News Release: AER Must Begin the Next Phase of its Reconsideration of Suncor’s High-Risk Plan
July 5, 2023
It’s time for the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) to take decisive action in its reconsideration of Suncor’s plan to mine half of the McClelland Lake Wetland Complex in northern Alberta.
AWA requested that the AER reconsider and revoke its approval of Suncor’s operational plan pursuant to section 42 of the Responsible Energy Development Act (REDA) in March 2023. Under this legislation, AER may, in its sole discretion, reconsider its decision and may confirm, vary, suspend, or revoke the decision. Following the submission of AWA’s report, the AER opened a reconsideration process for their approval.
Phase 1 of this reconsideration process has recently concluded, which encompassed submissions from AWA as well as reply submissions from Suncor. AWA’s final reply submission, delivered to the AER on June 9, 2023, contained compelling new information from three international wetland experts — Richard Lindsay, University of East London, U.K.; Dr. R. Kelman Wieder, Villanova University, Pennsylvania; and Dr. David Locky, MacEwan University, Alberta — following their review of Suncor’s plan.
The AER must now move on to phase 2 of the process, but currently, there is no timeline provided for when the AER will make their decision to do so.
“Right now, all we can do is wait and hope for the AER to make the responsible decision and proceed with the reconsideration,” says AWA Conservation Specialist Phillip Meintzer. “If we are going to meaningfully address the climate and biodiversity crises, and make progress on reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, the AER needs to revoke their approval, and mining at McClelland should not be permitted.”
A recent report produced by Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) and submitted to the AER in March 2023 raised several concerns with Suncor’s approved Operational Plan, which was approved by the AER in September 2022. AWA’s report found Suncor’s plan poses a significant risk of irreversible damage to the unmined half of the McClelland Lake Wetland Complex.
Suncor’s Operational Plan, by law, MUST demonstrate how Suncor could guarantee the protection of the unmined half of this internationally significant wetland complex — which includes a spectacular patterned fen — from the impacts of the expansion of construction and mining activities at their Fort Hills oil sands mine in northeast Alberta.
But our report found major flaws in the plan which leaves the unmined portion of the wetlands at great risk of being harmed.
In AWA’s final reply submission in phase one, delivered to the AER on June 9, 2023, three international experts provided further information as to why the approved Operational Plan contains many significant gaps, which, if left unaddressed, pose a significant risk to the ecological diversity and function of the unmined wetland complex.
These concerns include no testing of Suncor’s proposed wall and mitigation measures, a compromised vegetation monitoring program, and ignorance towards potential catastrophic changes from mining activities and mitigation failures. This compelling new information, alongside the previously submitted report, should lead the AER to reconsider and revoke their approval of Suncor’s Operational Plan. At a minimum these submissions should lead the AER to proceed with Phase 2 of its Reconsideration Process.
For more information, please contact:
Phillip Meintzer, AWA Conservation Specialist