The Remediation Regulation was introduced by the Government of Alberta on January 1, 2019. This regulation sets out requirements for reporting information and remedial measures associated with substance releases. The regulation also describes the AER’s voluntary remediation certificate program.
Where a company is not meeting regulatory requirements, the AER can provide direction to prevent harm through use of compliance and enforcement tools.
When a person (which includes energy companies) is responsible for a substance release into the environment that may have an adverse effect, they are responsible to assess the effects of the release and to clean it up.
Under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) the term “adverse effect” is defined as impairment of or damage to the environment, human health or safety, or property.
As per section 112 of EPEA, persons responsible for a released substance must repair, remedy, and confine the effects of the released substance and prevent adverse effects. The ultimate goal of any clean up measure is to restore the environment to a satisfactory condition as per the Alberta tier 1 and 2 soil and groundwater remediation guidelines. Timely remedial measures stop situations from deteriorating, preventing increases in risk and liability.
The steps taken as part of the assessment and clean up of a released substance are collectively called remedial measures. As per the Government of Alberta’s Contaminated Sites Policy Framework, remedial measures include source control, environmental site assessments, risk assessment, and contamination management, including remediation. Under EPEA, persons responsible are required to take remedial measures as soon as they become aware of the substance release.
A substance release that requires remedial measures can arise in various ways. These include
- A loss of containment, such as a tank leak or failure
- A cumulative release that developed over a period of time, such as slow leaks
- A previous accepted and compliant practice that now requires remedial measures, such as the use of a drilling waste sump or a flare pit
Assessment for adverse effect is an ongoing process of diligence that can and should occur throughout the life cycle. There are various ways that a company can become aware of a substance release, including the following:
- Physically observing a substance release, such as oil on the ground
- A laboratory test that shows an Alberta Tier 1 Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guideline exceedance, such as benzene concentrations in soil that may cause adverse effect
- A guideline change, such as a new or more stringent Alberta Tier 1 Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guideline value, causes a need to re-evaluate existing information for evidence of potential adverse effect (does not apply to sites that have received a remediation certificate)
Where tier 1 guideline concentrations in soil or groundwater are exceeded, there is potential for adverse effects. This potential exists until a company either completes remediation or proves there are no adverse effects by carrying out additional assessment of risk using the tier 2 guidelines.
Remedial measures include assessment of risk and contamination management. As such, a plan to further assess and, if necessary, manage the risk posed by tier 1 guideline exceedances would form part of a remedial action plan (RAP), as required under the Remediation Regulation.
In addition to taking immediate remedial measures under the Remediation Regulation, companies must also report the release as soon as they discover it as per the release reporting requirements.
In order to comply with the Remediation Regulation, a company must complete remediation or assess the substance release and confirm that it is not causing an adverse effect by using the tier 1 or tier 2 process to assess risk.
This requires a remediation report or an environmental site assessment detailing the current state of a site (as required by the Alberta Environmental Site Assessment Standard), accompanied by a properly completed Record of Site Condition (RoSC), to be submitted to the AER via OneStop.
When it becomes clear to the company that the site cannot be remediated within a two-year period from becoming aware of the release, the Remediation Regulation requires a remedial action plan to be immediately submitted to the AER. This plan will identify how the company will manage risk and when they expect remedial measures will no longer be required. Depending on the nature of a substance release, more plans may be developed over time. Remedial action plans can be revised and submitted to the AER at any time.
The Remediation Regulation does not give timelines for completion of remediation. Provided risk is adequately managed, it may be reasonable to remediate some substance releases as part of the efficient coordination and execution of other end-of-life activities (such as decommissioning, abandonment, and reclamation).
Duties under the Remediation Regulation apply until it is proven that remedial measures are no longer necessary.
AER Expectations for Remedial Action Plan Content
The effort required to assess and manage a substance release may vary with the complexity and risk of the situation. Remedial action plans for lower risk, straightforward situations should be similarly straightforward and simple to complete and submit to the AER. A remedial action plan contains the following information:
- What substances are present?
- Where are the substances located?
- A conceptual site model (as per the Environmental Site Assessment Standard)
- How will the substance releases be managed?
- Further environmental site assessment – delineation, conceptual site model development, assessment of risk, etc.
- Exposure control
- When? Timelines for actions and milestones to assess progress.
- Next steps
- Anticipated date for completion of remediation (which may coincide with the anticipated end of life of the facility)
As per the Environmental Site Assessment Standard, an AER Record of Site Condition must be included with all contamination management report submissions.
The component pieces of a remedial action plan are contained within the AER Record of Site Condition form. This level of information should qualify as a sufficient remedial action plan in many cases, though we may request additional information at any time. The form can include multiple substance releases that are being managed as part of one contaminated site.
Companies can submit contamination management reports and AER Record of Site Condition to the AER via OneStop, under the submissions selection. Note that professional reports that require a Record of Site Condition will not be accepted unless they are submitted through OneStop (the only exception are those Record of Site Condition submissions that are associated with an EPEA approval for mining operations – the PDF RoSC is in the AER forms library).
Further Remedial Action Plan or Status Update Submissions
In accordance with section 2.1 of the Remediation Regulation, at the time of discovery, companies must report to the AER and affected persons any new information about the impact of a released substance.
Additional contamination management reports summarizing the current known status of the site, and an AER Record of Site Condition, are to be submitted to the AER via OneStop when
- remedial measures are taken in the two-year period following the person responsible becoming aware of the substance release,
- actions described in the previous remedial action plan are completed,
- new information arises,
- a file is selected for a compliance audit, or
- we request it.
Applicability of the Remediation Regulation
The requirements of the Remediation Regulation apply for all substance releases where the person responsible became aware of the release after the Remediation Regulation came into effect on January 1, 2019.
- If a release was reported before January 1, 2019 (it has an AER incident or file number), the Remediation Regulation does not require a remedial action plan to be submitted, unless required by the AER.
- Responsible persons may have become aware of a substance release before January 1, 2019, and determined that the release did not trigger release reporting requirements. If the person responsible has subsequently determined that the release has caused, is causing or may cause an adverse effect (for example, tier 1 or 2 guideline concentrations in soil and groundwater are exceeded), the Remediation Regulation requires remedial action plans to be submitted for these previously unreported, pre-2019 substance releases.
If the previously unreported release has already been properly assessed and fully remediated before January 1, 2019, companies may defer submitting contamination management information until they submit a closure application (e.g., reclamation certificate application).
However, companies may be requested to submit professional reports and a Record of Site Condition if a site is selected for audit. And if new information arises (e.g., the state of the release site changes), companies must submit an appropriate report and a RoSC immediately.
Regardless of the timeline for information and remedial action plan submissions, parties must ensure public and environmental safety at all times.
Why industry needs to provide information on remedial measures:
- To ensure risk is adequately characterized and managed such that public and environmental safety are ensured.
- Provide transparency and assurance to Albertans that companies are meeting their obligations to take remedial measures under EPEA.
- To enable the efficient delivery of risk-informed regulatory oversight using IDA.
- To support alignment and efficiency of contamination management with closure and liability reduction programs.
Further information is available in Manual 021: Contamination Management, on the Record of Site Condition webpage, and in the OneStop Quick Reference Guides under the heading “Contamination Management.”