On April 28, 2014, the Protecting Alberta’s Environment Act was proclaimed to be in force. As a result, the new Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency, or AEMERA, is now operational.

As previously reported in our Fall 2013 Newsletter (located here), the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (“AEMERA” or the “Agency”) aims to promote the use of scientific methods to report, analyze and evaluate Alberta’s environment.
The Agency will do so by gathering comprehensive data from land, air, water and biodiversity throughout the province.

The Agency is part of the Integrated resource Management System that documents cumulative effects in Alberta. AEMERA will largely comprise one of three pillars identified by the Alberta Government to administer this system: the Comprehensive Environmental Monitoring System (which will integrate with the other two pillars: the Land-Use Framework, and the Enhanced Energy Regulatory Process). AEMERA will employ a system of comprehensive scientific monitoring to assess the cumulative impacts of activities over the long-term, which is anticipated to assist in the sustainable management and development of Alberta’s resources. The data is to be provided in an open and transparent manner to the general public in an effort to inform all stakeholders.

In accordance with the Act, AEMERA: a) will be an independent agency with directors appointed by the Cabinet; b) will be able to collect fees for services requested of it; and c) will collect, review and disclose data to the public. To ensure the accuracy of the data collected by the Agency and to provide for a periodic review of the Agency’s scientific basis and the components of its monitoring, evaluation and reporting activities, the Act also provides for the appointment of the Science Advisory Panel, an eight member panel which, once appointed, will review the scientific integrity of AEMERA’s activities.

The Lower Athabasca Region’s reporting regime is already underway through the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring (“JOSM”), which is anticipated to be fully implemented by 2015. AEMERA’s initial focus will be to assume, on behalf of Alberta, responsibility over the JOSM activities in the short-term, with subsequent expansion to oversee environmental reporting throughout the entire province of Alberta thereafter. Areas requiring greater attention will be identified in conjunction with the Alberta Energy Regulator and regional planning groups under the Alberta Land-Use Framework.

Dr. Lorne Taylor, formerly Alberta’s Minister of Environment between 2001 and 2004, during which time the Water for Life strategy in Alberta was initiated, was appointed Chair of AEMERA’s board of directors. Dr. Greg Taylor, former Dean of Science at the University of Alberta, was appointed Vice-Chair of AEMERA’s board. Both have been appointed for a three-year term.

There are a number of keys in order for the program to be successful, the first being its independence and perceived independence (some environmental groups have raised concerns with the Ministerial appointments of the Chair and Vice-Chair, and with the source of funding 5). We expect that the success of the program will largely be dependent upon the scientific reliability of the data made publicly available by AEMERA, public buy- in and clear sources of sufficient and ongoing funding.


1 As for program funding, note that oil sands companies, through the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, agreed to provide $50 million per year to support ambient monitoring identified in JOSM. In accordance with the Oil Sands Environmental Monitoring Program Regulation, Alta Reg 226/2013, passed under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, RSA 2000, c E-12, the Oil Sands Environmental Monitoring Program has been established, consisting of the JOSM and any successor program. Under this Regulation, “a person shall participate in the Oil Sands Environmental Monitoring Program for a particular fiscal year if the person, as of December 31 of the year prior to the fiscal year, holds a subsisting approval or has an active application”. The Regulation uses the JOSM annual monitoring plan as the basis for the budget and fee assessment and assesses fees annually, calculated using a formula that was developed to spread monitoring costs across the industry.

 

Authors

Neil McCrank QC, P.Eng.
NMcCrank@blg.com
403.232.9749

Matti Lemmens 
MLemmens@blg.com
403.232.9511

Other Author

Michael G. Massicotte

Expertise

Energy
Environmental
Environmental Law