The province’s energy regulator says it will begin to clamp down on oil companies that operate in Alberta’s oilsands over how they handle their lake-size, toxic tailings ponds.

Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board has issued a directive for industry-wide criteria that will force companies to report on their ponds annually.

Within five years, all companies must process all of their tailings water and eventually get rid of the sludge over the next several decades — an end to tailings ponds.

Oil companies must also find other ways to get rid of their waste water and if they don’t, the province will deny an offending company plans to expand, as well as forcing plants to close.

“This directive addresses yet another symptom of the problem rather than the problem itself,” said Mike Hudema of Greenpeace. “The reality is that these huge toxic tailings ponds will never be properly reclaimed and will be a permanent black mark on Alberta’s legacy.”

Ed Stelmach’s government was under an international media microscope last year after 500 dead ducks were found in a toxic tailings pond owned by Suncor.

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