WATCH Environmental commissioner Scott Vaughan warns of health risks by CP Video, February 05, 2013
Environment Commissioner Says Growth Leaving Canada Exposed To Disaster by Heather Scoffield, The Canadian Press, Feruary 5, 2013, Huffington Post
5.72 In Canada, hydraulic fracturing dates back to the 1950s. In 2005, new technologies, including multi-stage fracturing and horizontal drilling, have made unconventional oil and gas resources commercially viable to recover. These new technologies have raised concerns because hydraulic fracturing for unconventional resources uses much larger volumes of water and chemicals than processes used for extracting conventional resources (Exhibit 5.3).
Exhibit 5.4—The role of various substances in the hydraulic fracturing process
Friction reducers—Minimize friction in the well.
Biocides—Eliminate bacteria that produce corrosive by-products.
Solvents—Extract impurities from natural gas and are used for clearing and de-icing.
Surfactants—Increase the viscosity of the fracturing fluid.
Scale inhibitors—Prevent deposits from forming in the well and surface equipment.
Acids—Dissolve minerals and initiate cracks in the rock formation.
5.74 On average, fracturing a shale gas well requires 11 million litres of water. The chemicals make up between 0.5 percent and 2 percent of the fluid, or between 55,000 and 220,000 litres of chemicals per well. Between 50 and 80 percent of this fluid returns to the surface, where it can be reused or stored before being disposed of.
Production of unconventional resources
5.75 Estimates of the number of wells that have been fractured in Canada vary widely. The National Energy Board told us that since the 1950s, over 200,000 wells have been hydraulically fractured in western Canada. While comprehensive data is not available for each province, the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission told us that more than 7,300 wells have been fractured in British Columbia since 2005, and that between 500 and 1,000 new wells are being permitted in the province each year, the majority of which will use hydraulic fracturing.
5.76 Deposits of shale gas exist in many regions of Canada (Exhibit 5.5). Current production is concentrated in Alberta and in British Columbia. Quebec and Nova Scotia are not permitting new hydraulic fracturing activities for shale gas pending reviews of the environmental impacts and the identification of best management practices.
5.77 Natural gas is one of the main sources of domestic energy in Canada—about 30 percent of Canada’s energy needs are met by natural gas—and it represents an important export industry. Natural gas provided $15 billion in export revenue to producers in 2010. According to Environment Canada, the supply portfolio for North American natural gas is shifting from being primarily made up of conventional sources to being dominated by unconventional sources. Shale gas is being referred to as a “game changer” or the “next big oil sands.” According to National Energy Board published data, within the next 10 years, unconventional gas production is expected to increase by more than 50 percent and almost double over the next 20 years (Exhibit 5.6).
5.78 In September 2011, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), which represents member companies producing more than 90 percent of Canada’s natural gas and crude oil, issued guiding principles for hydraulic fracturing. These principles are intended to guide water management and improve reporting on the use of water and fluids in unconventional gas resource development in Canada. In January 2012, CAPP announced six operating practices covering issues such as
public disclosure of hydraulic fracturing substances,
baseline groundwater testing, and
well construction and quality assurance.
5.79 CAPP members developed the hydraulic fracturing practices voluntarily. According to the Association, these practices were developed to inform and complement regulations, not as a substitute for regulatory oversight.
Federal roles and responsibilities under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
5.80 Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), Health Canada and Environment Canada share the mandate for assessing whether substances used in Canada are toxic to human health or the environment. According to CEPA 1999, a substance is toxic if it is entering or may enter the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that
(a) have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity,
(b) constitute or may constitute a danger to the environment on which life depends, or
(c) constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health.
5.81 CEPA 1999 requires Environment Canada and Health Canada to develop control measures for substances determined to be toxic or capable of becoming toxic. Environment Canada also maintains the National Pollutant Release Inventory, which, as stated earlier, is a legislated, publicly accessible inventory of pollutant releases, disposals, and transfers for recycling.
5.82 In addition, under the Pest Control Products Act, Health Canada has the mandate to prevent unacceptable risks to people and the environment from the use of pest control products, such as biocides and antimicrobials. These chemicals are also used in fracturing fluid. Such products must be registered prior to import, sale, or use in Canada.
