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Status of recommendations in joint panel reviews of oil sands

Petition: No. 263

Issue(s): Compliance and enforcement, and environmental assessment

Petitioner(s): Environmental Defence Canada

Date Received: 6 August 2008

Status: Completed

Summary: The petitioner seeks information from federal departments and agencies on the status of their follow-up action on recommendations in several joint panel reviews of oil sands.

Petition

RE. Environmental Petition

Office of the Auditor General of Canada
Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development
Attention: Petitions
240 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G6

Date: July 22, 2008

Contact information
Matt Price, Project Manager
Environmental Defence
317 Adelaide St. West, Suite 705
Toronto, ON M5V 1P9

Title of petition
Oil Sands Joint Panel Follow Through

Background information
Oil sands mines have been the subject of several Joint Panels struck in accordance with the provisions of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). Each of the Panels has made recommendations regarding the proposed projects.

Specific questions
These questions are addressed to federal agencies that have jurisdiction over recommendations from the Joint Panels. We are seeking an accounting of implementation of the recommendations:

  1. Please provide a summary of follow up activity for each of the recommendations from all CEAA Joint Panels on oil sands mines that your agency has jurisdiction over.
  2. Do you consider that each of the recommendations that your agency is associated with have been met or implemented fully?

Federal departments and agencies that need to respond
Ministry of Environment
Ministry of Health
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Signed and Date

[Original signed by Matt Price      July 22, 2008]

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Minister's Response: Environment Canada

18 December 2008

Mr. Matt Price
Project Manager
Environmental Defence
317 Adelaide Street West, Suite 705
Toronto ON M5V 1P9

Dear Mr. Price:

I am writing in response to your Environmental Petition No. 263, to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, with respect to the follow-up activity for, and implementation of, recommendations from all Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Joint Panels on oil sands mines. Your petition was received by Environment Canada on August 21, 2008.

The enclosed response addresses your petition questions 1 and 2, as related to Environment Canada’s mandated responsibilities. It also addresses those Joint Panel recommendations that were directed specifically to Environment Canada. Environment Canada developed its responses to this petition in consultation with the other federal departments involved. I believe the Department’s commitments contained in the Government of Canada’s Response to the Joint Panel Reports on Oil Sands Mines have been or are being met. It is the Department’s intention to meet the yet-to-be-finalized commitments.

I understand that the ministers of Health, Natural Resources, Fisheries and Oceans, and Transport, Infrastructure and Communities will be responding separately to recommendations that fall under their portfolios.

I appreciate having the opportunity to respond to your petition, and I trust that you will find this information helpful.

Sincerely,

[Original signed by Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment]

The Honourable Jim Prentice, P.C., Q.C., M.P.

Enclosure

c.c.: The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Leonna Aglukkaq, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Lisa Raitt, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Gail Shea, P.C., M.P.
Mr. Scott Vaughan, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development


Environment Canada’s Response to Environmental Petition No. 263, concerning the oil sands joint panel follow-through

Questions:
Please provide a summary of follow up activity for each of the recommendations from all CEAA joint panels on oil sands mines that your agency has jurisdiction over.

  1. Do you consider that each of the recommendations that your agency is associated with have been met or implemented fully?

Response:
There have been four Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) Joint Panels associated with oil sands mines:
    1. Muskeg River Oil Sands Mine Expansion Project
    2. Kearl Oil Sands Mine Project
    3. Jackpine Oil Sands Mine Project
    4. Horizon Oil Sands Mine Project

The Joint Panel recommendations that specifically implicate Environment Canada (EC) are outlined below, for each of the past four CEAA Joint Panel Oil Sands Projects.

Muskeg River Oil Sands Mine Expansion Project

Recommendation 1
Coordinated action be taken at all levels of government to ensure that the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) has the ability to service the anticipated level of sustained growth in the region.

EC works with other jurisdictions and stakeholders in the Athabasca oil sands region through regional initiatives such as Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA), Terrestrial Environmental Effects Monitoring (TEEM), RAMP and the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Initiative (ABMI), with the objective of sustainable growth in the region. EC also contributes to sustainable development through its role in the environmental assessment process for all major oil sands developments in the region.

The Government of Canada has recently established the Building Canada Plan to address the need for long-term planning for infrastructure needs in priority areas. Once certain Alberta communities have raised their infrastructure needs with the Province of Alberta, Infrastructure Canada (INFC) may become involved with the review of transportation-related projects that could be addressed under the Building Canada Plan. INFC will continue to work with the Province of Alberta and the Alberta communities on the need for high-quality, modern public infrastructure that contributes to long-term economic growth, a clean environment and strong communities.

Recommendation 2
Environment Canada and Alberta environment work together to assess the need for a mine fleet emissions technology review and regulation development process

EC contracted an assessment of the retrofitting of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) after-treatment technology for the large oil sands mining trucks. The consultant’s report suggests that retrofitting NOx and PM after‑treatment devices on these trucks is cost-effective relative to other retrofit programs for transportation sources. The report found that over a 13-year period (2012 to 2024), a retrofit program for these trucks could save 42 to 65 kilotonnes (kt) of NOx and 1 to 3 kt of PM. The report was shared with Alberta Environment and other interested stakeholders in May 2008. EC is currently assessing follow-up actions. The report is available upon request from the Inquiry Centre at 1-800-668-6767.

Recommendation 3
EC work with AENV to require further evaluation of NOx-NO2 conversion technology. This would most appropriately be done through a regional oil sands industry committee with AENV and EC participation or alternatively through CEMA.

Alberta Environment has recently updated their Air Quality Modeling Guidelines and has added a new method, Plume Volume Molar Ratio, to determine the amount of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in a plume. EC looks forward to reviewing the updated Guidelines. In addition, EC is a member of CEMA’s NOx/SOx Management Working Group that contributes to the management and modelling of NO2 emissions in the oil sands area.

Recommendation 8
EC collaborate with AENV in a review of the cumulative impacts on the Yellow Rail in the oil sands region using appropriate regional nocturnal surveys in areas of potentially suitable habitat within the next two years; the initiative should also determine mitigation options to minimize the impact on the yellow rail.

Alberta Environment included the requirement for Yellow Rail surveys as an approval condition for the Muskeg River Oil Sands Mine Expansion Project. EC commented on the survey methodology and was satisfied that it was appropriate.

EC is working with Alberta Environment to ensure that species-at-risk surveys are conducted for all projects, and that the resulting data is being shared with provincial and federal authorities to facilitate cross-project assessments of the distribution of species such as the Yellow Rail. As information from Yellow Rail monitoring programs becomes available from each proponent, regulatory authorities will have a clearer understanding of the abundance, distribution and conservation requirements for this species in the region.

In addition to the panel recommendation, the federal Species at Risk Act requires the preparation of management plans for species listed as “special concern” and their habitat, such as the Yellow Rail. The management plan preparation process for the Yellow Rail is under way, and is supported by species-at-risk observations reported by project proponents as part of the environmental assessment process and subsequent wildlife-monitoring activities.

