In this issue we start a new column on the environment and have requested Mr. Dick Arndt, P.Eng., P.Geol., of Deer Lodge Environmental Services Ltd. to be the author of this column. For several years, Mr. Arndt has been working as an environmental consultant.
Although Mr. Arndt has a number of topics in mind, we would appreciate any suggestions for future issues and welcome your comments.
"The Environment" - What does this phrase conjure up in our minds? - Taking a leisurely drive to the mountains and fishing on a quiet lake in the early morning; a beautiful sunset; recycling bins and TV ads on how to help keep our surroundings clean. Actually, it is probably all of the above scenarios. Like safety, protecting the environment and environmental awareness is 90% common sense and 10% rules and regulations.
We are all affected by society's past operating practices. The rules of today are meant to remediate environmental indiscretions and make sure they are not occurring at present. In the U.S., the past actions of various types of industries, companies, individuals and government agencies are now costing billions of tax payers dollars in clean up and remediation costs. Much of this contamination could have been eliminated had sound operating principles been used.
Environmental activity actually centres around two major concepts. The first is cleaning up past misdeeds like oil spills and old flare pits. The second is protecting the current and future environment by insuring that all leases, pipeline right of ways, battery sites and refineries are reclaimed to their natural state, so we do not cause undo damage to man or the ecosystem.
The environmental field has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry during the past few years. Just look at the expansion of consumer products that are now environmentally friendly or the proliferation of recycling stations and waste management treatment facilities. Also, the number of environmental consulting firms that have appeared in the past few years is phenomenal.
To gain an appreciation of the growth of the environmental sector, there are four or five major environmental conferences in Calgary alone this fall that deal with or have the P&NG industry in mind, not to mention any number of similar conferences that are being run across Canada and in the U.S. If a keen individual with nothing to do and an unlimited bank account wanted to attend even a few of these many seminars, short courses, workshops and lunchtime talks, it would be a full time job.
The increase in the number of books, papers, and periodicals relating to all phases of the environment, from technical to mass appeal literature, is astronomic and there is no way anyone could possibly keep up with all the literature that is being published. There does not appear to be any end in sight in the interest generated by this growth business or in the government regulations to monitor and control our actions in the workplace and in our recreational endeavours.
Environmental issues will continue to affect our working and personal lives. Due to the laws and regulations that we are faced with every day, enormous amounts of time and money are being spent on environmental clean up, such as on former leases where the government wants the property brought back to it original state, regardless of what is cost effective or prudent. The real growth industry is the legal profession. The new laws of recent years have broad implications and are casting the environmental liability net wide enough to catch anyone who has the remotest involvement in pollution and non-compliance with the law. Even though the law, in most jurisdictions, implies the "The Polluter Pays", everyone even remotely involved in a project can be implicated.
Last Fall, Alberta enacted a broad environmental law called the Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (AEPEA). This legislation has far reaching implications to the Oil and Gas Industry. This law, coupled with the federal Environmental Protection Act and many local bylaws, sets out standards that have to be followed or pay the consequences. We may all encounter problems of an environmental nature that we or our crews and/or contractors have caused, however unintentionally.
Another phenomenon of the current awareness in the environment is the self proclaimed "Watchdogs of the Industry" in the form of concerned citizens and people who feel that big industry is only out for its own good. An example of this was the controversy over Amoco's Whaleback project in southwest Alberta. Almost every day the newspapers have articles about hearings, public forums and government discussions relating to the public outcry of industry practices or exploration and development plans in areas that some would like to see closed to any form of activity that they themselves are not interested in seeing used for industrial activities. Today, every phase of economic growth including mining, forestry, oil and gas, road construction and recreational facilities is suspect to scrutiny by the public, often in the form of the vocal few.
Most oil companies have an awareness of the impact an environmental infraction could have on their bottom line or image. The problem is often getting that concept ingrained in the minds of all the employees, either in the field or in the office. It's hard to break habits that are ingrained in our daily life and realize that common operating procedures of the past may now be in contravention to federal, provincial and local laws, regulations, guidelines and ordinances.
In reality, most of the environmental situations we find our-selves in can be avoided by using common sense. Cutting excess line, disturbing wildlife, throwing out garbage and chemicals, leaving clutter lay around, changing or affecting streams, ponds and water courses from their natural setting and creating unnecessary changes in the appearance of the land all can be tempered with common sense. Following the above criteria is not always the easiest method of operation, but in the long term, it keeps you out of trouble.
This was a quick trip around the "environmental block". Next time, we will discuss some practical measures we can all relate to as far as our work is concerned.