WHEREAS Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP), through legislation, maintains control of all registrations for Class I gravel pits (five hectares or larger); and
WHEREAS AEP, through legislation, maintains responsibility for inspection, compliance and enforcement of reclamation of Class 1 gravel pits; and
WHEREAS the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) requires applications for reclamation certificates be made to the Director or inspectors; and
WHEREAS the EPEA requires the Minister of Environment and Parks or designated Director to appoint inspectors for the purpose of that Act;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta advocate to the Government of Alberta to amend the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act to allow qualified third parties to conduct inspections and approve reclamation certificate applications for Class I gravel pits.
A viable aggregate industry is a necessary component of a vibrant Alberta economy. The Government of Alberta is responsible for conducting inspections of gravel pits, including those inspections required to confirm end of life reclamation has occurred.
A shortage of inspectors at Alberta Environment and Parks is contributing to considerable wait times for both private and public operators. These delays extend the end of life obligations, increasing costs, especially for sites which are rented.
Under the Alberta Energy Regulator, oil and gas site reclamations can be signed off on by a qualified individual (such as an engineer) which reduces red tape. No such mechanism exists for gravel pits. This resolution would advocate that a similar mechanism be made available for gravel pits.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Environment and Protected Areas
Environment and Protected Areas shares your desire to improve outcomes for certifying sand and gravel pits. To that end, we took steps in summer 2022 to address wait times and reduce red tape by hiring more inspectors and providing enhanced training. Reclamation inspectors have been working hard to reduce the backlog of reclamation certificate applications and inquiries, and the department is now better-positioned to conduct inquiries on new applications in a more timely way. I am pleased to tell you that all of the received pit reclamation certificate applications are now undergoing review.
In addition, the Government of Alberta is developing the Digital Regulatory Assurance System (DRAS), which supports economic development and reduces unnecessary red tape. Government will continue to roll out DRAS in stages until 2024, with all regulatory applications moved online. The new system will provide clearer expectations for applicants and more efficient decisions. In addition, we are improving reclamation and closure guidance for staff and industry. The department is testing a draft Directive for Reclamation Certificate Site Assessments for Pits and Quarries for Cultivated Land, and will publish it when engagement and testing is complete.
It is important to determine whether the changes underway will decrease wait times before we consider further changes to inspection and reclamation certificate processes.
The Government of Alberta response indicates that the gravel pit inspection backlog has been reduced due to the hiring of additional inspectors and improved training. While this is a positive development, the resolution requests that the Government of Alberta amend the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act to allow the hiring of qualified third-parties to undertake inspections. From RMA’s perspective, this amendment would not undermine or replace the current inspection process, but rather provide another “tool in the toolbox” if the backlog returns in the future.
RMA assigns this resolution a status of Intent Not Met and will continue to advocate for the inclusion of this enabling clause in the Act.