PART 1: The Issue - Environmental Emergency Cutbacks and Consolidation
On May 1, 2012, Jennifer Martin, Co-Host of Alberta Primetime CTV Two, interviewed Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent about the Responsibility for Environmental Emergencies of future oil spills resulting from the transportation of oil through pipelines crisscrossing Canada and the U.S. In this lengthy interview, Jennifer Martin interrogates Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent regarding how the federal cuts to the Environmental Emergencies Program in Alberta will affect the water, land, and Albertans if there are devastating spills.
See the Alberta Primetime – Responsibility for Environmental Emergencies broadcast here.
The controversial federal cuts to the Environmental Emergencies Program may prove costly on many levels but this is not so assures Federal Environment Minister Kent. “The consolidation of six offices into two will have no impact on Environment Canada’s ability to do its job.” Unfortunately, with four of the offices closing including access to experienced staff in the Edmonton office that responds to about 1,000 oil spills per year, it will definitely make a difference with the lack of manpower available on the ground if even one huge oil spill occurs.
Kent explains that Environment Canada staff are not first responders but they do support the lead agency in any emergency situation. In this case, the lead agency in Alberta is the National Energy Board (NEB) that possesses the expertise for any local disaster. The NEB would address the containment and the clean up and the Environment Canada emergency office staff would assist in the event of a disaster. Where required, the Environment Canada staff will give onsite advice.
Environment Canada officials and experts analyzed a more cost effective way to deliver services for emergencies prior to this consolidation. Kent assures Albertans that Environment Canada will continue their national responsibility for maintaining good water quality. [i]The Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring[/i] will be scientifically rigorous, comprehensive, integrated, and transparent.
Replacing manpower on the ground for potential environmental emergencies will be “digital technologies, voice communication, satellite transmissions, real-time video, of real-time scientific data, of wind and water currents,” explains Kent and adds this will “allow us to work from centralized highly technical support headquarters and to provide that support service.”