In a report released March 7, Alberta’s water monitoring data review committee recommended comprehensive monitoring, more rigorous scientific analysis, and new monitoring objectives in order to gain a better understanding of environmental impacts in the oil sands region.

The committee of six independent scientists (Peter Dillon, Trent University; George Dixon, University of Waterloo; Charles Driscoll, Syracuse University; Stuart Hurlbert, San Diego State University; John Giesy, University of Saskatchewan; Jerome Nriagu, University of Michigan) from across North America was asked by Premier Ed Stelmach in September 2010 to examine the data and methodologies used by government scientists and University of Alberta researchers Erin Kelly and David Schindler.

After an in-depth review, the committee found that data from the different research projects is not comparable, because the studies had different objectives and were not designed to examine the same potential impacts. The committee suggests that more work is needed to fully understand the effects of oil sands development on the environment.

The independent Provincial Monitoring Panel—created in December 2010— will report back to the Minister in June 2011. This panel is designed to provide recommendations for a world-class monitoring system, and is incorporating this data review and the Federal Oil Sands Advisory Panel report in its deliberations.

“We want a robust system that will assure Albertans the oil sands continue to be developed under the closest of scrutiny and that full impacts are understood,” said environment minister Rob Renner. “We will continue to gather key information and guidance from respected scientists as we build this new, world-class monitoring system.”

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