Good Riddance: Waste Management Law in Alberta

 

Good Riddance: Waste Management Law in Alberta

A primer on the waste management system in Alberta

The Issue / Idea

Waste management poses a challenge across jurisdictions. What is the regulatory framework around waste management in Alberta?

The Project

Garbage is often considered to be the stuff we no longer need or want. We put it out of sight. We bury it, we burn it, we dump it, we hide it. Garbage is a nuisance and a bother. Unfortunately, the truth is that garbage can be much worse than a nuisance. A general term for garbage, and the term that will be used throughout this report, is “waste”. Waste is defined by what we do with it and how we choose to handle it and the definition can be contentious – as you will read in a later section. If we have no use for certain materials other than to dispose of them, then these materials are often considered to be waste, with the rules for their safe disposal set out in our laws and regulations. Waste can also be defined by type, or where it comes from. For example, separate laws in Alberta deal with biomedical waste or agricultural waste. There is also a differentiation between waste and recycling. This report is designed to provide an overview of the law that applies to waste management in Alberta, including a summary of the governing statutes and regulations.

This report is a primer on the waste management system in Alberta and as such some areas are not dealt with in the repot including sewage treatment; air and water emissions; intensive livestock operations; contaminated sites; and specific municipal waste bylaws.


Good Riddance: Waste Management Law in Alberta, 3rd Edition

Organization

This project was undertaken by

The Environmental Law Centre

Status

Completed in

2020

Supporters

Alberta Law Foundation

Municipal Powers, Land Use Planning, and the Environment: Understanding the Public’s Role

 

Municipal Powers, Land Use Planning, and the Environment: Understanding the Public’s Role

Exploring the nature of citizens’ rights to participate in municipal decisions related to the environment

The Issue / Idea

What is the nature of citizens’ rights to participate in municipal decisions related to the environment?

The Project

Municipalities exercise a broad range of powers that have significant direct and indirect impacts on the environment. Alberta’s cities, towns, and rural municipalities are already key players in waste management, water and wastewater treatment, and land use planning and development. They have the authority to assume a greater role in the regulation and management of natural areas including wetlands, air and water quality, toxic substances, redevelopment of contaminated lands, water conservation, wildlife, and other aspects of the environment within the municipality.

This Guide outlines the legal rights of citizens to participate in decision making on issues related to the environment. The Guide also provides approaches citizens can take in participating in municipal decisions.

It is important to note that there have been some amendments to the Municipal Government Act since this guide was published in 2005. These amendments may have implications for certain aspects of public participation. See the ELC website for further updates on the Municipal Government Act changes.


Municipal Powers, Land Use Planning, and the Environment: Understanding the Public’s Role

Organization

This project was undertaken by

The Environmental Law Centre

Status

Completed in

2005

Supporters

Alberta Law Foundation

Municipal Environmental Purpose

 

Municipal Environmental Purpose

A white paper to catalyze discussion on the new municipal purpose ‘to foster the well-being of the environment’, introduced in Alberta’s revised Municipal Government Act of 2017

The Issue / Idea

How do municipalities consider the revised Municipal Government Act’s (2017) added a new purpose for municipalities: to foster the well-being of the environment?

The Project

The well-being of Alberta’s natural environment is heavily dependent on decisions made at the municipal level. The overhaul of the Municipal Government Act (MGA) recognized this with a new purpose for municipalities: “ to foster the well-being of the environment.” However, there was no accompanying policy direction as had been the case with other revised elements of the Act.

Since that time, several municipalities have begun trying to interpret this new purpose in varied ways, risking the creation of isolated and inconsistent approaches. This paper is intended to be an initial step to better understanding the implications of this significant change in the MGA.

While the literature offers little insight into the concept of “well-being of the environment”, there was clearly an intent behind this phrasing, so it is therefore worthwhile understanding the three critical elements – foster, well-being, and environment – informed by definitions, common usage, and associated legislation.

