Landfill incinerator licence upheld by provincial appeals board

·3 min read

After a lengthy review, the Alberta Environmental Appeals Board has upheld the licence for the Crowsnest/Pincher Creek Landfill Association that would permit the construction and operation of an incinerator.

The hearing began June 2, 2020, and was originally scheduled for six weeks. Initially intended to be held virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions, the process switched to a written hearing since not all participants had access to a computer. All communications, including questions and answers and document review, were completed through the traditional mail system.

The appeals board found the licensing approval of the incinerator satisfied provincial regulations. One point the board raised, however, was that the landfill did not have an effective communications plan in place to address local residents’ concerns.

As such, Environment Minister Jason Nixon signed a ministerial order March 18 requiring the CNPC landfill to complete a communications plan before an incinerator becomes operational. The plan must include details of the landfill’s emergency plan and procedures, along with updated contact information on its website.

The board also recommended that a system for tracking public complaints be implemented and a newsletter be mailed to nearby residents for five years after the incinerator begins operations.

The recommendations will be in force only once the landfill builds the incinerator; for now, the licence simply keeps the option on the table for the landfill.

Building the incinerator, says Dean Ward, chairman of the landfill’s board of directors, would require municipal partners experiencing a change of heart, since no one currently on the board has any desire to begin the project.

“Five to six years ago there was a big push for the incinerator, as the landfill wanted to have options,” he says. “We only need the communications plan if it goes through, and there’s a lot of ‘ifs’ on there. Do I really think it’s going to happen? No.”

A specific obstacle Mr. Ward points to is that the estimated 250 to 300 tons of waste that would be burned doesn’t justify the incinerator’s price tag of $4 million to $5 million. Significant funding and effort, he says, would be needed to convince future board members the project would be worthwhile.

Even the slightest possibility the incinerator could be constructed, however, is too big a risk in the eyes of Diana Calder, who was one of the leading civilian opponents to the landfill. Though disappointed the board upheld the landfill’s licence to build and operate an incinerator, Ms. Calder says the effort was worth the opportunity to have her voice heard.

“I’m glad I saw it through and didn’t just drop everything,” she says. “There were several times during the process where people said to me just drop it, just let it go. And I said, I can’t do that. I’m going to see it through to the end.”

Participating in a written provincial hearing over mail had its challenges, especially in the time needed to participate. At one point, Ms. Calder says, she received six large boxes filled with so many documents she couldn’t lift one by herself and needed two days to organize all the papers.

“I never really knew what I was getting myself into, but I just kept plugging away at it,” she says.

Enduring through the appeal process was the only way Ms. Calder felt she could stick up for herself and her neighbours.

“I live within reach of said landfill, and it just made me really angry about the process and how the province was taking it for granted that they were going to do this and it didn’t matter whether anybody cared or not,” she says. “That bothered me; that made me angry. I just don’t think that was right.”

A full explanation of the board’s decision will be posted online at in the near future.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze