Debate ensues over oilsand panel as member quits

Kelly Cryderman
Calgary Herald
Date published: 
Wed, 2011-02-02

CALGARY - Just days after the makeup of a provincial panel meant to revamp oilsands monitoring was announced, an American member has quit saying there's not enough scientists in the group and the Alberta government wants to muzzle free discussion.

"I'm concerned that First Nations may think this is yet another snow job by a bunch of experts who speak a lot of technical speak," said Helen Ingram, a University of California-Irvine professor emeritus who specializes in public policy on water resources.

However, Alberta Environment argues there are eight scientists on the panel with PhDs, and rules governing disclosure of information by panel members have yet to be finalized.

Ingram and 11 others were named by Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner last Thursday as members of a panel to provide recommendations for creating a "world-class environmental monitoring system" for the oilsands.

The group, which meets for the first time next week, is co-chaired by Hal Kvisle, who retired as president and chief executive of Trans­Canada Corp. last year, but is still an adviser to the pipeline company. TransCanada moves thousands of barrels per day of oilsands products to market and is seeking environmental approval for the $7-billion Keystone XL project to transport more bitumen to U.S. refiners.

The other co-chair is Howard Tennant, the former president and vice-chancellor of the University of Lethbridge. Other members include public health experts, biological science and geology professors, environmental consultants, a vice-president from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and a former adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

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