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Evidence of meeting #37 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was land.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

David Collyer  President, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
Murray Elliott  Vice-President, Health, Safety, Environment and Sustainable Development, Shell Canada Limited
Gordon Lambert  Vice-President, Sustainable Development, Suncor Energy Inc.
Richard Dunn  Vice-President, Canadian Division, Regulatory and Government Relations, Encana Corporation
Brenda Kenny  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association
David Pryce  Vice-President, Operations, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
Larry Sears  Chairman, Alberta Grazing Leaseholders Association
Lorne Fitch  Provincial Riparian Specialist, Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society - Cows and Fish
Bob Jamieson  As an Individual
Jake Veasey  Director of Animal Care, Conservation and Research, Calgary Zoo
Kevin Strange  Senior Advisor, Conservation Outreach, Calgary Zoo
Doug Sawyer  Chair, Alberta Beef Producers
Rich Smith  Executive Director, Alberta Beef Producers
Lynn Grant  Chair, Environment Committee, Canadian Cattlemen's Association
Alan Gardner  Executive Director, Southern Alberta Land Trust Society
Stephen Vandervalk  Alberta Vice-President, Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association
Bill Newton  Member, Board of Governors, Western Stock Growers' Association
Norman Ward  Member, Board of Governors, Western Stock Growers' Association
Fawn Jackson  Manager, Environmental Affairs, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

May 17th, 2012 / 10:30 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Thank you.

Yesterday, we were at Olds College. I met a number of teachers who were working on the wetland project. We discussed the importance of reclamation. There is currently legislation stipulating that for every acre of wetland that is destroyed, two or three additional acres must be rebuilt. When companies do it, however, there is no follow-up unfortunately. These wetlands don't survive more than two or three years.

One teacher said that it may be worthwhile for companies to consult each other more. For instance, instead of building 10 roads to access the same section, there should be only 1. Instead of building 10 pipelines that go to the same section, why not have just 1 that companies could all use?

The teacher also said that companies should work together more closely. I mentioned the cumulative effects, and the lack of consultation is one such effect. The number of roads is on the rise, as is the scale of the repercussions and infrastructure. I am going to let Mr. Pryce answer my question, but I want to add something first.

To ensure that ecological groups—which have more expertise in this field—carry out land reclamation, the teacher suggested a fund be created. It would be administered by you and the universities, say, and result in more effective and efficient reclamation.

Those are two things I'd like addressed, and the person with the most to say on the matter can have the floor.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Mr. Pryce.

10:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Operations, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

David Pryce

I have maybe a couple of points on that.

Gord touched on the fact that there is a chair at the University of Alberta for integrated land management. That's something that industry has been very supportive of over the years. The key objective of that is to look for ways to have companies, not just within our industry but across the resource-developing industries, work together for that very point you're talking about—looking at common roads, common pipeline systems, common timing of access, those sorts of things. So we're certainly live to that as an important tool, and quite frankly a necessary tool, if we want to get the right to access the land.

I think the other thing that's relevant here is that as we move from the conventional business, where we go and drill a well here, and we go and drill a well there.... Mr. Dunn talked about the shale gas development opportunities and the fact that we look at pad drilling, which means we work 16 wells on a pad to produce a vast area underground. I think that serves to minimize the impact. But as we're looking at that, so are our regulators. The current regulatory infrastructure in Alberta, as an example, is talking to us now about requirements to work together more effectively, just as you're speaking to, so that we do minimize the footprint and take the opportunity to minimize the footprint, working together.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

The time has expired, and in fact has way expired, but if you can keep your comments short, go ahead.

10:35 a.m.

President, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

David Collyer

I'll just be very quick. I know that Brenda wants to make a comment as well.

I wanted to come back to your last point, about relying on environmental groups and others to do this. We work very closely with academia, research institutions, environmental groups, but I would also highlight the fact that the companies that are appearing here today also have on their staff many environmental specialists. In fact we have far more of those kinds of people than we used to because of the focus on this area.

So there is a lot of expertise in the environmental area within all of the operating companies as well.

10:35 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association

Dr. Brenda Kenny

Just very briefly, I was going to say that, I agree, regulatory capacity follow-up, monitoring, and adaptation are all part of the package. In the current BIA there is $14 million more for the National Energy Board to do more inspections, more audits. We welcome that, because transparency in the follow-up is part of this. It's part of the regulatory infrastructure, and it's a shift away from thinking that up-front permitting again is the answer as opposed to a full life-cycle collaboration and ongoing improvement for this conservation agenda.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Thank you.

