Alberta is suspending all environmental reporting requirements under the provincial water, public lands, and environmental protection acts, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The March 30 order applies to all industries except drinking water facilities and extends until August 14, or 60 days after the province’s state of emergency declaration is lifted.
In the order, Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon declares that application of the pertinent parts of the three acts is “not in the public interest in specific circumstances”, citing “hardship in having to comply with routine reporting requirements” under the legislation. Fossils and other companies in the province are still required to “record and retain” the environmental data required under the three acts.
On Monday, as well, the Jason Kenney government announced it is also scaling its pro-fossil war room back to “subsistence operations” over the next three months, after intuiting that a global pandemic isn’t the best time to be blasting out marketing messages for the oil and gas industry.
If the cut were applied on an annual basis, it would amount to a 90% budget reduction, from C$30 to $2.84 million, the government said Monday, in a release that did not lay out the precise savings nor indicate how the war room will allocate its remaining funds.
“Most of its budget was intended for paid advertising campaigns that can no longer proceed,” CBC explains. “As part of these budget reductions, the centre will take steps to end all paid advertising campaigns and pause work with outside contractors.”
Alberta Energy Minister and former pipeline executive Sonya Savage maintained the war room still has a place. “The world still needs reliable energy,” she said. “While some would like to capitalize on this unprecedented crisis to permanently shut down Canadian oil and gas, we do not believe we should surrender the global energy market to these opponents.”
Given the war room’s epic missteps in its first few months of operations—including a logo that infringed copyright, an interview in which the subject was not informed of the centre’s connection to the provincial government, and an embarrassing apology following a series of tweets targeting the New York Times—Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams said the announcement was no surprise.
“In a climate where the government is dealing with significant cuts in revenue because of oil prices, significant expenditures to manage the COVID-19 crisis, and the fact that they had made additional cuts to education, for example, it was pretty difficult to justify setting aside funds for something that really wasn’t producing anything of tangible value,” she told CBC.
NDP energy critic Irfan Sabir said the war room had done nothing to improve Alberta fossils’ image, and should have 100% of its budget cut. “I think the government didn’t go far enough,” he said. “They need to shut it down for once and for all.”