Kearl Oil Sands Mine Project

Recommendation 1
EC and AENV work together to assess the need for a mine fleet emissions technology review and regulation development process.

EC contracted an assessment of the retrofitting of NOx and PM after-treatment technology for the large oil sands mining trucks. The consultant’s report suggests that retrofitting NOx and PM after-treatment devices on these trucks is cost-effective relative to other retrofit programs for transportation sources. The report found that over a 13-year period (2012 to 2024) a retrofit program for these trucks could save 42 to 65 kt of NOx and 1 to 3 kt of PM. The report was shared with Alberta Environment and other interested stakeholders in May 2008. EC is currently assessing follow-up actions. The report is available upon request from the Inquiry Centre at 1-800-668-6767.

Recommendation 5
Canada raise the issue of integrating all regional monitoring systems with the appropriate multistakeholder forums, having regard for existing priorities and resources; AENV should determine how integration could best be accomplished.

The Government of Canada believes that integrated monitoring would assist in providing a better understanding of cumulative environmental effects in the region. Given shared jurisdiction for the environment, and diverse, multiple interests in regional planning and development where there is agreement amongst relevant orders of government and support from Aboriginal peoples and other interested parties, the Government of Canada is willing to participate in processes that contribute to cumulative environmental effects assessment and sustainable development, including integrated monitoring in northern Alberta.

The Government of Canada believes that integrated and efficient monitoring systems are fundamental for supporting adaptive management in the Athabasca oil sands area. The Government of Canada therefore continues to work toward enhanced regional monitoring through involvement in existing initiatives such as CEMA, ABMI and RAMP.

Recommendation 8
Canada take a more active and direct leadership role in all aspects of the CEMA.

The Government of Canada continues to be a strong supporter of the CEMA initiative. The Government participates in the development of CEMA work plans and priorities, and will continue to adjust its resources in CEMA in accordance with those plans and priorities. The federal government currently participates in various CEMA working groups, providing expertise and focusing efforts on the resolution of issues identified to be of highest priority.

EC is a full member of CEMA and continues to be the federal representative on the CEMA Management Committee (2004 to present). EC has also been a co-chair for two of the CEMA working groups, the Sustainable Ecosystems Working Group (SEWG) and TMAC. In its role as co-chair of the SEWG, EC assisted in the completion of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Management Framework released in June 2008. EC is also an active member of the NOx/SOx Management Working Group and a member of the SWWG. EC’s role within CEMA is primarily a science and technology advisory role, and the Department remains committed to providing that support. EC endeavours to make science and technology expertise available to Working Groups for specific needs that may arise.

Recommendation 9
EC collaborate with AENV in a review of the cumulative impacts on the Yellow Rail in the oil sands region using appropriate regional nocturnal surveys in areas of potentially suitable habitat within the next two years.

Alberta Environment included the requirement for Yellow Rail surveys as an approval condition for the Kearl Oil Sands Mine Project. EC commented on the survey methodology and was satisfied that it was appropriate.

EC is working with Alberta Environment to ensure that species-at-risk surveys are conducted for all projects, and that the resulting data is being shared with provincial and federal authorities to facilitate cross-project assessments of the distribution of species such as the Yellow Rail. As information from Yellow Rail monitoring programs becomes available from each proponent, regulatory authorities will have a clearer understanding of the abundance, distribution and conservation requirements for this species in the region.

In addition to the panel recommendation, the federal Species at Risk Act requires the preparation of management plans for species listed as “special concern” and their habitat, such as the Yellow Rail. The management plan preparation process for the Yellow Rail is under way, and is supported by species‑at‑risk observations reported by project proponents as part of the environmental assessment process and subsequent wildlife-monitoring activities.

Jackpine Oil Sands Mine Project

Recommendation 5
The panel recommends that EC provide scientific expertise to CEMA working groups in the selection of appropriate indicators of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and in establishing effects based monitoring systems for regional acid deposition.

EC is an advocate of the implementation of appropriate indicators of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in the Athabasca oil sands region. In fulfilling this role, EC has supported the completion of a Terrestrial Ecosystem Management Framework that is based on a carefully selected set of indicators. The Framework was released in June 2008. As indicated, EC is also a member of the SWWG, which was responsible for developing the IFN for the Lower Athabasca River.

As a member of the NOx/SOx Management Working Group, EC supported the development of the Acid Deposition Management Framework that was finalized in February 2004. As stated on the NOx/SOx Management Working Group’s website, the Acid Deposition Management Framework emphasizes the importance of using a variety of indicators of ecosystem impacts, including basic chemistry measurements as well as the response of a variety of species on land and in the water.

Effects-based monitoring is currently under the purview of the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association’s program in TEEM. EC has participated in the work of TEEM and continues to track their work in developing and applying appropriate effects monitoring, under the guidance of internationally renowned experts.

To view any of the above-mentioned documents, please visit the CEMA’s website at www.ecmaonline.ca.

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Minister's Response: Fisheries and Oceans Canada

18 December 2008

Mr. Matt Price
Project Manager
Environmental Defence
317 Adelaide St. West, Suite 705
Toronto, Ontario
M5V 1P9

Dear Mr. Price:

As the Minister responsible for Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), I am pleased to respond to your environmental Petition, no. 263, to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The enclosed response addresses your petition questions directed specifically at DFO regarding the follow-up activity and implementation of recommendations from all Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Joint Panels on Oil Sands Mines.

DFO has taken the Government of Canada lead on the responses related to the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA) and these responses include input from other federal government departments. DFO also developed its responses to this Petition in consultation with the other federal departments involved.

DFO’s commitments as expressed in the Government of Canada’s Response to the Joint Panel Reports on Oil Sands Mines are at different stages of implementation depending on the status of Fisheries Act authorizations and the status of specific activity with respect to the commitments.

I understand that my colleagues, the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment, the Honourable John Baird, Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, and the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, will be responding separately to recommendations that fall under their respective portfolios.

I appreciate having this opportunity to provide you with DFO’s response to your petition and trust that you will find this information helpful.

Sincerely,

[Original signed by Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans]

Gail Shea, P.C., M.P.

Attachment

c.c: The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Jim Prentice, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Lisa Raitt, P.C., M.P.
Mr. Scott Vaughan, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development


CESD PETITION 263
OIL SANDS JOINT PANEL FOLLOW THROUGH

DFO Responses to Petition 263

Petitioner’s Questions

These questions are addressed to federal agencies that have jurisdiction over recommendations from the Joint Panels. We are seeking an accounting of implementation of the recommendations:

  1. Please provide a summary of follow-up activity for each of the recommendations from all CEAA Joint Panels on oil sands mines that your agency has jurisdiction over.
  2. Do you consider that each of the recommendations that your agency is associated with have been met or implemented fully?

