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Processes to Provide Information About Government’s Environmental Liabilities

Report of the Auditor General—June 2021

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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