MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - County council is calling on area MLA and Environment Minister Jason Nixon to bring in provincial legislation regarding reclamation and securities for renewable energy projects on private lands, such as solar farms.
In a letter sent to Nixon following the recent Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) conference, Mountain View County Reeve Angela Aalbers says the legislation is needed to protect area taxpayers from future cleanup costs.
Although the province currently requires renewal energy projects on Crown land to be covered by provincial policy framework, including securities, no such conditions are in place for projects on private lands.
The county brought up its concerns with the lack of private land project regulations for the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) with Nixon and Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage at the recent RMA convention.
“My understanding from your comments at RMA was that private landowners must agree with private industry on the terms and conditions of reclamation within each contract,” said Aalbers.
She cited a number of reasons for the concerns, including that landowners may not have the “knowledge required to negotiate terms and conditions for reclamation and will most likely not be able to hold the necessary securities.
“Leaving reclamation to private landowners and industry will result in a piece meal approach without a consistent standard of reclamation required” and that, “municipalities have been left out of the process entirely as no redesignation is required, and the AUC approval process trumps municipal authority.”
She cited solar projects on private lands as an example of where concerns could arise.
“We are told there is currently no mechanism to properly recycle panels in North America. These panels may contain more than four caustic materials that are extremely harmful to the environment and will require special handling for disposal,” she said.
Reclamation experts have stated that each solar panel may cost as much as $20 per panel to reclaim, she said.
“We are questioning why the Ministry of Alberta Environment and Parks would have reclamation requirements in legislation for aggregate pits on private land, including collection of securities, but not hold the renewable energy companies to the same standards,” she said.
“Mountain View County will always extend our support to work collaboratively with your ministry on the development and review of any legislation so it can be viewed through the municipal lens.”
During the recent regularly scheduled council meeting, councillors accepted the letter to Nixon as information.
MLA Nixon did not immediately respond to an Albertan request for comment.