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Tar Sands Panelist Quits Before First Meeting

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The panel appointed by the government of Alberta to design an environmental monitoring system for the Alberta oil sands is fracturing even before its first meeting.

U.S. academic Helen Ingram, a water expert from the University of California at Irvine, resigned from the panel in late January via a letter to her fellow panelists in which she said she was concerned about the lack of aboriginal representation, among other reservations, according to the Calgary Herald.

“I’m concerned that First Nations may think this is yet another snow job by a bunch of experts who speak a lot of technical speak,” Ingram wrote, according to the Herald. The professor emeritus specializes in public policy regarding water resources.

“I am withdrawing from the provincial environmental monitoring panel at this time due to an accumulation of concerns that have made me increasingly uncomfortable,” the Herald quoted Ingram as writing. “I am disappointed that there are so few scientists … on the panel….I know how important to credibility it is to have a balance of disciplines on complex water issues.”

Chiefs in Fort Chipewyan immediately dispatched a list of qualified aboriginal scientists to Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner, the Slave River Journal reported. The panel has no First Nations or other indigenous representation.

The panel already had people looking at it with jaded eye because of the appointment of Hal Kvisle, who was CEO of TransCanada Corp. until last year, as one of the two leaders of the 12-member panel.

The panel also includes David Pryce of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Bruce Carson, a former policy adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Herald said.

But fellow scientist David Schindler said he thought the panel could go on, though Ingram’s absence would leave a gap.

"I would have felt more confident if she had stayed because she is a very persuasive and clear-thinking advocate for good science," the University of Alberta biologist told the Calgary Herald in a February 3 story. He said he was confident that the scientists still serving on the panel would not “be sandbagged by anybody.”