds while protecting the health of local and downstream communities and the environment.

Members of the committee

The Oil Sands Mine Water Steering Committee will include:

  • Chief Jim Boucher, AOE, President, Saa Dene Group of Companies, former chief of Fort McKay First Nation.
  • Mohamed Gamal El-Din, PhD, engineering research chair and director of the Water Research Centre at the University of Alberta
  • Andrea Larson, researcher and retired Alberta Energy Regulator employee with experience in oil sands mining
  • Alan Reid, retired oil and gas executive with experience with the Pathways Alliance, Cenovus Energy and others
  • Lorne Taylor, PhD, former chair of Alberta Water Research Institute, former chair of the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency, and former provincial minister of Science, Research and Information Technology; Innovation and Science; and Environment.
  • Tany Yao, MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo
Quick facts
  • All mines produce tailings. In oil sands mining operations, tailings are a mixture of water, sand, clay and residual bitumen and are the byproduct of the extraction process used to separate the oil from sand and clay.
  • The Oil Sands Mine Water Steering Committee will be supported by an independent facilitator external to the Government of Alberta.
  • The committee will determine which options are feasible based on available technology, alignment with existing policies, environmental and community impacts, economics, infrastructure needs and liability implications.
  • Alberta’s government expects that the committee will suggest multiple opportunities to address oil sands mine water based on their analysis of existing research and what they hear from industry, Indigenous communities, governments and others.
  • Oil sands mine operations in Alberta have reduced the amount of fresh water used per barrel by 23 per cent since 2017. All operators came in below their approved volume limits in 2022.
Related information


Supporting caribou recovery in northern Alberta

Alberta’s government is seeking input on regulations to help the Bistcho Lake and Cold Lake sub-regional plans support caribou recovery and create jobs.

Two years ago, after extensive consultation, the province released sub-regional plans that support environmental stewardship, economic growth and strong communities in the Bistcho Lake and Cold Lake sub-regions. Alberta’s government continues to support caribou recovery and responsible development in northern Alberta.

An online survey is now available, allowing Albertans to provide input on the draft regulatory details that will help guide conservation and development in the Bistcho Lake and Cold Lake areas. Albertans, Indigenous communities and industry are invited to have their say.

“Environmental protection and responsible development go hand-in-hand. These regulations will support conservation and caribou recovery while supporting growing communities in northern Alberta. Now, we want to hear directly from Albertans to make sure these regulations are as effective as possible.”

Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas

The Bistcho Lake and Cold Lake sub-regional plans are the first two of 11 sub-regional plans covering 15 caribou ranges being developed in Alberta. They were developed after extensive consultation with Indigenous partners, Albertans, industry and others. These plans help enable caribou recovery while also supporting conservation, Indigenous traditional use, recreation and economic development.

Now, regulatory details are being proposed to help put these plans into action. They provide the rules, in legal language, for enforcing policies laid out in the sub-regional plans. Public engagement will run until June 6. This feedback will be considered before finalizing the regulations and incorporating them through amendments to the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan.

As this important work continues, government will continue working with Indigenous communities, local governments, industry and all Albertans as the Cold Lake and Bistcho Lake sub-regional plans are implemented in the years ahead.

Quick facts
  • The Bistcho Lake sub-region is located in the northwest part of the Lower Peace Region. This sub-region covers 20,093 square kilometres and overlaps the geographic area of Treaty 8.
  • The Cold Lake sub-region is in the southeast part of the Lower Athabasca Region. This sub-region covers 16,659 square kilometres and overlaps the geographic area of Treaties 6, 8 and 10.
  • More information about the draft regulatory details is available online at alberta.ca/engagement.


The AER penalizes Tallahassee for failing to report methane emissions

CALGARY, ALBERTA, MAY 7, 2024 – The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has fined Tallahassee Exploration Inc. (Tallahassee) for failure to meet its fugitive emissions and methane reporting requirements in 2021. The company has been ordered to pay $191,885.

The AER began investigating Tallahassee in 2022 and has determined that the company contravened the Methane Emission Reduction Regulation (MERR) on two counts:

  • Failure to submit methane emissions reports for the 2021 reporting period.
  • Failure to conduct fugitive emission surveys at any of its facilities in 2021.


The AER also found Tallahassee contravened the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act by providing false or misleading information by resubmitting information from the 2020 reporting period and representing it as data from the 2021 reporting period.

The MERR requires adherence to methane requirements outlined in Directive 060: Upstream Petroleum Industry Flaring, Incinerating, and Venting. Under this regulation, companies must submit annual methane emissions reports for each facility. Reporting methane emissions gives the AER the necessary data to evaluate whether emission reduction strategies are working. 

A fine or an administrative penalty are two possible enforcement tools the AER can use when companies break the rules. 

