The Alberta Oilsands: Considerations for Offsetting

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Information about The Alberta Oilsands: Considerations for Offsetting

Published on February 19, 2014

Author: IEUO



Written by David Poulton, Consultant, University of Calgary

Considerations for Offsetting Dave Poulton Biodiversity Offsets University of Ottawa February 14, 2014

 Landscape and ecosystem of oilsands region  Nature of disturbance  Issues for implementing offsets  Poulton’s prescriptions

Landscape and Ecosystems

“Vast expanses of upland forests and wetlands on level to gently undulating plains, short, warm summers and long, cold winters” Natural Regions and Subregions of Alberta • Mosaic of aspen, mixedwoood and spruce forests • Treed (black spruce) fens • Jackpines in the east Photo: Archie Landals, Government of Alberta

“Undulating plains, aspen-dominated forests and fens” Natural Regions and Subregions of Alberta • Aspen stands with scattered white spruce interspersed with fens • Warmest of subregions of boreal region • Subject to conversion to agriculture Photo: Archie Landals, Government of Alberta Photo: Archie Landals, Government of Alberta

Photo: Wendy Everett

No single form

• Overburden less than 75 metres • Oilsands deposits typically 40-60 metres thick • Loss of intactness: 90.6% (Habib et al, 2013, citing ABMI)

In Situ - SAGD • Lighter footprint • Heavy linear footprint • Loss of intactness: 23.8% (Habib et al/ABMI) Photo from Energy Insiders: Oilsands and the Environment citing World Wildlife Fund

From other sources    Forestry Conversion to agriculture Peat mining Are same offset rules to apply to these and other sources? From oilsands development     Carbon emissions Air quality Water quality and use Tailings How will we handle conflicts between remedial measures? Stacking and bundling issues

Lower Athabasca Regional Plan 2012-2022 “ . . . to maintain an acceptable level of air, water, land, and biodiversity integrity, while enabling longterm economic benefits of the region and the province.” (p. 23) Targets and thresholds to be set by: • Biodiversity management framework • Regional landscape management plan . . . to be developed by the end of 2013.

Points to Ponder

 What is our objective? ◦ No net loss? Probably not. ◦ Strategic objectives? (per Habib et al.)  Caribou  Central mixedwood Are we taking measures for ecological or reputational objectives?

 Scope of impacts to be offset? ◦ Water, air, carbon?  Timing issues ◦ Are oilsand impacts temporary? ◦ Perpetual vs temporary offsets ◦ Relationship to reclamation obligations  Allow banking? Establish a credit exchange?

Lack of tools on private land • No legally secure instruments • No “rights of non-use” • Split title and unco-ordinated dispositions

  Focus on nature of disturbance, not on source Focus on linear disturbance ◦ Net reduction     Treat oilsands impacts as permanent and require perpetual offsets Develop conservation rights on public land Allow banking Defer exchange

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