Friday, February 3, 2023

Bill 31: UCP government supporting sand & gravel operators in Alberta

The province has introduced new legilsation aimed at supporting sand and gravel operator in Alberta.

The UCP government says it’s providing certainty for job creators by clarifying how minerals and pits are defined in provincial legislation, and how sand operations are regulated in Alberta.

Environment Minister Jason Nixon says this bill will provide clarity and consistency for those in the sand and gravel industry while still maintaining stringent environmental protection regulations. “Job creators should not need interpreters to understand legislation and regulatory laws. That’s why the government is taking action to ensure that sand and gravel operators have clear definitions that are accurate in legislation. Environment and Parks has had an effective and environmentally sound regulatory system in place for more than 15 years to review and approve projects.”

If passed, Bill 31 would amend the definition of minerals and pits in the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) and remove references to silica sand in the Public Lands Act.

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On May 6, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that sand is a mineral under the EPEA. This means that sand operations above 45,000 tonnes each year must be regulated as a quarry instead of a pit. Before this decision, all projects removing sand were regulated as pits.

Legislative changes to two acts are needed to provide clarity and regulatory certainty for operators:

  • By amending the EPEA, we are removing confusion about what constitutes a mineral. This will ensure sand continues to be regulated under its current process, which is simple, straightforward and reflects its well understood environmental impacts.
  • By amending the PLA to remove references to silica sand, we are creating certainty about the interpretation of sand by eliminating unclear and duplicative terminology. Since sand is already defined in provincial legislation, also defining silica sand makes application documents unnecessarily complicated for operators
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