Tennant named Chair of new Alberta agency

Alberta will build the most comprehensive environmental monitoring program in Canada with the establishment of a new arm's-length environmental monitoring agency, led by University of Lethbridge President Emeritus Dr. Howard Tennant.

The agency will be built on credible science, research and data collection. This is the key recommendation of the independent Environmental Monitoring Working Group report released by the Alberta government.

The new science-based agency will begin work in the oil sands region and will focus on what is monitored, how it's monitored and where it's monitored. This will include integrated and coordinated monitoring of land, air, water and biodiversity.

A management board named by Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Diana McQueen will immediately begin work to set up the new agency. Tennant has been named Chair of the management board.

"Under the leadership of Premier Redford, this government has been clear on the need to improve how we manage natural resource development in the province," says McQueen.

"Building on the implementation of our first regional land-use plan in the Lower Athabasca, the move to an arm's-length environmental monitoring agency is the next critical step. This agency will be the first of its kind in Canada and signals to Albertans, Canadians and the world that we are committed to world-leading resource stewardship."

The work of the six-member management board will focus on how the new science-based agency will operate, long-term funding options and establishing a Science Advisory Board to provide input and advice on monitoring efforts. The initial focus of the new arm's-length agency will be on the Lower Athabasca area with the ability to expand to the rest of the province.

Members of the management board include:

Dr. Howard Tennant - Chair
Dr. Arlene Ponting
Dr. Gregory Taylor
Dr. Ron Wallace
Mr. Doug Tupper
Mr. Paul Clark

"Arm's-length oversight is an essential component of comprehensive, adaptive and effective environmental monitoring," says Tennant.

"The work of the management board will be key to ensuring the foundation of the new agency is based on sound, credible science. I look forward to the high quality technical and scientific advice the board will provide government as we work to build the best system for Albertans."

"Providing scientifically-credible information through an independent body is fundamentally important to excellence in resource management," says Kirk Andries, Executive Director of the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute.

"We are looking forward to working with the Management Board to contribute to the development of a fully integrated, multi-media based environmental monitoring system."

"CAPP supports the establishment of the provincial monitoring agency," says CAPP vice-president David Pryce. "This is an important mechanism to further the implementation of scientifically credible monitoring which can be used to confirm and assure responsible development."

The work of the management board will be supported through Environment and Sustainable Resource Development's operating budget. Funding for the management board's work for the remainder of this fiscal year could be up to one million dollars and an estimated $3 - $5 million for next year (2013/14).

While the new agency is being established, environmental monitoring in the oil sands region will continue to be led through a joint federal-provincial program announced in February.

To date, that program has added new water quality sites on the Athabasca River and Muskeg River system; increased air monitoring by adding more sampling sites; and, improved bio-diversity monitoring to include all oil sands producing areas. Up to $50 million a year is being provided by industry in the region to support the joint federal-provincial environmental monitoring plan.

The full report of the Environmental Working Group is available online at