Report outlines second year activities for oil sands monitoring initiative

The Second Annual Report (2013-2014) on the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring (JOSM) is now available on the aemera.org and on the jointoilsandsmonitoring.ca websites.

The Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan outlines how the governments of Alberta and Canada are working work together to implement a monitoring program for the oil sands that integrates air, water, land and biodiversity. Monitoring commitments made by the governments in the Implementation Plan are in addition to the existing regulatory requirements for monitoring, and are intended to improve state of the environment reporting and create a better understanding of cumulative effects of activities in the oil sands region.

The Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) assumed provincial responsibility for the Joint Canada-Alberta Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring (JOSM) upon the proclamation of the Protecting Alberta’s Environment Act establishing the agency, on April 28, 2014.

The approach to implementation is both phased (2012-2015) and adaptive to ensure governments are responsive to the priorities that emerge through new information and knowledge, and input from key stakeholders.

This annual report includes highlights of progress made against commitments and objectives of the three-year joint initiative, and a technical annex summarizing monitoring activities in the second year (2013–2014) of the Implementation Plan. A report on the science results for 2013-2014 is schedule for release in December 2014, following the final review and validation of the results for the accuracy.

How does the 2013-2014 Annual Report address the concerns around reporting identified by the Auditor-General of Alberta in his report on October 7, 2014?

Public Reporting

Auditor-General’s Recommendation

We recommend that the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and reporting Agency work with the Government of Canada to ensure that public reporting on the joint plan is timely, accurate and transparent.

Auditor-General’s Key Findings

The plan’s 2012-2013 annual report was released 15 months after the year ended.

  • The Second Annual Report for the three-year project is being released October 9, 2014 – just over six months of the year-end. The target or releasing the document in September 2014 was not met due to the federal legal requirements for translation and other accessibility issues related to posting the report the data information portal it manages for the JOSM project.
  • Annual formal contractual agreements with stated deliverables and accountabilities, including timely reporting, are now in place for the organizations performing the environmental monitoring.
  • Data is released as it becomes available in accordance with JOSM data and release reporting protocols, and a summary report of the cumulative effects and science results will be provided on an annual basis.

The report lacked information on the overall status of implementation.

  • Beginning with the 2013-2014 Annual Report, the annual report consists of two documents: a direct report on progress on implementation; and a separate summary of the technical and science results. This action ensures any delays related to the validation of the science do not impact the timeliness of reporting on implementation.
  • The 2014-2015 annual report on implementation will be prepared for release in June 2015.
  • Annual reports on implementation will include reporting on both key commitments for the program and individual project as outlined in the annual work plans.
  • Following the end of the current three-year commitment on March 31, 2015, any outstanding items related to implementation will be carried over for completion as required.

Status of key commitments and individuals projects was not clear.

  • The report includes a detailed technical annex providing an overview and status report of the individual projects.
  • Component Advisory Committees (CAC) were established in April 2013 to provide both direction and oversight to ensure accuracy and scientific integrity to the data collection and science reporting.
  • Annual work plans are now developed to better track, manage and ensure reporting and accountability of all projects funded under the program.
  • Further project management processes are being developed to track both internal administrative processes, and the work of external agencies.

Key information was missing. Reported information contained inaccuracies and was incomplete.

  • These comments primarily relate the science and technical information, and have been addressed in the second report scheduled for release in November 2014.

Information sharing between the governments was insufficient.

  • Through the work plans and specific project agreements, specific reporting protocols have been established to ensure information-sharing between the Government of Alberta and Government of Canada on a timely basis to meet the needs of the program, addressing the challenge of different reporting practices at systems at the provincial and federal level.

Planning and Monitoring

Auditor-General Recommendation

We recommend that the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency:

  • Implement effective processes for monitoring project status
  • Develop and implement work plans, with role and responsibilities, timelines, deliverables, for implementing all key commitments under the joint plan
  • Clarify what needs to be done to implement any joint plan commitments remaining after March 2015

Auditor-General’s Key Findings

Most projects we tested lacked project plans or had plans without key information such as clearly defined deliverables and timelines.

  • A detailed annual work plan tracking all projects was established for 2013-2014 and for 2014-2015 outlining defined roles and responsibilities, and measurable timeline and deliverables for all projects.

There was insufficient evidence that the department regularly monitored progress of projects.

  • Individual work plans and progress reports are required for each project.

There was no monitoring of projects delivered by regional organizations and no review for accuracy and completeness of project information these organizations submitted for inclusion in the annual report.

  • Annual formal contractual agreements with stated deliverables and accountabilities, including timely reporting, are now in place for the organizations performing the environmental monitoring.
  • Component Advisory Committee (CAC) leads are now responsible to monitor status of all projects and report to senior management.

Project planning and monitoring improved in 2014-2015.

There was insufficient evidence to support reported project status.

  • AEMERA has instituted quarterly reporting requirements to track project status for external organizations.

There were no detailed work plans for implementing joint plan commitments.

  • Beginning in 2013-2014, an annual implementation plan is being developed to which the annual report will directly report progress to the key commitments of the three-year agreement, as well as to the annual implementation plans towards achieving those key commitments.

It is not clear if AEMERA will determine what it needs to do for any comments outstanding at March 2015.

  • Formal discussion began in Fall 2014 between AEMERA and the Government of Canada on the approach to managing the program, and around future desired outcomes and commitments.