August 22, 2012

Fort McMurray, AB – The Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA) supports the environmental management approach taken in the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP), formally announced earlier today by Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister, Diana McQueen.

The Plan considers the cumulative effects of all activities on air, water and biodiversity. Most directly aligned with WBEA’s mandate is the management framework within the Plan that sets clear limits to protect air quality in the Lower Athabasca Region, including the Athabasca Oil Sands Region.

Management frameworks are designed to set regional context in an effort to make more informed, and better environmental decisions. WBEA Executive Director, Kevin Percy, PhD, explains that WBEA’s mandate has always been to generate accurate and transparent information to enable stakeholders to make more informed environmental decisions.

“At WBEA we have long recognized that management decisions made by stakeholders, including regulators, must be based on the best available data. That is why we have been working strategically since 2008 to scale up the level and quality of science within our monitoring programs. We want to ensure that we are providing the best, most accurate environmental monitoring information available so that decision makers have all the facts and can make the most informed decisions possible,” states Percy.

WBEA’s science-based air and terrestrial monitoring activities will contribute significantly to the successful implementation of LARP. Air and terrestrial monitoring data provided by WBEA will allow government to analyze and evaluate against LARP environmental triggers and limits set out in the air quality management component of the Plan.

WBEA is a consensus based, independent, multi-stakeholder organization that has been monitoring air and air related environmental effects in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region since 1997. WBEA’s work includes both compliance, as well as ambient regional monitoring. WBEA’s extensive air monitoring network is spread throughout the oil sands region, and includes 15 Air Monitoring Stations equipped with over 90 analyzers, and 22 remote towers measuring pollutant concentrations using passive technology.

WBEA’s Terrestrial Environmental Effects Monitoring (TEEM) program is designed to detect, characterize and quantify the impacts of air emissions on terrestrial ecosystems and on traditional land resources. This program has undergone a significant science enhancement. WBEA’s forest health plot network now consists of 25 monitored jack pine plots, with 20 new early warning plots deployed this year for early detection of change.

WBEA fully supports the implementation of a cumulative effects based environmental management system.

Percy states, “We have worked closely with both levels of government in the development of the air component for the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring. We will work closely with the Alberta Government in order to help ensure successful implementation of LARP. We see this as a very important plan for our region, and we look forward to contributing in any way that we can.”

The Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA) is an independent, community based, not-for-profit organization that monitors the air in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This is done through a variety of air, land and human monitoring programs. The air quality information collected is openly shared with stakeholders and the public.

For more information, and to view the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan, please visit: http://environment.alberta.ca/03422.html