Response

There have been four Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) Joint Panels associated with Oil Sands Mines. These are:

  1. The Horizon Oil Sands Mine Project (9 Panel recommendations specific to the Government of Canada);
  2. The Jackpine Oil Sands Mine Project (7 Panel recommendations specific to the Government of Canada);
  3. The Muskeg River Oil Sands Mine Expansion Project (11 Panel recommendations specific to the Government of Canada); and
  4. The Kearl Oil Sands Project (9 Panel recommendations specific to the Government of Canada).

In addition to addressing the Government of Canada’s (GOC) responses to the Joint Panel recommendations for which Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has the lead, DFO has taken the GOC lead on the responses related to the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA) and these responses include input from other federal government departments.

DFO’s Petition Responses for the four Oil Sands Mine Projects

1.   Horizon Oil Sands Mine Project

Recommendation 1:
The Panel recommends that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans require Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) to gather additional hydrologic data and to verify the predictions of its hydrologic model.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. DFO and EC agree that additional baseline hydrologic data is required to further verify the model predictions. Any DFO authorization or approvals issued to CNRL will include requirements for further hydrologic data collection and verification of the Hydrologic Simulation Program Fortran (HSPF) hydrologic model predictions as they relate to areas of federal interest including Instream Flow Needs (IFN), water quality, and fish health and fish tainting.

DFO’s Petition Response:
DFO included, as per condition 26.0 of the Fisheries Act subsection 35(2) authorization issued to CNRL, requirements for CNRL to collect and verify hydrologic data and verify hydrologic model predictions. DFO is following up with the proponent to ensure compliance.

Recommendation 2:
The Panel recommends that DFO assess the need to integrate the findings of the IFN subgroup of Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA) into its authorizations.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. DFO is an active participant in the CEMA subgroup tasked with determining IFN for the lower Athabasca River. DFO believes that the current consultative process under way through the CEMA IFN subgroup is the most appropriate forum in which the scientific data can be gathered and stakeholders' needs addressed. The subgroup has until the end of 2005 to provide recommendations for an IFN for the Athabasca River. It is DFO's intention to integrate the findings of the IFN subgroup of CEMA into any authorizations issued.

DFO’s Petition Response:
DFO and the Province of Alberta committed to jointly develop the lower Athabasca River IFN (i.e. the Water Management Framework) if CEMA was unable to do so by the end of 2005. The IFN subgroup of CEMA was not able to achieve the deadline of the end of 2005 for an Athabasca River IFN recommendation. As a result DFO and Alberta Environment developed and established, in consultation with stakeholders, an IFN for the Lower Athabasca River. In February 2007, DFO and Alberta Environment released the Water Management Framework (WMF) that is intended to guide regulators in their decision-making regarding the cumulative effects of withdrawing water from the lower Athabasca River. The WMF was developed based on the work initiated by the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA). The WMF balances protection of the aquatic ecosystem with the needs of communities and industry. Phase 1 of the WMF has been implemented and will be in effect until the Phase 2 recommendation is implemented in 2011.

At this time DFO believes that there is sufficient total annual flow of water in the Athabasca River to meet the annual requirements of water withdrawal, for current development plans. DFO also believes that the magnitude and schedule of water removals during Phase 1 likely presents a low risk of serious harm to aquatic ecosystems in the Athabasca River. This position is supported by DFO-Science. Phase 1 of the WMF allows discretion for DFO to determine whether a Fisheries Act authorization is required for water withdrawals during low flow periods. Industry has committed to the WMF and DFO continues to make progress on the phase 2 WMF recommendation. When the phase 2 recommendation is implemented in 2011, DFO will consider integration of the IFN WMF phase-2 recommendation into Fisheries Act harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) authorizations related to the withdrawal of water.

Recommendation 3:
The Panel recommends that DFO, in cooperation with AENV, establish an IFN for the Athabasca River in the event that CEMA is unable to do so by the end of 2005.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. DFO agrees with the Panel that an IFN is critically important to mitigate against cumulative environmental effects associated with water withdrawal from the Athabasca River. As an integral member of the CEMA IFN subgroup, DFO will make every effort to work towards achieving an IFN for the Athabasca River by the end of 2005. However, should the subgroup not achieve its’ mandate by then, DFO will work with Alberta Environment and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, to establish an IFN for the Athabasca River.

DFO’s Petition Response:
See recommendation 2 above and specifically the first paragraph of DFO’s petition response.

Recommendation 4:
The Panel recommends that DFO require CNRL to develop and implement a comprehensive surface water quality and sediment quality monitoring program

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. Any authorizations issued by DFO will include requirements for comprehensive surface water quality and sediment quality monitoring programs. DFO will work with EC, Alberta Environment and CNRL in the development of a comprehensive monitoring program.

DFO’s Petition Response:
DFO included, as per condition 22.0 of the Fisheries Act authorization issued to CNRL, requirements that CNRL implement a comprehensive surface water and sediment quality monitoring program. DFO is following up with the proponent to ensure compliance.

Recommendation 5
The Panel recommends that DFO require CNRL to share monitoring results of its compensation lake with other stakeholders in the region

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. Any authorizations issued by DFO will include requirements for monitoring of compensation works. CNRL will be required to submit regular monitoring reports to DFO, with copies to appropriate provincial agencies, to the Regional Aquatics Management Program (RAMP), to stakeholders holding environmental agreements with CNRL, and regional companies either currently operating or considering similar compensation structures.

DFO’s Petition Response:
DFO included, as condition 26.0 of the Fisheries Act authorization issued to CNRL, the requirement that CNRL share the monitoring reports with key stakeholders.

Recommendation 6
The Panel recommends that DFO require CNRL, in consultation with EC, to develop and implement a comprehensive fish monitoring program

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. Any authorizations issued by DFO in relation to the Project, will contain specific conditions to ensure that mitigation measures for the protection of fish and fish habitat are implemented; that monitoring and follow-up studies to address the efficacy of mitigation measures and verify impact predictions are undertaken; and that habitat losses identified are adequately compensated. Monitoring and follow-up studies will be developed in consultation with EC, Alberta Environment and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

Petition Response:
The Fisheries Act authorization issued to CNRL included specific conditions (conditions 7.0- 14.0) to ensure that mitigation measures (including habitat compensation) for the protection of fish and fish habitat are implemented. In addition, condition 21.0 included the requirement for monitoring and follow-up studies to address the effectiveness of mitigation measures and that habitat losses are adequately compensated. The monitoring and follow up program is currently underway.

Recommendation 7
The Panel recommends that DFO require CNRL to conduct follow-up studies on potential impacts of fish tainting compounds from the project on relevant fish species

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. A regional industry funded research directed group, Canadian Oil Sands Network for Research and Development (CONRAD), established a committee to help understand existing and potential fish tainting in the Athabasca River. CNRL has committed to continue to fund and participate on CONRAD. DFO will require CNRL to conduct follow-up studies to address this issue as a condition of any authorization.

