June 19, 2006

Major oil sands project proposals referred to EA panels, joint review agreements drafted

Federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose has referred two major oil sands project proposals to environmental assessment review panels. Reviews of the proposed Muskeg River mine expansion project and the proposed Kearl Lake oil sands development, both in northern Alberta, will be conducted jointly with Alberta, thus meeting the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and Alberta's Energy Resources Conservation Act.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (the Agency, for which the Environment Minister has responsibility) has drafted agreements with the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) for the conduct of these reviews. The documents will establish the mandate and authorities of the joint panels, their composition and the review procedures for each proposed project.

The Agency is inviting public comments on the draft agreements, with written comments due (in English of French) by July 5, 2006. After taking the comments into consideration, the Agency will finalize the draft agreements and make them public.

Copies of the draft agreements may be viewed on the Agency's Web site, www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca. Comments should be directed to Debra Myles, panel manager, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, 160 Elgin St, 22nd Floor, Ottawa K1A 0H3, 613/957-0626, FAX 613/957-0941, E-mail debra.myles@ceaa-acee.gc.ca.

The Muskeg River mine expansion project involves an application by Albian Sands Energy, a joint venture company owned by Shell Canada, Chevron Canada and Western Oils Sands, to have current approvals for the mine amended and approved to allow expansion of the mine. The expansion would allow Albian Sands to increase bitumen production capacity to an average nominal 270,000 barrels per calendar day (approximately 43,000 cubic metres).

The expansion is located approximately 70 kilometres north of Fort McMurray. Construction of the proposed expansion, if approved, would begin in 2007.

The Kearl Lake oil sands development, proposed by Imperial Oil Resources Ventures and ExxonMobil Canada Properties, consists of four pits to be mined between 2010 and 2060. It would be located in the same area as the Muskeg mine expansion and is projected to produced 300,000 barrels (approximately 48,000 cubic metres) per day of clean bitumen. The application seeks approval for a maximum production of approximately 345,000 barrels (55,000 cubic metres) per day.

Applications for approval of these projects, including environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports, have been filed with the EUB and copies been provided to the Agency. The two projects are subject to a federal environmental assessment because Fisheries and Oceans Canada would be required to issue a permit under the Fisheries Act. Transport Canada would also be required to issue a permit under the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

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