Follow-up on Petition Responses, Status of the National Pollutant Release Inventory review
5.83 We asked Environment Canada for an update on the status of its review of the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) that the Department said was under way in October 2011.
5.84 According to Environment Canada, the NPRI is a “major starting point for identifying and monitoring sources of pollution in Canada and in developing indicators for the quality of our air, land, and water. NPRI information also helps to determine if regulatory or other action is necessary to ensure pollution reductions, and if so, the form that action should take.”
5.85 The Minister of the Environment has discretion regarding industry reporting requirements. Environment Canada told us that oil and gas exploration and drilling activities are exempt from reporting to the NPRI.
5.86 According to Environment Canada, in order to consider whether changes to NPRI reporting requirements are warranted, the Department needs to know specifically what substances are used for hydraulic fracturing as well as their volumes and concentrations. Environment Canada and Health Canada told us that while a partial list of substances that are likely to be used in hydraulic fracturing has been developed, a complete list of substances used in Canada is not known.
5.87 Environment Canada informed us that it has initiated internal discussions on the NPRI review, but that official stakeholder engagement and consultations have not been initiated. Both Environment Canada and Health Canada told us that they consider hydraulic fracturing to be an emerging global issue that they are beginning to investigate. Environment Canada told us that it expects to complete the review and determine whether changes are warranted by March 2014.
Actions to date, Responding to emerging risks
5.88 We asked Environment Canada and Health Canada what they have done to identify and assess the risks posed by hydraulic fracturing substances. They told us that, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), they are able to consider new information and, if appropriate, assess and manage identified risks to protect human health and the environment. The departments informed us that they are following a three-step approach for responding to emerging issues, such as hydraulic fracturing:
identifying the substances being used,
assessing risks to the environment or human health, and
establishing control measures to manage the risks posed by substances determined to be toxic or capable of becoming toxic.
5.89 Step 1: Identifying the substances used for hydraulic fracturing in Canada. Environment Canada and Health Canada indicated that they are currently gathering information to develop a path forward for hydraulic fracturing substances, which may or may not include proceeding with risk assessments and risk management.
5.90 The departments told us that they are considering a voluntary survey of companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing to gather information on the substances and how they are being used. They expect to receive responses by the end of March 2013. Depending on the outcome of the survey, additional information may need to be gathered.
5.91 Step 2: Assessing the risks of substances used in hydraulic fracturing. The departments have developed a partial list of more than 800 substances known to be used or suspected to be used for hydraulic fracturing in the United States and parts of Canada. Officials told us that although the departments have not carried out risk assessments on the use of these substances for hydraulic fracturing, 33 of the substances on the list had previously been assessed as toxic in other applications (for example, benzene in gasoline).
5.92 According to officials, 190 of the substances known to be used or suspected to be used for hydraulic fracturing are also used in other applications in Canada. These applications are scheduled for risk assessment between now and 2020. However, the departments have not yet decided whether to carry out risk assessments of the substances when used for hydraulic fracturing. The departments informed us that a risk assessment typically requires a minimum of 18 months per substance, assuming that sufficient data is available and the necessary methodologies exist.
5.93 The substances being used for hydraulic fracturing represent a subset of the many substances being used in Canada. Health Canada and Environment Canada have committed to assessing about 4,300 substances currently used in Canada by 2020.
5.94 Step 3: Controlling the risks associated with toxic substances. Under CEPA 1999, Environment Canada and Health Canada are required to develop control measures for substances determined to be toxic or capable of becoming toxic. Control measures, such as regulations and pollution prevention plans, are intended to reduce the risks associated with the use and release of toxic substances. Environment Canada informed us that it takes about three years to establish control measures.
5.95 Officials also told us that these timelines could be accelerated where there is evidence of a significant emerging risk to human health or the environment. CEPA 1999 states that “the Government of Canada shall exercise its powers in a manner that protects the environment and human health [and] applies the precautionary principle [such] that, where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation […].”
