Panel says Total project in the public interest
Project in public interest says panel
Ajoint federal-provincial panel has given the conditional approval to Total E&P to proceed with its Joslyn oilsands mine.
In a statement released late Thursday, the panel reviewing the project concluded the mine is in the public interest, but included 20 conditions Total must meet for development. It also included 17 recommendations to federal and provincial governments, as well as Alberta’s energy regulator.
The project now requires an order-in-council for final approval to proceed.
“We’re pleased that the joint review panel has found our project to be in the public interest,” said Total Canada spokeswoman Elizabeth Cordeau-Chatelain.
The panel was appointed in 2008 to review the project, slated to produce 200,000 barrels a day starting in 2017. In its filing, Total estimated the cost of the mine to be on the order of $7 billion to $9 billion.
The project will increase the province’s approved oilsands minable area by about seven per cent, the panel noted in a statement.
In December, Suncor Energy and Total announced a partnership through which they will spend more than $20 billion to develop two oilsands mining projects — Fort Hills and Joslyn — and restart construction of Suncor’s third oilsands upgrader.
Suncor will gain a net $1.75 billion in cash through deals that will see Total taking a 49 per cent interest in Voyageur, a 200,000-barrel-per-day project, plus a bigger share of dormant Fort Hills, while Suncor acquires a 36.75 per cent working interest in the Total-operated Joslyn joint venture.
Under the deal, Suncor receives a 36.75 per cent working interest in the two-phase, 200,000-bpd Total-operated Joslyn joint venture, with Total holding 38.25 per cent and Occidental Petroleum and Inpex Canada Ltd. continuing to hold 15 and 10 per cent, respectively.
Suncor and Total have agreed to develop the Fort Hills mine and Voyageur upgrader in parallel, so that both will come on stream in 2016.
Predictably, environmentalists were outraged at what they said amounts to continued destruction of the land, air and water.
Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema, who attended the hearings in Edmonton last fall, called the approval a betrayal by both the provincial and federal governments that have vowed to clean up tailings ponds and reduce emissions of greenhouse gas blamed for global warming.
“This approval shows that the all-talk, no-action federal and provincial governments are more committed to ignoring their promises when it comes to the environment than they are to protecting it. The Alberta government says it wants to eliminate toxic tailings ponds, yet it has just approved another one,” he told the Herald.
“Our new federal environment minister promised to implement the oilsands advisory panel findings, yet just approved a new toxic mine under the very system they said is not credible.”
Likewise, NDP MLA Rachel Notley said the government has been “grossly negligent” in protecting the environment.
“We believe that in the long term if you are going to ensure that jobs created in the oilsands are sustainable, you must be able to convince not only Albertans but the rest of the world that the environmental protections are in place. We are lurching at full speed out of the gate on development.”
But Cordeau-Chatelain said the company managed to reach agreements with three First Nations, including Fort MacKay and the Fort Chipewyan Athabasca and Mikisew councils to withdraw objections to the project.