Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Courts Reject Imperial's Kearl Lake Oil Sands Project!

The Federal Court has just dismissed Imperial Oils bid to quash a previous regulatory decision that cancelled the 100,000 barrels per day Kearl Lake oil sands project. The original project permit rejection was because of an inadequate environmental reporting on air quality implications from greenhouse gas emissions.

The review panel did not take the project’s GHG emissions that are equivalent to 800,000 passenger vehicles as being of any significance. A Judge disagreed and said the review panel made an error of law and sent the matter back to the panel to do its job right.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans then advised Imperial the project permit was a nullity and they could not proceed with the project. Imperial challenged the federal position and today the lost that challenge.

A corporate spokesman speculates the project may be delayed for up to a year as they comply with the process that is in place.

The Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development and Sierra Club of Canada took the lead on challenging the project approvals and sought to quash them through the courts - and they won! Good job! The courts have made it pretty clear that “…we need a higher standard associated with environmental assessment of oil-sands projects” according to Simon Dyer, Pembina’s director of oil sands.

The world of oil sands development just changed - and for the good again. First 500 ducks die in a tailings pond and the world notices. Now the environmental standards for project approvals are subject to a real rigour and not just an old style and clubby de rigueur standard of care.

Great day for the future of Alberta’s ecological integrity! This decision is a wake-up call for industry and the regulators to be more circumspect in approvals for oil sands development.