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Mar. 23rd, 2008


CASAs Ambient Monitoring Strategic Plan

On Wednesday March 19th, the Clean Air Strategic Alliance hosted a one-day workshop where stakeholders of the CASA process were invited to comment on the draft recommendations and general direction of their Strategic Plan for the monitoring of Alberta's Ambient Air Quality (AAQ).  The workshop was hosted by the long standing CASA Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Strategic Planning Team (AKA Strategic Planning Ambient Air Monitoring - SPAAM).  The team has some well respected members from government, industry, ENGO and airsheds, and the workshop reflected that same diversity with participation from the usual suspects.  The Topic Summaries and Draft Recommendation document referenced in this report can be found here.

My intent with this blog is to provide an update for the TWS and to start a conversation regarding our needs and desires for AAQ Monitoring in Alberta.  I will detail the purpose, vision, and goals, then discuss in less detail how these high level concepts will be rolled out and implemented.

Workshop Purpose
To present the proposed Ambient Monitoring Strategic Plan and receive feedback from CASA stakeholders

The Management Plan
To support pollution prevention, continuous improvement and keeping clean areas clean, the following vision, principles and goals have been developed.

The vision of Alberta’s ambient air monitoring system is that it provides the data required to

    a) assess air quality on a short- and long-term basis on a provincial scale; and
    b) respond to specific local and regional air quality and air quality-related issues and concerns.

  1. The data gathered from Alberta’s ambient air quality and deposition monitoring network will be reliable and representative.
  2. Alberta’s ambient air and air-related deposition will be monitored using strategies and technologies that are consistent with best practices and end-use needs and will include the use of remote sensing and computer modeling to support and inform physical monitoring.
  3. The monitoring of Alberta’s ambient air will be responsive to changes in base conditions, such as population, emission sources, and profiles, and to changes in scientific or technical knowledge.
  4. Evolution of, and enhancements to, the ambient monitoring system will be constantly considered as opportunities arise, and will be guided by technological advancements.
  5. The air quality and deposition information generated will be used by many stakeholders, who need to be involved in ensuring the system is effective.
  6. The process of managing the overall system will include multi-stakeholder consultation and collaboration.
  7. Sampling programs will be designed so that uncertainties around results and representativeness can be assessed, which in turn makes it possible to undertake risk assessments using network data.
  8. Funding for the system will be on an emitter-pay basis.

Two goals will guide the ongoing development of Alberta’s ambient air and deposition monitoring system:

Goal 1 – Gather the right data
Collect reliable and representative temporal and spatial data on Alberta’s ambient air quality and related deposition in an efficient and economically sustainable way.

Goal 2 – Disseminate data and information
Use ambient air quality and deposition data to produce information that is relevant and credible. This data and information will be easily accessible to the people of Alberta in a timely manner.

I think that we should be conducting AAQ monitoring with the goal of understanding the range of substances and concentrations of those substances in our ambient air.  There are two outcomes associated with this understanding; the management of those substances for the protection of human health and ecosystem health.  Within this framework, the monitoring of the air should be divided from its management.  As such, I have the following concerns with part B of the Vision - "respond to specific local and regional air quality and air quality-related issues and concerns":
1.   To respond to specific local and regional air quality issues is several steps away from the monitoring of the air.  I think that a response strategy should be developed, but as a separate and distinct plan.
2.   To respond to specific local and regional air quality issues is not strategic, it is reactionary.
3.   What is the point of an airshed, if not to respond to local and regional issues.

Perhaps a Part B Vision would read something like "To ensure that the appropriate substances are monitored at the appropriate location with the best available technology."

The intent of this is to follow up on the assessment piece by indicating that the plan would call for monitoring the right thing, in the right place with the right technology.

Principle 5 is also of concern because the use of the data by stakeholders is beyond the control of a monitoring plan; and there should be a third goal addressing the need for continuous improvement in the collection of data and generation of information.

I like that there are a number of monitoring objectives outlined for the strategic plan:

Monitoring Objectives
What will we monitor?

1. Assess the impact of outdoor air quality on human health for both urban and rural populations.

2. Characterize background air quality in Alberta.

How will we monitor?

3. Assess the impact of air quality and deposition on ecosystem and animal health.

4. Characterize air quality entering or leaving the province (boundary transport).

5. Address gaps in air quality and deposition monitoring for Alberta.

6. Support the monitoring and reporting requirements associated with air quality or deposition management frameworks and other obligations.

