The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The federal government will set up a monitoring system to watch over the environmental fallout from the expanding oilsands industry.
 
Environment Minister Peter Kent says the “world-class” system will monitor air, water and biodiversity in the Athabasca region of Alberta, in co-operation with provincial authorities.
 
The main aim, he says, “is to provide assurance at home and abroad that development of the oilsands is being done in an environmentally sustainable manner.”
 
The oilsands have been unfairly targeted by foreign governments and activists, Kent said. The new monitoring system will use science to fight back.
 
“Industry is expanding production,” he said. “And with its environmental footprint, we need evidence that growing production is environmentally responsible.”
 
The plan will cost $50 million a year to ensure industrial development is done in a responsible way, but the industry itself will be cover the costs, Kent said.
 
The costs will likely fall over the years as the system becomes more efficient.
 
Environmentalists welcomed the increase in monitoring, but criticized the new system as toothless.
 
“While we welcome Environment Canada’s release of new monitoring design for tarsands pollution and biodiversity, the plan needs to be complemented with legally binding regulations if we are to see progress on the ground,” said Gillian McEachern of Environmental Defence.
 
“More data alone will not stop the growing pollution problem. Ottawa already has the legal authority to act.”