The Alberta Energy Regulator has hired Premier Jason Kenney’s former campaign manager, climate denier John Weissenberger, as its vice president of science and innovation.
CBC says the appointment “will further undermine the public’s trust” in an agency that already had very little of it left to squander.
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“There isn’t much trust to be lost at this point,” said University of Calgary law professor and energy regulation specialist Martin Olszynski. “There should be no trust.”
On his Alberta Politics blog, journalist David Climenhaga points to Weissenberger’s PhD in geology from the University of Calgary, along with the “more startling revelation” that he has “called climate change a ‘popular delusion’ and anyone who believes in it a victim of ‘collective psychosis’.”
Climenhaga also reaches back to a couple of op eds in 2006, in which Weissenberger and co-author George Koch “accused media of driving the climate change debate, which they dismissed as a false narrative, and called anyone who believes in it ‘intellectually lazy’.” He identifies Koch as the editor of the ideologically-driven journal that recently published the “notorious” opinion piece in which ex-Kenney speechwriter Paul Bunner called Canada’s residential schools a “bogus genocide story”.
Climenhaga suggests Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson’s newfound willingness to consider a federal impact assessment for the proposed Vista Mine expansion near Hinton, Alberta may reflect concern about a climate denier taking charge of the AER’s technical division.
Recently, as well, the provincial regulator took fire for the appointment of its new CEO, Laurie Pushor, previously “a central figure in a Saskatchewan government land deal scandal that cost taxpayers millions of dollars,” CBC writes. “Also, the AER’s recent decisions to suspend oil sands environmental monitoring during the pandemic, its failure to address the province’s massive orphan well and oil sands tailings pond problems, and a recent scandal involving self-dealing by senior AER executives have been heavily criticized.”
Kenney maintained his government had “absolutely nothing whatsoever” to do with the appointment, but found an odd way of describing the decision to assign a climate denier to a job having anything to do with, y’know, science.
Weissenberger had “every right to apply for a position for which he is qualified and the regulator has every right to choose the best qualified person,” he said. “I think it’s great that they’ve selected one of the most highly regarded scientists in the Alberta energy sector for a position such as that.”
CBC says the AER didn’t actually announce the appointment, leaving Weissenberger to get that job done via his own LinkedIn page. He said his new gig would be to provide “technical leadership in five disciplines (geology, engineering, public safety, economics, and environmental science); ensuring regulations are based on sound science, and advice on technical issues is provided from an unbiased perspective.”