5.96 Under CEPA 1999, companies intending to bring new substances into Canada must notify Environment Canada and Health Canada. The departments must assess new substances within a specific time frame.
5.97 Environment Canada and Health Canada informed us that they have carried out 27 such assessments related to industry notifications of new substances used for hydraulic fracturing. As a result of these assessments, the departments imposed restrictions on the manner in which two substances can be disposed of.
5.98 The departments told us that they have undertaken a number of research projects to assess the impacts of hydraulic fracturing. For example, in November 2011, Environment Canada completed a report identifying the potential impacts of natural gas production on groundwater quality as well as scientific gaps, and in May 2012, Health Canada completed a report identifying the potential health hazards related to drinking water and ambient air.
5.99 In October 2011, the federal government commissioned the Council of Canadian Academies to assess the state of knowledge of potential environmental impacts from the exploration, extraction, and development of Canada’s shale gas resources, as well as the state of knowledge of mitigation options for environmental impacts. The results of the assessment are expected in mid- to late 2013.
5.100 Environment Canada and Health Canada told us that they are still working toward gaining a better understanding of the substances contained in hydraulic fracturing fluid and the risks associated with the hydraulic fracturing process. This information is expected to inform Environment Canada’s review of the reporting requirements of the National Pollutant Release Inventory for the oil and gas sector. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
We have benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes in our water. We have ethane, propane, methane, butane, and octanes, and we have kerosene in the community drinking water. In most cases, the landowner is blamed for the contamination by way of bacteria. … I read your report that came out recently on the chemicals and your Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and I plead with you to please implement this act in Alberta.
List of Fracking Substances Still Secret Press Release by Elizabeth May, February 5th, 2013
In his report tabled this morning, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development revealed Environment Canada and Health Canada do not have a complete list of substances used in hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as fracking). The report states that “The Minister of the Environment has discretion regarding industry reporting requirements. Environment Canada told us that oil and gas exploration and drilling activities are exempt from reporting to the National Pollutant Release Inventory.”
“This report proves right all these citizens who opposed shale gas fracking. I can understand why the industry wants to hide that list. But that the government allows them to do so is sickening,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.
“Environment Minister Peter Kent should have asked for the list a long time ago. Entire communities are threatened by the shale gas industry. Since the 1950s, over 200,000 wells have been hydraulically fractured in western Canada alone. As the Commissioner estimates, fracking activity is set to double in the next 20 years. It’s high time Canadians know what these companies are pumping in our environment,”concluded May.
While the regulation of the oil and gas sector for the most part falls under provincial jurisdiction, regulating toxic substances is a federal matter. Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, Health Canada and Environment Canada share the mandate for assessing whether substances used in Canada are toxic to human health or the environment. [Emphasis added]
Environment commissioner’s farewell audit screams the obvious: Scott Vaughan, in his final report as environmental commissioner, calls for an “environmental boom” to match our “resources boom.” by Tim Harper National Affairs Columnist, February 5, 2013, The Toronto Star
Kevin Page is taking on folk hero status in some quarters, Sheila Fraser flirted with sainthood and Michael Ferguson has already made his mark on the proposed F-35 purchase. We elevate our watchdogs and auditors in this country because we see them as speaking truth to power. The Parliamentary press gallery likes them because they make news. Scott Vaughan doesn’t have the profile of some of his contemporaries but as the environmental commissioner bowed out with a final report Tuesday, he reminded official Ottawa how much he will be missed.
Vaughan is leaving after five years of what he calls – in typical understatement – identifying “gaps” in the environmental policies of the Conservative government. More often than not, those gaps are more like chasms. … “We know that there’s a boom in natural resources in this country and I think what we need now, given the gaps, given the problems we found, is a boom in environmental protection in this country as well,” he said. As Vaughan delivered his final environmental audit to Parliament, Alberta Premier Alison Redford and New Brunswick Premier David Alward met to discuss moving oil from west to east, Redford sits on a revenue-sapping “bitumen bubble,” the Keystone XL pipeline was the subject of U.S. Congressional hearings and Canada’s First Nations are demanding both environmental protection and revenue-sharing from the valuable resources on their lands. None of this will happen unless we match the environment and economy in lockstep, Vaughan said.
