February 21, 2024

The McClelland Lake complicated was excluded from improvement in 1996 due to its environmental worth. That exclusion was lifted in 2002.

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Alberta’s power regulator dominated Thursday that it gained’t rethink approvals for Suncor to broaden an oilsands mine right into a wetland as soon as thought of for environmental safety.

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The choice opens the door for growth of the corporate’s Fort Hills mine that has been earlier than the regulators for greater than 20 years. It unlocks an estimated billion barrels of bitumen.

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“That is a part of Fort Hills transferring ahead,” stated Suncor spokesman Leithan Slade.

However scientists say it’s additionally prone to doom a singular patterned fen — a peat-producing wetland that includes lengthy strings of bushes and shrubs separated by slender swimming pools that’s host to twenty uncommon or endangered plant species and greater than 200 species of migratory birds, together with endangered whooping cranes.

“We’re upset and annoyed,” stated Phillip Meintzer of the Alberta Wilderness Affiliation, which had requested the regulator to rethink the approval it granted final September in gentle of latest scientific info it offered.

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McClelland Lake, top right, just east of the Athabasca River, 90 km north of Fort MacMurray, Alta. on September 28, 2010. Ryan Jackson/Postmedia Network
McClelland Lake, prime proper, simply east of the Athabasca River, 90 km north of Fort MacMurray, Alta. on September 28, 2010. Ryan Jackson/Postmedia Community

The McClelland Lake complicated, about 90 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, Alta., was excluded from improvement in 1996 due to its environmental worth. That exclusion was lifted in 2002 for the a part of the wetland inside an oilsands lease then owned by True North Vitality.

The regulator authorised True North’s utility to develop the location, regardless of warnings from an environmental impression evaluation that mine dewatering and different disturbances would possible kill the fen’s distinctive peat-forming mosses.

The approval got here with circumstances that included growing a plan to guard the unmined portion of the wetland.

That plan, lastly submitted in 2021, is what the regulator reconsidered, though the challenge now belongs to Fort Hills Vitality, majority-owned by Suncor Vitality Inc. Laws says the regulator might verify, range, droop or revoke its choices, with or and not using a listening to, if it’s offered with compelling new proof.

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To guard the unmined wetland whereas the remaining is drained and excavated, Suncor proposes an advanced set of wells and pumps to manage and monitor water ranges and chemistry. Its centrepiece is a wall, almost 14 kilometres lengthy and between 20 and 70 metres deep.

The corporate has acknowledged plans for the wall are incomplete. However Slade stated Suncor is dedicated to defending the remaining wetland.

“The operational plan is predicted to evolve as expertise will advance,” he stated. “We’re dedicated to sustaining the ecological variety and performance of the unmined portion.”

Wetland scientists involved

In its submission to the regulator, the affiliation quoted a number of wetland scientists from throughout North America who doubted the wall will work.

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These consultants identified the expertise is untested and should work completely for many years. They stated such constructions are recognized to leak and stated the mined half of the wetland is prone to considerably change that of the unmined portion.

That wasn’t sufficient for the regulator.

McClelland Lake
McClelland Lake simply east of the Athabasca River, 90 km north of Fort MacMurray, Alta. on September 28, 2010. Ryan Jackson/Postmedia Community

“We discover that the (affiliation) has not offered any new info which demonstrates distinctive and compelling causes for the (regulator) to rethink its choice to problem the approval,” the ruling stated.

It stated the unique approval contained satisfactory safeguards, together with monitoring, modelling and efficiency studies.

“The approval doesn’t preclude modifications to the operational plan, nor does it preclude the (regulator) from making modifications to the circumstances regulating the challenge.”

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The regulator additionally criticized the affiliation for withdrawing from a committee arrange by Suncor to observe the mine’s environmental efficiency.

Meintzer stated the affiliation couldn’t be a part of a course of during which it had little religion.

“If we’re a part of the crew crafting the plan, we’re primarily saying sure to destroying the half we’re permitting to be mined. That’s one thing we’ve all the time been in opposition to.”

McClelland Lake is underlain by peat between two and eight metres deep, collected over 11,000 years. That’s storing between eight million and 35 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The complete quantity of carbon dioxide sequestered in Alberta’s carbon seize and storage packages since 2015 is 10.5 million tonnes.

The affiliation had requested for your entire space to be protected, noting it represents a tiny fraction of Alberta’s 4,750 sq. kilometres of minable oilsands.

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