+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 5-23F

Municipal Involvement in Quasi-Judicial Agencies

November 8, 2023
Expiry Date:
December 1, 2026
Active Status:
Leduc County
3 - Pembina River
Planning and Development
Sent to Government
Vote Results:

WHEREAS the Government of Alberta (GOA) has established a number of arms-length, quasi-judicial agencies, such as the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) and the Natural Resources Conservation Board; and

WHEREAS these quasi-judicial agencies act on behalf of the GOA and make decisions that impact the lives, property and environment of communities throughout Alberta; and

WHEREAS municipalities are not provided the opportunity to meaningfully engage in quasi-judicial agency-led project approval processes, with current engagement opportunities being limited to public hearings; and

WHEREAS quasi-judicial agencies do not respect or balance local considerations when reviewing project approval applications, including municipal land use bylaws, municipal development plans and zoning requirements; and

WHEREAS quasi-judicial boards give more weight to the applicant than the local municipality that is supposed to govern the land use in that area; and

WHEREAS residents do not understand quasi-judicial agency approval processes and often mistakenly go back to the local municipality for project-related information; and

WHEREAS little consideration is given to the accountability of these quasi-judicial agency-approved developments when they reach end of life or go bankrupt; and

WHEREAS recent interim information requirements added to AUC Rule 007, addressing agricultural land, viewscapes, and reclamation in renewable energy project applications are a first step towards better aligning project approvals with rural municipal priorities;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta work with the Government of Alberta to ensure coordination and/or consideration between municipal land-use planning processes and bylaws and quasi-judicial agency approval processes, establish more meaningful engagement between local municipalities and quasi-judicial boards and agencies, and ensure legislative mechanisms and processes are put into place to hold agencies and the proponents accountable for reclamation of a site from the onset of a project. 

Member Background:

The addition of renewable energy developments is a relatively new issue for quasi-judicial boards that make decisions on these development applications. The boards and commissions are constantly striving to learn and improve their decision-making processes and decisions. We appreciate and commend the government, agencies and boards for their openness to hear input from local governments to improve these processes for the betterment of all Albertans that we collectively serve.

Leduc County has had limited positive engagement opportunities with quasi-judicial boards and agencies. In 2022, an applicant applied for a solar panel energy project in the County and approval processes went through the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC). The land selected for the solar energy project was located on prime agricultural land. Leduc County recommended the proponent find land more suitable for a solar energy project, which would save the prime agricultural land for agricultural activities. This feedback was not given proper consideration and the project went ahead as originally intended.

Leduc County’s land use bylaw, municipal development plan and other relevant land-use planning documents were ignored throughout the process. Further, many upset residents contacted Leduc County due to dissatisfaction with the project and the land chosen for it. Administration had to repeatedly explain that, while the project was within municipal boundaries, the municipality was not the overriding authority.

Local municipal land use planning processes and bylaws need to be respected and considered. At a minimum, the local municipality needs to be included at the outset of the application process by being notified and given standing in the hearing.

Having one municipal member on the hearing board would balance provincial and municipal interests in the decision making for these developments. If a municipality is not on the hearing panel, then the municipality should be consulted first before residents are consulted. At this point, municipal land use – including the land use bylaw, municipal development plan – should be considered to make sure there is compatible land uses and that the development fits within the local plans.

Consideration also needs to be given when projects fail. Currently, municipalities are accountable for these sites when they fail, which is unfair given that municipalities are not involved in these projects from the onset. If a quasi-judicial agency such as the AUC or Alberta Energy Regulator approves a development, then that agency or company should be responsible and held accountable for the cleanup when a project fails.

Some possible solutions that would ensure meaningful coordination and consideration of municipal land use plans, municipal input and ensure accountability for reclamation may include but are not limited to:

  • Having a municipal member on a hearing board to balance provincial and municipal interests in decision making for these developments.
  • Using municipal land-use plans and bylaws as the base for decision making on developments.
  • Contacting the municipality at the start of the application and case management process to see if the site is conducive to that type of development or if another site would be more suitable.
  • Including the municipality at the outset of the application process by being notified and given standing in the hearing.
  • Mandating that agencies must obtain input from a municipality before making a decision.
RMA Background:

9-22F: Renewable Energy Project Reclamation Requirements

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request that the Government of Alberta implement a mandated collection of adequate securities for future reclamation of renewable energy projects on private lands, either by requiring renewable energy project proponents to post a reclamation surety bond as a condition of any renewable energy project approvals or by other means;

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the amount of the required securities be calculated based on data-driven projections of actual reclamation costs to protect municipalities and residents of Alberta from incurring costs associated with the decommissioning of all renewable energy projects.

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21-22F: Loss of Agricultural Land to Renewable Energy Projects

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request the Government of Alberta to work collaboratively on policy that will find a balance between the development of renewable energy and protection of valuable agriculture lands.

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6-22S: Responsiveness of Service Delivery by Quasi-independent Agencies in Alberta

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request that the Government of Alberta review the continued use of unelected, quasi-independent agencies for the administration and delivery of essential public services, with the results of the review published for public examination.

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7-20F: Amendments to Municipal Government Act Section 619

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta urge the Government of Alberta to amend Section 619 of the Municipal Government Act to clearly state that the Natural Resources Conservation Board, the Energy Resources Conservation Board, the Alberta Energy Regulator, the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board or the Alberta Utilities Commission must consider municipal statutory land use planning related to the protection of productive agricultural lands when making decisions on licenses, permits, approvals and other authorizations under their jurisdiction.

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Provincial Ministries:
Agriculture and Forestry,
Municipal Affairs
Provincial Boards and Organizations:
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