The Alberta government today released the draft Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP), which was developed considering advice provided by the Lower Athabasca Regional Advisory Committee and feedback from the oil and gas industry, First Nations and other stakeholders during Phase 2 consultation last year. It is the first of seven regional plans to be undertaken in Alberta.
While the LARP is largely complete, an additional 60-day consultation period was announced by the government. CAPP will be an active participant in the process, to seek additional clarity on the implementation process and to resolve outstanding implementation issues. The LARP reflects earlier CAPP comments on issues raised in response to the Regional Advisory Committee’s advice to the government.
Overall, this is a progressive step in the implementation of balanced land use planning and cumulative effects management in Alberta. Balanced regional planning must be based on both sound science and good judgment by policy makers. Land use planning is an important element in maintaining industry’s social license to operate and providing the policy and regulatory stability to support longer-term investment decisions in the region. However, there are several areas of concern with the LARP, including impacts on existing lease holdings that must be satisfactorily addressed during the implementation process.
The government’s announcement is here:
CAPP will respond to media requests with the following key messages.
CAPP Key Messages:
The positive attributes of the LARP are:
- Represents a significant step forward in the implementation of regional plans and cumulative effects management in Alberta.
- Recognizes the importance of the oil sands to Alberta, Canada and North America as an economic driver, providing safe, secure, reliable energy in an environmentally responsible manner.
- Provides greater clarity for investors on land use and access in the Lower Athabasca region.
- Provides additional information as to how caribou management will be implemented in the province.
- Provides an effects-based management framework that establishes responsible environmental thresholds for the Lower Athabasca and broader region.
- Provides scope for significant growth in oil sands production within the established environmental thresholds.
CAPP has several areas of concern regarding the LARP, requiring additional information and consultation:
- Impacts to a few oil and gas companies’ lease holdings in the Lower Athabasca area with assets in conservation and recreation/tourism areas.
- The LARP precludes development on some existing leases, creating significant uncertainty for oil sands developers and investors which must be addressed, both for these lands and as a precedent for other regional plans.
- Industry compensation for lost opportunities – the government’s current plan to follow existing compensation practices, limiting compensation to “sunk costs” is inadequate.
- Resolution of a number of outstanding implementation issues, including the implications of environmental thresholds, and definition and application of conservation areas.