In response to concerns about industrial pollution in the Athabasca River and connecting waterways, Environment Minister Jim Prentice has appointed an independent advisory panel of leading scientists to review the design and management of related environmental systems.
Among the committee members is Dr. Joseph (Joe) Rasmussen, a University of Lethbridge biological sciences researcher and Canada research Chair in Aquatic Ecosystems – and the only Albertan on the six-member review panel.
Rasmussen says he is looking forward to working with Environment Canada officials and his colleagues, who are among Canada's leading water and environment researchers.
"I was very pleased to be asked to participate in this review," says Rasmussen. "It's a chance to do something very important, and an affirmation that the Minister is taking this issue very seriously."
The Advisory Panel has a mandate to advise Minister Prentice on the current state of environmental research and monitoring in the region around Alberta's oil sands and to make recommendations to ensure that state-of-the-art monitoring and best practices are implemented.
"We are determined to develop Canada's oil sands in a manner that it sustainable and environmentally-sensitive," says Prentice. "This independent review by some of Canada's most respected scientists is a critical step in ensuring that environmental issues are balanced with economic considerations."
Chaired by Elizabeth Dowdeswell, the Advisory Panel members are Dr. Peter J. Dillon, Dr. Subhasis Ghoshal, Dr. Andrew D. Miall, Dr. Joseph Rasmussen and Dr. John P. Smol.
Within 60 days, it will report back to Minister Prentice. This report will be publicly available on the Environment Canada website.
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Advisory Panel Background information
The purpose of the Advisory Panel is to provide recommendations to the Minister of the Environment on the scientific research and monitoring of the environmental effects associated with the development of the oilsands.
Serious concerns have been raised about oilsands pollution entering the Athabasca River Basin and connected waterways and whether monitoring systems are well designed and implemented.
These concerns must be fully explored to ensure that a first class, state-of-the-art monitoring system is in place, serving the public interest.
In this context, the Advisory Panel will:
1. Document, review and assess the current body of scientific research and monitoring.
2. Identify strengths and weaknesses in the scientific monitoring, and the reasons for them.
Within 60 days of being established, the Advisory Panel will present its findings in the form of a written report to the Minister of the Environment.
The report will include conclusions on items 1 and 2 above, and recommendations on next steps for the federal government in ensuring that any scientific issues are effectively addressed.
The report will be made public.
Environment Canada will provide scientific and logistical support to assist the Advisory Panel with their analysis of current peer reviewed literature and their discussions with recognized experts.
Biographical Information -- Advisory Panel Members
Elizabeth Dowdeswell – Chair
President, Council of Canadian Academies & Former UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UNEP, Founding President & CEO NWMO
Ms. Dowdeswell served as Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, Assistant Deputy Minister of Environment Canada, responsible for the National Weather and Atmospheric Agency and led a number of public inquiries, including into Canada's unemployment benefits program and federal water policy. Her early career included terms as Deputy Minister of Culture and Youth for the Province of Saskatchewan, educational consultant, university lecturer and high-school teacher. Ms. Dowdeswell holds a Master of Science degree in behavioural sciences from Utah State University, a Bachelor of Science degree in home economics, a teaching certificate from the University of Saskatchewan and, nine honorary degrees.
Dr. Peter J. Dillon
Peter Dillon is a Professor in Environmental and Resource Studies and the Department of Chemistry at Trent University. Professor Dillon specializes in biogeochemistry of lakes and their catchments. He was the scientific leader of the environmental research and long-term investigations carried out at the Dorset Research Centre in central Ontario for 25 years. He was awarded the Royal Society of Canada's Miroslaw Romanowski Medal for outstanding contributions to the environmental sciences in 2003 and this year he received the G. Evelyn Hutchinson Award from the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography for his pioneering work on lake eutrophication and acid rain. Peter directs the Water Quality Centre at Trent University which is dedicated to the development and application of innovative new techniques for the analysis of organic and inorganic contaminants.
Dr. Subhasis Ghoshal
Professor Ghoshal joined McGill in 1997. His expertise is in the area of soil and groundwater contamination by hydrocarbon pollutants. Professor Ghoshal has conducted research on the fate and transport of organic pollutants in subsurface environments, and on the clean-up of sites contaminated by petroleum liquids, coal tars and creosotes. Professor Ghoshal is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, and a William Dawson Scholar at McGill.
Dr. Andrew D. Miall
Andrew Miall is a Professor of Geology and holder of the Gordon Stollery Chair in Basin Analysis and Petroleum Geology at the University of Toronto. He specializes in teaching and research in the study of sedimentary basins. He has broad interests in energy and climate-change issues, and from 1998 to 2008 he taught a popular science-for-non-scientists course at the University of Toronto entitled "Geology and Public Issues". Professor Miall was awarded the Past President's Medal of the Geological Association of Canada in 1983 and became a Distinguished Fellow of that society in 1995. He served as Vice President of the Academy of Science of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) from 2005 to 2007 and President of the Academy from 2007-2009.
Dr. Joseph Rasmussen
Joseph Rasmussen is a professor of biological sciences at the University of Lethbridge and a Canada Research Council Chair in Aquatic Ecosystems. Professor Rasmussen's research has made a significant contribution to the development of tracer approaches that are used to model energy flow in aquatic food webs. His research has provided fresh insights and technical inroads into important ecological problems such as the biomagnification of persistent contaminants and the impacts of heavy metals on environmental quality. He is also a regular contributor to the Canadian Conference for Fisheries Research (CCFFR) and the Canadian Society of Limnologists (CSL), is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Animal Ecology, and serves as the chair of the Ecology, Evolution and Ethology section of the Canadian Society of Zoologists. Dr. Rasmussen was the recipient of the Frank H. Rigler award from the Society of Canadian Limnologists in 2010.
Dr. John P. Smol
John Smol is a professor in the Department of Biology at Queen's University where he is also holder of the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change. Professor Smol has been presented with numerous research and teaching awards, including the NSERC Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal, Canada's top scientific prize, in 2004. His award winning research in the fields of limnology and environmental change has addressed impacts of acid rain, nutrients and climate warming on aquatic systems. M. Smol is the founding editor of the Journal of Paleolimnology and is currently editor-in-chief of the journal Environmental Reviews. M. Smol co-directs the Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory at Queen's University, a group of about 30 paleolimnologists working throughout the world on a variety of limnological and paleoecological problems.