The document contains what Alberta premier Rachel Notley called a “healthy balance” between “economic prosperity and environmental responsibility.” There are a mentions of environmental concerns, but the sentiment of the Strategy doesn’t appear to be so much to further protect our environment as it is to maintain today’s status quo of environmental protection while increasing the industry’s capacity to produce energy.
Before today’s release, one Alberta official noted that much of the ‘environmental concern’ expressed in the strategy had to do with carbon emissions and climate change, not environmental degradation at the hands of the industry. This turned out to be in large part true, given that energy efficiency and conservation comprised three of nine areas of focus outlined in the document. While these are important pursuits, and certainly related to the industry’s environmental concerns, they do not take into account the risks that industry poses to the land and people surrounding it.
This week’s spill happened despite safeguards being in place. It was only noticed when someone walked by, and this happened to a double-walled pipeline that was less than one year old. Today’s Energy Strategy reads that provinces and territories should “…demonstrate to Canadians, and to the world, that the transmission and transportation of energy products is managed responsibly in Canada”(p. 26), which can’t quite be said truthfully. Thankfully, it also calls for specific identification of all energy transmission infrastructure that is in need of repair and upgrade in order to operate safely.
This week’s events don’t bode well for the future of the relationship between industry and environment. If the Premiers’ strategy is acted upon without calling into question the ways that industry carries out its work, including the ways that pipelines are built, monitored, and maintained, then we may have only seen the beginning, this week, of the spills, accidents, and contaminated ecosystems that are to come.
Chris Klassen is the Communications Coordinator for the One River, Many Relations documentary project and contributes content to One River News as a part of that work. He studied International Development and Communications at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, MB and is happy to be contributing to the work of building future relationships between land, people, and industry.