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Laurie Pushor AER CEO Opening Remarks to the ENVI Parliamentary Committee, 9:00 a.m. MT, Nov. 28, 2023 (by remote)

Good morning, as I begin, I want to acknowledge that I am speaking from Treaty 7 lands. 

The Alberta Energy Regulator, its staff and offices are located on the traditional territory of Indigenous communities including Cree, Blackfoot, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibway, Saulteaux, Anishinaabe First Nations and the Métis.

My name is Laurie Pushor, and I am CEO of the Alberta Energy Regulator.

When I appeared before you in April, I began my remarks by providing a timeline of the events at Kearl and the significant activities that were taking place under the AER’s Environmental Protection Order.

Today I will continue to provide the committee with updates on these activities - all of which are publicly available on our website and shared with Indigenous communities in a weekly update from the AER. 

Before I begin, however, I must speak about the investigative position of the AER as it relates to today’s committee discussion.

Like the Canadian Energy Regulator, the AER is an arms-length regulator that is tasked with quasi-judicial powers to enforce relevant government legislation and policies.

Today’s focus of discussion - the two incidents at Kearl - are currently under investigation by the AER. 

And as these incidents continue to be under an active investigation, it is of utmost importance – and in the public interest – that we seek to protect the integrity of the investigation.

This includes through today’s conversation, as statements made here may also form part of the record.

As such - where it is required to protect the integrity of the investigation and any future potential legal or regulatory proceedings - I will refrain from commenting on those matters.

As I move into today’s update, it is critical to address one of the key topics discussed in April’s committee meeting, regarding water quality.

Repeating what I shared in April;

Through data collected by the AER, the Government of Alberta, Imperial, and Environment and Climate Change Canada...

There was and remains no evidence that drinking water was at any time impacted by the events at Kearl.

And no-one should seek to falsely alarm Canadians by perpetuating narratives contrary to the scientific data and evidence before us.

I would like to acknowledge the Rural Municipality of Wood Buffalo for their commitment to their communities. They have, and continue to, provide reliable safe drinking water. They continue to test at the intake, and to communicate transparently, posting their testing results, to reassure their communities that they have access to safe water that fully meets the safe drinking water standards of both the Alberta Government and the Government of Canada.

It is the mandate of the AER to ensure the safe, efficient, orderly, and environmentally responsible development of Alberta’s energy resources.

And we do this under some of the highest environmental and regulatory standards in the world.

It is under these strict standards that AER’s technical experts continue to ensure diligent oversight of Imperial’s actions to meet the EPO.

This includes:

  • over seventy significant field inspections at the Kearl site,
  • additional information request, resulting in more than 455 submissions of information to the regulator,
  • we’ve done extensive verification of water monitoring by third parties to ensure the sampling results we are getting are accurate and reliable, including supported by Alberta Environment and Protected Areas.
  • we have also reviewed numerous technical reports regarding the Kearl site. 
  • at times we’ve had up to 50 subject matter experts from our team working on information here.

We are also transparently sharing these reports, data, and information with the public and made them available on our website.

I would also like to provide an update on the third-party review into AER’s actions, processes, and communications surrounding the incidents.

The Deloitte-led review has been completed and was made available to the public on September 27th

Deloitte’s report confirmed that the AER followed existing policies, standards and procedures and processes in response to the Kearl incidents.

It also provided recommendations on several improvements to AER's incident and emergency management system to bring it into line with leading practices and heightened expectations.

The AER’s Board accepted and agreed with the report’s findings, and opportunities for improvements, and has tasked AER management to deliver a detailed action plan to address those items. That work is advancing very quickly.

A key recommendation was for the AER to collaborate with Indigenous communities and key stakeholders to develop specific notification and communication protocols, processes and procedures tailored to meet their needs.

We will engage and are doing so as early as next week, with communities to work together to establish those new formal protocols.

We remain committed to working alongside all parties to strengthen our processes, enhance transparency, and broaden communications.

This concludes my opening remarks. 
Thank you.