Alberta oil and gas inquiry comes under fire again

CALGARY — Alberta’s beleaguered public inquiry into anti-energy campaigns is the target of criticism, yet again.

Commissioned by the UCP government in June 2019, the inquiry is looking into whether foreign-funded special interest groups are spreading misinformation about Alberta’s oil and gas sector. Steve Allan, a forensic and restructuring accountant with more than 40 years of experience, heads the inquiry.

The deadline for the report has already been pushed back twice and the original $2.5 million price tag has been increased by $1 million.

An update on the engagement process, published on Jan. 13, included the reports from Dr. T.L. Nemeth and Dr. Barry Cooper.

An associate laws professor at the University of Calgary says he is dismayed the inquiry paid $100,000 to people not trained in climate science, to write reports he says are full of textbook climate change denialism, speculation and conjecture.

“I think that the events of last week really highlight the importance for us as Canadians and Albertans about the dangers, the risks of conspiracy theories and sort of alternative realities and not to trade in them,” said Martin Olszynski.

“And not to allow them to sort of dominate or to entertain them even, I think, in our public discourse and certainly not in an inquiry such as this one.”

A response welcomed the concerns from Olszynski. 

“Like all Participants, Professor Martin Olszynski was certainly free to comment on any and all opinions or positions expressed by Dr. Nemeth and Dr. Cooper in their reports, and his submissions will be given due consideration,” it read in part. 

“However, while a number of topics or questions of interest to the Inquiry were raised in the Letter to Participants under which the reports were sent, matters of climate science were not among these issues, and the commissioner has not subsequently requested any submissions on this topic.

“To be clear, Alberta Inquiry commissioner Steve Allan does not consider the science of climate change to be part of his mandate under the Inquiry’s terms of reference, and he does not intend to make any findings of fact respecting climate science in his final report.”

The final report from the inquiry is due Jan. 31.

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