Environmental groups challenge Syncrude tailings plan approvals

ERCB acted contrary to the law in approving tailings plans, groups say

CALGARY – The Energy Resources Conservation Board’s approval of Syncrude’s tailings management plan is unlawful and must be revoked immediately, Ecojustice said today.

Ecojustice, acting on behalf of the Pembina Institute and Water Matters, has filed an application (see attached) with the ERCB requesting approval be withdrawn until management plans are brought in line with ERCB’s tailings management directive.

In April, the ERCB approved Syncrude’s tailings management plans for the Mildred Lake and Aurora North tarsands projects despite the fact the plans do not meet the ERCB’s own regulatory requirements.

“The ERCB directive requires the tarsands operators to divert at least 50 per cent of a component of their tailings, known as fine tailings, by June 30, 2013,” said Barry Robinson, Ecojustice staff lawyer. “The Syncrude plans would achieve less than 15 per cent diversion by that time, yet the ERCB still approved the plans.”

The ERCB does not have the legal authority to approve plans that are not in compliance with the directive, he added.

“The provincial government talks about having strict new laws to reduce tailings, but then it exempts operators from meeting those laws, rendering them toothless,” said Simon Dyer, oil sands program director for the Pembina Institute.

“Tailings ponds continue to threaten water quality in Alberta, but the ERCB is treating the regulations as a starting point for negotiation, rather than as clear rules with which the companies must comply,” said Joe Obad, associate director of Water Matters, an organization focused on water policy research in Alberta.

Two weeks ago, the ERCB approved Imperial Oil’s tailings plan for the Kearl tarsands project, which also fails to meet regulatory requirements.

“Ecojustice will use all available legal tools to ensure that the ERCB operates within the law when considering these plans,” Robinson said.


  • Barry Robinson, staff lawyer | Ecojustice
  • Simon Dyer, oilsands program director | Pembina Institute
    403-721-3937 or 403-322-3937
  • Joe Obad, associate director | Water Matters

For other inquiries, please contact:
Kimberly Shearon, communications associate | Ecojustice
604-685-5618 x242

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