The Clean Air Strategic
Alliance draws heavily on the expertise of APEGGA professionals.
Everybody benefits from this relationship – including
Editor’s Note: The Clean
Air Strategic Alliance and the APEGGA Environment Committee
provided the following article
Alberta’s natural beauty and its heavy reliance on
resource-based industries make protecting the environment
an important consideration in any development activity. Society
looks to technology and science to help meet the sustainable
development challenge, and professional engineers and geoscientists
are often at the forefront of finding solutions.
To the public, engineers are individuals who build things
or make something work better – bridges, buildings,
pollution control, waste management systems. But over the
last 10 years, many professional engineers and geoscientists
in Alberta have been part of a different kind of construction
Through the Clean Air Strategic Alliance, engineers have
collaborated with a wide variety of stakeholders to build
and implement strategies to improve air quality in our province.
CASA is a multi-stakeholder organization established in 1994
as a result of the Alberta Government’s Clean Air Strategy
The organization has a mandate to implement the Comprehensive
Air Quality Management System for Alberta, and supports three
air quality management goals:
Protect the environment
Optimize economic performance and efficiency
Seek continuous improvement of air quality.
Professional engineers contribute to CASA’s activities
in many areas, among them air quality and emission monitoring,
air pollution control, air emission dispersion modeling,
environmental management systems, data analysis, and industrial
processes and related air emissions.
The strategic nature of CASA’s air emissions policy
work requires a good understanding of complex and interconnected
The Role of Professional Knowledge
“With their problem-solving aptitudes and analytical
training, engineers bring considerable practical knowledge
to CASA projects,” says Ken Tsang, P.Eng., the director
of environment, health and safety with Dow Chemical Canada
Inc. and a former CASA board member. “Engineers are
also familiar with technology options and what they can reasonably
be expected to achieve, which is a fundamental consideration
when dealing with air quality issues.”
Tom Marr-Lang agrees. He has a bachelor of science in electrical
engineering and is policy director with the Pembina Institute,
as well as vice-president of the CASA board.
“The broad skill set of engineers has been extremely
valuable in the CASA forum. Engineers have made substantial
to the design of policy solutions that are technically and
economically feasible, while also responding proactively
to environmental drivers and public interest concerns.”
At first, this can be a challenge for engineers and geoscientists
used to black-and-white, technical solutions, because multi-stakeholder
consensus processes often involve several shades of grey.
Professionals who can communicate their ideas and knowledge
effectively are central players in helping to achieve a common
understanding of the problems and potential solutions.
But at the end of the day, the best technical solution to
a problem may not be the right answer. Public and stakeholder
acceptance, economic factors, and political realities must
also be considered or the solution will not likely be agreed
Engineers and geoscientists involved with CASA come from
a wide range of backgrounds and situations. They may be associated
with a government agency, company, industry association,
environmental organization or community group.
This diversity can present another challenge – the
joint responsibilities of professionals to represent their
employers’ or organizations’ interests as well
as share their professional knowledge to ensure that decisions
are made based on the best possible information and judgment,
regardless of personal or stakeholder positions or interests.
To some extent, this challenge is minimized by CASA’s
consensus decision-making approach and participation ground
Although CASA plays an important role in developing strategies
and solutions to address air quality issues in Alberta, it
does not implement them. Thus, the role of professionals
is particularly significant as the policy development results
are transferred to government regulatory agencies or to industry
players for implementation by staff who are also trained
as engineers or geoscientists.
The benefits of being involved with CASA go both ways. Engineers
and geoscientists provide knowledge, expertise and analytical
skills, and CASA provides a high profile and influential
forum in which professionals can demonstrate their value
in helping to address important societal issues, of which
air quality management and protection is one.
CASA’s Major Successes
In the decade since it was formed, CASA has had many successes,
and professionals have been part of most of them.
In 1999, CASA stakeholders created a framework that reduced
solution gas flaring in Alberta by 62 per cent within three
years of its implementation. This approach has substantially
improved local air quality, improved economic efficiencies
for energy producers, created a new reporting structure for
the regulator, and triggered new research and innovation.
Nearly 95 per cent of solution gas is now being conserved
or used in some other manner. The framework was subsequently
extended to cover facility flaring, well test flaring, and
the venting of solution gas.
In early 2004, the provincial government’s cabinet
approved CASA’s emissions management framework for
the electricity sector. This framework, which is now being
implemented by the government, will lead to substantial reductions
of four important substances. Power plant emissions of mercury,
sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and primary particulate
matter will drop significantly between 2009 and 2025.
The framework provides long-term policy certainty to the
electricity industry in Alberta, enables technology advances
to be incorporated in a timely manner, provides a mechanism
for identifying and dealing with hotspots, and will help
guide the development of national standards for mercury.
David Spink, P.Eng., with Alberta Environment for 25 years,
was the government co-chair of the team that developed the
The electricity project team provided a demanding but very
rewarding experience,” says Mr. Spink. “As an
engineer you are expected to supply a strong technical perspective
on a broad range of pollution control issues. Working this
technical information into an overall emissions management
framework that also has social, economic and legal elements
is very challenging but when you are successful, as the CASA
team was, it is extremely rewarding.”