January 2, 2006

Steering group to revise consultation process on oil sands mining policy

Alberta Environment Minister Guy Boutilier has asked a stakeholder consultation group representing industry, government, First Nations and environmental organizations to revise plans for consulting on policy principles relating to Alberta's mineable oil sands area. Working with the Cumulative Effects Management Association and other stakeholders, the oil sands consultation group will review the consultation process and make recommendations concerning how it should proceed.

As part of this process, workshops planned for January, along with an Internet-based consultation to gather feedback on the draft Mineable Oil Sands Strategy, will be cancelled.

Some $80 billion worth of projects have already been announced for Alberta's oil sands area. All of the mineable oil sands rights are under lease and approximately 11% of the area is under active development. This is forecast to increase to approximately 25% by 2015 and approximately 58% by 2035.

Production is estimated to increase from a current one million barrels a day to three to five million barrels a day by 2015. Of the area addressed by Alberta's Mineable Oil Sands Strategy, 19% is currently covered by surface agreements related to oil sands development based on existing approvals. This area is expected to increase to about 31% based on scheduled hearings related to mining development.

The province's Ministers of Energy, of Environment and of Sustainable Resource Development believe revised plans are needed for consulting on policy principles for Alberta's oil sands area, in order to ensure that Albertans have confidence in the consultation process for the oil sands area.

Environment Minister Guy Boutilier said that stakeholders are "expecting us to move forward in a more open and collaborative manner," while Energy Minister Greg Melchin noted that "there is a need to review our policy principles, but how we engage with Albertans to develop them is equally important."

"Working in partnership with key stakeholders is the best way to find solutions and ensure the public has confidence that development is sustainable," said Sustainable Resource Development Minister David Coutts.

The consultation group has specifically been assigned to: develop revised plans for consulting on the policy principles for Alberta's oil sands area in relation to oil sands development and environmental management; and to

work with the Cumulative Effects Management Association and other stakeholders to review and recommend how consultation on the management principles for the oil sands area should proceed.

The group will be headed by a member of the Legislative Assembly. The remaining four members will include a representative from the Athabasca Tribal Council and representatives from the oil sands industry, an environmental non-government organization, and the public at large. It is due to make a progress report to the three departmental Ministers by March 1, 2006. This will be followed by a final report with recommendations which will be provided to each Minister by March 31, 2006.

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