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Alberta's New Democrat Opposition and a prominent First Nations leader are calling for a review of the province's energy regulator to be held in public, with public input.

Opposition environment critic Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse says the current process, led by a longtime supporter of conservative parties in Alberta, is too secretive.

"Albertans deserve unbiased public oversight," she said.

"This should be a public review, not a secretive review that the United Conservatives had their paid friend to conduct behind closed doors."

A recently released document shows David Yager, a longtime oilpatch executive, journalist and conservative activist and fundraiser, is being paid $70,000 to review the Alberta Energy Regulator.

The disclosure reveals little about what Yager has been asked to review. It refers to a “review” of the regulator and gives an end date of February.

Alberta’s energy ministry did not immediately provide a response. Nor did it expand on Yager's terms of reference, who he will be asked to consult with or what the opportunities will be for public input in the review of an agency that oversees everything from well cleanup to oilsands tailings management to coal mining in the Rockies.

Calahoo Stonehouse said that isn't good enough.

"We need public oversight that isn't biased," she said.

Opposition NDP, First Nation chief want public review of Alberta Energy Regulator. #ABPoli #AER #AlbertaEnergyRegulator

She's calling for a revamped regulator with new leadership, particularly in light of repeated releases of wastewater from oilsands operations.

Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation downstream from those releases, said his people have lost faith in the regulator.

"At every opportunity, the (regulator) has dismissed our concerns," he said.

Adam said the agency is still investigating two releases of wastewater from Imperial Oil's Kearl oilsands plant that happened last spring. Meanwhile, another release earlier this month sent another 670,000 litres of water in the Muskeg River that had four times the amount of sediment in it that regulations allow.

Adam said the federal government should step in to replace the Alberta Energy Regulator.

"I would like the (regulator) to immediately cease what they're doing," he said. "They're not credible enough to do anything.

"The federal government should step in and go with (the Department of Fisheries and Oceans) and regulate this whole regime and do it properly."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2023.

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