DFO’s Petition Response:
The Fisheries Act authorization issued to CNRL included a specific condition (condition 24.0) requiring CNRL to continue to support and participate in this research initiative in order to address the issue of fish tainting on relevant fish species.

Recommendation 9
EC and DFO review and optimize their financial and human resourcing of CEMA with a view to produce results in an earlier time frame

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. CEMA is funded by the industry members based upon a funding formula that takes into consideration their environmental footprint (i.e. land disturbance, air emissions, and water usage). EC and DFO currently participate in various working groups of CEMA providing expertise and focusing efforts on the resolution of issues identified to be of highest priority, in addition to providing resources. EC and DFO will continue to review and optimize their resourcing of CEMA with a view to contributing to the production of results in a timely manner.

DFO’s Petition Response:
Canada continues to be a strong supporter of the CEMA initiative. Canada participates in the development of CEMA work plans and priorities and will continue to adjust our resources in CEMA in accordance with those plans and priorities. Canada currently participates in various working groups of CEMA providing expertise and focusing efforts on the resolution of issues identified to be of highest priority.

DFO is one of the 48 board members of CEMA. DFO is an active member of CEMA’s Surface Water Working Group (SWWG) and an active member of the Instream Flow Needs Technical Task Group, the Socio-economic Task Group and the Water Requirements and Engineering Mitigation Task Group. With the support and assistance of the Instream Flow Needs Technical Task Group, DFO and Alberta Environment, in consultation with stakeholders, were successful in completing an Instream Flow Needs (IFN) Water Management Framework (WMF) for the Lower Athabasca River. Work on the WMF Phase 2 recommendation for the Lower Athabasca River continues to be a high priority for DFO and the interaction between DFO staff and relevant CEMA groups is integral to the successful completion and implementation of Phase 2. In addition, DFO has established and allocated dedicated resources (including staff) to the Oil Sands file and has created a dedicated Oil Sands Major Project team that supports DFO’s involvement in CEMA and its working groups.

EC is a full member of CEMA and continues to be the federal representative on the CEMA Management Committee (2004 – present). EC has also been a co-chair for two of the CEMA working groups, the Sustainable Ecosystems Working Group (SEWG) and the Trace Metals and Air Contaminants Working Group (TMAC). In the role as co-chair for SEWG, EC assisted in the completion of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Management Framework released in June of 2008. Environment Canada is also an active member of the NOxSOx Management Working group and a member of the Surface Water Working Group. EC’s role within CEMA is primarily a science and technology advisory role and the department remains committed to providing that support. EC endeavours to make science and technology expertise available to Working Groups for specific needs that may arise.

Health Canada continues to participate in regional multi-stakeholder working groups to address oil sands issues, includingtheWood Buffalo Environmental Association’s Human Exposure Monitoring Program, the Cumulative Environmental Management Association’s Trace Metals and Air Contaminants Working Group and the Regional Aquatic Monitoring Program.

2) Jackpine Oil Sands Mine Project

Recommendation 1
The Panel recommends that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) collaborate with Alberta Environment (AENV) in the establishment of instream flow needs (IFN) for the Athabasca River in the event that the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA) fails to meet its timelines

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. DFO agrees with the Panel that an IFN determination is critically important to mitigate against cumulative environmental effects associated with water withdrawal from the Athabasca River. As an integral member of the CEMA IFN subgroup, DFO will make every effort to work towards achieving an IFN for the Athabasca River by the end of 2005. However, should the subgroup not achieve its mandate by then, DFO in cooperation with Alberta Environment and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, will establish an IFN for the Athabasca River.

DFO’s Petition Response:
The IFN subgroup of CEMA was not able to achieve the deadline of the end of 2005 for an Athabasca River IFN recommendation. As a result DFO and Alberta Environment developed and established, in consultation with stakeholders, an IFN for the Lower Athabasca River. In February 2007, DFO and Alberta Environment released the IFN Water Management Framework (WMF) that is intended to guide regulators in their decision-making regarding the cumulative effects of withdrawing water from the lower Athabasca River. The WMF was developed based on the work initiated by the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA). The WMF balances protection of the aquatic ecosystem with the needs of communities and industry. Phase 1 of the WMF has been implemented and will be in effect until the phase 2 recommendation is implemented in 2011.

Recommendation 2
The Panel recommends that DFO consider IFN objectives and management approaches in its approvals for the project.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. DFO is an active participant in the CEMA subgroup tasked with determining IFN for the lower Athabasca River. DFO believes that the current consultative process under way through the CEMA IFN subgroup is the most appropriate forum in which the scientific data can be gathered and stakeholders' needs addressed. It is DFO's intention to integrate the findings of the IFN subgroup of CEMA into any authorizations issued.

DFO’s Petition Response:
There was no new water intake constructed for this project and as a result DFO did not issue any authorizations associated with a water withdrawal structure for this project.

With respect to the CEMA process, the IFN subgroup of CEMA was not able to achieve the deadline of the end of 2005 for an Athabasca River IFN recommendation. DFO and the Province of Alberta committed to jointly develop the lower Athabasca River IFN (i.e. the Water Management Framework) if CEMA was unable to do so by the end of 2005. In February 2007, DFO and Alberta Environment released the Water Management Framework (WMF) that is intended to guide regulators in their decision-making regarding the cumulative effects of withdrawing water from the lower Athabasca River. The WMF was developed based on the work initiated by the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA). Phase 1 of the WMF has been implemented and will be in effect until the Phase 2 recommendation is implemented in 2011.

At this time DFO believes that there is sufficient total annual flow of water in the Athabasca River to meet the annual requirements of water withdrawal, in terms of current development plans. DFO also believes that the magnitude and schedule of water removals during Phase 1 likely presents a low risk of serious harm to aquatic ecosystems in the Athabasca River. This position is supported by DFO Science. Phase 1 of the WMF allows discretion for DFO to determine whether a Fisheries Act authorization is required for water withdrawals during low flow periods. Industry has committed to the WMF and DFO continues to make progress on the phase 2 WMF recommendation. When the phase 2 recommendation is implemented in 2011, DFO will consider integration of the IFN WMF phase-2 recommendation into Fisheries Act HADD authorizations related to the withdrawal of water.

Recommendation 3
The Panel recommends that DFO, in consultation with AENV, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (ASRD), Environment Canada (EC), and regional stakeholders, require Shell to develop and implement a comprehensive monitoring program relating to fish and benthic macroinvertebrates.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. Any authorizations issued by DFO in relation to the Project, will contain specific conditions to ensure that mitigation measures for the protection of fish and fish habitat are implemented; that monitoring and follow-up studies address the efficacy of mitigation measures and verify impact predictions are undertaken; and that habitat losses identified are adequately compensated. Monitoring and follow-up studies relating to fish and benthic macro invertebrates will be developed in cooperation with EC, Alberta Environment and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

DFO’s Petition Response:
DFO included, as conditions 18.0-21.0 of the Fisheries Act authorization issued to Shell, requirements that Shell monitor the fish habitat compensation works. The Fisheries Act authorization issued to Shell included specific conditions (8.0-11.0) to ensure that mitigation measures (including habitat compensation) for the protection of fish and fish habitat are implemented. This included the requirement for monitoring and follow-up studies to address the effectiveness of mitigation measures and that habitat losses are adequately compensated. DFO is following up with the proponent to ensure compliance.