7. Verify or calibrate air emission dispersion, transformation and deposition computer models and ground truth remote sensing data.

What will be done with the data?

8. Assess and report on poor air quality events.

9. Determine air quality relative to ambient air quality objectives, guidelines, standards or criteria.

10. Enable determination of the relative significance of anthropogenic and biogenic emission sources or types on air quality or deposition.

11. Support long-term trend analysis and state of the environment reporting to the public, as well as other forms of education and outreach on air quality management.

My issue with the monitoring objectives is that they are not explicitly linked to the following sub-programs defined for the strategic plan:
1.    Population-based Monitoring Sub-program
2.    Ecosystem-based Monitoring Sub-program
3.    PM2.5 and Ozone Monitoring Sub-program
4.    Boundary Transport Monitoring Sub-program
5.    Background Monitoring Sub-program
6.    Provincial Spatial Scale Monitoring Sub-program
7.    Industry Compliance Monitoring Sub-program
Each program’s intent is described, but I think that some effort should be put into defining objectives for each sub-program.  The point of these objectives is to provide guidance for the unique needs of each sub-program in their implementation and assessment.  The objectives should define when monitoring requirements change, and how to address these changes.  Also, the objectives provide the starting point for performance measures.

Performance measures are completely absent from the monitoring program.  Experience at CASA has shown us that performance measures are key to the successful implementation of any program in that they provide the metrics with which to gauge and measure success.  Performance measures will address the need to gauge continuous improvement component of the monitoring plan.

Funding is the big elephant in the room.  As the 1995 Ambient Monitoring Strategic Plan has taught us, the most well thought out ambitious plans will fall apart is sufficient funding is not found to implement the plan.  The current thinking on funding lays out a number of high-level principles:
1.    Costs will be apportioned to emitters relative to their emissions in proportion to the costs associated with the air quality and deposition monitoring.
2.    Costs will be apportioned to emitters in a fair and equitable manner;
3.    For emitters who are not currently paying their share of the monitoring costs, the provincial government will take responsibility for obtaining the share of funding apportioned to diffuse anthropogenic emissions. Until a mechanism is in place for obtaining the funding share from diffuse emitters, the provincial government will cover the costs directly;
4.    The provincial government will develop a mechanism to identify small industrial emitters and ensure that those pay into the system in proportion to the emissions they generate. Until a mechanism is in place for obtaining the funding share from small but significant industrial emitters, the provincial government will cover the costs directly.
5.    Data and information from this monitoring system will be publicly available. However, data users whose specific needs require additional system resources will pay the costs associated with meeting those needs;
6.    Provisions will be included to ensure long-term funding;
7.    Those who reduce their emissions should be recognized; and
8.    There will be flexibility for airsheds to meet their own unique needs and acknowledge previously negotiated funding agreements.

These principles are great, but it was unclear the level of buy-in from industry, and it was also unclear the role of AENV in securing the necessary funding based on these principles.  I think that, if applied as stated, the above principles will form the basis for an equitable funding formula.  But, due to the cost and contentious nature of funding this system, AENV should be committed to the gathering of these funds from industry and in developing a mechanism to levy funds from non-point sources in the absence of consensus.

Data Management Commentary
Question:  Has the TWS developed a position on the Environment Canada Health Based AQI?

I think that the data management system is sound in that they gather data from a number of sources (point source emissions, non-point source emissions as well as the obvious ambient air quality) and have these data available on a website for download.  It was unclear to me how these data will be used to generate information, and who will do this work.  My feeling is that information cannot be generated by consensus.  It should be up to the GOA and Health Regions to interpret this data and provide summary reports on air quality and potential human and ecosystem health impacts.

Thats it.  Please comment.

Feb. 24th, 2008



It was with some reluctance that I drove away from the farm.  It was late in the day and good that I was leaving so that I could drive part of the way home in the daylight, but I still felt some pull back, some reluctance to be on the road.

The day, Saturday, started early with a 6 AM alarm, a light breakfast with some espresso and a short drive to Forest Heights Park where I was able to capture the moon setting behind the downtown skyline.

I was there for 30 minutes or so getting pic after pic as I watched the moon float and fall over the skyline.  It was cold and satisfying to listen to Riverdale wake up from my vantage, the moon slowly sinking to the other side of the world.

