Environmental research results from Alberta’s oil sands region have been a hot topic in Canada for the last several years for development proponents and opponents alike.
This trend will likely continue going forward as a steady stream of new findings are expected to emerge from the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring (JOSM) (PDF).
As we discussed in a previous post, JOSM is an important component of the research currently being done in the region. It’s being implemented to unify a variety of disparate research. The plan is designed to provide scientifically credible oil sands monitoring, with a broader view to “cumulative impacts,” the collected impacts of all producers in the oil sands region.
Announced in 2012 and set to be implemented by 2015, JOSM is still a relatively new addition to the oil sands landscape. Here are five essential things you need to know about JOSM:
1. JOSM is being designed to be the most scientifically rigourous, comprehensive, integrated and transparent environmental monitoring of the oil sands region – ever.
While JOSM isn’t the first organization to conduct environmental monitoring in the oil sands region, it is being set up to be the environmental equivalent of everything and the kitchen sink. Previous Initiatives like CEMA (Cumulative Environmental Management Association), RAMP (Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program) and WBEA (Wood Buffalo Environment Association) laid the groundwork for JOSM, which is the first to coordinate federal and provincial programs.
2. Results from JOSM available now.
Transparency is a JOSM hallmark. Accordingly, a visit to Canada-Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Monitoring Information Portal provides access to maps of the region, details about monitoring sites and the latest data collected by scientists in the field.
3. JOSM data being collected and shared relates to air, water, biodiversity, contaminants harmful to wildlife and toxicity.
Measurements of impacts on air, water and native species provide a glimpse into the health of the oil sands ecosystem and are of great interest to both residents and non-residents.
Air measurements look at data like the level of airborne particulates, while water measurements consider a variety of water quality metrics like pH scale and fish health. Plant and animal monitoring is also an essential part of JOSM’s activities, which considers contaminants harmful to wildlife, such as mercury.
4. JOSM will be phased-in over three years.
JOSM is currently focused on taking measurements that will form the basis for baseline yardsticks against which all future data will be compared. It’s still in the early days of JOSM implementation. By 2015, JOSM is expected to have collected three years of data for comparison, providing an essential look into the relative health of the area’s ecosystems.
5. JOSM is funded by industry but operated by government.
Together, the oil sands industry provides $50 million in annual funding for JOSM.
While the organization receives its funding from the producers whose impacts it monitors, JOSM is entirely arms-length. Beyond the funding provided, the industry has no influence on how the program operates.