He listed some stunning “gaps.”
He pointed to Canada’s lack of preparedness for a major offshore oil spill on its east coast and warned of a potential 300 per cent jump in tanker traffic on the west coast.
He reminded us the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil and the clean-up and other costs of civil damages has hit $40 billion.
In Canada, the corporate liability for such spills is $30 million on the east coast, and the liability for the nuclear industry is $75 million and has not been updated in more than 35 years, something Vaughan called “pretty shocking.” The liability limit in the U.S. for a nuclear accident is $12 billion.
Environment Minister Peter Kent, who received this report weeks ago, signaled that liability limit will rise considerably, so score another victory for Vaughan.
The commissioner said environmental oversight of the number of mining projects in the booming north is lacking and he pointed to another boom, this one in hydraulic fracturing, known generically as “fracking.”
There are 200,000 fracking wells in the country today, but that number will hit 400,000 by 2032, and there are more than 800 substances used in the procedure, 33 of them known to be toxic, the overwhelming majority remain untested by the government, making the health risk to Canadians impossible to quantify.
The bill for the clean-up of environmentally contaminated sites in this country has risen to $8.3 billion, Vaughan reported.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper maintained his government will continue down a road of “responsible resource development,” and he called Vaughan’s report a “useful piece of advice.” … One is left to wonder where this government’s environmental policies would be without the constant push from Vaughan.
After five years of probing those “gaps,” he says he can draw a cumulative portrait and it is one frightening work of art.
“There are serious questions about the federal capacity to safeguard Canada’s environment,” he says. [Emphasis added]
Environmental protections failing during resource boom, audits find by Shawn McCarthy, February 5, 2013, The Globe and Mail
Canada’s resource boom is outpacing Ottawa’s ability to safeguard important ecosystems from dangerous levels of pollution, the federal environment commissioner reported Tuesday. In a series of audits, commissioner Scott Vaughan revealed a litany of shortcomings, including the failure to regulate toxic chemicals used by the oil industry and a lack of preparedness for major accidents, particularly off Canada’s East Coast.
Mr. Vaughan detailed Ottawa’s hands-off approach to hydraulic fracturing – a rapidly-growing and controversial oil industry practice in which companies inject chemically-laced water deep underground to extract natural gas and oil. … “I am concerned by the gaps we found in the way federal programs related to natural resources are managed.” At the same time, Ottawa continues to subsidize the oil industry, though the level of support is declining, the auditor reported.
Mr. Vaughan also reviewed Environment Canada’s response to concerns that the oil industry’s growing reliance on hydraulic fracturing – or fracking as it’s called in the industry – poses a threat to Canadians’ health. Oil companies are relying on fracking to unlock shale gas deposits in northeastern British Columbia and Alberta, and are eyeing both Quebec and New Brunswick as promising locations for shale gas development. As well, drillers are now using hydraulic fracturing to unlock “tight” oil deposits in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
But while Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has published voluntary guidelines on identifying chemicals used, Ottawa does not require the release of the information. The commissioner noted that the oil and gas companies are exempted from reporting under the National Pollutant Release Inventory on the precise chemicals they use in fracking.
“A complete list of substances used in Canada is not known,” the report said. Environment Canada has undertaken a voluntary survey of companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing, asking them what substances they use. But officials told the auditors that the government is studying the potential health and environmental impacts of fracking and will determine a course of action based on that work. [Emphasis added]
Canada’s environmental protections lagging resource development, audit finds by Heather Scoffield, The Canadian Press, February 5, 2013, The Tyee
Canada’s aggressive pursuit of resource development is exposing the country to heightened environmental and financial risks that are not being properly handled by federal regulators, a new audit says. In his final report to Parliament after five years on the job, Scott Vaughan — Canada’s commissioner of the environment and sustainable development — said government is not keeping sufficient tabs on mining in the North, offshore drilling in the Atlantic and hydraulic fracturing in hundreds of thousands of shale gas wells sprouting up across the country.
