The Alberta Energy Regulator, or AER, provides for the safe, efficient, orderly, and environmentally responsible development of energy resources. This includes allocating and conserving water resources, managing public lands, and protecting the environment while securing their economic benefits for all Albertans.
Energy regulation in Alberta spans 76 years and has evolved over time. This evolution continued in 2013 when we became a new organization and took on regulatory functions related to energy development that were previously held by Alberta Environment and Parks (formerly Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development). Today, we are the single regulator of energy development in Alberta—from application and exploration, to construction and development, to abandonment, reclamation, and remediation.
We regulate some of the world’s largest hydrocarbon resources: established reserves of 166 billion barrels of bitumen, 1.8 billion barrels of crude oil, 29 trillion cubic feet of conventional natural gas, and 37 billion tons of coal. Developing and transporting these resources requires significant infrastructure; we regulate a provincial pipeline network of over 431 000 kilometres, over 174 000 operating wells, more than 30 000 oil and gas facilities, over 50 thermal in situ oil sands projects, and 9 oil sands mines, 7 producing coal mines, and 4 coal processing plants.
To ensure that this activity is safe, environmentally responsible, and closely managed, the Government of Alberta has granted the AER authority to
As the single regulator, the AER’s authority includes—for energy-related development only—the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA), including reclamation and remediation activities, and the Water Act. The AER is also responsible for public lands and geophysical activities under the Public Lands Act and the Mines and Minerals Act.
With additional authority also comes additional enforcement tools; simply stated, companies that are allowed to develop Alberta’s oil and gas resources must follow all rules, regulations, and requirements. If they fail to, strong consequences will result.
The AER’s enforcement tools can include
In addition, the AER informs Albertans about industry’s record of meeting our requirements. This includes an easy-to-access incident reporting tool and regular posting of investigation reports and compliance activities on the AER website and in annual performance reports.
For more information, see EnerFAQs Inspections and Enforcement of Energy Developments in Alberta.
A chair heads the AER and leads a board of directors; none are involved in the AER’s day-to-day operations and decisions. Rather, these directors set the general direction of the regulator’s business affairs and are charged with approving regulatory change and setting performance expectations for the AER and its chief executive officer. In this way, the AER’s board operates as a truly “corporate style” board.
The CEO, who reports directly to the chair, is accountable for day-to-day operations, which include receiving and making decisions on applications, monitoring and investigating energy resource activities for compliance, and closure of energy developments, including remediation and reclamation.
Hearing commissioners represent another important part of the AER’s structure. Reporting to a chief hearing commissioner, these commissioners are responsible for conducting all hearings into energy applications and regulatory appeals. The hearing commissioners are also involved in developing the organization’s hearing procedures and rules and other day-to-day operations.
Hearing commissioners are independent adjudicators, and their decisions may only be reviewed by the Court of Appeal of Alberta.
An AER hearing is a formal process that provides parties with an opportunity to present and test evidence about the issues related to an application or regulatory appeal. A hearing may be oral, electronic, or written. See the EnerFAQs Having Your Say at an AER Hearing.
The AER has discretion as to whether or not to conduct a hearing when considering an application. In the case of a regulatory appeal, the AER must hold a hearing unless the issue is otherwise resolved through alternative dispute resolution.
In its 2013 budget, the Government of Alberta announced that the AER would be funded entirely by industry. This is a model used by other regulatory agencies throughout North America, such as the Alberta Utilities Commission and the BC Oil & Gas Commission.
The AER’s budget is established through a formal process between the Government of Alberta’s Treasury Board and the AER. Once the AER’s budget is approved by the Government of Alberta, the amount is collected by the AER through an administrative fee.
Regardless of the funding model, industry is held accountable for its actions and shares responsibility of ensuring sustainable energy development.
This document is part of the EnerFAQs series, which explains the AER’s regulations and processes as they relate to specific energy issues. Please visit www.aer.ca to read more of the EnerFAQs series.
Every year the AER collects, compiles, and publishes a large amount of technical data and information about Alberta’s energy development and resources for use by both industry and the general public. This includes raw data, statistics, hearing materials, and information on regulations, policies, and decisions.
Publications may be either viewed at the AER library or obtained from the Information Distribution Services (IDS). Both are housed on the tenth floor of the AER head office in Calgary. Publications may also be downloaded free of charge from the AER website www.aer.ca.
To obtain a print or CD copy of a specific publication, contact IDS by phone (403-297-8311), fax (403-297-7040), or e-mail (InformationRequest@aer.ca).