Environmental legislation in Alberta requires operators to clean up (remediate and reclaim) their sites to existing environmental standards—commonly known as the “polluter pay” principle. As a result, government is responsible for cleaning up the sites it owns or operates, and for sites where government has accepted responsibility.

At March 31, 2020, the government recorded $248 million for environmental liabilities based on information available to them at that time.

A review of the underlying processes at the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), Alberta Environment and Parks and Alberta Transportation to provide information about the government’s environmental liabilities found:

  • There was a lack of clarity between Environment and Parks and AER about who is responsible to clean up and pay for certain sites.
  • There was a lack of clarity about funding sources to AER to manage and clean up the sites it is responsible for.
  • The government has not adopted a consistent ranking system for contaminated sites to determine which are a priority to clean up.
  • Environment and Parks and AER do not have effective systems to know what it will cost to manage sites.
  • Transportation lacks sufficient processes to ensure it is complying with environmental legislation at its highway maintenance yards.

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