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Alberta eases security payment burden for oilsands companies

A flare stack lights the sky from the Imperial Oil refinery in Edmonton Alta, on Friday December 28, 2018. Alberta's oilsands are at the centre of a closely watched court battle in New York today. The state's attorney general is accusing Exxon, which has extensive oilsands interests through its subsidiary Imperial Oil, of deliberately misrepresenting the risks those operations face as governments move to fight climate change. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON — Alberta is changing how it calculates the payments oilsands mines make to ensure there’s enough money to clean up the mess they leave behind.

The province says the decision is in reaction to low oil prices last year, which briefly reached negative values.

Lisa Fairweather of Alberta Environment says keeping the old program would have cost the industry billions of extra dollars, even though the environmental risk of the mines hasn’t changed.

She says today’s move is temporary until a complete review of environmental security payments is held this summer.

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Critics say the changes will reduce payments into a cleanup fund that the auditor general has said is already too low.

Under the changes, Alberta will no longer calculate payments based on a company’s environmental liabilities and its assets.

Instead, the calculation will be based on a company’s revenue.