Regulating Land Use

Reliable, long-term environmental monitoring based on sound science is in everybody’s best interests. Approvals from numerous regulatory agencies are required at every phase, from construction and operation to decommissioning and reclamation.

Oil sands producers return land used for operations to a self-sustaining landscape that can support a self-sustaining landscape equivalent to the pre-development state. For in situ projects, pre-disturbance assessments and annual conservation and reclamation plans (which describe areas that will be disturbed in that year and the mitigation measures to be employed) must be submitted for approval.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) regulates land reclamation, reviews applications and carries out inspections to ensure compliance with the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) and the Public Lands Act.

To ensure reclamation plans get carried out, the government requires financial guarantees for each mining project. Oil sands mining operators contribute to the Mine Financial Security Program, a contingency fund held by the government for reclamation of land impacted by mines. The funds are used if operators do not carry out their reclamation plans. To date, there has never been a need to draw on this fund, so it continues to grow.

Land use planning

CAPP and industry are an active participants in regional land use planning. The Alberta government Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP) represents a milestone step forward in the implementation of balanced land use planning and cumulative effects management in Alberta. Since September 1, 2012, the LARP provides clarity and predictability regarding Alberta’s vision for development in this region of the province having significant oil sands resource potential.

Achieving reclamation

Reclamation is an ongoing process throughout the life of a project. Once an oil sands site is decommissioned, operators can start working towards a government-issued reclamation certificate. Companies apply for government reclamation certification when vegetation is mature, the landscape is self-sustaining and the land can be returned to the Crown for public use.