Ponoka County council denied a request from Rocky View County to support them in their advocacy for municipalites to have improved solar farm governance.
Council discussed the request during their regular council meeting on Jan. 10.
In the correspondence, Rocky View County stated that although municipalities have broad authority over land use decisions, siting decisions for renewable energy projects could be appealed to the Alberta Utilities Commission who is not required to consider municipalities concerns or statutory documents.
Rocky View County was attempting to create a coalition of municipalities to advocate to the Government of Alberta to ensure that municipalities’ concerns were considered before approval was granted to any project.
They referenced the lack of provincial support with respect to unpaid oil and gas taxes and abandoned wellsites.
Assistant chief administrative officer Peter Hall recommended that any renewable resource developer be required to provide a bond that could be called upon at the time of remediation.
Deputy Reeve Mark Matejka suggested that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) should be dealing with this.
Reeve Paul McLauchlin concurred that the RMA was lobbying the government in this manner. The premier was also concerned with this governance model.
Hall advised that much of the unpaid oil and gas tax had been received recently.
The county has agreements in place with two of the major companies in arrears with only $100,000 outstanding to all other oil and gas companies.
Council voted unnanimously that issues regarding renewable energy governance and unpaid oil and gas tax are best reviewed and managed by the RMA.
McLauchlin noted that soil conservation was not possible following installation of solar panels.
Matting would need to be placed over the top soil in order to protect it which would make the cost of installation prohibitive.
Concern was expressed about the abandonment of the sites following the useful lifespan of the panels.
It was suggested that soil conservation should be a condition on development permits for renewable energy resources.
The Federal government financial support for installation of solar panels was recently retracted.
Hall reported that serious failure of the supports under Bridge 7477 required that repairs to the bridge be completed in 2023.
The original tendered price of $830,000 (received in 2021) had been updated due to material price increases to a maximum of $915,000.
Council voted unanimously to authorize replacement of the bridge.
Removal of low level crossing
Council voted to temporarily close RR 263 north of Bridge 900 to the pending removal of the low-level crossing.
It was suggested that a turn-around be created for the public to ensure that they were able to exit easily.
Taxation of farmland, oil/gas taxation
McLauchlin assured council that the RMA was involved with the farming community in discussions regarding taxation of farmland, but he could not speak on behalf of the provincial government.
He said the provincial government didn’t consider individual municipalities but made decisions across the board that could negatively impact each municipality in different ways.
The oil and gas industry has been lobbying for a uniform rate for their industry for all municipalities.
Home Care contracts
Coun. Nancy Hartford advised that the Rimbey Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) was still waiting for the Alberta Health Services home care contract award information.
Regionalization of services
Council agreed waiting for the provincial government to make decisions was frustrating. There was still no government consideration to un-regionalize departments that had been regionalized (school boards, hospitals) in order to bring decision-making back to a local level.
Council said administration costs had exploded in regional boards.
The Ponoka Wheelchair Van Society was denied federal funding for a new wheelchair van.
CAYU funding request
Council denied a funding request from Central Alberta Youth Unlimited (CAYU) for suicide intervention certification for 16 of its staff members.
Council instead recommended CAYU apply to Ponoka FCSS.
Ponoka Minor Ball
The Ponoka Minor Ball Association requested assistance to upgrade or create more ball diamonds in the Ponoka area.
Council decided further discussion was needed with representatives of the Ponoka Moose Hall to determine what could be done to bring their ball diamonds up to standard.
Funding for unpaid oil/gas taxes
Council resolved to apply for Provincial Education Requisition Credit program funding and Designated Industrial Requisition credit funding for 2022 in order to allow for cancellation of unpaid oil/gas tax.