On March 31, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, Alberta's Minister of Environment and Parks (Minister) modified by Ministerial Orders (Ministerial Orders 15/2020, 16/2020 and 17/2020) many routine environmental reporting requirements under Alberta's key environmental legislation. This step is an acknowledgment of the hardship facing many companies by reducing one aspect of regulatory burden through the temporary suspension of routine reporting obligations contained within provincial environmental approvals, registrations, licenses and dispositions (collectively, approvals).
The following routine environmental reporting requirements are suspended temporarily:
Except in the case of drinking water facilities, all requirements to report information pursuant to provisions in approvals or registrations are suspended.
2. Water Act
Except in the case of drinking water facilities, all requirements to report information pursuant to provisions in licenses or approvals are suspended.
All drinking water facilities must continue to follow all the terms and conditions of their authorizations including reporting as required.
All requirements to submit returns or reports within any public land dispositions are suspended.
The deadline to submit compliance reports and emission reductions plan reports for the 2019 compliance period was extended from March 31, 2020 to June 30, 2020 (sections 36(8) and 36(9)).
The deadline for fuel suppliers, approved contributors and renewable fuel providers to submit reports for the 2019 compliance period is extended from March 31, 2020 to June 30, 2020 (sections 10(1), 11(1) and 12(1).
These suspensions are in force until at least August 14, 2020, unless the Ministerial Orders are terminated earlier by the Minister or the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
Although the above routine environmental reporting requirements have been suspended, approval holders must still record and retain complete information relating to each of the requirements (e.g. requirements to monitor and collect data normally reported within any of the approvals remain enforceable). These records must be made available to Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) or, in respect of energy resource activities, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), upon request.
It is also important to note that the Ministerial Orders do not suspend all reporting requirements. Most notably, approval holders must still comply with:
- reporting and record requirements applicable to drinking water treatment facilities; and
- other environmental reporting requirements, such as the duty to report a release of harmful substances pursuant to section 110 of EPEA.
Notwithstanding the suspension of these reporting obligations, approval holders are encouraged to continue diligently collecting and monitoring environmental compliance in accordance with the terms of the applicable approvals. Although the data collected will not be filed with the AER or AEP in strict accordance with timelines contained within the approval, enforcement provisions generally allow for prosecutions long after the offences were committed. For example, under EPEA, prosecutions may be commenced 2 years after the later of the date the offence was committed or the date on which evidence of the offence first came to the attention of AEP.
To discuss how your operations may be affected by this initiative, or if you have questions about the impact of COVID-19 on your business, please contact your McCarthy Tétrault trusted advisor or one of the authors.
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