For more information on the AER’s investigation enforcement processes, please see the Investigations webpage.



Toxic Sewage Discharged at Chalk River Nuclear Lab

The CBC reports that they received confirmation from Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC) that its enforcement officers issued CNL a compliance direction in late April. A compliance direction is a tool used to correct violations of Fisheries Act regulations.

It said Chalk River’s sanitary sewage plant had an “acute lethality failure,” meaning testing found the sewage effluent, or treated wastewater discharge, was toxic to fish.

Effluent is considered acutely lethal when, at 100 percent concentration, or undiluted, it kills more than half the rainbow trout subjected to it during a 96-hour period, regulations say.

Neither CNL nor Environment Canada said what pollutants were in the effluent, how much toxic wastewater was discharged or where, sparking fears it may have landed in the Ottawa River.

Environment Canada said it “takes pollution incidents and threats to the environment seriously.” CNL said it’s “confident that the non-compliant discharge from the sewage treatment facility does not pose a threat to the environment or the public.”

With over 3,000 employees, the Chalk River Laboratory (CRL) is the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ largest facility.

On its website, the Canadian Nuclear Labs (which includes the lab at Chalk River), states CNL is committed to providing the safest environment for our public and our employees. CNL follows the industry and Canadian comprehensive all-hazards approach to safeguard the public from any potential incidents.

In January, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) announced the Commission’s decision to amend the licence for Chalk River Laboratories, authorizing Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) to construct a near surface disposal facility (NSDF) on the site, almost eight years after the environmental assessment process began. The total capacity of phase 1 of the disposal facility will be 525,000 m3 and phase 2 will be 475,000 m3, for a total NSDF capacity of 1 million cubic metres. The NSDF will have an expected operating life of at least 50 years.


Husky Oil Operations Limited fined $2.5 million for three offences related to crude oil releases offshore of Newfoundland and Labrador

The charges relate to a crude oil release on November 16, 2018, at the White Rose oil field in the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore area, where an estimated 250,000 litres of crude oil were released into the environment due to a failure of the subsea flowline connector from the SeaRose Floating Production, Storage and Offloading installation. Crude oil is deleterious to fish and harmful to migratory birds. Between November 18 and 23, 2018, 17 potentially oiled birds were observed from offshore vessels and platforms, seven of which were captured. An oiled bird was also discovered on December 4, 2018. These observations, and subsequent laboratory analyses, confirmed that the oil release affected various migratory birds.

The three charges against the company include:

  • One charge for a contravention of subsection 38(6) of the Fisheries Act for failing to take all reasonable measures to prevent an unauthorized deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish, or to counteract, mitigate, or remedy any adverse effects that result or that are reasonably expected to result.
  • One charge for a contravention of subsection 5.1(1) of the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 for unlawfully depositing a substance that is harmful to migratory birds, namely crude oil, or permitting such a substance to be deposited in water or an area frequented by migratory birds.
  • One charge for having ceased work or activity that was likely to cause pollution and resumed it without ensuring it could be done safely and without pollution, contrary to subsection 24(2) of the Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Drilling and Production Regulations, thereby committing offences pursuant to paragraph 194(1)(a) of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic Accord Implementation Act, thereby committing an offence pursuant to paragraph 194(1)(a) of the Accord Act.


As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry. The Registry contains information on convictions of corporations registered for offences committed under certain federal environmental laws.


Yukon’s contaminated Faro mine site has new caretaker

Part of the agreement requires Yukon to come up with a closure plan for the Faro site, with the help of federal money, but that’s still in the works.

​”I think that what we’ll see is the Yukon government’s work with Canada on a remediation planning works will have progressed” by 2020, when Parsons’ contract expires, Randell said.

“We’ll have to revisit the care and maintenance scope at that time to understand how things may change. It is noted, though, that care and maintenance will continue in some form, over time.”

Randell said Parsons will be given contact information for Yukoners who have been hired by previous contractors to do care and maintenance at the site, so they might continue their employment.



Carbon offsetting not possible at Faro mine cleanup in Yukon, feds say

In a document filed to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB), the government calls the board’s recommendations for carbon offsetting at Faro “aspirational, but ultimately not feasible to execute” due to lack of technology and available offset protocols.

Once the largest open pit lead-zinc mine in the world, the Faro site was abandoned in 1998. It’s now one of Canada’s most contaminated sites, containing 260 million tonnes of waste rock. The mine’s cleanup is expected to take 15 years and will produce a “significant magnitude” of emissions, according to YESAB. 

The board recommended in a draft screening report published last February that the cleanup could go ahead if all emissions were offset. It suggested using electric vehicles, planting trees and purchasing carbon offset credits to mitigate emissions.

