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Provincial Election 2023: Open Letter on Environmental Policy in Alberta (here)
Eco-Friendly West article on SAGE (here)
Light Nuisance Bylaw for Lethbridge (here)

Municipal Election (Lethbridge) Survey Results 2021 (here)
City of Lethbridge Municipal Development Plan (here)
Radon Risks in your Home (here)

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04 May 2023

Open Letter on Environmental Policy in Alberta

The future of Albertans will be based on a healthy and resilient environment: Water flowing in our rivers must meet instream flows and water quality levels necessary for long-term health of aquatic ecosystems and humans dependent upon them; biodiversity must be preserved to maintain the complex, interdependent ecosystem of which humans are a part; soil must be conserved to sustain food production for animals and humans; and polluting emissions to the atmosphere must be minimized, including greenhouse gases that contribute to the destabilization of climate. It is important to emphasize that these aren’t simply aspirations or luxuries of an affluent society – they are fundamental to the sustainability of human civilization. As such, to relegate a healthy environment as a ‘special interest’ is to foreclose on our collective future.

The following issues represent important policy directions that reflect environmental priorities in Alberta and can be implemented in the immediate future:

1. Expand protection of the Twin River Heritage Rangeland Natural Area as approved in the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan.

2. Reject new, and phase out existing, coal extraction projects (both thermal and metallurgical). Design legislation to protect the headwaters on the Eastern Slopes from industrial development so as to preserve the quality and quantity of water, and to reduce GHG emissions from the export and burning of fossil fuels.

3. Expand efforts in regional and subregional land-use planning in the province to reduce environmental impacts, conserve native grasslands and wetlands and increase protection of biodiversity. Recognize limits to human use and implement measures to ensure those limits are not exceeded.

4. Alberta is the largest contributor to Canada's total NOx emissions, mainly generated by industrial processes, conventional gas and oil production, and transportation. Assessments for air quality indicate that most air zones in Alberta are in the ‘orange’ management level for both hourly and annual nitrogen dioxide according to the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards. Policy is needed to increase air quality monitoring throughout the province and implement measures to meet CAAQ standards.

5. Require fulsome environmental impact assessment and public interest determination of proposed major expansion of irrigation agriculture in the South Saskatchewan River Basin, including comprehensive modelling of surface and groundwater availability under climate change scenarios and assessing cumulative effects on instream flows, native grasslands, species-at-risk, soil quality, greenhouse gas emissions, current and future water allocations, and apportionment obligations of interprovincial and international agreements. We do not want to experience the economic and social disruption caused by long-term drought and over-allocation of rivers in the American southwest.

6. Re-integrate the Fish and Wildlife branch for cohesive research and decision-making in the public interest (which is the health of the natural environment).

These represent an important, though not exhaustive, list of policies that would embody an actionable response to existential environmental challenges in Alberta. Simply, we must do better to protect our air and water resources and restore the land. SAGE will continue to offer its expertise and support to decision-making processes in the province.

For the complete letter, click ... here


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June 16, 2022

Eco-Friendly West published an article featuring SAGE

SAGE: A Leading Voice for a Healthy and Environmentally Sustainable Community.

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To the City of Lethbridge, Community Safety Standing Policy Committee
(Submitted 04 January 2022)

Re: Light Nuisance Bylaw for Lethbridge

The Southern Alberta Group for the Environment (SAGE) supports the initiative being advanced by Rena Woss regarding the development of a Light Nuisance Bylaw for Lethbridge.

Light that trespasses into personal living spaces, including backyards, has negative impacts both to human wellbeing and the environment. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) organization identifies light as a form of pollution affecting people and the environment and as a potential source of energy-waste (with related greenhouse gas emissions). They recommend that external lighting be used only when and where they are required. And if external lighting is necessary that it is shielded from evading to the outside of the property.

The LEED goal is stated: “To minimize light trespass from the building and site, reduce sky-glow to increase night sky access, improve nighttime visibility through glare reduction and reduce development impact from lighting on nocturnal environments.” They identify four maximum levels of illumination depending on location: parks (LZ1); low density urban areas and light commercial and industrial areas (LZ2); higher density residential and commercial areas (LZ3 & 4). Each category sets strict design limits for horizontal and vertical lux. The LEED goal clearly articulates privacy, aesthetic, safety, and environmental reasons to reduce, regulate and better manage external lighting. With respect to the Municipal Development Plan, a future City of Lethbridge Climate Adaptation Plan might establish this type of zoning and design expectations for reducing light pollution in the urban environment.

It is important that the City of Lethbridge adopt a bylaw that not only protects the wellbeing and privacy of individuals from light trespass but preserves biodiversity in the urban and peri-urban areas from the impacts of lighting on nocturnal environments. Plants and animals depend on the daily rhythm of light and dark to govern life-sustaining behaviors such as reproduction, nourishment, sleep and protection from predators. Artificial light disrupts these rhythms, leading to biodiversity loss including many of the insects that we rely on for pollination and other ecosystem services.

Considering the growing awareness of the profound impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the stability of our climate, wasting energy for aesthetic or perceived security goals should be strongly discouraged. Though reduction is the primary goal, properly designed lighting can achieve the lighting goals and reduce wasted light (and energy) by as much as 35% (https://www.darksky.org/light-pollution/energy-waste/). A cursory tour of Lethbridge at night should suggest that this sort of reduction would not be inconsequential.