It is significant that the inclusion of ‘well-being of the environment’ in the Municipal Government Act was codified as a municipal purpose inserted immediately after the “good government” purpose, suggesting it should be interpreted more pervasively than the specific ‘service, facility, safety, and viability’ purposes.

Even with definitional clarity, municipalities are still challenged with understanding how decision-making processes would be affected. The authors suggest a common set of process characteristics be clearly reflected in municipal policy or decision rationale: Due Consideration, ‘Two Roads’ Assessment, Proactive Approach, Measured and Evaluated, and Liability Mitigation. Undertaking this approach would have the benefits of reinforcing current efforts, supporting regulatory alignment, enabling innovation, and increasing clarity and accountability.

Recognizing it would not be possible to comprehensively describe all discrete decision making circumstances, but that greater direction is needed, the authors suggest ‘categories’ based on the wellbeing of the environment powers in the Big City Charters.

Implementation of the well-being of the environment purpose will need to be embedded in municipal governance and regulatory frameworks, including bylaws, plans, policies, strategies, and measurements, with tool choice dependent on the specific environmental application or media.

More work is now needed to clarify the environmental decision-making areas affected (or created) by this new purpose, and to offer pragmatic direction for municipalities with regard to implementation. That work prerequires a broader conversation amongst municipalities to come to some consensus, and high level policy direction from Municipal Affairs.


BRIEF: ‘TO FOSTER THE WELL-BEING OF
THE ENVIRONMENT’:
INTERPRETING ALBERTA
MUNICIPALITIES’ NEW PURPOSE

‘TO FOSTER THE WELL-BEING OF
THE ENVIRONMENT’:
INTERPRETING ALBERTA
MUNICIPALITIES’ NEW PURPOSE

 

Organization

These assessments were undertaken by

The Miistakis Institute

The Environmental Law Centre

Status

Completed in

2019

Supporters

The Miistakis Institute

Municipalities and Brownfields

 

Municipalities and Brownfields

Part 4 of the Municipalities and Environmental Law Series

The Issue / Idea

Municipalities need to better understand what authority they have to regulate brownfields within their boundaries.

The Project

Brownfields are located throughout Alberta and can contaminate the environment, detract from the appeal of communities, and hinder economic and social development. Meanwhile, brownfield redevelopment can provide environmental, economic and social benefits for Albertans. The fourth and final publication in the Environmental Law Centre’s Municipalities and Environmental Law Series explores when and how municipalities can manage and regulate brownfields and their redevelopment.


Report: Municipalities and Brownfields

Organization

This project was undertaken by

The Environmental Law Centre

Status

Development of this publication began with the Municipalities and Environmental Law information series in Fall of 2016, and was completed in

June 2018

Supporters

Max Bell Foundation

Anonymous Foundation

Municipal Management of Industrial Development

 

Municipal Management of Industrial Development

Part 4 of the Municipalities and Environmental Law Series

The Issue / Idea

Municipalities need to better understand what they have to regulate industrial development within their boundaries.

The Project

The interface of municipal planning and industrial development poses a challenge for municipalities. The third publication in the Environmental Law Centre’s Municipalities and Environmental Law Series explores the sources of, and challenges to, municipal authority to regulate industrial development within its boundaries.


Report: Municipal Management of Industrial Development

Organization

This project was undertaken by

The Environmental Law Centre

Status

Development of this publication began with the Municipalities and Environmental Law information series in Fall of 2016, and was completed in

May 2018

Supporters

Max Bell Foundation

Anonymous Foundation

Municipal Management of Water Bodies

 

Municipal Management of Water Bodies

Part 2 of the Municipalities and Environmental Law Series

The Issue / Idea

Municipalities need to better understand what authority they have to regulate the water bodies within their boundaries.

The Project

Alberta’s water bodies are a precious resource, and their regulation and proper management is essential for, among other things, safe drinking water, healthy aquatic ecosystems, and watershed resiliency. This second publication in the Environmental Law Centre’s Municipalities and Environmental Law Series explores when and how municipalities can regulate the water bodies within their boundaries.


