Oil industry oversight must have teeth
As by far the biggest economic driver of the Alberta economy, the oil and gas industry is and will no doubt remain vital to the finances of virtually every village, town, county and city in this province.
Billions of dollars of royalties from oil and gas development pay for Alberta hospitals, schools, roads and highways, social programs and a myriad of other things. And make no mistake, without the cash generated by the petroleum industry, Alberta would go from being one of Canada’s richest ‘have’ provinces to the poorhouse in a great big hurry.
As such the Redford government should do all it can to promote the industry, making sure oil and gas exploration and development continue for years to come.
Any Alberta government that did anything less than its utmost to make sure the province remains a welcome environment for oil and gas companies would be falling down on the job.
With that said, the same government must also do all it can to make sure the success of the oil and gas industry doesn’t inadvertently result in environmental damage to the province’s air, ground and water resources.
And as anyone who has seen the damage caused by the recent oil pipeline leak on the Red Deer River in West Central Alberta can attest, mishaps in the petroleum industry can sometimes lead to plenty of mess and great inconvenience for everyone.
While the Redford Tories say their regulatory system does a good job of helping prevent oil spills, opposition parties say the government is failing to properly and adequately oversee the petroleum industry, resulting, in turn, in preventable environmental damage.
“Conservative environmental protection has always been weak,” NDP environment critic Rachel Notley said last week. “It’s always been more about press releases and polished public relations campaigns than about actually getting boots on the ground, and regulations on the books.
“But when we see repeated failures on the part of pipeline companies, both the environment and industry sustainability are put at risk.”
Notley is calling for a comprehensive and independent review of the regulatory oversight of Alberta’s oil and gas pipeline system.
While it is wholly unlikely that the Redford government would follow the advice of the NDP on this or any other matter, the PCs must keep in mind that their job is twofold when it comes to the oil and gas industry: promote development and protect the environment.
Go ahead and champion Alberta’s petroleum industry, Premier Redford, but for everyone’s sake, also make sure it is clean and safe.