Emergence of Alberta’s Renewed Clean Air Strategy (CAS)
Air quality is a critical component of integrated environmental management systems emerging at the provincial, regional and local scales. In 2012, the Province updated and released a renewed CAS accompanied by an Action Plan to implement objectives.
CAS and the Action Plan are aligned with and reflect air quality management guidelines established through the National Air Quality Management System¹ which was developed by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment in 2012. CAS is a provincial policy document that provides a vision and desired outcomes for air quality, along with strategies and actions to achieve them over the short, intermediate, and long term time frames.
CAS addresses emergent issues, and recognizes the on-going need for all those involved in the management system to adapt as air quality issues arise at different scales. CAS and the Action Plan are scheduled for review and update in 2022.
Source: Government of Alberta
CAS provides direction to the Government of Alberta and commits the GOA to including stakeholders including airshed zone organizations such as the Calgary Region Airshed Zone (CRAZ), and municipal governments in implementing the strategy and related actions. The CAS outlines four strategic directions to guide planning to achieve the desired clean air outcomes. These include:
- Regional air management including complementary management of point and non-point source emissions;
- Shared responsibility and partnerships;
- Integrated monitoring, evaluation and reporting; and
- Knowledge enhancement.
The associated CAS Action Plan provides 14 Key Action Areas to support the strategic directions, and lists 105 specific actions for implementing CAS at different scales. Each specific action is intended to be implemented within a short (3-year), medium (5-year), or long term (10-year) timeframe.
When CAS was first released, CRAZ reviewed its own strategic plan and standing committee work plans to ensure that strategic priorities, monitoring, planning and management programs were aligned with CAS and the Action Plan and could be achieved within the identified timeframes. This Toolkit is intended to help municipalities in the CRAZ Airshed also align their local land-use and integrated environmental management plans with CAS.
Emergence of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP)
The Province has taken an ‘integrated resource management system’ approach to managing environmental ‘components,’ such as air quality. Land-use planners working at any scale now understand that how we manage human activities and interactions on the land has significant impacts on other environmental components, such as the air, water and biodiversity.
On private land in the White Area of Alberta, municipalities are largely responsible for regulating and controlling land-use through statutory planning documents and Land Use Bylaws, and therefore they have a role to play in integrated resource management planning at a local scale. Air pollution has many point sources and many non-point sources that arise from human activities and interactions on the land that municipalities may wish to avoid, manage, or reduce. Degraded air quality is a matter of public health, and municipalities are responsible for protecting the health and safety of citizens who live, work and play within their boundaries.
In 2014, the Province enacted the SSRP to provide an overarching vision to guide land-use decision-making in the South Saskatchewan Region (SSR). The SSR watershed includes a significant portion of southern Alberta and includes the cities of Calgary, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. Most of the CRAZ Region is embedded within this vast land-use planning area. The SSRP is the most senior provincial land-use planning document for municipalities in this region.
The SSRP is one of only two regional plans that have been enacted to date under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA) and the Alberta Land-use Framework (LUF). Eventually, a regional land-use plan will be in place for every land-use planning region in the province to reflect regional-scale integrated resource management priorities and provide management frameworks to address identified issues in each region. This approach recognizes that every region in the province is unique and requires different place based plans to achieve identified social, environmental and economic outcomes.
The SSRP Planning Region
Source: South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, 2014-2024
The SSRP reflects regional-scale considerations for implementing provincial integrated environmental management policies: for land (LUF)²; for air quality (CAS); for sustaining water quantity and quality and watershed health (Water For Life: Alberta’s Strategy for Sustainability); and similar emergent strategies to manage biodiversity and cumulative effects.
The SSRP Air Quality Management Framework was adopted by the Province for managing three criteria air contaminants: nitrogen dioxide, ozone and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Numerical “triggers” and “limits” are outlined in the framework and if a trigger or limit is crossed, a collaborative management response is initiated. Triggers and limits are based on the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS). Where CAAQS were not yet established, Alberta Ambient Air Quality Objectives (AAAQOs) were used. These criteria air contaminants are also addressed in CRAZ’ Air Quality Management Plan, 2019 (AQMP) and CRAZ’ monitoring programs.
The CRAZ AQMP is a collaborative action plan for managing air quality in the CRAZ Region. It was initially developed in 2008 by area stakeholders including Alberta Environment and Parks, industry, municipalities, non-governmental organizations, First Nations and Alberta residents.
The vision for the AQMP remains the same as it was in 2008: to “provide the necessary tools, resources and a regional technical framework for inter-municipal cooperation for measuring, assessing and sharing emission information on air contaminants of concern and to promote efforts to decrease measured ambient levels of air contaminants of concern using continuous improvement principles.” The plan was updated in 2019 to reflect outcomes for new air quality contaminants of concern, such as nitrogen dioxide. The AQMP recognizes that municipalities are critical partners in achieving the vision for air quality management in the CRAZ Region.
To support implementation of the AQMP, the Municipal Toolkit (coming 2021) is being developed through collaborative processes to help municipalities in the CRAZ Airshed understand what they might do to align their integrated environmental management plans, their statutory land-use plans and development practices, and other local health and safety bylaws and programs with the AQMP, the SSRP Air Quality Management Framework, the SSRP and the CAS.
South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, 2014-2024
Source: Government of Alberta
¹Government of Alberta, ‘National Air Quality Management System’, online: https://www.alberta.ca/national-air-quality-management-system.aspx (NAQMS).
²Government of Alberta, ‘Land-use Framework’, online: Land-use Framework Final Report (LUF).