I got into my rental car, and drove to Rocky accompanied by the CBC and one of my favorite Saturday morning shows, The House.  HWY 2 to HWY 19 to Devon.  South on 60 to 39 and then west to 22, the Cowboy Trail, southbound to Rocky Mountain House.  HWY 22 is one of my favorite drives of all time.  Skirting the front ranges of the Rocky Mountains, the highway affords spectacular views of the mountains while driving a two lane, undivided rolling road.  Exhilarating.  After a coffee break at the local Tim's, I head over the her house.

She is considered by many to be the mother of environmentalism in Alberta.  She is tremendously influential of business, governmental and individuals; a mentor to many and a mentor me.  I first met her when I was working for a local ENGO doing policy work.  She was relentless in her arguments for change, for how policy should be developed, and for me to get things done more quickly.  Over time she impressed upon me the work ethic that I carry today, and the strategic analysis of positions from both a policy and political perspective.

One of my earliest memories was of her talking at an ENGO meeting, explaining the wide range of tools available to the ENGO community to effect change.  On the one hand, there are the direct action tools; the tools that Greenpeace use to bring the attention of the media to a specific place and problem.  On the other hand, there are policy development tools that required collaboration with government and industry.  Both sets of tools are on either end of a continuum that encompass all of the options available to individuals and organizations.   She went on to explain that the policy agenda is aided by direction, and that both are required to move an issue forward towards resolution.  That all of the tools on this Eco-Continuum are needed.  She was much profound than these words, and it made an immediate impression upon me, and directed where I subsequently  focussed my energy

ASIDE:  When I was in grade 6 we toured the Lakeview Power Plant to learn about electricity generation.  The plant, I was to learn later, used coal to generate electricity, and that was bad.  The fact that it was bad was pointed out by the Greenpeace banner being unfurled across the 4 stacks as my grade 6 class left the plant.  Lakeview was demolished a few years ago:

Some time ago she was diagnosed with Multiple Systems Atrophy (MSA), a rare disease that affects the "...autonomic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary function."  MSA has no cure and is always fatal.

Although she was in good spirits, it was clear that she was not doing very well.  We talked the day away, with our conversation ranging far and wide, and during the pauses I stoked the fire or cooked some rice.  It was a great day with the conversation, the changing light as the sun moved through the sky, and the warm fire to my right.  Eventually it got late and I said, reluctantly, that I had to go.  My parting words were that I would see her again.

I drove slowly down the lane and over the bridge where suite_mck got stuck last Christmas.  I headed through Rocky for some gas, and then home.  Only I was too restless and unsettled to settle into home, so while passing HWY 770 I decided to head up to Keephills to get one last photo for the day.

Given the conversation the photo seemed, somehow, appropriate.

Feb. 7th, 2008


Ready or not...

I don't know what it is.  We are simply not ready.  We are, in fact, in denial. 

My wife, Anura, and I are going to have a child at the end of May, and we simply cannot seem to get to buying the stuff we need to buy to make this whole baby thing happen.  We do go through our daily lives as if she were pregnant - we can hardly get away from that!  Back rubs, cravings, 3 AM pee breaks, and lovely visits to the obstetricians where we get to measure the exact size of Anura's belly and listen to Tadpole's heartbeat.  Very cool.  We even have pictures of the little 'Pole.  It is all good.

What is not 'good' is the entire way that our lives are going to change when he or she comes along.  As it is, I am a bear when I don't get enough sleep, and CANNOT imagine how feedings every 2 hours will impact my life.  And, even worse, it will not be all about me anymore!  That is the hard thing to get our head around.  We talk about it all the time, how we are going to raise this kid, what we are going to do, what we are not going to do, how much better we are going to be than our folks, our siblings, ourselves.  But we have no way of knowing....anything....

My list of baby stuff:  Diapers supplied by g-diapers

Thats it. 


All that we have decided on. 

Oh yeah, when we moved in to our current abode we painted the hypothetical baby's room yellow.  A nice yellow.  Currently, the baby's room is occupied by Anura's office.

Feb. 6th, 2008



This flow chart from here provides an overview of the consensus process commonly used in face to face negotiations.

Feb. 1st, 2008


Plastic Bags

There has been an ongoing discussion regarding the use and environmental/social impact of plastic bags.  While at the gym the other day, I had the chance to watch the documentary called the Battle of the Bag.  Very cool and a good way to spend an hour on the bike.

Jan. 30th, 2008



I make my living by helping people talk to one another.  My main function is to sit in a room at a table with a bunch folks who represent divergent interests and help them talk to one another about a specific policy issue.  My goal is to help these divergent issues achieve consensus on how specific policy issues should be addressed.

