The below appeared as an op-ed in the Edmonton Journal, Jan. 14, 2020 –
Frontier could be an economic game-changer – Terry Parker, BTA Executive Director
As we move forward into a new decade, the need to balance the economy and environment will only grow, and rightfully so.
Protecting the places our kids and grandkids will live and work in is paramount. The Building Trades of Alberta knows this and understands industry, government and labour all have a key part to play in protecting our environment.
The Building Trades also plays a major role in ensuring the economic interests of its members – over 60,000 working Albertans through 18 local unions – are represented. We push hard for projects that create jobs for members, apprentices, underrepresented groups in the trades like Indigenous Albertans, women, minorities and others. The mortgage-paying jobs that come out of this work supports families, small business, restaurants, shops and more. This all helps to boost the health of our economies.
That’s why BTA made a formal appeal to federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson on Jan. 8 to approve Teck Resources’ Frontier oil sands project north of Fort McKay. The minister has until Feb. 28 to approve or reject this mega project.
Frontier’s construction is expected to provide up to 7,000 jobs. When it’s complete, day-to-day operations will employ around 2,500 people.
This has the potential to be an economic game changer for Alberta and the country, not only in employment, but in revenue generated for the provincial and federal governments.
With capacity to produce up to 260,000 barrels per day, approximately $70-billion in government revenues is expected, with roughly $55-billion in provincial royalties and taxes, and $12-billion in federal income and capital taxes.
Moreover, consultations that have taken place for the past decade have ensured strict environmental standards and protections will be in place.
Industry leading technologies will be applied to ensure Frontier’s environmental performance is second-to-none. Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions will be about one-half of the oil sands industry average; projected GHG emissions will fall under Alberta’s 100 megatonne annual cap and be consistent with Canada’s efforts to reduce emissions.
A GHG management plan to further improve performance is supported by Teck; shorter timeframes will be in place to return land back to traditional uses; a wildlife mitigation and monitoring plan done in conjunction with Indigenous communities and other stakeholders will minimize effects on wildlife; and river water use will be among the lowest intensities in the oil sands, with 90 per cent recycled to minimize withdrawals from the Athabasca River.
Frontier could be precedent-setting when it comes to environmental standards in the industry and could serve as a road map on how these developments should proceed in the future.
Public consultation for this project occurred for more than a decade and recently resulted in agreements reached between 14 out of 14 Indigenous communities in the broader Frontier project area.
Fort McKay Metis President Ron Quintal said they’re confident Teck is committed to the vision of development his community shares, both in environmental stewardship and shared community benefit.
Moreover, Chief Allan Adam of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation reported that negotations with Teck were positive, feels the agreement they’ve reached respects their Treaty rights, and is pleased the project will use innovative approaches to mitigate impacts to their land, waters and wildlife.
Additionally, a provincial/federal Joint Review Panel reported that “the extent of agreement between Teck and Indigenous groups is unprecedented for an oil sands development of this type.” The panel determined the project is in the public interest just last summer.
Approval of this project would show our federal government supports job-creating projects, a cleaner energy industry and an exhaustive consultation process that deeply involves the communities energy projects operate in.
Minister Wilkinson must do the right thing and approve Frontier.
Executive Director, Building Trades of Alberta