Gerry Protti, Alberta's new overseer of environment and safety in the province's oilpatch, has been central to a network of oil industry front groups and lobbyists for many years and it is raising the eyebrows of more than a few people.
Protti was recently named as the new head of the Alberta Energy Regulator, a new provincial agency whose mandate, is "…to provide for the efficient, safe, orderly and environmentally responsible development of energy resources in Alberta."
Citizens groups are rightly upset with the appointment, given that Protti is a former oil lobbyist in various capacities, previously working as the vice president of corporate affairs for Encana, and most significantly as the founding member of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the main lobbying arm of Canada's oil companies.
Protti's most recent job, prior to his appointment to the Alberta Energy Regulator, was the president of an organization called the Energy Policy Institute of Canada. The Energy Policy Institute of Canada describes itself as, "… a non-profit organization formed by business organizations that are concerned about Canada’s energy future." The Institute lists the largest oil sands players in the country as its major supporters, including companies like Canadian Oil Sands Limited, Encana, Suncor and Shell.
According to government registry documents, the Energy Policy Institute of Canada shares a Calgary office space with National Public Relations, a consulting agency with lobbyists in Ottawa representing the interests of Protti's old group the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, as well as Protti's other former employer, Encana.
All a little too cozy for my liking – and the Alberta government might think so too, considering Protti's official bio [PDF] on Alberta Energy's site does not even mention Protti's stint running the Energy Policy Institute of Canada. So it looks like this tight network of pro-oil lobbyists has grabbed the golden goose with Protti now running the agency overseeing environment and safety regulations in Alberta's oilpatch.
Is it a golden goose or a Trojan horse? Regardless of the metaphor, Protti's appointment is worrisome, given the feverish rate the government of Alberta and Stephen Harper's federal government are developing Alberta's tar sands. Protti is not very likely to stand in their way.