OUR GREAT MINDS

    by Aaryn Lambert

    Alberta’s 20-Year Plan for the Oil Sands in Action:

    The oil sands are an integral part of Alberta, now and in the future. The Alberta government is committed to developing this resource responsibly and sustainably. In 2009, the Alberta
    government developed a 20-year strategic plan called “Responsible Actions: A Plan for Alberta’s Oil Sands,” which will ensure that Alberta’s leading resource will provide secure, reliable energy to Canada and beyond for decades to come.

    Together with Alberta’s Provincial Energy Strategy, Responsible Actions prioritizes clean energy production, wise energy use and sustained economic prosperity. The successful  implementation of these plans will help Alberta’s economy grow, reduce the environmental footprint of oil sands development and increase the quality of life for Albertans today and in the future.

    In year three of Responsible Actions, more than 50 projects and initiatives are well underway across our six strategic areas, as identified in the 20-year plan.

    Oil Sands Strategy

    STRATEGY 1: Develop Alberta’s oil sands in an environmentally responsible way.

    Enhancing adaptability to climate change risks: In 2011, six Alberta government departments made significant progress on several climate change risk assessments that will provide
    overall policy direction, identify research needs and recommend ways to enhance Alberta’s ability to adapt to climate change.

    Improving how we track reclamation: Reclamation takes many years and goes through many stages. The province and industry will use eight milestones (up from three) to track reclamation progress. This will result in greater transparency and consistency of reporting.

    Updating the air and water quality management frameworks: Air, surface water and groundwater management frameworks were developed in 2011. Each framework identifies regional objectives, limits and triggers for key indicators, and actions to achieve these objectives. They also set the foundation for ongoing monitoring, evaluation and reporting to Albertans.

    Planning regional land use: Under the Land-use Framework, the Alberta government developed the Draft Lower Athabasca Regional Plan, which was publicly released on August 29, 2011.

    STRATEGY 2: Promote healthy communities and a quality of life that attracts and retains individuals, families and businesses.

    Planning for future development: Infrastructure frameworks for Alberta’s three oil sands areas are being developed. The Draft Lower Athabasca Regional Plan is complete. The Cold
    Lake oil sands area plan is in the final stages of development and the Peace River plan is expected in 2012-13.

    Supporting community growth: As part of ongoing efforts to help Fort McMurray manage growth pressures, the Alberta government will continue to make land available. A plan is

    being developed for a Fort McMurray Urban Development Sub-Region. The sub-region will be a designated area of Crown land that will enable the community to keep pace with land demands for 20 to 30 years.

    Investing in public safety: The Alberta government and municipalities in the Highway 63 region teamed up for a $1.3-million investment to improve driver safety and enhance
    emergency services.

    Supporting healthy communities: The Alberta government is working with Fort McKay residents to identify their health priorities. Residents will be involved in identifying appropriate actions to address these priorities.

    STRATEGY 3: Maximize long-term value for all Albertans through economic growth, stability and resource optimization.

    Encouraging new market development: The Alberta government has initiated meetings with leaders in other markets, such as the Asia-Pacific region and California, to ensure our product has buyers across the globe.

    Developing multi-use corridor plans: Preliminary work has started to clarify options for multi-use corridors in Alberta’s industrial heartland. Further work will ensure alignment of these corridors with transportation strategies, future pipeline and electricity transmission corridors and regional plans.

    Addressing labour force needs: The Alberta government is reviewing its labor force development strategy to ensure that industry will have the labor force it needs to support
    anticipated growth. In 2011, Keyano College opened its Fort Chipewyan campus, which will help develop the skilled trades people needed in the oil sands.

    STRATEGY 4: Strengthen our proactive approach to Aboriginal consultation with a view to reconciling interests.

    Continued First Nations Consultation Policy review: The review of the First Nations Consultation Policy on Land Management and Resource Development continued in 2011. A Consultation Policy on managing and developing land and natural resources in a way that respects treaty rights, while creating a more confident business environment, will be released in 2012.

    The Geo Data Mapping Initiative has engaged 42 of Alberta’s 48 First Nations. This initiative offers First Nations opportunities to communicate with government regarding their geographical areas of interest. The initiative is on track to engage the remaining First Nations in 2012.

    Developing processes for working with First Nations groups: Alberta is exploring consultation processes with the five First Nations in the Athabasca oil sands region in respect to treaty rights and traditional uses. Alberta is committed to consultation with First Nations when treaty rights could be impacted by resource development.

    Pilot project with Métis Settlements: Planning began in 2010 for a long-term pilot project with Métis Settlements to measure how cumulative effects of resource development may impact Settlement lands. This pilot project is expected to be completed by 2019.

    STRATEGY 5: Maximize research and innovation to further support sustainable development and unlock the deposits potential.

    Alberta’s climate change fund: Alberta companies that produce more than 100,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually are required to reduce their greenhouse gas intensity
    by 12 percent. Companies can pay $15/ton for emissions over target into the Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund.

    The money collected in the fund is invested into emission reduction technologies and projects to improve Alberta’s ability to adapt to climate change. Since 2007, more than 23 million tons of emissions were not released, equivalent to taking 4.8 million cars off the road for a year.

    Coordinating research efforts: In 2011, Advanced Education and Technology signed the Alberta-Canada Collaboratory in Cleaner Oil Sands’ Development Memorandum of Understanding with Natural Resources Canada to coordinate research and ensure sustainable development.

    Major studies done by environmental associations and academia continue to find ways to improve development, bitumen recovery and reclamation. Research is also underway on land-related activities such as air quality, footprint management and biodiversity, and water quality, quantity and use.

    STRATEGY 6: Increase available information, develop measurement systems and enhance accountability in the management of the oil sands.

    Oil sands sustainability performance indicators: Economic, social and environmental performance measures and indicators are being developed to support responsible oil sands development. There will be annual progress reports to ensure and demonstrate continual improvement.

    New Oil Sands Information Portal: The Oil Sands Information Portal focuses on the cumulative effects of development on the oil sands region’s air, water, land, climate change and biodiversity/wildlife. The portal has both an interactive map and a searchable data library.

    Alberta Official Statistics: Alberta Official Statistics are publicly available key facts that provide a comprehensive perspective of changes over time and geographical area. The 2011 suite factors in more than 100 indicators, providing insight on population, labour force, education, environment and more.

    Environmental Monitoring: The governments of Alberta and Canada have agreed to develop an integrated monitoring program in the Lower Athabasca oil sands. The program will be based on an understanding of monitoring needs with clearly identified roles and responsibilities.

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