The remediation project is being led by Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC), which responded to the board’s proposal on April 19.

According to CIRNAC, there aren’t any approved offset protocols that are relevant to the Yukon, nor are there any private offsetting projects that could be purchased in the territory’s ecosystem. It also says that developing its own offsetting project would require a forest management plan controlling thousands of hectares – which would require significant assessment time and further delay the clean-up project.

Heavy-duty electric vehicles without major charge and power limitations are also not commercially available, the federal government says. Even if they were available, there isn’t a renewable energy source at the required scale near the mine site in central Yukon to power them, and building infrastructure would require a whole new assessment process.

CIRNAC has proposed an emissions reduction plan instead of carbon offsetting, to be written after receiving a water licence and updated every five years. 

It also says that technology is “rapidly evolving” and more opportunities for carbon offsetting might appear over the next decade.

The government isn’t wrong to say protocols and regulations for carbon offsetting don’t exist yet, according to Alex Tavasoli, a sustainability expert at the University of British Columbia. But she said that doesn’t mean the government shouldn’t try to overcome those challenges.

The tension between creating emissions to clean up environmental disasters isn’t going anywhere, and Tavasoli argues that Canada should work to address it. Until then, the government is going to repeatedly face the same environmental trade-offs, she says.

Carbon offsetting is still new, and regulations are trying to catch up to the research, Tavasoli said. She says that while some privatized carbon offset projects exist, many of them don’t work as well as they claim and that makes accountability guidelines necessary. 

Still, the government’s total rejection of offsetting seems like “a bit of a cop-out,” Tavasoli says.

“If the government was really excited about doing this in the right way, it could use this as an example project to stretch those regulations and try some of them out,” Tavasoli said.

Lewis Rifkind, the Yukon Conservation Society’s mining analyst, says it’s disappointing that Faro won’t be a flagship project for carbon offsetting. He’s concerned that the government’s stance could discourage mining companies from attempting to build carbon offsetting into future plans.

“They’ve got lots of money, they’ve got no real hidden agenda, you’d think this could be a poster project for them,” Rifkind said. “You’d think the feds would try harder.”



Federal energy minister defends carbon capture technology after Alberta project scrapped

Canada’s energy minister is defending carbon capture and storage technology as both effective and affordable, after an Alberta power company walked away from a planned project and a study found that another project got public subsidies to cover more than three-quarters of its costs.

“Carbon capture and sequestration technologies are getting better and, over time, they actually get less expensive just like every other technology that goes through the cycle,” Jonathan Wilkinson said Tuesday.

“For those that say that the technology itself is not proven, I’d just say to them that’s not true. The technology, the basic technology, has been around for a long time. It’s a matter of scale and it’s a matter of cost and those are both things that are actually happening.”

Carbon capture, utilization and storage, also known as CCUS, are systems that trap carbon emissions at their source and then funnel them back underground. They are expected to play a key role in Canada’s climate plan, which cannot meet its targets and continue to produce the oil and gas that underlie a significant portion of Canada’s economy.


The climate plan estimates carbon capture will account for up to 16 million tonnes of emissions reductions by 2030, or about five per cent of the additional emissions reductions needed to meet the next target in 2030.

The International Energy Agency expects CCUS will need to account for 15 per cent of global emissions reductions by 2050 to achieve net-zero, where all emissions are eliminated or captured.

“Increased use of CCUS features in the mix of every credible path to achieving net zero by 2050, including all 1.5 C pathways developed by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the (International Energy Agency),” Canada’s climate plan reads.

But in Canada, that increased use is proving to be complicated.

The latest national emissions report published last week shows that as of 2022, Canada had captured and stored a total of 7.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide since 2017, most of it at Shell Canada’s Quest CCS facility at its Scotford upgrader north of Edmonton.

Shell covered about three-quarters of the $1.1 billion capital and operating costs for Quest through provincial and federal subsidies, and the rest came from the sale of carbon credits generated through the trapping of carbon emissions.

A Greenpeace study released this week found that to make ends meet, the company got permission from Alberta to sell twice as many credits as it actually earned.

A Shell spokesman said in a statement to The Canadian Press Wednesday that the extra credits were an “innovative mechanism to make investment in the Quest CCS project possible.”

However, Stephen Doolan said the double carbon credits were only allowed until project costs broke even and all additional credits Shell earned were used to meet its own emissions requirements in Alberta. They were not sold to any other companies, Doolan said.

Quest has now trapped a total of nine million tonnes of carbon, he said.

“Without the various incentives to make the project investible, this would simply not have happened,” he said.

Last week, Capital Power, an Edmonton electricity generator, scrapped a $2.4-billion carbon capture system planned for its Genesee generating station because the economics didn’t work. A statement from the company in its quarterly earnings report on May 1 said that while carbon capture is “technically viable” the company did not believe the project to be “economically feasible.”

