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Canada, Alberta to announce new oil sands monitoring

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 02, 2012 4:08 PM
Canada, Alberta to announce new oil sands monitoring

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The governments of Canada and Alberta are expected to announce details of a new environmental monitoring regime for the province's oil sands on Friday, following twin studies that found existing programs to be inadequate.

Mark Cooper, a spokesman for Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen, said on Thursday that the two governments would make an announcement in Edmonton, Alberta, on the new monitoring plan but did not offer details.

However a knowledgeable source said that McQueen and federal Environment Minister Peter Kent would unveil details of how the new monitoring system will be implemented. The source said it will be a joint federal-Alberta initiative.

The oil sands of northern Alberta are the third-largest oil reserve in the world, behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Output from the region is set to double to three million barrels a day by 2020 as oil companies invest billions of dollars to tap the resource.

However, the oil sands are also a growing source of greenhouse gas, and vast waste ponds at mining projects are toxic to wildlife.

A 2010 study co-written by University of Alberta biologist David Schindler found that oil sands plants were sending toxins including mercury, arsenic and lead into the watershed.

Schindler criticized work by the government-supported and industry-funded Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program, which has said pollution in the region's Athabasca River system occurs naturally.

Subsequent reviews by provincial and federal panels concluded the existing monitoring system needed to be improved.

(Reporting by Scott Haggett; editing by Rob Wilson)