Nor are regulators adequately equipped to deal with major oil spills or an expected 300 per cent increase in tanker traffic off the West Coast, the report states. Coupled with previous reports that question oversight of pipelines and the oilsands, “you end up with a portrait where there are some serious questions about the federal capacity to safeguard Canada’s environment,” Vaughan said.
“We know that there’s a boom in natural resources in this country. I think what we need now, given the gaps, given the problems that we’ve found, is a boom in environmental protection in this country as well. Because these need to move hand in hand.” Instead, he found that in many cases, government regulators can’t, or won’t, figure out what they are supposed to be doing. They are reeling from dramatic changes to environmental legislation, outdated requirements, confusing lines of responsibility and large holes of missing information. … “They have not established or updated policies and procedures to guide environmental assessments, and they are not systematically tracking measures to prevent or reduce environmental impacts,” Vaughan writes. … Vaughan raised similar red flags about the government’s methods of mitigating financial risks stemming from environmental damage.
“Work is underway to address the financial assurances required of industry to ensure that we protect taxpayers and the environment,” Environment Minister Peter Kent said in a news release. But opposition MPs universally condemned the Conservatives for sacrificing the environment to resource development. By ignoring the financial and environmental vulnerabilities that are the flip-side of loosely regulated development, Ottawa is putting the entire economy at risk, they argued. “This is leaving taxpayers on the hook and fails to meet the test of prudent financial management,” said the NDP’s environment critic, Megan Leslie.
The commissioner also encouraged the government to get a better grip on the risks associated with the practice of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, which is becoming more and more popular in many regions across Canada. There are some 200,000 fracking wells in Canada, and that number is expected to double in the next 20 years, the report says. However, oil and gas exploration and drilling activities are exempt from reporting releases of pollutants to Environment Canada. “The government cannot know if Canadians are adequately protected.” [Emphasis added]
Canada’s environmental protections lagging resource development, audit finds by Heather Scoffield, The Canadian Press, February 5, 2013, Calgary Herald
“Considering the central role of natural resources in today’s Canadian economy, it is critical that environmental protections keep pace with economic development,” Vaughan writes. Instead, he found that regulators were reeling under changing legislation, confusing lines of responsibility and outdated financial requirements to cover off costs in case of disaster or damage to the environment. “These shortcomings leave me concerned that environmental protection is failing to keep pace with economic development,” Vaughan said in his report, which notes that the government expects to see $650 billion invested in resource exploration and development over the coming decade. [Emphasis added]
Environmental watchdog worried about rise of fracking, Better understanding needed of chemicals in process, report says by Max Paris, February 5, 2013, CBC News
Chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process — commonly called fracking — were of particular concern to Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan in his last report as auditor of Canadian environmental regulations that was tabled today in the House of Commons. The federal government told Vaughan that fracking is an emerging issue, and it is only now looking into it. Provinces, for the most part, are responsible for regulating the oil and gas sector, but Ottawa is in the driver’s seat when it comes to toxic substances.
“According to the government, until it has a better understanding of hydraulic fracturing, it cannot determine whether risk assessments and control measures are warranted,” wrote Vaughan. … The government doesn’t have a good handle on the type of chemicals the industry uses in the process. It has developed a partial list of 800, of which 33 are toxic. Each shale gas well uses between 55,000 and 200,000 litres of chemical cocktail. In B.C. alone, 7,300 wells have been fractured since 2005, and between 500 and a 1,000 new ones are being permitted each year. Ottawa will finish a review on fracking in March 2014. The fracking mention in Vaughan’s report is in keeping with its theme that “environmental protection may not be keeping pace with resource development.” … The commissioner also found that fines for damages caused by spills or other industrial accidents are woefully outdated and inadequate. He noted they are much lower than in other countries.