Report: Municipal Management of Water Bodies

Organization

This project was undertaken by

The Environmental Law Centre

Status

Development of this publication began with the Municipalities and Environmental Law information series in Fall of 2016, and was completed in

April 2018

Supporters

Max Bell Foundation

Anonymous Foundation

The Scope of Municipal Powers and the Environment

 

The Scope of Municipal Powers and the Environment

Part 1 of the Municipalities and Environmental Law Series

The Issue / Idea

Municipalities may be unclear as to the role they can play in environmental management.

The Project

Municipal decision-making is increasingly vital to effective environmental management. Today’s municipalities play a central role in developing human settlements and green spaces, managing water bodies, and regulating the ways in which these are impacted. In order to do so, municipalities rely on a variety of legislation that empowers them to make decisions and take action in this regard. The following publication is intended to clarify the sources and the scope of municipal authority with respect to the environment.


Report: The Scope of Municipal Powers and the Environment

Organization

This project was undertaken by

The Environmental Law Centre

Status

Development of this publication began with the Municipalities and Environmental Law information series in Fall of 2016, and was completed in

November 2017

Supporters

Max Bell Foundation

Anonymous Foundation

Municipalities and Environmental Assessment: Primer and Model Bylaw

 

Municipalities and Environmental Assessment: Primer and Model EA Bylaw

Alberta’s Municipalities and Environmental Assessment: A Primer and Model Bylaw for Alberta’s Municipalities

The Issue / Idea

Through regulation of private land uses and through local land use planning, municipalities play an essential role in the management and protection of Alberta’s environment. While Environmental assessment is a tool that enables better decision-making considering environmental, social, cultural and economic impacts of proposed land uses, municipalities may need support in developing supporting bylaws.

The Project

To enable municipalities to implement effective environmental assessment (EA) processes, the Environmental Law Centre developed a Model EA Bylaw. The Model EA Bylaw is accompanied by a primer which provides relevant background information.

The Model EA Bylaw provides a template for a municipal EA bylaw along with explanatory annotations. The template includes provisions addressing:

  1. objectives/purposes,
  2. application of the bylaw,
  3. process,
  4. prohibitions, and
  5. definitions.

The companion primer provides background information on:

  1. municipal authority over environmental matters,
  2. municipalities and EA, and
  3. the elements of a municipal EA bylaw.

Municipal Environmental Assessment: A Model Bylaw for Alberta’s Municipalities

Alberta’s Municipalities and Environmental Assessment: A Primer to the Model Bylaw

Organization

This project was undertaken by

The Environmental Law Centre

Status

Development of the primer and model bylaw began in the Fall of 2016 and was completed in

January 2018

Supporters

Max Bell Foundation

Anonymous Foundation

How Municipalities Apply Environmental Reserve in Alberta

 

How Municipalities Apply Environmental Reserve in Alberta: A White Paper

A discussion paper to inform municipal planners on how environmental reserve is applied in Alberta and observations on the implications of the new Conservation Reserve tool to ER

The Issue / Idea

How has environmental reserve been interpreted and applied in Alberta? And, did this change with the new conservation reserve tool enabled under the Municipal Government Act?

The Project

To respond to the issue, the Miistakis Institute distributed a survey to understand the municipal application of environmental reserve. The survey was distributed through APPI, AUMA and AAMDC.

Using the outcomes of the survey as a starting point, a discussion paper was developed to provide context for environmental reserve, what the intent is in the MGA, and comments on how it is interpreted and used by municipalities. The paper concludes with a comparison of the previous MGA and the modernized MGA environmental reserve policies, and observations on how the new conservation reserve tool may affect environmental reserve application by municipalities.


Environmental Reserve in Alberta: Discussion Paper

Conservation Reserve Resources

Conservation Reserves Summary
CR Municipal Survey – Summary

Organization

This project was undertaken by

The Miistakis Institute

Status

This research began in Fall 2016 and was completed in

October 2017

Supporters

Max Bell Foundation

Anonymous Foundation