Recommendation 4
The Panel recommends that DFO require a report from Shell on its monitoring results relating to the compensation lake and share those findings with other stakeholders in the region.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. Any authorizations issued by DFO will include requirements for monitoring of compensation works. Shell will be required to submit regular monitoring reports, relative to compensation works, to DFO with copies to appropriate provincial agencies, to Regional Aquatics Management Program (RAMP), stakeholders holding agreements with Shell, and regional companies either currently operating or considering similar compensation structures.

DFO’s Petition Response:
DFO included, as conditions 19.0 and 20.0 of the Fisheries Act authorization issued to Shell, requirements that Shell monitor the fish habitat compensation works and submit a report to DFO. As well condition 26.0 included the requirement for Shell to share the monitoring results with key stakeholders. Shell just received a decision from Alberta’s Energy Resource Conservation Board (ERBC) to construct their compensation lake as outlined in their NNL compensation plan. DFO will continue to work and monitor activities related to the construction of the compensation lake.

Recommendation 6
The Panel recommends that DFO consider conditioning its approval to require Shell to participate in CEMA.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. DFO will consider conditioning its authorization to require Shell to participate in CEMA. Currently, Shell is a stakeholder in CEMA and has committed to continue its participation and support for CEMA.

DFO’s Petition Response:
DFO included a condition (21.5) in the Fisheries Act authorization issued to Shell that requires Shell to continue to support and participate in CEMA.

3) Muskeg River Oil Sands Mine Expansion Project

Recommendation 1
Coordinated action be taken at all levels of government to ensure that the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) has the ability to service the anticipated level of sustained growth in the region.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. The Government of Canada will work with municipal and provincial governments, regional stakeholders and industry to address regional issues in areas of federal responsibility.

DFO’s Petition Response:
DFO has worked extensively with the Province, regional stakeholders and industry to develop and implement the Lower Athabasca River Instream Flow Needs Water Management Framework. DFO also supports Alberta’s Regional Sustainable Development Strategy for the oil sands by active participation in regional multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA) and the Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP).

Environment Canada works with other jurisdictions and stakeholders in the Athabasca Oil sands region through regional initiatives such as CEMA, Terrestrial Environmental Effects Monitoring (TEEM), RAMP and the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Initiative with the objective of sustainable growth in the region. Environment Canada also contributes to sustainable development through our role in the environmental assessment process for all major oilsands developments in the region.

Health Canada continues to participate in regional multi-stakeholder working groups to address oil sands issues, includingtheWood Buffalo Environmental Association’s Human Exposure Monitoring Program, the Cumulative Environmental Management Association’s Trace Metals and Air Contaminants Working Group and the Regional Aquatic Monitoring Program.

The Government of Canada has recently established the Building Canada plan to address the need for long-term planning for infrastructure needs in priority areas. Once certain Alberta communities have raised their respective infrastructure needs with the Province of Alberta, Transport Canada may become involved with the review of transportation related projects that could be addressed under the Building Canada plan. Transport Canada will continue to work with the Province of Alberta and the respective Alberta Communities on the need for high-quality, modern public infrastructure that contributes to long-term economic growth, a clean environment and strong communities.

Recommendation 4
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), EC, AENV, and other stakeholders give their input to Albian if a requirement for the development and implementation of monitoring programs for sediment and water quantity and quality for waters that may be affected by the project is required by AENV as a condition in any Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act approval that may be issued if additional site-specific monitoring is required.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. Any Fisheries Act authorizations issued by DFO will include requirements for monitoring parameters related to fish habitat compensation works. This may also include the requirement for monitoring of the potential effects from the Project on sediment and water quality and water quantity as it relates to DFO’s mandate. DFO will work with EC, Alberta, Albian, and other stakeholders as necessary, in the development and implementation of monitoring programs to be conducted by Albian.

DFO’s Petition Response:
As it relates to potential impacts on fish and fish habitat, DFO will include, as conditions of the Fisheries Act authorization to Albian (which has not yet been issued), requirements that Albian implement a comprehensive surface water quality, sediment and water quantity monitoring program. DFO intends to meet this commitment when the Fisheries Act authorization is finalized and issued, and is currently in discussion with Shell.

Recommendation 5
DFO continue discussions with Albian towards establishing an No Net Loss Plan (NNLP) that meets the objectives of the Fisheries Act in terms of fish habitat losses and disturbances and includes proper monitoring to better ensure and confirm the success of the compensation project.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. DFO will continue to work with Alberta, Albian and other stakeholders to ensure that Albian finalizes a detailed NNLP for Fish Habitat Compensation that conforms with the Department’s Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat. The detailed NNLP will include an estimation of the fish and fish habitat losses, mitigation measures, fish habitat compensation strategies, and monitoring. Consistent with the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and Fisheries Act any Fisheries Act authorizations issued by DFO in relation to the Project will contain specific conditions to ensure that mitigation measures for the protection of fish and fish habitat are implemented; that monitoring and follow-up studies to address the efficacy of mitigation measures and verify impact predictions are undertaken; and that habitat losses identified are adequately compensated.

DFO’s Petition Response:
Albian has not yet finalized its detailed No Net Loss Plan (NNLP) for fish habitat compensation. The NNLP will form a part of the conditions contained in the Fisheries Act authorization when it is issued to Albian. The Fisheries Act authorization to Albian will include specific conditions to ensure that mitigation measures for the protection of fish and fish habitat are implemented. This will include the requirement for monitoring and follow-up studies to address the effectiveness of mitigation measures and that habitat losses are adequately compensated.

Recommendation 6
EC and DFO collaborate with AENV and other regional stakeholders to consider approaches and establish the parameters required for regional monitoring for cumulative effects on fish habitat in the lower Athabasca River and Muskeg River watersheds.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. Both EC and DFO will continue to work with AENV and other regional stakeholders to consider alternative approaches and to establish the parameters required for regional monitoring for cumulative effects on fish habitat in the lower Athabasca River and Muskeg River watersheds.