I think every member of our committee in our travel to Olds College was very impressed with the wetland project they have there. My question for them was on how involved the oil sands industry was in reclamation and consulting, which is a growing science. We hope that industry and science work together.

As we heard, the tailings ponds science is changing in a very short period of time. Two years ago, when the committee travelled to the oil sands, that wasn't even considered at the time. Here we are now, two years later, and we've made some major breakthroughs. So wetland development, as part of reclamation projects, needs to be strongly considered.

We have Mr. Toet, for seven minutes.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Through you, Chair, perhaps I could make a request. Ms. Kenny said she'd be pleased to provide the committee with examples of projects that could be considered on a pilot project basis. If she would indeed provide those examples to the chair or to the clerk, that would be greatly appreciated.

Just quickly, I want to try to clearly define what we're working through here in terms of some of the examples and thought processes that have been brought forward.

I believe, Mr. Collyer and Ms. Kenny, you've both talked about the change in perspective in working through the national conservation plan. Tell me if I have this correct—and correct me if I don't—but what you're desiring to see, as we go forward with the plan, is that we clearly define what we want to achieve, what our desired outcome is through the plan, and then within that context have a plan that allows flexibility as technology and innovation come aboard in order to actually achieve those outcomes.

Is that a fair summary of what you've been saying, or would you like to enhance that a little bit?

10:35 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association

Dr. Brenda Kenny

I think that's a good summary, because this is really about being results-oriented, as opposed to prescriptive. We need to be clear about the objectives we're trying to achieve and then enable an array of options to get to that end point, and monitor whether we get there, and if not, why not, learn from that, and continue to move the science. So I think that's a good summary.

10:40 a.m.

President, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

David Collyer

If I could add to that, it would be to say very much the same thing Brenda said. I think this is all about trying to define outcomes, creating alignment among the diversity of interests stakeholders have a view on and a role in for conservation and biodiversity, and then allowing innovative practices and plans to be developed across a multitude of jurisdictions and interests to actually achieve that objective, rather than trying to be prescriptive.

As the chair just mentioned a moment ago, we're not smart enough to see out too far in terms of where technology might take us, for example. We want to define an outcome and allow flexibility in terms of how that's actually achieved and enable that alignment and innovation to take place.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

The one thing I'm hearing here then is actually the third aspect, which I maybe never touched on, and that is the need to monitor the progress on those outcomes to make sure we are actually meeting our goals and objectives. That is a very important component of it.

Thank you.

I have a quick question for Mr. Dunn, from Encana. In your presentation you talked about the dialogue and the collaboration you had, and you especially talked about that with regard to the Horn River basin project. I'm just wondering if you could give us a sense of how that worked, also from a conservation aspect, and how the buy-in from stakeholders was, and how you believe that effected a very positive outcome.

10:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Division, Regulatory and Government Relations, Encana Corporation

Richard Dunn

Certainly I think all eleven companies were very supportive of the opportunity and recognized the advantages of effective planning. The single road, the single pipe that was mentioned a few minutes ago, or the need for that planning not just to deliver minimized land disturbance but also to enhance the economics of the project by sharing facilities, roads, pipe....

A good example is the Cabin Gas Plant, which we put in as a shared processing facility up there and for which five of the companies collaborated on a multi-hundred-million-dollar gas plant for the processing of the gas.

I think from a stakeholder perspective, the producer group is very well received. It allows an avenue, as I mentioned, to come in and shape the development, to express concerns, and to gain that understanding. So there is that single portal, rather than working with eleven different companies as might be appropriate. Accessing a single avenue to get information and also to provide input into projects is a very efficient way for stakeholders to gain insight as well.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

How did the other stakeholders we talked about—first nations and communities in the area—react to going through that process that way, actually having one conduit, rather than, as you say, having to talk to eleven different parties? Was there a positive reaction from them on that in the final outcome?

10:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Division, Regulatory and Government Relations, Encana Corporation

Richard Dunn

There was, very much. I think they're very supportive of the producer group, and I would suggest that's the way they look at doing business with us now.

For example, we have monthly meetings, oftentimes in the area, but oftentimes in Calgary as well, to which representatives of the community and first nations are able to video-conference in and talk to the company representatives who sit in the producer group and gain an understanding of what's going on and express their concerns.

I think it has really become the way we do business up there so that they can see that common planning and the common approach.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you.

I have one last thing, and whoever wants to react to this can.

