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18

IA Neftegaz.RU Interviewed Minister of Environment of Alberta, Lorne Taylor

As you know, over the last few years, ecological problems have become international problems. Because Alberta is a highly developed industrial country and is famous for its ecological stability, we are interested in how ecological problems are solved in Alberta. Could you tell us about environment management programs in the area of intensive extraction of mineral oil (do you use special improved equipment)? What security measures are carried out for prevention of ecological accidents?

IA Neftegaz.Ru: Good afternoon, Mr. Taylor! As you know, over the last few years, ecological problems have become international problems. Because Alberta is a highly developed industrial country and is famous for its ecological stability, we are interested in how ecological problems are solved in Alberta. Could you tell us about environment management programs in the area of intensive extraction of mineral oil (do you use special improved equipment)? What security measures are carried out for prevention of ecological accidents? Lorne Taylor: We have one oil reserve, just one oil sands. So, we have to be very careful how we handle these issues. Every oil company must complete an Environmental Impact Assessment. After they complete the Assessment, they go in front of something called Energy Utility Board (EUB). The EUB is an arm's length from the government, but it's not the government; it's an independent body that has its own set of legislation. So, if you oppose the development, you can go in front of the EUB with your lawyers, by yourself, or if you have money you can hire some experts. If you are in disagreement with the EUB's decision, you can go in front of something called Environmental Appeals Board, which is independent from government and has its own legislation. For example, if you are an opponent of a project, or if you think that there are some aspects of the environment that were not addressed during the Environment Impact Assessment, you can appeal to the Environment Appeals Board and say: "Look! EUB didn't address this particular aspect. We want you look at it again." The Environment Appeals Board would then have a public hearing on the project. This takes a long time, and something we are working towards at the Ministry of Energy and Ministry of Environment is how we can have the same tough environmental standards but shorten the process. Right now, it can take a number of years to complete the whole process. That's not just for oil sands; this goes for any big industrial plant that wants to establish. It is all covered by government legislation.
IA Neftegaz.Ru: You see, in Khanty-Mansiysk there is a special independent organization - Nature Development Institute - that is not only specialized in oil producing plants engineering and design, especially at the oil fields situated within state-protected natural areas, but also controls the plant's activities as well. What happens if a project in Alberta goes through all these boards and then an ecological accident happens? What measures are taken to address this situation? Lorne Taylor: Any time a project is given approval, there are conditions put on the approval to ensure they have tough environmental standards, which are monitored by my officials. So, say, there's a smoke stack. They have to maintain certain quality of emissions coming out of the smoke stack, and we can require them to put a monitor right into the smoke stack. Accidents do happen, but because we monitor the industry, they do not slip by us. Our companies here understand that they can't just pollute, because we monitor all the time. On a whole, companies are pretty good corporate and environmental citizens. If an accident does occur, we send our officials to monitor the situation and ensure they do an appropriate cleanup. It's a very close partnership between industry and government in Alberta. We work with industry, and industry works with us all along way.
IA Neftegaz.Ru: Does this mean that it is a benefit for petroleum companies to partner with organizations that support environmental movements? Lorne Taylor: Yes, it happens all the time, and I can give you an example. We've got something that has just been developed called the "Fort Air Partnership". The "Fort Air Partnership" monitoring group is composed of industry, environmental groups and local residents. It monitors the air quality because Alberta has many industries dealing with oil sands and chemical plants. The "Fort Air Partnership" is funded by these industries. So the program is not funded by taxes? Lorne Taylor: No, it's simply done on basis of good industrial environmental stewardship. They understand they need to have citizens cooperate with them if they want to go forward. It's a partnership: industry, government and citizens working together. Now, as accidents do happen, we have environmental legislation that allows us to tell the company to clean up, and they have to do that; they have no choice. If you own a small company, and you have to put significant funds into remediation efforts, you may put your company out of business. We can also sue the company as well. If you put your company into bankruptcy, it doesn't help you or your employees.
IA Neftegaz.Ru: Could we speak about governmental control over these organizations? Who supports petroleum producers and ecological organizations? Lorne Taylor: There's no governmental control. As a result, environmental organizations tend to be critical of our government. However, we work with these environmental organizations as well. I've got something called Environment Protection Advisory Committee. This committee consists of industry, environmental, agricultural groups (17 people). We meet about four times a year. Currently, there are about 90 issues we are dealing with. We have very good discussions on these issues, and although some of the groups are critical of what we are doing, we do get some support.
IA Neftegaz.Ru: We've already discussed that Nature Development Institute is not only designing all sorts of technical and ecological projects, but also supporting them. For example, in 1998 the NDI supported the building of national reservation park zone where the scientists of the Institute do their research. Canada is also famous for its national parks. Could you give us a more detailed profile of their corporate activities (sources of financing, partners, problems, etc.)? Lorne Taylor: We have a number of provincial parks, which are close to major industrial projects, and we're taking control over them. The federal environmental standards are in some cases (for example, coal burning electrical plants) less than Alberta standards. In addition, standards on water quality across the country are lower than Alberta's standards. If any company plans to build anything close to a provincial park, it would have to go through the Environmental Impact Assessment process that I mentioned earlier. In our Environment Impact Assessment, the federal government can intervene in this process or with the Energy Utilities Board. As a result, the Alberta government works very closely with the Environment Canada (the federal environmental department), so we don't hold separate hearings. IA Neftegaz.Ru: Are there any legally approved acts that support environmental protection activities? What legal responsibility is stipulated for individuals and companies who have violated the legislation?
Lorne Taylor: We will take people to the court if they do not admit their mistakes. We also use fines. If you're going to pollute, we're going to hit you between your eyes with a big stick.
IA Neftegaz.Ru: Let's talk about Russia. Can you come to Russia with your lectures? Lorne Taylor: I'm quite interested in Russia. I was there on a private trip, and I would like to go back. You've got wonderful, huge country. There are many similarities between Russia and Canada, and especially Alberta and Khanty-Mansiysk. It would be very nice to visit those areas and see how you are developing your energy industry, and what kind of environmental control you put on this industry. I would also like to get aquatinted with the activities of NDI more closely, because it is a very important organization. I wish all the people working at the NDI good luck!
IA Neftegaz.Ru: OK, thank you very much for our meeting and your best wishes. We think that your Russian colleagues will be pleased to receive them. We hope we can use the experiences of Alberta in Russia, and together we can solve environmental problems. Lorne Taylor: Thank you. Good luck in your business!

Source : Neftegaz.RU