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An ‘inherent contradiction’ in Alberta

In our latest newsletter, we explore Alberta’s December news dump and the provincial government’s moratorium on renewable energy projects

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Equipment in the un-frozen liquid of a tailings pond at a Suncor open pit oilsands mine in the middle of winter

The holiday season: it’s a great time for resting, recharging and, well, if you’re in government, making a bunch of announcements while nobody is paying attention.

One province that perfected the art of the December news dump this past year? Alberta.

Among the things you may have missed:

  • Oilsands mines used more fresh water than the whole city of Calgary
  • The Alberta government wants to claw back some rules to limit urban sprawl
  • The province is falling behind on ensuring there’s enough money for oil and gas cleanup — even as the energy regulator makes it possible for companies to get recognition for “partial” cleanup of old well sites

“There is an inherent contradiction at play in Alberta right now,” reporter Drew Anderson told me from his home in Calgary, where an extreme cold snap saw the frost build up inside the windows just as he was finishing up his not-so-sunny story about the holiday season.

Drew Anderson, in a Narwhal toque and sweater, gazes out in a forested area.

The contradiction Drew referred to rests in the province’s decision last summer to put a moratorium on renewable energy projects, while simultaneously pulling all the levers at its disposal to ramp up oil and gas production.

“The government announced the renewables pause, citing concerns about reclamation of wind and solar farms as one of the central reasons, but has shown little appetite for effectively tackling the far larger problem of fossil fuel liabilities,” Drew said.

As for that renewables pause: Drew obtained documents that tell quite a different story than the government’s accounting of how the massive decision came about.

“Despite a concerted effort to redact and withhold documents, I will continue to file requests. I’ll find those nuggets that help to reveal how and why the government is making decisions that could have a big impact on the environment and climate,” Drew said.
At a time when the energy transition is the biggest story on the Prairies, that reporting is needed more than ever.

Take care and rest easy knowing our watchdog reporting doesn’t take a break,

Arik Ligeti
Director of audience

P.S. We’ve been overwhelmed by all the thoughtful story suggestions for 2024 so many of you sent in response to last week’s newsletter. We’ll try our best to get to them, pinky swear.

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When you’re processing the cold weather and all the announcements government officials tried to sneak in over the holidays. Tell your friends to get cozy and dive into The Narwhal’s journalism by signing up for our weekly newsletter.
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