On the good days I feel that I am helping people make a real difference in addressing their concerns and achieving their policy goals.  And because I work on Environmental Policy Issues, I feel like one of the good guys working to improve our world (Tikkun Olam - to heal the earth) by making it harder for those who pollute to pollute.

On the bad days I come home with a headache and feel like a 10 cent whore.  I feel like I have helped give away the farm and I really wonder why I am still doing this work.  Today was one of those days, and I long for a change of pace and the start of the semester so I can begin my Masters Degree.  I start in school in September 2008.

Jan. 29th, 2008



My wife and I were hosting the young son, Zack, of an old friend of my wife's family.  One night over sushi we were discussing American politics, and the relative merits of the Democratic candidates Clinton and Obama.  We were having what  I imagine to be a pretty typical conversation about the politics of race and gender in the US.  The thought that Mr. Clinton, as the 'first male lady' to the President Mrs. Clinton, would have access to more interns acted as a segway to the morality of presidents.  Zack argued that Mr. Clinton was a less moral President than Mr. Bush JR based on the morality of sex.  Mr. Clinton having had sex with Lewinsky (not because he lied about it!) made him an immoral and unfit President.

I asked in Clinton was less moral and therefore less fit to govern than Bush.  I was dumbfounded as Zack declared that Bush is more moral and more fit to lead than Clinton.

At this point I have to admit a bias.  I am predicated to the Democrats based on a number of factors that seem to align more nicely with my core values such as environment and religion.  Zach also feels an alignment based on core values, but with Republicans.  The main difference in our approach to thinking about the morality of presidents is based on the difference in core values and the resulting bias towards a certain political party.  I grew up with an RC mother and Anglican father where religion was not discussed and we certainly did not attend church.  I place myself on the atheist - agnostic end of the religious continuum, where Zach is on the Orthodox end.

I find it interesting that our attitudes about morality fell out so neatly.  I feel that Bush is a less moral President, to Zack's Clinton.  While I feel that it is obvious and clear that Clinton had sex with Lewinsky.  To my mind, it is less obvious that he is immoral because of it.  And, if possible, I feel that it is more immoral to lie to a population to achieve an end as Bush did in linking 9/11 to Iraq and Iraq to WMD.  Do folks who are more religious feel that extramarital sex is more damming than massive lies?  How does you compare 'fitness to lead' based on acts of immorality?  Do we expect politicians to lie, but not to sleep with interns?

Jan. 23rd, 2008


Whats the BUZZ on that?

We were talking about the possibility of creating YouTube series on the urban planning and/or environmental issues of Edmonton, Alberta.  suite_mck suggested that we should focus not only on the content but on the goal of creating more politically active citizens.  And, the practice at using new media to get a message out there would be good as well.  But, I am not certain that we can separate the content from the motivation.  I think that folks get politically motivated when they feel an injustice is being done, or when they are being impacted in some way that is not to their liking.

Unfortunately, the vision that we often talk about for cities will really challenge folks.  If you were a suburbanite driving your SUV to work every morning while you listen to Magic Carpet Ride as your daily act of rebellion, the notion of a vehicle limited city, of a city that supports diversity of choice, may cause you to crap your pants.  To avoid that end, I think that the content could be helpful in introducing some (computer literate) people to alternatives to the status quo urban planning.

Whats the BUZZ on that? would provide a critique of good and poor urban planning choices within Edmonton, and offer extensions to the good choices, and alternatives to the bad choices.  WTBOT? could also link to other sources such as 3-D models of Edmonton neighbourhoods that have been 'improved'.  Over time, a series of videos and 3-D models (also in YouTube) would offer a comprehensive alternative to our current city.

This is all talk at this point...

Jan. 21st, 2008


Poll for President

Too bad, I always liked Fred Thompson.  He was always such an 'aw shucks' good old boy on Law and Order.

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is really what I am interested in....urban theory and planning is really what I am interested in....better environmental outcomes for cities is really what I am interested in....participatory democracy is really what I am interested in....citizens controlling the planning process in the neighbourhood, town, city, country is really what I am interested in.

Web 2.0 is really what I am interested in.

I am really excited about the prospect of doing Masters work looking at the way information is shared and perhaps creating a was to share urban information in such a way as to help folks control the development of their neighbourhoods, towns and cities.

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