Ongoing bitumen spill puts world scrutiny on Alberta's new regulator: critic

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EDMONTON - An environmental think-tank says an ongoing spill of tarry bitumen in northern Alberta is focusing the world's attention on the province's new regulator.

Chris Severson-Baker of the Pembina Institute says the spill from a Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (TSX:CNQ) project on the Cold Lake weapons range is the first chance to assess the new Alberta Energy Regulator.

Severson-Baker says the province's previous agency allowed the company to resume production after a similar spill in 2009, despite the fact the cause was never determined.

He says the new regulator has a chance to show that the province will tighten controls on the oilsands as the industry looks to increase exports to the U.S.

Newspapers from the Wall Street Journal to England's The Guardian have written about the spill, which has now released nearly a million litres of bitumen onto the surface.

A recent study suggested that fewer than one per cent of environmental infractions in the oilsands result in enforcement actions.

Organizations: Pembina Institute, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., TSX U.S. Newspapers Wall Street Journal

Geographic location: Alberta, EDMONTON, Northern Alberta Cold Lake England

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