On October 17, 2012, the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, Diana McQueen, announced the creation of a new arm’s length environmental monitoring agency.
The Minister’s announcement stems from recommendations provided by the Environment Monitoring Working Group. The Working Group concluded that Alberta lacked necessary environmental monitoring and called for the creation of a monitoring agency.
The mandate of the new agency will be to coordinate the monitoring of land, air, water and biodiversity across the province.
The agency will not oversee compliance or regulation.
The agency will be divided into a management board and a science advisory group. The initial focus of the management board, which has been named, is to organize a business plan and secure funding for the agency. The science advisory group, which is yet to be constituted, will initially only focus on monitoring and reporting on the lower Athabasca region, focusing primarily on oilsands developments. As the agency grows it will expand its mandate, eventually monitoring the entire province.
Minister McQueen has noted that she would like to see the agency operational within six to eight months, but admits a two to three year timeframe is more likely with full operational capacity achieved in five years.
The government’s decision to create the agency is rooted in a desire to create a world class and arm’s length reporting agency that can monitor and report on the status of development in the province. Furthermore, the Minister has acknowledged the need to respond to growing international scrutiny surrounding Alberta’s oilsands development.
It is unclear at this time how the agency will be funded.