$4B in tax rebates to industry
There currently is no liability cap when a company is at fault. But if there is no negligence, the top cap is $30 million in the Atlantic and $40 million in the Arctic. The rest of the tab is picked up by taxpayers. … “If you’re an oil and gas company and you don’t have to worry about the risks, then the planning for those accidents is going to be a lower priority,” said Ted Hsu, the Liberal natural resources critic. “So what we’ve got to do is eliminate the moral hazard of taxpayers covering the liability for oil and gas drilling companies.” [Emphasis added]
Opposition demands government response to environment audit, Federal environmental protections are struggling to keep up with the fast pace of development in the energy industry by CTV News, February 5, 2013
Federal environmental protections are struggling to keep up with the fast pace of development in the energy industry, leaving Canada exposed to the risks of oil spills, pollution, and damage to fragile habitat, a new audit says. Scott Vaughan, Canada’s commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, issued his parting words Tuesday after five years in the job, taking a close look at how well Ottawa is managing the significant environmental risks associated with its goal of aggressively promoting resource development. … In the North, Vaughan is especially concerned that officials with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada are not inspecting mining operations to make sure companies are living up to their obligations. In one mining case, the department accepted $17.6 million in promissory notes for reclamation, but the notes were not guaranteed by a bank and were below standards set out by legislation. … “The costs to taxpayers of tax incentives are difficult to estimate accurately,” Vaughan states, urging the government to make the money trail clearer. [Emphasis added]
Environmental problems place economy at risk, departing commissioner says by Mike de Souza, Postmedia News, February 5, 2013, Edmonton Journal
Inadequate federal environmental protection, poor management and recent changes to Canada’s conservation laws are exposing the economy to serious risks that could include multibillion-dollar environmental disasters, said Parliament’s environment watchdog on Tuesday.
Stephen Harper says economic warning from green watchdog is “useful” advice by Mike de Souza, Postmedia News, February 5, 2013, canada.com
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says a report from his government’s environment watchdog warning that poor environmental protection threatens the Canadian economy is a “useful piece of advice” that will guide future decisions. In his final report to the House of Commons before he leaves his job, Scott Vaughan, the federal commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, highlighted numerous weaknesses and confusion in federal efforts to protect water and monitor activities such as fracking and offshore oil and gas exploration. Vaughan said the government needed to ensure that companies were prepared to clean up multibillion-dollar environmental disasters. … Opposition parties said the Fall 2012 report, tabled Tuesday, showed the government was putting taxpayers at risk. But in response to questions from NDP leader Tom Mulcair and interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, Harper said Vaughan’s report contained “a number of useful suggestions.” … “ ‘Polluter pay’ is at the heart of this government’s environmental philosophy,” Harper said in the Commons. “I think the government has already been clear that responsible resource development means that as we see the growth in resource development over the decades to come, there will have to be enhanced measures of environmental protection.”
Vaughan, who announced last month that he would be leaving his position two years ahead of schedule to accept a new job as head of a Manitoba-based environmental policy research organization, also used his final report to express concerns about recently adopted changes to the federal Fisheries Act in July 2012 that remove protection for some bodies of water. … Vaughan’s report said Canada’s economy is threatened by a failure to meet international obligations under a United Nations treaty to protect 10 per cent of its marine areas. [Emphasis added]
Alberta seeks public input on fracking, lakes and drinking water by Karen Kleiss, February 5, 2013, Edmonton Journal
Environment Minister Diana McQueen announced Tuesday the government will spend $1 million on province wide consultations that will determine how water is used in Alberta for the next 50 years. McQueen said opinions gathered at public forums in 20 towns and cities will be used to design a new water strategy, but critics say the governing Tories have already heard what Albertans think about water and have failed to follow through on their promises.
The three-hour, facilitated sessions will concentrate on the state of provincial lakes, water management, municipal drinking and waste water, as well as the impact of hydraulic fracturing — a controversial practice that has been banned in Quebec, the U.S. state of Vermont, and in France. [Emphasis added]
Alberta to hold public forums on water use, fracking, lake health by Canadian Press, February 5, 2013, Calgary Herald
Starting on Feb.19, the province is scheduled to hold public forums in 20 communities. Environment Minister Diana McQueen says participants can discuss any topic relating to water, including hydraulic fracturing, usage, lakes and waste water systems. Albertans can also fill out online opinion surveys between Feb. 11 and March 29. McQueen expects a strong response — she noted that during recent consultations on the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, water was the No. 1 topic of interest. There will also be meetings with stakeholders and with First Nations and Metis representatives. [Emphasis added]