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
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 funding1). 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.
Ontario's Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change continues to roll out its Climate Change Action Plan with its proposed GHG guide for projects that are subject to the province's Environmental Assessment Act.
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