If anyone thought that there was a changing of the guard at the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) they should look no further than the decision it quietly released just before the Easter long weekend. The decision shows that whatever teeth the AER may have had just fell out.

Despite Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) having four on-going, unexplained tar sands blow-outs that have been spilling into the environment for over ten months now, and despite the fact that the AER is still investigating what caused the spills that happened in 2009, the AER just approved CNRL’s application to start re-steaming in the region.

This site is within 1.5 kilometres of where bitumen is still leaking into a lake and has been for the last ten months. Injecting more high-pressure steam underground can only make the situation worse.

It’s appalling that the body that is supposed to be regulating Alberta’s tar sands industry would allow this.

This decision quickly erodes any of the credibility the AER may have had. A rational approach would have been to stop any re-steaming of the region until the cause of the four, ongoing spills could be determined, with solutions put in place to ensure they don’t happen again.

Unfortunately, it seems like the AER feels that CNRL’s profit margins are more important than rationality or protecting the environment.

Hopefully one day Alberta gets a truly independent energy regulator that puts people and the environment first, but that day seems like a long way off.