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Oil goes into a tailings pond at the Suncor oil sands operations near Fort McMurray, Alta., September 17, 2014.

Todd Korol/Reuters

The Alberta Energy Regulator has suspended a wide array of environmental monitoring requirements for oil sands companies over public health concerns raised by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision means that Imperial Oil, Suncor, Syncrude, and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. don’t have to perform much of the testing and monitoring originally required in their licences.

The latest exemptions specifically relieve operators of having to monitor most ground and surface water, unless it enters the environment. Almost all wildlife and bird monitoring has been suspended.

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Air quality programs, including ones for certain First Nations communities, have been reduced, and testing for leaks of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, has been suspended.

Regulator spokesman Shawn Roth said the suspensions are likely to remain in place as long as there are other COVID-related orders under the Public Health Act, although some of the exemptions have an end date of September 30th.

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