Syncrude is subject to federal and provincial oversight and regulations.
Our primary legislated environmental obligations are detailed in operating approvals issued by the Alberta government under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) and the Oil Sands Conservation Act (OSCA). Our EPEA Approval regulates all of Syncrude’s activities that could potentially impact the environment. It specifically addresses emissions limits, industrial water management, potable water plant operations, storage and disposal of waste, monitoring and reporting requirements, land use and reclamation, among many others. Our OSCA Approvals regulate Syncrude’s development of oil sands resources and related facilities.
Syncrude is also subject to numerous federal and provincial regulations such as the Alberta and Canada Wildlife Acts, Alberta and Canada Fisheries Acts, Canada Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), Alberta Water Act, Alberta Public Lands Act, Alberta Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, AER Directive 085 Fluid Tailings Management for Oil Sands Mining Projects, and Alberta Dam and Canal Safety Directive.
We regard compliance with legislated requirements as our minimum obligation and steward to internal targets that are often more stringent. This ensures Syncrude can meet our commitment to responsibly develop the oil sands resource now and in the future while continuously improving environmental performance. We do this through the use of processes and procedures contained in our internal Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS).
Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP)
Provincial regulations have been informed by the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP) under the Government of Alberta’s Land-use Framework. The LARP establishes environmental management frameworks for air quality, groundwater, surface water quantity and quality, and tailings. For example, the Surface Water Quantity Management Framework sets out weekly management triggers to limit water withdrawals during low flow periods. It requires oil sands operators to come to an agreement each year on withdrawals that will be made during the low flow periods.
Mine Financial Security Program (MFSP)
The Mine Financial Security Program is used by the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) to protect Albertans from assuming closure costs related to removal of infrastructure and reclamation of mine sites in the province. Under this program, each Syncrude Joint Venture Participant is liable for its share of financial security regarding our operation’s closure obligation. We report our assets and liability annually to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), who also regularly audits our submissions to ensure we have the appropriate provisions in place. A recent full-scale audit recognized Syncrude as achieving best practice, affirming the company has the sufficient funds to complete our obligation.
Environmental Monitoring Programs
Federal and provincial agencies have overseen regional monitoring since 2012. The Environmental Monitoring and Science Division under Alberta Environment and Parks is responsible for the design, execution and management of the programs, with an Indigenous Knowledge Advisory Panel in place to provide advice and input. Industry contributes $50 million annually, of which Syncrude provides about nine per cent ($4.5 million in 2018).
In addition, Syncrude carries out our own substantial monitoring which involves air, watershed, groundwater, tailings, reclamation and wildlife components.