Alternative Dispute Resolution


Alternative Dispute Resolution

The ADR program was developed in response to the desire of AER stakeholders (the public, companies, government agencies, First Nations, Métis, and special interest groups) to be more directly involved and have more control in resolving energy-related disputes. Most typically, ADR is used to resolve public-to-company and company-to-company disputes; it is a company’s responsibility to inform potentially impacted stakeholders of the nature of proposed energy developments as well as any significant changes to existing operations.

Alternative processes might include direct negotiation, AER mediation, or independent third-party mediation. It is important to recognize that not all matters can or should be resolved without a more formal decision-making process like a public hearing.

ADR helps parties come together to resolve issues and disputes between stakeholders. The goal of an AER-facilitated meeting and/or mediation is to help parties explore and understand each other’s interests and, together, develop acceptable solutions. All parties are heard and all points of view considered, facilitating the creation of collaborative, mutually acceptable solutions.

Use and Initiation of ADR Program
The program is intended to help settle stakeholder disputes pertaining to energy matters regulated by the AER. Even though the AER encourages parties to first attempt to cooperatively reach agreement prior to requesting assistance from the AER’s ADR Team, in cases of dispute, use of the ADR program will be considered. ADR can be used prior to making an application to the AER, during the application review process, or for operational disputes. Additional information is available through the ADR Contacts page.

Any stakeholder involved in an energy dispute may contact the AER ADR Team at any time for information and assistance. The AER might also contact parties involved in a dispute and recommend an ADR process. ADR team members are located in field centres across Alberta and have received training in conflict management from various Alberta-based institutes; many team members hold professional designations in mediation. As members of the ADR Institute of Alberta and/or the ADR Institute of Canada, all team members adhere to a strict code of ethics.

The ADR team members will assist in arranging the logistics of a dispute-resolution meeting and preparing the parties for collaborative discussion; their primary interest is to help the affected parties reach a settlement that is acceptable to all. However, mediators are not decision makers, legal advisors, or solution providers.

What are the benefits of ADR?
ADR offers many major benefits, including the following:
  • Improvement in stakeholder relations because ADR
    • promotes a better understanding of the issues among all parties,
    • identifies common interests,
    • enables parties to repair and enhance relationships, and
    • allows parties to take an active role in resolving the dispute
  • Increase in face-to-face discussions between affected landowners and company decision makers, leading to local solutions to local problems
  • Efficient use of stakeholders’ time and resources, resulting in more routine applications for companies
  • A higher percentage of resolved stakeholder disputes without holding an AER hearing
  • More effective and efficient hearings—even in cases where only partial resolutions are reached—because ADR reduces the number of issues that need to be decided when a hearing is required.

What principles does the program maintain?

  • The ADR process must follow some prior attempts at resolution.
    • All stakeholders with concerns should enter into meaningful discussions before accessing AER ADR staff or engaging in third-party mediation.
  • Participation in the ADR process is voluntary unless directed by the AER.
    • ADR may be used as an option to resolve issues, either within or outside the regulatory process if all parties make an informed decision to participate.
    • When participation in ADR is voluntary, the AER expects companies to participate in a preliminary ADR meeting for company-to-company disputes.
  • The ADR process preserves the neutrality of the AER.
  • The ADR process is clear, accessible, flexible, and responsive to the parties and their needs.
  • Participants must act in “good faith” and keep an open mind.
    • Good faith means that parties agree to an open-minded, respectful, and honest discussion to reach a mutually acceptable solution.
  • Discussions within a preliminary ADR meeting or any subsequent mediation are confidential and conducted without prejudice unless the parties agree otherwise.
  • The ADR process will be a parallel process to the application process and will not delay the application process.
  • The ADR process will not preclude access to an AER hearing or diminish the rights of the parties.
Additional information on alternative dispute resolution can be found by accessing EnerFAQs: All About Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) or through the ADR Contacts page.