WHEREAS the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act deems the ‘person responsible’ for contamination to be the owner or previous owner of the contaminating substance and every person who has had charge and management or control of the substance, including the current property owner; AND WHEREAS this ‘person responsible’ definition places unfair liability on any current owners that in many instances have not contributed to the contamination; AND WHEREAS the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act holds the ‘person responsible’ for contamination even if this contamination occurred from operations that did not contravene legislation that would have been in place at the time that the contamination occurred;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the provincial government to amend the ‘person responsible’ definition of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act such that the person liable for contamination shall only be the person directly responsible for the contamination and only if the contamination resulted from a breach of any legislation that was in place at the time of the contamination.
The Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act deems the person responsible for contamination to be the owner or previous owner of the contaminating substance and every person who has had charge and management or control of the substance. The definition in itself includes the current property owner. In a recent letter the County of Newell received from the Honourable Guy Boutilier, Minister of Environment, he echoed this definition. This is certainly unfair to a current owner who may have had no part in the contamination but yet is held liable for the contamination. Furthermore, current property owners may have purchased these properties at a time when less attention was paid to contamination. In these cases, they would have purchased the properties with no concern for environmental contamination that may or may not have existed on these properties or the consequences that this may create. To burden these owners with the reclamation in many cases creates a financial hardship given the high cost of reclamation. In addition, because past regulations were less stringent, contamination may have occurred even though the person responsible was meeting all regulations. In these cases, it seems unjust to retroactively hold anyone liable for doing something that was in compliance with the regulations. If contamination occurred because of operations that violated regulations, however, the County of Newell certainly believes that the actual polluter should be held responsible for the reclamation. The County of Newell also believes that contaminated sites should be reclaimed but that the responsibility should be on the actual polluter and only if the contamination occurred because of operations that violated regulations. In all other cases, we believe that the Province should take a lead role and be responsible for the reclamation and the associated costs. At no time do we believe that any individual, being a current owner or one of the past owners, should be held responsible for the reclamation if they were not the actual polluter.
The AAMDC has one resolution currently in effect that is similar to the resolution above. Resolution 15-04F, endorsed at the fall 2004 convention, urges the provincial government 1) 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 2) to reinstate an adequately funded grant program to facilitate the remediation of contaminated petroleum tank sites.
The AAMDC worked collaboratively with Alberta Environment on the Contaminated Sites Stakeholder Advisory Committee. The Committee has produced several recommendations for the consideration of the Minister. These are aimed at clarifying both the definition of person responsible and the liability of current and past owners of contaminated land. The current proposal indicates that prior owners will only be responsible for 5 years after the issuance of a reclamation certificate.