EDMONTON - Groups that pushed for a review of pipeline safety in Alberta say Premier Alison Redford's government is shutting them out.
"I find it pretty disappointing that the Alberta government can find time to meet with the oil industry but not any of the 54 groups that demanded this review," Don Bester, president of the Alberta Surface Rights Group, said Wednesday.
Last month, the province said an independent audit is to focus on how pipeline safety is managed. It is also to look at the safety of pipelines that cross waterways and how the province responds to spills.
The review was announced following three pipeline-related oil spills in the province.
Redford's office said the premier has received a letter from the groups, but no decisions on a meeting would be made until the fall.
The organizations, including Greenpeace Canada and the Council of Canadians, say the scope of the review is too narrow.
They are also concerned that the Energy Resources Conservation Board will be involved in the process.
Mike Hudema said the board, with its mandate to regulate the development of Alberta's energy resources, is too close to the government and is mistrusted by some people in rural areas.
He said there are also concerns about the board's ability to adequately inspect and monitor pipelines and ensure spills are properly cleaned up.
"Albertans need and deserve an independent, thorough pipeline review that provides information and answers that we can rely on and trust," Hudema said.
The groups include public sector unions, First Nations and public health organizations.
A spokesman for Energy Minister Ken Hughes said he has received the group's request for a meeting, but nothing has been scheduled.
Bester said they need to be heard.
"Shouldn't people have more of a say than oil executives?'' he asked.
"This review should be about protecting our communities and the environment, not a public relations exercise to greenwash the oil industry."
Copyright 2012 The Canadian Press. All Rights Reserved.
(Originally published August 8, 2012, in The Canadian Press.)