+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 9-19F

Setback Referrals for Development Near Sour Gas Facilities in Crown Land Areas

Date:
November 1, 2019
Expiry Date:
December 1, 2022
Active Status:
Active
Sponsors:
MD of Greenview
District:
4 - Northern
Year:
2019
Convention:
Fall
Category:
Energy
Status:
Intent Not Met
Vote Results:
Carried
Preamble:

WHEREAS section 684(1) of the Municipal Government Act (MGA) states that the development authority must make a decision on the application for a development permit within 40 days after the receipt by the applicant of an acknowledgement of their application being deemed complete; and

WHEREAS section 6 of the Subdivision and Development Regulation AR 43/2002 (the Regulation) requires a subdivision authority to make a decision on an application for subdivision within 21 days of the date of the application being deemed complete if no referrals were made and within 60 days from the date of an application under section 4(1) of the Regulation being deemed complete in accordance with section 653.1 of the MGA; and

WHEREAS section 10(1) of the Regulation requires that the subdivision or development authority provide a copy of the application for a development that results in a permanent dwelling, public facility or unrestricted country residential development, as defined by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), to the AER if any of the land pertaining to the application is located within 1.5 kilometres of a sour gas facility, or a lesser distance agreed to, in writing, by the AER and the subdivision or development authority; and

WHEREAS the AER states that they will provide a response to setback referrals within 30 days of receiving a referral from a subdivision or development authority; and

WHEREAS the AER’s 30-day timeline acts as an approximate deadline and is often not met; and

WHERAS late responses from the AER prevent municipalities from meeting their legislated timelines without requesting extensions from applicants, thereby obstructing an orderly development process;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request that the Government of Alberta review the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) timelines for responding to setback referrals for development near sour gas facilities, particularly in Crown land areas, to ensure they consistently respond to applicants within their own 30-day response commitment.

Member Background:

Municipalities are legislatively required to meet certain deadlines for approving or denying applications for development and subdivisions. Municipalities are also required to send referrals to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) of any development within 1.5 kilometres of sour gas facilities. In order to meet the legislated timelines, municipalities require timely responses on referrals from the AER.

The AER’s approximate 30-day timeline for responses to referrals creates delays in the development process for municipalities and applicants, as the AER consistently provides responses after this deadline. As a result, municipalities are forced to request extensions from the applicants for developments near sour gas facilities in order to meet the legislated requirements.

In order to facilitate orderly development, the AER must review its timelines and ensure that they are providing responses to referrals within 30 days as indicated in the automated response upon their receipt of a referred application. The present delays cause significant frustration to municipalities and the applicants, which in the Crown land areas where these generally apply, is the industrial drivers of our local and provincial economy.

RMA Background:

RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.

Government Response:

Alberta Energy

  • The department refers this resolution to the AER for further explanation.

Background

  • The Rural Municipalities of Alberta reports that late responses from the AER have prevented municipalities from meeting their legislated timelines without requesting extensions from applicants.

Alberta Energy Regulator

  • The AER’s setback requirements ensure public safety, by establishing a minimum distance between and residential and commercial developments that are in close proximity to sour gas facilities and pipelines.
    • These requirements are outlined in Directive 056: Energy Development Applications and Schedules.
  • Under Section 10 of the Municipal Government Act (Subdivision and Development Regulation), local and subdivision authorities (e.g. municipalities, counties, municipal districts) must submit copies of two documents to the AER – a subdivision application and a development application – if a permanent residential or commercial development is within 1.5 kilometers of a sour gas facility.
    • The AER reviews this information and provides setback distances back to these parties; this process is referred to as a setback referral.
  • In November 2013, the AER issued Bulletin 2013-03 to clarify our setback requirements from oil and gas facilities. The bulletin also summarizes our process for responding to setback referrals, requests, and inquiries.
    • The AER works to respond to setback referrals in 30 business days. Typically, the AER meets this timeframe.
    • However, there are circumstances when the AER requires more information. For example, the AER may follow up with a company to gather the most and up to date information on the facility’s sour gas release rate, which is required in order to determine setback distances for pipelines. When this happens, the AER advises applicants of a delay.
  • The AER is not considering changes to these requirements as they are in the interest of public safety.
  • The AER and Alberta Environment and Parks have met with the MD of Greenview on multiple occasions to discuss their concerns regarding the application process and timelines. These matters are still being reviewed.
Development:

The Government of Alberta response refers to the AER Bulletin 2013-03 to clarify setback requirements from sour gas facilities. RMA appreciates AER’s commitment to public safety through the setback requirements, by establishing a minimum distance between and residential and commercial developments that are near sour gas facilities and pipelines. However, the resolution requests that the Government of Alberta and AER review their process in responding to setback requirements to ensure that they are meeting the 30-day timeline. The resolution indicates that late responses from the AER have prevented municipalities from meeting their legislated timelines without requesting extensions from applicants. RMA is pleased to hear that there has been communication between the MD of Greenview and the AER and Alberta Environment and Parks on this issue. However, as the AER does not plan to review their current processes or 30-day guidelines, this resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met.

Provincial Ministries:
Energy
Provincial Boards and Organizations:
AER
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