In summary, SAGE supports the initiative for the development of a light nuisance bylaw that not only protects the wellbeing of individuals but also reduces unnecessary and wasted external lighting through better design and public awareness. It is important to preserve the nocturnal environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Environmental Sustainability for Lethbridge
Submitted to the Lethbridge Herald July 2021

Lethbridge has recently passed a new Municipal Development Plan (MDP) to direct decisions for the community into the future. One of the six main aspirations in the MDP is to be an environmentally responsible city, and this aspiration is well-reflected throughout the plan.

As an environmentally responsible city, Lethbridge would consider the natural environment as a foundation for life, culture and economy. Protecting natural spaces, conserving natural resources, reducing waste (and diverting what we do waste from the landfill), and transitioning from our dependency on fossil fuel energy are fundamental efforts we can make as a community.

We at SAGE would argue that the crucial dimension integrated into the MDP is mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change. Nations are beginning to respond to the urgency of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, requiring global policy agreements and local action. The plan recognizes our current trends to a warmer climate where “the annual number of over-30C days in Lethbridge will nearly double from an average of 17 days per year … to 33 days” by 2050. These changes will affect our economy, how we work, what we grow, and how we recreate. As Naomi Klein has written: “This changes everything.”

The MDP states: “Resiliency is the ability to respond and adapt to changes and challenges. It can be approached individually or through community-wide efforts. Resiliency is about creating a position of readiness where the community is able to react and adapt to external forces and their impacts.”

This notion of resiliency has implications for the design and usability of every aspect of our community, and is articulated throughout the MDP with policies that:

  • Express the necessity for our homes and buildings to run more efficiently, using less energy while improving the level of comfort we enjoy.
  • Prioritize infill development over new development, and detail how walking, cycling, or public transit may be encouraged over personal vehicle use to access grocers and amenities.
  • Plan for the optimization of solar exposure to generate electricity.
  • Outline the continued improvement of managing municipal waste streams to conserve resources.
  • Envision a reduction in the demand for watering yards and parks, adapting to continued declines in river flows.
  • Mark the need to control invasive species while encouraging pollinators to support local food security.

The recent Muncipal Development Plan is as good a document as one could make to position Lethbridge as an environmentally responsible city. There is widespread agreement that the next ten years will determine the quality of our collective future. But a plan is only as good as the decision-makers who apply it. With a municipal election this October 18th, Lethbridge will be choosing a new Mayor and council and it will be imperative that the candidates understand the issues and the seriousness of their decisions that will make Lethbridge a resilient community.

SAGE has been a leading voice for a healthy and environmentally sustainable community since 1984. Please, visit our website at sage-environment.org if you wish to get more involved.

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Radon Risks in your Home

Published in The Lethbridge Herald
29 December 2020

As winter has arrived and we shut in for another COVID-19 lockdown, it is timely to consider the health of your indoor environment. An emerging health concern in our homes is a high level of radon.

You may not have ever heard of radon, but it is an invisible, odourless, tasteless, radioactive gas formed by the disintegration of radium, which is a decay product of uranium found in the soil. Radon can enter a home from the surrounding soil and accumulate over time, particularly in spaces that are not well ventilated.

Radon is considered the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada. The Canadian Lung Association states: “As radon breaks down it forms radioactive particles that can get lodged into your lung tissue as you breathe. The radon particles release energy that can damage the cells in your lungs. When the cells in your lungs are damaged, there is the possibility of developing lung cancer. If you smoke and you live in a home with a high level of radon, you are at an even higher risk for lung cancer.” Radon is a long-term health hazard in your home.

Lethbridge is in a zone with a high potential for radon, though the actual levels can vary widely between areas and even from home to home. The amount of radon accumulating in a home will also depend on how much fresh air moves through. Some older, leakier homes and those with mechanical ventilation systems may have lower radon levels compared to newer, tightly built homes that trap the air better. The thing is, new or old, tight or leaky, you can’t really know until your home is tested.

In the latest version of the National Building Code of Canada, new homes are to be designed for future radon mitigation, if required. Testing for radon levels is also becoming more common in real estate transactions. And that is the good news: through the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP) there are more trained professionals in the region, and radon has never been easier to test for and to mitigate.

A trained technician can conduct a short-term test for a current indication of radon levels in your living space, but it is important to know that a long-term test of three to five months is required for accurate results. These long-term tests involve a small device that is left in your living space for the duration of the test. If your radon levels are above the current health safety guidelines of 200 becquerels you would be wise to plan for mitigation with the advice of a trained professional. The winter season is an optimum time to test for radon because it is the period when windows and doors stay closed – consider a professional test as the ultimate present for your friends and families!

The Southern Alberta Group for the Environment is a leading voice for a healthy and environmentally sustainable community. For more information on radon and C-NRPP trained professionals for radon testing and mitigation, visit our site at sage-environment.org

Government of Canada (https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/health-risks-safety/radiation/radon/take-action-on-radon.html)

C-NRPP Professionals in Lethbridge:

Rocky Mountain Radon Solutions or on facebook

RadonGone Ltd.

For more information: Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP)