Some residents of Foothills County and High River are calling on the province to extend its pause on renewable wind and solar projects to include other types of renewable energy development.
Benita Estes is part of a group of residents concerned about a large-scale biodigester proposed to be built about five kilometres west of High River in Foothills County that would create renewable natural gas to be sold as green energy.
“We request...a hold on this particular project, along with all others, until proper regulations have been created,” Estes said.
Regulations should include consultation with affected communities and a scientific review of all concerns, she said.
The request follows an Aug. 3 announcement from the Province that the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) is pausing approvals of new renewable electricity generation projects over one megawatt until the end of February.
According to the province, the pause on solar and wind project approvals is in part due to concerns from municipalities and landowners about land use and pace of development. The AUC will review the use of agricultural land for wind and solar projects, land reclamation and the role municipal governments play in land selection for project development.
Estes said similar concerns are shared by residents regarding the proposed biodigester.
Their concerns include the overall size of the proposed biodigester, land reclamation and that it would be built on land zoned for agricultural use.
The project application is under review by of Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (AEPA), not the AUC.
AEPA said it is assessing the project's potential environmental impact in relation to air emissions, odour, waste, soil, industrial wastewater, industrial run-off and groundwater.
Additionally, the applicant is required to address statements of concern that were received in relation to the project.
AEPA referred questions about the pause in approvals to the Ministry of Affordability and Utilities that oversees electricity-generating projects.
“We have heard loud and clear from industry, landowners, and rural municipalities about their concerns on the lack of policy to support such a growing industry like renewables,” said a statement from the minister's office.
The statement said work continues to strengthen and streamline the province’s environmental review process for all energy projects but did not say any additional projects would be paused.