DFO’s Petition Response:
Through DFO’s continued participation on CEMA and cooperative working relationships with the Province, regional stakeholders and CEMA technical task groups, DFO and Alberta Environment have established the IFN WMF for the Lower Athabasca River. The WMF is intended to guide regulators in their decision-making regarding the cumulative effects of withdrawing water from the lower Athabasca River. The IFN WMF establishes parameters and limits on a regional basis to address the potential regional cumulative effects from water withdrawals in the lower Athabasca River. On-going regional monitoring and further research in the years to come will allow for any necessary changes to water withdrawal limits identified in the WMF. DFO will continue to work with the Province of Alberta, CEMA, Aboriginal groups, industry and regional stakeholders to implement the Water Management Framework and develop the phase 2 recommendations. DFO has identified the need to investigate more fully the effects on the lower Athabasca River from the cumulative modification and loss of tributaries. DFO and EC will continue to work with Alberta Environment and regional stakeholders to provide expertise regarding establishing parameters required for any future regional monitoring of cumulative effects on fish and fish habitat in the lower Athabasca River and the Muskeg River Watersheds. DFO believes that this commitment is on-going and that further progress continues to be made towards meeting this commitment.

Recommendation 9
DFO assign members with the appropriate science and technical background to assist in moving the CEMA Watershed Integrity Task Group’s (WITG’s) work plan forward.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. Fisheries and Oceans supports this CEMA initiative and will continue to participate in the WITG and to provide advice and expertise in areas within its mandate. DFO will work with members of the task group to develop clearly defined objectives in order for government agencies such as DFO, to help move the work plan forward.

DFO’s Petition Response:
DFO continues to participate on the WITG and has dedicated specific technical expertise and resources related to its mandate towards this initiative. The original WITG workplan included the development of a Watershed Management Plan for the Muskeg River. Issues with respect to timelines and associated commitments have led Alberta to assume responsibility for the Watershed Management Plan.

Recommendation 10
DFO, as a member of the WITG, commit to participating actively and consistently in the group.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is supportive of the development of a watershed management plan for the Muskeg River basin and will provide consistent, active participation in the CEMA Watershed Integrity Task Group (WITG) and other regional initiatives relevant to DFO’s mandated responsibilities.

DFO’s Petition Response:
DFO has participated and continues to participate actively and consistently on the WITG.

Recommendation 11
DFO and EC, as government agencies, place a greater priority on their roles within CEMA.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. The potential of CEMA to define, fund and accomplish the necessary scientific and technical studies and research exceeds the capability of any one of its member groups. DFO and EC currently participate in various working groups of CEMA providing expertise and focusing efforts on the resolution of issues identified to be of the highest priority, in addition to providing resources. Both DFO and EC are committed to ongoing support CEMA.

DFO’s Petition Response:
Canada continues to be a strong supporter of the CEMA initiative. Canada participates in the development of CEMA work plans and priorities and will continue to adjust its resources in CEMA in accordance with those plans and priorities. Canada currently participates in various working groups of CEMA providing expertise and focusing efforts on the resolution of issues identified to be of highest priority.

DFO is one of the 48 board members of CEMA. DFO is an active member of CEMA’s Surface Water Working Group (SWWG) and an active member of the Instream Flow Needs Task Group, the Socio-economic Task Group and the Watershed Requirements and Engineering Task Group. With the support and assistance of the Instream Flow Needs Task Group, DFO and Alberta Environment, in consultation with stakeholders, were successful in completing an Instream Flow Needs (IFN) Water Management Framework (WMF) for the Lower Athabasca River. Work on the WMF Phase 2 recommendation for the Lower Athabasca River continues to be a high priority for DFO and the interaction between DFO staff and relevant CEMA groups is integral to the successful completion and implementation of Phase 2. In addition, DFO has established dedicated resources (including staff) to the Oil Sands file and has created a dedicated Oil Sands Major Project team that supports DFO’s involvement in CEMA and its working groups.

EC is a full member of CEMA and continues to be the federal representative on the CEMA Management Committee (2004 – present). EC has also been a co-chair for two of the CEMA working groups, the Sustainable Ecosystems Working Group (SEWG) and the Trace Metals and Air Contaminants Working Group (TMAC). In the role as co-chair for SEWG, EC assisted in the completion of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Management Framework released in June of 2008. Environment Canada is also an active member of the NOxSOx Management Working group and a member of the Surface Water Working Group. EC’s role within CEMA is primarily a science and technology advisory role and the department remains committed to providing that support. EC endeavours to make science and technology expertise available to Working Groups for specific needs that may arise.

Health Canada continues to participate in regional multi-stakeholder working groups to address oil sands issues, includingtheWood Buffalo Environmental Association’s Human Exposure Monitoring Program, the Cumulative Environmental Management Association’s Trace Metals and Air Contaminants Working Group and the Regional Aquatic Monitoring Program.

4) Kearl Oil Sands Project

Recommendation 2
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), AENV, the oil sands industry, and all other affected stakeholders dedicate the resources, staff, and funding to ensure that Phase II of the Water Management Framework for the Athabasca River is completed in a comprehensive manner and on time.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. DFO and AENV are committed to ensuring that Phase II of the Water Management Framework (WMF) for the lower Athabasca River is implemented in accordance with the terms of the WMF. Both AENV and DFO expect CEMA, or a similarly inclusive stakeholder process, will be instrumental in providing the input required for Phase II.

DFO’s Petition Response:
DFO and Alberta Environment are leading the development and implementation of Phase 2 of the WMF for the Lower Athabasca River. The details of the Phase 2 process are being determined through consultation with regional stakeholders which started in 2007. Phase 2 will determine what modifications are required to meet environmental and socio-economic goals over the long-term. It will be based on scientific and new technologies, data collected during Phase 1, and an adaptive management process with set timelines and regulatory backstop dates. DFO staff (Science and Habitat) have played a key role in the development of Phase 1 of the WMF and continue to be actively involved in developing the information requirements for the Phase 2 recommendation.

Recommendation 3
Phase II of the Water Management Framework be implemented by January 1, 2011, in keeping with the stated commitments of the Governments of Alberta and Canada.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. The Governments of Alberta and Canada are committed to ensuring that Phase II of the Water Management Framework (WMF) for the lower Athabasca River is implemented in accordance with the terms of the WMF.

DFO’s Petition Response:
DFO and AENV, in consultation with stakeholders, are currently working towards the implementation of the Phase 2 WMF in 2011. If stakeholders cannot agree on the path forward by the deadline dates, the regulators (DFO and Alberta Environment) will make the required decisions to ensure implementation of Phase 2.

Recommendation 4
DFO and AENV incorporate an ecological base flow (EBF) into the final Water Management Framework for the Athabasca River.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. Ecosystem base flow (EBF) is incorporated into the WMF and is defined as the threshold streamflow value below which a component of the aquatic ecosystem is believed to be under increased stress. Future research will help define a threshold below which one could say that there would be an unacceptable level of risk to the river.

DFO’s Petition Response:
Part of the work that is being undertaken for phase 2 of the WMF will include an evaluation of what an ecosystem base flow (EBF) would look like and how it would be implemented. An EBF is incorporated as a concept in the IFN WMF for the Lower Athabasca River and current development of Phase 2 of the WMF will help to further define this threshold. DFO is committed to this on-going work and has been fully engaged in the progress to date.

