Upstream Oil and Gas Reclamation and Remediation Program FAQs


Upstream Oil and Gas Reclamation and Remediation Program FAQs


Upstream Oil and Gas Reclamation & Remediation Program

Upstream Oil and Gas Reclamation and Remediation Program

Question: Why is reclamation important?
Answer: It is important to reclaim land back to a productive state so that the land can be used as it was before development (or in a similar capacity).

Question: Why does industry need a reclamation certificate?
Answer: Getting a reclamation certificate shows that all the reclamation requirements have been met. A reclamation certificate is required for closure and allows the operator to end its surface lease.

Question: How long does it take to get a reclamation certificate?
Answer: The reclamation process itself can take considerable time depending on the land type (e.g., forest, native grassland, peatland, or farm land). Revegetation to a natural ecosystem can be difficult. The length of time also varies depending on the amount of soil disturbance.

Question: What is the process for applying for a reclamation certificate?
Answer: Once an energy project has been properly closed and abandoned, reclamation and remediation of the site can begin.

When reclamation and remediation are complete, the operator enters all reclamation certificate application submission requirements into the AER’s online tool. But, 30 days before it can submit their application to the AER for review, the operator must provide a paper copy of the entire application to the landowner and occupant.

30 days after the operator provides the reclamation information to the landowner and occupant (where applicable), the operator may apply for a reclamation certificate using the AER’s online tool. Once the application is submitted, it will be posted on the AER’s Public Notice of Application (PNOA) for 30 days.

The operator is required to notify the landowner and occupant that it has submitted the application and provide them with information regarding the PNOA and statement of concern process. During this time, anyone who feels that they may be directly or adversely impacted may file a statement of concern.

Also, as soon as the reclamation certificate application is submitted, the AER system will complete a baseline review and determine whether the application requires an additional manual review.

After the 30 days on PNOA, if the application was not flagged for additional manual review and if the AER has not received a statement of concern, the operator will be issued a reclamation certificate.

Decisions on applications that require additional manual review may take longer than the 30 days.

A decision will be posted on the Public Notice of Decision tool.

Question: After getting the certificate, what is the operator’s responsibility?
Answer: Under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, companies are legally obligated to return the disturbed specified land to a state functionally equivalent to what it was before development; the company remains responsible, in perpetuity, for any infrastructure left beneath the surface.

Question: Will stakeholders still be able to provide comments or flag unaddressed concerns about the reclamation work completed by industry?

Answer: Yes. Operators must provide stakeholders with their reclamation certificate application package at least 30 days before submitting their application to the AER. Stakeholders can raise their concerns directly with the operators during this time. Affected stakeholders can also send an email to the AER at to voice preapplication concerns.

Once an operator submits its application to the AER, a public notice of application is posted on the AER website,, setting out a 30-day period to submit a statement of concern. Anyone who feels that they may be directly or adversely affected may file a statement of concern.

If a reclamation certificate does get issued, an appeal may be submitted. For more information, see the AER website under Applications & Notices > Appeals.

Stakeholders can also engage in the AER’s alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process at any point in the life cycle of a project to help resolve concerns.

Question: How does the system work?
Answer: The system does administrative reviews (e.g., application completeness) on all applications.

For low-risk applications, this baseline review is all that is needed, and if no statements of concern are filed, the application will be approved and posted for 30 days on the AER’s Public Notice of Application tool.

More complex applications will receive an additional manual review by AER staff. Rules are built into the tool to triage the reclamation certificate application. Applications that have unresolved landowner complaints, statements of concern, or requests for changes in the standard criteria that have not been preapproved by the AER, as well as more complex applications, will require further manual review of the application.

The system will also identify “medium risk” applications and will be flagged for audit.

Question: How many audits will you do a year?
Answer: The number of audits completed will vary based on the number of reclamation certificates received, as well as on the complexity of the applications. We anticipate that more than 15 per cent of reclamation certificate applications will be audited.

A report on the audit results will be posted on

Question: How will the AER stop companies from taking advantage of the system?
Answer: If the AER finds that companies are supplying false or misleading information (either through audits or inspections), appropriate compliance and enforcement actions will be taken.

Compliance and enforcement tools include

  • notices of noncompliance,
  • warnings,
  • orders,
  • administrative sanctions,
  • fees,
  • administrative penalties, and
  • prosecution.

Question: What are the consequences if a company misrepresents its work?
Answer: Professional sign off is required for all aspects of the reclamation certificate application submission.

If information in the application is found to be misrepresented, the AER can request a review of the signing professional by the professional body (e.g., Alberta Institute of Agrologists) for investigation and possible disciplinary action.

Question: What is the status of the An Administrative Guide to the Oil Sands Mine Reclamation Certification Process? (AENV March 31, 2011)
Answer: This falls under the jurisdiction of Alberta Environment and Parks; please ask them directly for more information.

Question: What work is being planned on the Record of Progressive Reclamation Program for oil sands mines?
Answer: This falls under the jurisdiction of Alberta Environment and Parks; please ask them directly for more information.

Question: What is the status of the plans to undertake field testing of CEMA’s Criteria and Indicator Framework for Oil Sands Mine Reclamation Certification?
Answer: This falls under the jurisdiction of Alberta Environment and Parks; please ask them directly for more information.

Question: Will the reclamation criteria for well sites and associated facilities be revised in the future to encompass oil sands in situ projects?
Answer: This falls under the jurisdiction of Alberta Environment and Parks; please ask them directly for more information.

Question: Will the AER be implementing a reclamation certificate process for temporary working rights associated with pipeline rights-of-way?
Answer: No. At closure, and after abandoning the pipeline, it is the operator’s responsibility to seek reclamation certification of the right-of-way.

Question: Does the reclamation certificate process also apply to First Nations reserve lands?
Answer: No. First Nations reserve lands fall under the jurisdiction of Indian Oil and Gas Canada. The process does, however, apply to Metis settlements.