The Alberta Land Stewardship Regulation was enacted on September 1, 2011. It defines the processes under which Albertans can, among other matters, make requests for review or amendments to regional plans implemented under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act and make applications for variances of restrictions, limitations, and requirements of land use under a regional plan.
Any Albertan who is “directly and adversely affected” by a regional plan may request a review. A “direct and adverse affect” is defined as there being the reasonable probability that a person’s health, property, income or quiet enjoyment of property, or some combination of them, is being, or will be, more than minimally harmed by the regional plan.
A party may seek either or both of a review or a variance of the regional plan. Variances are waivers of compliance in respect of any restriction, limitation or requirement regarding a land area or subsisting land use, or both, under a regional plan.
The Stewardship Minister may appoint a panel to hear applications for reviews of regional plans or appoint an advisory panel in relation to applications for variances. These panels may consist of an existing regional plan board or other body if it has suitable expertise and resources, or may consist of individuals from the private sector, government, and existing regional plan boards.
Decision-makers, including the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), have five years from the date a regional plan is finalized and issued by the Government to review their rules and other regulatory instruments and ensure their compliance with the regional plan. Such a time lag in retroactive adjustment of these instruments raises the concern of increased regulatory uncertainty.
It remains unclear as to how conflicts and inconsistencies between regional plans that result in decision-makers being unable to comply with two different plans will be addressed. Parties must also be aware that the Secretariat may issue interpretation bulletins which can be binding and effectively form part of the regional plan. All of these intersecting layers of regulation may result in interpretation difficulties and challenges to regulatory permits, orders, and other approvals.
It is imperative during this time of transition in the regulation of Alberta land use that all parties requiring approvals, permits, or licenses relating to any land use activity be thorough in their consideration of the potential regulatory overlap and increased oversight that results from the Alberta Land Stewardship Act and be cognizant of the review processes available pursuant to the associated Alberta Land Stewardship Regulation.
Due to the political atmosphere in Alberta, a temporary suspension of ALSA may occur in which the legislation will be under legislative review.