A third-party report into the release of millions of litres of oilsands wastewater at Imperial Oil’s Kearl mine has found Alberta’s energy regulator followed all its rules and procedures in keeping the public and area First Nations informed.
“There were no areas of non-adherence to stated policies and procedures,” says the Deloitte report, prepared for the regulator’s board.
But the report finds those procedures deeply lacking and recommends the regulator firm up and add details to many of its notification protocols.
Essential terms such as “emergency” are left undefined, it says. Guidelines for handling water samples are not provided. Details were vague on how First Nations and other area communities were notified. Internal procedures for how information gets passed up the chain of authority are murky.
Deloitte found it wasn’t clear if the regulator’s directive on emergency planning for the industry even applies to the oilsands.
They’re all obvious flaws that have been pointed out many times and should have been fixed long ago, said Chief Billy-Joe Tuccaro of the Mikisew Cree First Nation.
“We could have written the report for them,” he said. “It’s all stuff that’s simple and should have been fixed long ago.”
He said the regulator says it wants to improve communications yet refused to provide them copies of the report in a briefing they were given on Monday.
“Our trust is broken,” Tuccaro said. “It’s hard to believe anything they’re saying.”
The review was commissioned by the regulator’s board after two large releases of wastewater from the mine.
One release was spotted and reported in May 2022 as discoloured water.
First Nations were notified but not given further updates until March, when the release was disclosed as tailings seepage, along with news of a second release of 5.3 million litres of contaminated wastewater.
Area First Nations were angry and said their members had been harvesting in the area for nine months without being told of possible contamination.
The report looks at the regulator’s communications and doesn’t examine Imperial’s actions.
The releases are also the subject of a federal investigation under the Fisheries Act.