Recommendation 6
DFO continue discussions with Imperial Oil towards establishing a no net loss plan (NNLP) that meets the objectives of the Fisheries Act in terms of fish habitat losses and disturbances.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. DFO will continue to work with Alberta, Imperial Oil and other stakeholders to ensure that Imperial Oil finalizes a detailed No Net Loss Plan (NNLP) for Fish Habitat Compensation that conforms with the Department’s Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat. The detailed NNLP will include an estimation of the fish and fish habitat losses, mitigation measures, fish habitat compensation strategies, and monitoring. Consistent with the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and Fisheries Act any Fisheries Act authorizations issued by DFO in relation to the Project will contain specific conditions to ensure that mitigation measures for the protection of fish and fish habitat are implemented; that monitoring and follow-up studies to address the efficacy of mitigation measures and verify impact predictions are undertaken; and that habitat losses identified are adequately compensated.

DFO’s Petition Response:
Imperial Oil finalized its detailed No Net Loss Plan (NNLP) for fish habitat compensation in accordance with DFO’s Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat. The NNLP formed a part of the conditions (condition 16.0) contained in the Fisheries Act authorization issued to Imperial. The Fisheries Act authorization issued to Imperial included specific conditions (condition 15.0) to ensure that mitigation measures (including habitat compensation) for the protection of fish and fish habitat are implemented. Condition 18.0 included the requirement for monitoring and follow-up studies to address the effectiveness of mitigation measures and that habitat losses are adequately compensated.

Recommendation 7
EC and DFO, together with AENV and other regional stakeholders, develop the parameters required for regional monitoring for cumulative effects on fish habitat in the lower Athabasca River and Muskeg River watersheds.

GOC Response:
The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. Both EC and DFO will continue to work with AENV and other regional stakeholders to consider alternative approaches and to establish the parameters required for regional monitoring for cumulative effects on fish habitat in the lower Athabasca River and Muskeg River watersheds.

DFO’s Petition Response:
Through DFO’s continued participation on CEMA and cooperative working relationships with the Province, regional stakeholders and CEMA technical task groups, DFO and Alberta Environment have established the IFN WMF for the Lower Athabasca River. The WMF is intended to guide regulators in their decision-making regarding the cumulative effects of withdrawing water from the lower Athabasca River. The IFN WMF establishes parameters and limits on a regional basis to address the potential regional cumulative effects from water withdrawals in the lower Athabasca River. On-going regional monitoring and further research in the years to come will allow for any necessary changes to water withdrawal limits identified in the WMF. DFO will continue to work with the Province of Alberta, CEMA, Aboriginal groups, industry and regional stakeholders to implement the Water Management Framework and develop the phase 2 recommendations. DFO has identified the need to investigate more fully the effects on the lower Athabasca River from the cumulative modification and loss of tributaries. DFO and EC will continue to work with Alberta Environment and regional stakeholders to provide expertise on establishing parameters required for any future regional monitoring of cumulative effects on fish and fish habitat in the lower Athabasca River and the Muskeg River Watersheds.

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Minister's Response: Health Canada

18 December 2008

Mr. Matt Price
Project Manager
Environmental Defence
705 - 317 Adelaide Street West
Toronto, Ontario M5V 1P9

Dear Mr. Price:

This is in response to your environmental petition no. 263 of 22 July 2008, addressed to Mr. Scott Vaughan, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD).

In your petition you requested updates on the recommendations arising from the Joint Panels on oil sands mines.

I am pleased to provide you with the enclosed Health Canada response to your petition. I understand that the Ministers of Fisheries and Oceans, Natural Resources, Transport and the Environment will be responding separately to questions that come under the purview of their respective departments.

I appreciate your interest in this important matter, and I hope that you will find this information useful.

Sincerely,

[Original signed by Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health]

Leona Aglukkaq

Enclosure

c.c. Mr. Scott Vaughan, CESD
The Honourable Gail Shea, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Lisa Raitt, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Jim Prentice, P.C., M.P.


Health Canada Response to
Environmental Petition No. 263 filed by Mr. Matt Price under Section 22 of the Auditor General Act
Received August 21, 2008

Oil Sands Joint Panel Follow Through

19 December 2008

Minister of Health

Background:

Health Canada responds to requests from federal regulatory authorities or panels to participate in environmental assessments of projects subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). Specifically, Health Canada has been involved with two joint panels for projects on oil sands mines. Below please find the two recommendations from these joint panels which related to Health Canada, and the Government of Canada’s 2004 response.

  1. Canadian Natural Resources Limited Horizon Project (27 January2004)

    Recommendation 8: The Panel recommends that Health Canada, in cooperation with Alberta Health and Wellness, consider undertaking a regional health study primarily dealing with First Nations, Métis, and other aboriginal people (Section 18.6).

    Government of Canada’s response: The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. Health Canada is in agreement with this recommendation and is willing to work with other federal departments, the province and regional working groups in the undertaking of a regional health study primarily dealing with First Nations, Métis, and other aboriginal people.

  2. Shell Canada Limited Jackpine Project (5 February 2004)

    Recommendation 7: The Panel recommends that Health Canada (HC), in conjunction with Alberta Health and Wellness (AHW), consider undertaking a regional baseline health study primarily dealing with First Nations, Métis, and other aboriginal groups and consider contributing expertise and funding in support of Wood Buffalo Environmental Association's (WBEA's) efforts to implement an ongoing health-monitoring program consistent with the recommendation of the Alberta Oil Sands Community Exposure and Health Effects Assessment Program (Section 24.6).

    Government of Canada’s response: The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation. Health Canada is in agreement with this recommendation and is willing to work with other federal departments, the province and regional working groups in the undertaking of a regional baseline health study primarily dealing with First Nations, Métis, and other aboriginal people. At the present time, the department sits on the Human Exposure Monitoring Committee under the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA). As well, Health Canada is considering providing expertise and contributing funding in support of the WBEA's efforts to implement an ongoing health-monitoring program.

For further information on the joint panels and the Government of Canada’s responses, you can visit http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/media/back-fiche/2004/hq-ac28a-eng.htm and http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/media/back-fiche/2004/hq-ac37a-eng.htm.

  1. Please provide a summary of follow up activity for each of the recommendations from all CEAA Joint Panels on oil sands mines that your agency has jurisdiction over.
  2. Do you consider that each of the recommendations that your agency is associated with have been met or implemented fully?

With Regard to Recommendation 8—Regional Health Study

Answer to Question 1.
In collaboration with our regional partners, Health Canada is willing to support and participate,
upon request by the Alberta Health and Wellness (AHW), in any regional baseline health study in the region.

