Alberta has released a long-term development plan, highlighting sustainable and responsible growth for its oil sands.

The 20-year plan, titled Responsible Actions: A Plan for Alberta’s Oil Sands, aims to reduce the environmental footprint, optimize economic growth, and increase the quality of life in Alberta’s oil sands regions.

Water highlights include goals to

  • Protect human health and ecosystems by setting regional outcomes and thresholds;
  • Maximize water conservation, efficiency and productivity with lowest water use achievable, including but not limited to achieving Water for Life targets;
  • Identify the amount of fresh and saline groundwater available in the oil sands regions to ensure water supplies are managed sustainably for our communities, ecosystems, and economy.
  • Require reclamation of tailings to occur at the same rate as (or faster than) the production of new tailings on a regional basis.

While it’s nice to see some action on behalf of the province, will this plan change Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach’s inability to acknowledge that the environmental cost of the tar sands is anything but a “myth”?

The answer is maybe. Lloyd Snelgrove, the province’s minister responsible for the Oil Sands Sustainable Development Secretariat, said in yesterday’s release: “When it comes to Alberta’s oil sands, we believe that Canada can be a leader in finding innovative ways to ensure both economic growth and greater environmental protection.” Sounds promising so far.

Further: “This strategy will guide our responsible approach to development, with an increased focus on the environment and the importance of this significant resource to local communities.”

The plan also discusses current efforts such as carbon capture and storage, and strengthens the approach for land reclamation, cumulative effects management and environmental conservation. Now that such a plan exists, Alberta is sure to be kept on its toes to meet these goals and commitments.

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