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PERSPECTIVE: Alberta parks plan rattles oil sands sector

The Alberta government's draft plan to protect an additional 2.0 million hectares in the northern part of the province has rattled the oil sands sector. The announcement came as a surprise to producers, many of which own leases in the affected...



The Alberta government’s draft plan to protect an additional 2.0 million hectares in the northern part of the province has rattled the oil sands sector. The announcement came as a surprise to producers, many of which own leases in the affected areas.

According to published maps, the new parks and conservation areas are scattered. A large chunk runs along the eastern edge of the province from the Cold Lake air weapons test range to north of Gordon Lake. A new Birch River conservation area would be established south of Wood Buffalo National Park. In the northeast corner of the province a new Canadian shield wildland park is proposed. Between Fort Chipewyan and Fort MacKay, a new Richardson wildland park is to be protected.

The province has not said how leaseholders are to be compensated for land they no longer have an opportunity to develop. If the government offers to return the money paid for the leases, the industry is going to think it to little. The industry is likely to want the “fair market value” of the leases today. Plus they have had exploration and development expenses on some of them. The provincial government is going to balk at paying any more than the minimum. This is an argument that will be contested for years to come.

The addition of more protected land in northern Alberta is an attempt by the provincial government to balance environmental responsibility and economic growth. But the plan has environmentalists saying it does not go far enough. What’s a provincial government to do? It cannot please either the oil sands sector or the environmental lobby. The only option appears to be to frustrate both of them.

Meanwhile, the public has 60 days to tell the Alberta government what it thinks of the plan. Learn more at the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Development, www. http://www.SRD.Alberta.ca.


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2 Comments » for PERSPECTIVE: Alberta parks plan rattles oil sands sector
  1. Alessandra Saturley says:

    Although I am typically in favour of creating protected areas where needed, I am much more concerned about creating more environmentally considerate oilsands extraction technology. As an Albertan, I am highly sensitive to the issues facing this province economically and as we have been painted with a rather blackened brush for producing “diry oil” I believe it time we addressed this head on and create a less “dirty” approach to our bread and butter. Having more protected areas will be nice but it will not deter those who wish to shut down the oilsands. The US and rest of the world is poised to rely on our source of oil as the best alternative to middle east oil and for obviously very good reasons.
    We can do better by spending the money on technology and public relations that enhance our ability to provide the world with a safe and secure source of fossil energy while we also fund research and development for a new energy source for the future.

  2. Peter George P.Geo. says:

    Alberta relies on hydrocarbon production for its economic stability. With historical oil and gas production in decline (slow but sure), the oilsands will be a key positive aspect of the future economy. Clearly oilsand production and environmental technology is improving and it is very short-sighted of the politicians to remove potential oilsand acreage from future development. The oilsands are a long term supply of oil in a politically stable environment and the provincial economy will gradually deteriorate if oilsand development is curtailed.

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