Canada's Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, unveiled his picks for the six person review panel he had announced he would set up. The panel is to review all the Alberta oil sands water monitoring information.
Prentice's follow-through on his announcement to form the panel in September caught Alberta off balance, said The Tyee's Andrew Nikiforuk. The federal government of Canada has had a 'hands-off' approach when it comes to the oil sands developments.
Prentice announced the panel on September 30. The six person independent advisory panel members are: Dr. Peter J. Dillon, Dr. Subhasis Ghoshal, Dr. Andrew D. Miall, Dr. Joseph Rasmussen and Dr. John P. Smol, and the panel will be chaired by chaired by panel member, Elizabeth Dowdeswell.
Prentice said "We are determined to develop Canada's oil sands in a manner that it sustainable and environmentally-sensitive. This independent review by some of Canada's most respected scientists is a critical step in ensuring that environmental issues are balanced with economic considerations."
The panel was established "In response to concerns about industrial pollution in the Athabasca River and connecting waterways." The panel will review Alberta's RAMP program, and has 60 days for the review. The report will be posted on-line when completed.
The Tyee reported that Alberta's Environment Minister, Rob Renner, was surprised that Prentice had appointed the panel. Renner had announced Alberta's own independent review panel on September 24th. At the time, Renner said "Understanding the impact of the oil sands industry on the watershed of northeastern Alberta is absolutely critical. We need to have total and complete assurance in data before we make decisions on how best to balance environmental protection with development. Albertans deserve to have this assurance as well.” The members of the Alberta panel have not yet been announced.
CTV Calgary reported that both Renner as well as oil sand interests welcomed the federal review. Renner told CTV "I think the bottom line in all of this folks is that we welcome any information that will lead us into the development of a better more robust monitoring system."
The Alberta oil sands are a major source of revenue for that province as well as for the country. A report prepared for the federal Standing Committee on Natural Resources emphasizes the economic importance of the oil sands to Canada, stating "Indeed oil sands projects are stimulating demand not only in Alberta but throughout Canada and beyond for business services, banking and insurance services, steel, vehicles and manufactured equipment and components. Nationally, CERI estimates that oil sands and oil sands-related activities will account for about 3% of Canada’s GDP by 2020, up from about 1.5% in 2000."
According to The Council of Canadian Academies, where Elizabeth Dowdeswell currently serves in the role of President, Dowdeswell has "... served as Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, Assistant Deputy Minister of Environment Canada, responsible for the National Weather and Atmospheric Agency and led a number of public inquiries, including into Canada’s unemployment benefits program and federal water policy. Her early career included terms as Deputy Minister of Culture and Youth for the Province of Saskatchewan, educational consultant, university lecturer and high-school teacher.
Ms. Dowdeswell is also a visiting professor in genomics and global health at the University of Toronto, was appointed a Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation mentor, is a Corporate Director, and contributes in an advisory capacity to a number of not-for-profit organizations
Ms. Dowdeswell holds a Master of Science degree in behavioural sciences from Utah State University, a Bachelor of Science degree in home economics, a teaching certificate from the University of Saskatchewan and, nine honorary degrees."