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Authors: Joel Gehman (Independent Author); Jacob Goerz (Independent Author)
Originally published in: 2016
Version: 4-Feb-2016
Revision date: 11-Feb-2016

Abstract

Over the last decade, development of Alberta's oil sands expanded. The royalty revenue from bitumen provides a significant portion of the province's income. Covering a land area that is roughly the same size as the state of North Carolina, 20% o the bitumen deposits by volume lie at depths that allow for surface mining. When mined, there is a massive shift in the local wetland ecology. Since wetlands (especially peatlands) are impossible to fully restore to their pre-disturbed state, current legislation requires oil sands operators to reclaim the land to an 'equivalent capability.' Through policy, the government has attempted to balance economic needs with environmental stewardship. However, conflicting stakeholder interests and long project lifecycles that extend beyond traditional business and government cycles make policy development difficult. Alberta requires a security deposit for all disturbed land in case oil sands operators are unable to address their environmental liabilities. Concerns have been raised that current land reclamation policies and the security deposit backstop are insufficient; yet, strengthening such policies might render oil sands projects financially infeasible.
Other setting(s):
1990s to 2015s

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Abstract

Over the last decade, development of Alberta's oil sands expanded. The royalty revenue from bitumen provides a significant portion of the province's income. Covering a land area that is roughly the same size as the state of North Carolina, 20% o the bitumen deposits by volume lie at depths that allow for surface mining. When mined, there is a massive shift in the local wetland ecology. Since wetlands (especially peatlands) are impossible to fully restore to their pre-disturbed state, current legislation requires oil sands operators to reclaim the land to an 'equivalent capability.' Through policy, the government has attempted to balance economic needs with environmental stewardship. However, conflicting stakeholder interests and long project lifecycles that extend beyond traditional business and government cycles make policy development difficult. Alberta requires a security deposit for all disturbed land in case oil sands operators are unable to address their environmental liabilities. Concerns have been raised that current land reclamation policies and the security deposit backstop are insufficient; yet, strengthening such policies might render oil sands projects financially infeasible.

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Other setting(s):
1990s to 2015s

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