WHEREAS ‘contaminated sites’ as described by Alberta Environment include current and former service stations with underground petroleum tanks located throughout the province;AND WHEREAS the grant funding formerly available to owners of contaminated sites under Alberta Municipal Affairs Underground Tank Remediation Program was inadequate, as an engineered reclamation plan was required to qualify for the grant, and after the engineering bills were paid there was seldom enough grant money left to pay for the reclamation project;AND WHEREAS the applicable acts and regulations do not properly distinguish between current owners and original polluters, and further do not completely prevent the original polluter from shirking their responsibilities with respect to reclamation;AND WHEREAS those service station owners who polluted their sites did so at a time when there was no legislation to the contrary;AND WHEREAS current legislation is forcing many current service station owners to lose their life savings or sit on the contaminated site and do nothing, while the costs of reclamation escalate;AND WHEREAS municipal governments in Alberta face the dilemma of either taking these properties back through tax sales and inheriting the environmental liability, or putting them through the tax sale process, and not taking them back when they fail to sell to avoid the liability issue;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) urge the Government of Alberta to review the applicable legislation with a view to distinguishing between current owners of service stations and former owners with respect to liability for contamination;AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC urge the province to reinstate an adequately funded grant program to facilitate the remediation of contaminated petroleum tank sites.
Although Alberta Environment continues to regulate contaminated underground petroleum tank sites, the Safety Codes Council administered a remediation grant program for contaminated sites on behalf of Alberta Municipal Affairs until March 2002, when the Underground Tank Remediation Program ended.By next year the County of St. Paul No. 19 will have five contaminated current/past service stations on our tax sale list. These owners cannot sell their properties, as the businesses are no longer viable and are not paying their taxes. We have to put these properties through the tax sale process; however, we are not obliged to take these properties into the County name if they don’t sell. Consequently they will revert to the owner. At this point our hands are tied, as far as recovering delinquent taxes (other than going through the courts to seize any business stock in the still operating stations, which is of questionable value). We will still have to pay school taxes on those properties, but will have no mechanism to collect.According to Alberta Environment, the department can issue an environmental protection order and force the owners to clean up their properties. There is also the perspective that the people the County would effectively be ruining are our ratepayers, our friends and our neighbours.Knowing they will in all likelihood face financial ruin, these people feel they have no choice but to sit on these sites and do nothing but try to eke out a living, all the while the cost of reclaiming these sites grows ever higher. At least one of the owners of a contaminated site has been advised by his lawyer not to pay their taxes as they know there is virtually nothing more we can do. Without a legislative change this problem will only get worse.
Resolution ER2-01S, endorsed at the spring 2001 convention, urges the provincial government to increase funding in the Underground Petroleum Storage Tank Site Environmental Remediation Program to cover the remediation of out-of-service retail facility sites and sites used for municipal purposes.The government response indicates that Alberta Municipal Affairs is exploring the possibility of expanding the Underground Petroleum Storage Tank Site Remediation Program to include a broader group of priority sites within the approved funding guidelines.
On August 25, 2005, Alberta Municipal Affairs announced funding of $50 million for a new Tank Site Remediation Program. The program will assist eligible municipalities and owners of small operation with five or fewer retail gas stations with the clean up of contamination resulting from leaking underground petroleum tanks. It is estimated that there will be about 600 inactive small retail sites remaining that may require mediation. The $50 million funding represents an estimation of industry capacity, and further program funding will be requested in the future as additional sites are identified.