Members of the ENVI Parliamentary Committee must leave no stone unturned when questioning Imperial Oil and Alberta Energy Regulator

Ottawa | Traditional, unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg People – Today, the CEO of the Alberta Energy Regulator will appear before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (ENVI). In the coming weeks, Imperial Oil is also expected to appear before the committee regarding their handling of a toxic tailings leak at Imperial Oil’s Kearl facility earlier this year, which was concealed for over nine months. The leak only came to light when a separate incident spilled 5.3 million litres of wastewater into the environment. 

“We are calling on Members of Parliament to dig deep and uncover how these major incidents happened, whether those responsible for the cover-up will be held accountable, and how many other uncontrolled tailings leaks are currently putting the environment and communities at risk,” said Aliénor Rougeot, Climate and Energy Program Manager at Environmental Defence.

The seepage from Kearl is ongoing. Following a review of its handling, the Alberta Energy Regulator absolved itself of any responsibility, stating it had followed all internal processes. Indigenous and environmental groups are calling for charges to be filed against Imperial Oil under the federal Fisheries Act and support the request from impacted Indigenous Nations for more regulatory power over the industry’s projects operating in their territories. 

“There are no right words. The northern half of Alberta is being destroyed and drained. At the same time, fires were happening and burning up everything. But that’s not stopping anything; it’s business as usual. The Imperial Oil toxic tailings leaks are 13 kilometres from my family’s trapline. The land and surrounding waterways are where I hunt to feed my family and community members. When will government stand up with action for Indigenous rights in this country?” said Jean LHommecourt, co-chair of Keepers of the Water.

“Imperial Oil’s tailings disasters highlight both the gross negligence and failure of oil companies to responsibly manage their toxic waste and the broken regulatory system which enabled the incident and subsequent cover-up,” adds Aliénor Rougeot, “This is a clear case of environmental injustice, and governments must put a stop to it.” 

Background information: 

  • In May 2022, Imperial Oil workers discovered tailings fluid leaking offsite from the company’s Kearl oil sands mine onto nearby land. Internal reports reveal that seepage from this tailings pond has been ongoing since 2020.
  • Imperial Oil reported the leak to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and met with the provincial regulator, but the general public and nearby Indigenous communities were not informed about the extent and seriousness of the leak.
  • In February 2023, 5.3 million litres of wastewater spilled from the same Imperial Oil tailings area. The toxic waste leaked into boreal wetlands and tributaries where water drains to drinking water sources. It was only through this second spill that Indigenous communities fully learned of the extent of the pervasive belowground leak – which is still ongoing to this day.
  • The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (ENVI) interrogated Brad Corson, the Imperial Oil CEO, Laurie Pushor, the AER CEO, and representatives from numerous downstream Indigenous nations in the spring of this year.
  • Between January and October of 2023, Imperial Oil has directly lobbied the federal government more than 69 times and through its membership in the Pathways Alliance, has lobbied the government more than 92 times. It is the fifth most active oil and gas company lobbyist.
  • Brad Corson, Imperial Oil CEO and the highest-paid energy CEO in Canada in 2022 is one of Environmental Defence’s climate villains. As CEO he succeeded in urging shareholders to vote against a shareholder resolution for climate targets. For more information go to climatevillains.ca

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

About KEEPERS OF THE WATER (keepersofthewater.ca): Keepers of the Water are First Nations, Métis, Inuit, environmental groups, concerned citizens, and communities working together for the protection of water, air, land, and all living things within the Arctic Ocean Drainage Basin.

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For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Paula Gray, Environmental Defence, media@environmentaldefence.ca

Jesse Cardinal, Keepers of the Water, ed@keepersofthewater.ca