One of our witnesses from the Nature Conservancy of Canada made the statement—and I may not have it perfectly word for word here—that industry is just as keen on seeing conservation areas as anybody else is. Would you agree with that statement?

10:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Sustainable Development, Suncor Energy Inc.

Gordon Lambert

Yes, absolutely. We want certainty of where we can develop and under what conditions. We also recognize that conservation of important natural areas is an important part of the landscape and the mix. There's always this balancing of our economic, social, and environmental interests, but we know conservation has to be part of the mix. Getting clearer of what that outcome is, and sooner, is absolutely important to us as investors.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Collyer.

10:45 a.m.

President, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

David Collyer

The point I would make is that the point of integration or the point of balance differs across different interest groups. I would say the level of alignment we have with groups like the Nature Conservancy is quite good. I would make a similar comment about the Alberta Conservation Alliance. We don't have that same point of commonality or interest, if you will, with all environmental groups, but a number of those would be seen as very reputable, very credible conservation groups in Canada, with whom we're quite well aligned, as Mr. Lambert has suggested.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Mark Warawa

Thank you, Mr. Toet.

Monsieur Pilon.

10:45 a.m.

NDP

François Pilon NDP Laval—Les Îles, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I have three short questions about points that require clarification.

The first question is for you, Ms. Kenny. When you build a pipeline, you have to restore the land to the extent possible. Is there any legislation requiring you to restore a site in the event of a leak or something similar? Is all you have to do fix the pipeline? Are you required to fix environmental damage, if there is any?

10:45 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association

Dr. Brenda Kenny

Very extensive regulations and an array of actions are taken if there is a leak. That includes extensive cleanup and repair, so there's assurance that if the pipeline is opened again for operation, it's high integrity and will be safe, and that it is completely restored in the locale where there may have been some damage. That is in place in a range of regulations and requirements, and frankly, it's the right thing to do.

The only other thing I would add is that some people might look at the picture of a leak on day one and think it is horrific and permanent damage. It is something we work extremely hard to avoid, but I can assure you it is not permanent damage. In fact, I'm aware of several instances when the cleanup left the landscape cleaner than it had been. A good example of that is in the port of Vancouver, following an incident when an oil pipeline was struck by a contractor. It was not the company's fault, nor was there any need to be concerned about the safety of the pipeline itself, but that was a very industrial port area, and by the time it had been cleaned up it had been very much improved from the state it was found in at the time.

10:45 a.m.

NDP

François Pilon NDP Laval—Les Îles, QC

Thank you.

My next question is for you, Mr. Dunn. You said you were going to use saline water as much as possible. What do you do with it after it becomes contaminated? How do you dispose of it?

10:45 a.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Division, Regulatory and Government Relations, Encana Corporation

Richard Dunn

That's a good question.

While we hydraulically fracture the well, we produce the water back into a secure containment. That water is then recirculated and pumped back into that same reservoir in a slightly different location, an 800-metre-deep reservoir. So we dispose of the water that comes back from our hydraulic fracturing operation back down into that same-source reservoir. It's a closed-loop system and it's recycled back into that saline aquifer, right back into the source. Again, the integrity of the pipelines and the well bore is engineer-designed, but also well regulated to protect the fresh water.

10:45 a.m.

NDP

François Pilon NDP Laval—Les Îles, QC

I have one last question for you, Mr. Dunn.

You work with aboriginal communities. Can you give me a tangible example of that cooperation?

10:50 a.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Division, Regulatory and Government Relations, Encana Corporation

Richard Dunn

Yes. Again looking at the Fort Nelson First Nation area, where we have the Horn River, certainly as we go forward to do our development, we consult extensively in terms of understanding first nations' concerns. If there are any sensitive areas that we need to avoid, for example, areas that are important to first nations, be they spiritual sites and such, we integrate their traditional knowledge into the development. We will consult, and it will affect our development.

Then, as I mentioned, we work to make sure that both the aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities get to benefit from our activities as much as possible. This might include opportunities from a business perspective, that they understand the contracting opportunities, for example. I know both Shell and Suncor do that extensively as well, to build up that capacity. We will be ensuring they have that understanding.

We also have programs to build that capacity in the aboriginal community. One good example is that we sponsor a program called the Ch’nook business school, out of the University of British Columbia, which starts to build up management capacity for aboriginal businesses. Oftentimes this ability to effectively manage and run a business is one of the critical success factors. That's one example of a program that we sponsor.