New gravel extraction operations on Highway 567 have been placed on hold following a court decision. The court decided our government, Rocky View County (RVC), did not properly follow its own rules in approving additional extraction operations north of Cochrane.
When citizens requested RVC provide copies of environmental studies filed with extraction operations, our government required those individuals to file information requests to obtain such information, which may or may not be granted within 30 or so days – after which the application process would likely have concluded.
Alberta Energy Regulator and Alberta Utilities Commission, both of which handle applications on a provincial basis, freely see to the distribution of all application materials to anyone who has an interest and requests such information. In this case, RVC obfuscated the process and, through its own actions, made information retrieval difficult.
It is unfortunate when a taxpayer must ask the court whether or not a government followed its own rules in approving an industrial operation near where people live – and spend their own money to do it. Many legal firms charge by the minute.
A recent information request of RVC asking for a listing of legal costs for the past 10 years, essentially elicited the following response; RVC could not retrieve any records for legal costs between 2010 and present. This, apparently, included an out-of-court settlement for $14 million near the end of 2017. In business, any CEO or CFO can probably quickly tell you where his or her firm is spending its money.
A separate inquiry relating to this particular judicial review was responded to with a “didn’t know” as it was covered by insurance.
Insurance firms are not in the business for the public good – they assume risk for a fee. In this case, taxpayers are ultimately responsible for paying that fee as RVC attempted to defend questionable decisions.
“Cumulative effects” are generally additive; this includes air-quality pollutants and take away transportation – among others. This is why it is important to consider all aspects of multiple applications. We have a gravel deposit that starts in the City and runs northwest, more or less, out past Water Valley.
In Edmonton, finished gravel is railed in using unit trains from a location about 200 kilometres (km) away, leaving most of the obnoxious externalities (including dust and noise) about 200 km away.
In RVC, prior to this decision, we would have had four extraction operations in close proximity to each other on Highway 567, as well as six operations in or adjoining the northwest part of the City of Calgary – each contributing its own additive externalities.
RVC can do better for its people.