The decision comes even as the Alberta government was promising to cover up to 12 per cent of the costs and the federal government as much as half through a new tax credit.

Additional certainty was being tested with carbon contracts for difference under the new Canada Growth Fund. Such contracts help provide certainty that a carbon market will be robust for credits generated by technology like carbon capture and storage.

The uncertainty over whether the federal carbon price will be maintained by future governments undermines confidence that such markets will exist or that high enough prices will be achieved for the credits. Investments only make sense if companies can get certainty about the price they will be able to sell those credits for.

Capital Power has not yet been able to negotiate a contract for difference.

Wilkinson said the cancellation shouldn’t be viewed as a signal against carbon capture.

“There are a number of different pathways for Capital Power to be able to actually meet the requirements of the clean fuel or clean electricity regulations which will eventually come into force,” he said.

“They’ve made a business decision that they can actually meet those requirements in a different way. But as I say, there are going to be many different approaches in different sectors that I believe will use carbon capture technology.”

The Alberta government blamed the Capital Power decision on the fact Ottawa hasn’t yet put the carbon capture tax credit in place.

The credit was first promised three years ago but took several years to design, and was included in the legislation to implement the fall economic statement in November.

That bill still hasn’t passed. It is up for debate again this week.

Upcoming Events


Upcoming ESAA Events – ARE YOU IN?

ESAA has a PACKED schedule of networking events over the coming months.   These are great opportunities to network with other members, industry people and clients.    

  • Grande Prairie September 12
  • Fort McMurray September 19
  • Lloydminster TBD
To check out the full ESAA and Industry Calendar events, visit: https://esaa.org/events/



Call for Abstracts / Registration 45% Sold Out / Limited Sponsorships Remaining 

RemTech 2024 will feature technical talks, 2 receptions, 55 exhibits, networking opportunities and three great keynotes. 

Lyndon J Linklater
Traditional Knowledge Keeper and Storyteller

Timothy Caulfield
Professor of Health Law and Science Policy, University of Alberta

Bill Weir
Chief Climate Correspondent, CNN

The Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould
Former Member of Parliament, Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada,
Bestselling Author

Early Bird registration details are available at: https://esaa.org/remtech/register/  and available until May 31st.  RemTech is already 45% sold out.  Register Early and Save.

Call for Abstracts

Complete details for the 2024 call for abstracts is available at: https://esaa.org/remtech/call-for-abstracts/.   Submission deadline is June 14th, 2024.

Limited Number of Sponsorship Opportunities Remaining 

A limited number of sponsorship opportunities are remaining for RemTech 2024.  Full conference details can be found at: https://esaa.org/remtech/

Sponsorship with an Exhibit Space (5 Remaining) 

  • Exhibit space
  • Highest level priority booth location
  • 3 delegate passes
  • Full page ad in program
  • Logo on website, app, event screens, program
  • Corporate profile in program and app
$7,850 + GST
  • Exhibit space
  • 2 delegate passes
  • Half page ad in program
  • Logo on website, app, event screens, program
  • Corporate profile in program and app
$6,650 + GST

Sponsorships (No Exhibit Space)

  • 1 delegate passe
  • Half page ad in program
  • Logo on website, app, event screens, program
  • Corporate profile in program and app
  • $3,800 + GST


  • Third page ad program
  • Logo on website, app, event screens, program
  • Corporate profile in program and app
  • $1,900 + GST
For additional information contact Lorrine Hamdon.

Hotel Reservations

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 at: https://esaa.org/remtech/hotel-travel/

Full RemTech 2024 details can be found at: https://esaa.org/remtech/

Thank you for your continued support!



ESAA Job Board

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

Current Listings:
  • Senior Environmental Planner –Stantec
  • Site Investigation & Remediation (SIR) Team Lead –Stantec Consulting Services Inc.
  • Intermediate Environmental Consultant – North Shore Environmental Consultants Inc.
  • Intermediate Vegetation and Wetland Ecologist – Ecoventure Inc.
  • Environmental Specialist – City of Medicine Hat
  • GIS Technician – North Shore Environmental Consultants Inc.
  • Fugitive Emissions Specialist – North Shore Environmental Consultants Inc.
  • Senior Project Manager – TRIUM Environmental Inc
  • Business Development Representative – TRIUM Environmental Inc
  • Intermediate Biologist/Wetland Ecologist – North Shore Environmental Consultants Inc.
  • Intermediate Wildlife Biologist – North Shore Environmental Consultants Inc.
  • Project Manager / Technical Advisor – North Shore Environmental Consultants Inc.


Subscriptions are free and open to members and non-members.

* indicates required
ESAA Newsletters
Email Format

Recent News