Answer to Question 2.
Health Canada considers the recommendation as being addressed and implemented. As per the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) section 38 (4), Health Canada complies with the request of Responsible Authorities to provide expert advice in the assessment of potential human health effects from oil sands projects. However, it is important to note that Health Canada has no decision-making authority over the environmental assessment or the fate of the project and therefore, participates in the process only in an advisory role, in keeping with our mandate. Health Canada also participates upon request by AHW, in an advisory role, as we are conscious of their authority over provincial health issues in the Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

With Regard to Recommendation 7—Regional Health Study—WBEA—Oil Sands Related

Answer to Question 1.
Health Canada promotes, supports and actively seeks opportunities for the federal and provincial governments and First Nations communities to work collaboratively to better understand the potential health impacts of oil sands development. In this specific regard, Health Canada currently participates in three regional multi-stakeholder working groups to address concerns raised through past oil sands environmental assessments. These working groups include the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association’s Human Exposure Monitoring Program (WBEA HEMP), the Cumulative Environmental Management Association’s Trace Metal and Air Contaminants Working Group (CEMA TMAC) and the Regional Aquatic Monitoring Program (RAMP).

Answer to Question 2.
Health Canada considers the recommendation as being addressed and implemented. WBEA HEMP in particular, specifically addresses human exposure to air contaminants in the oil sands region by conducting personal, indoor and outdoor air sampling for a group of volunteers in local communities. This program is ongoing. In fact, this past year an air sampling program was completed for volunteers in Fort Chipewyan. The data will then be analysed by AHW and the results published in a publicly available report.

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Minister's Response: Natural Resources Canada

19 December 2008

Mr. Matt Price
Project Manager
Environmental Defence
317 Adelaide Street West, Suite 705
Toronto, Ontario M5V 1P9

Dear Mr. Price:

I am pleased to respond to your Environmental Petition no. 263 to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, concerning the follow‑up activity and implementation of recommendations from all Canadian Environmental Assessment Act's Joint Review Panels on Oil Sands Mines.

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) provides technical expertise into environmental assessment reviews upon request by the responsible authority or panel. My department has provided technical expertise for several Joint Review Panels in the areas of tailings management technology, as legally required under s.12(3) of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
 
Your petition was directed to federal agencies that have jurisdiction over recommendations from the Joint Review Panels on oil sands mines. While NRCan has no jurisdiction with regard to recommendations from Joint Review Panels, the Government of Canada response to Recommendation 8 of the Environmental Assessment Report, of the Joint Review Panel on the Kearl Oil Sands Project, does cite my department.

The recommendation called on the Government to take a more active and direct leadership role in all aspects of the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA). The Government accepted this recommendation and is actively involved in CEMA through the membership of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the departments of Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Health and Natural Resources. The Government is also represented on the CEMA Management Committee by Environment Canada. NRCan remains a member of CEMA and we continue to monitor CEMA's operations and activities.

It is part of NRCan's broader responsibilities in the energy sector to analyze and advise on energy markets, ensure efficient and effective economic and environmental regulation, and perform targeted research and development.

I understand that my colleagues, the Honourables Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment, John Baird, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, and Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, will be responding separately to recommendations that were directed to them and that fall under their respective portfolios.

I appreciate having this opportunity to respond to your petition and trust that you will find this information helpful. Thank you for raising these important concerns.

Yours sincerely,

[Original signed by Lisa Raitt, Minister of Natural Resources]

The Honourable Lisa Raitt, P.C., M.P.

c.c.: Mr. Scott Vaughan
Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Health

The Honourable Jim Prentice, P.C., M.P.
Minister of the Environment

The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities

The Honourable Gail Shea, P.C, M.P.
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

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Minister's Response: Transport Canada

22 January 2009

Mr. Matt Price
Project Manager
Environmental Defence
317 Adelaide St. West, Suite 705
Toronto, Ontario
M5V 1P9

Dear Mr. Price:

As the Minister responsible for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, I am pleased to respond to your environmental Petition, no. 263, to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The enclosed response addresses your petition questions directed specifically at Transport Canada regarding the follow-up activity and implementation of recommendations from all Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Joint Panels on Oil Sands Mines.

I understand that my colleagues, the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment, the Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, will be responding separately to recommendations that fall under their respective portfolios.

I appreciate having this opportunity to provide you with Transport Canada’s response to your petition and trust that you will find this information helpful.

Sincerely,

[Original signed by John Baird, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities]

John Baird, P.C., M.P.

Attachment

c.c: The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Gail Shea, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Jim Prentice, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Lisa Raitt, P.C., M.P.
Mr. Scott Vaughan, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development


Transport Canada Response to
Environmental Petition No. 263 filed by Mr. Matt Price under Section 22 of the Auditor General Act
Received August 21, 2008

Oil Sands Joint Panel Follow Through

December 19, 2008

Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities

Responses to Recommendations with Transport Canada (TC) as the Office of Primary Importance (OPI)

The Muskeg River Oil Sands Mine Expansion Project:

Recommendation #1

Coordinated action be taken at all levels of government to ensure that the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) has the ability to service the anticipated level of sustained growth in the region.

Response:

The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation.

The Government of Canada will work with municipal and provincial governments, regional stakeholders and industry to address regional issues in areas of federal responsibility.

  • Transport Canada will continue to work with the Province of Alberta and the respective Alberta Communities on the need for high-quality, modern public infrastructure that contributes to long-term economic growth, a clean environment and strong communities. The Government of Canada recently established the Building Canada plan to address the need for long-term planning for infrastructure needs in priority areas. Once certain Alberta communities have raised their respective infrastructure needs with the Province of Alberta, Transport Canada may become involved with the review of transportation related projects that could be addressed under the Building Canada plan.

Recommendation #7

Transport Canada (TC) identify any additional approval conditions necessary to ensure navigational safety and include these conditions in any authorization (Section 10.4.3):

Response:

The Government of Canada accepts this recommendation.
Upon receipt of an Application under the Navigable Waters Protection Act, TC Navigable Waters Protection Officers will review the details of the proposed works and will identify any additional Approval conditions necessary to ensure navigational safety.

  • Transport Canada—Navigable Waters Protection Program (NWPP) issued Approval # 8200-07-10111 for the Muskeg River Expansion project to Shell Canada Ltd. on 4 September 2007.
  • NWPP Approval # 8200-07-10111 contained the following additional conditions necessary to ensure navigational safety (Section 10.4.3):
    • Any work between 30 April and 30 October of any year will require the submission of the construction details, to the Navigable Waters Protection Program (NWPP) for the review and acceptance prior to continuing or conducting any work within or over the limits of the waterway.
    • Warning signs shall:
    • Be placed 75 m upstream/downstream of the site until completion of the project.
    • Be maintained during all periods of open-water.
    • Be legible from a minimum distance of 50 m.
    • Display black lettering on a yellow background.
    • Any in water compensation as required under the provisions of the Fisheries Act shall be reviewed and accepted by NWPP Office prior to placement/construction.
    • Any proposed changes shall be reviewed and accepted by NWPP Office prior to implementation of the same.
    • Upon decommissioning the subject (work), all portions thereof must be completely removed from the limits of the waterway (in, on, over, under, across, or through).