Tennant touts Alberta’s new environmental plan

By Zentner, Caroline on October 29, 2013.

Caroline Zentner

lethbridge herald

[email protected]

A key element of Bill 31, the proposed legislation to give Alberta a world-class environmental monitoring system, is for its data to be publicly available through the Internet.

Howard Tennant, chairman of the advisory group that developed the legislation, said it creates an arms-length agency to operate under the purview of Diana McQueen, minister of environment and sustainable resources, who introduced the bill Monday in the legislature.

“It commits that all things which are measured, recorded, interpreted and reported are to be presented on the web, no more data being kept by government. Everything is to be published on the web. That means that any people internationally can look at monitoring data from Alberta and judge for themselves as to whether we’re doing a reasonable deal,” said Tennant, the former University of Lethbridge president.

The data will also provide a foundation for setting regulations and royalties.

“Mostly what we’ve been doing is our regulations have been coming about through political means,” Tennant said.

The agency board will report to the minister and theoretically the minister could fire the board, just as Health Minister Fred Horne did in June.

“So obviously selecting a chairman who can negotiate with the minister and take it to the board and convince the legislature that this is the right thing to do is the kind of person we need,” he said.

Other important roles in the agency are the chief executive officer and the chief financial officer. Tennant said it will also be important for the agency to look at solutions and identify the most important areas to tackle.

Funding for the agency is to be shared by industry and the provincial government although how much from each has yet to be decided, Tennant said.

The legislation provides for a three-year business plan for the agency and Tennant estimates $50-million would be needed for the first year of operations.

“I expect a substantial component will come early on in the process from industry. Industry desperately wants this. Basically, from their point of view, they say ‘How can we argue with government about royalties and environmental things when government doesn’t share the monitoring?’” Tennant said.

Alberta will need to work co-operatively with the federal government since Canada is responsible for fisheries and navigation.

The new Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) is expected to begin operating in early 2014.