The Alberta Energy Regulator’s approach to compliance and enforcement is primarily outlined in the Integrated Compliance Assurance Framework (ICAF). The ICAF outlines the AER’s vision, strategy, and approach to ensuring Alberta’s energy industry follows the rules. Education, prevention, and enforcement continue to be the main pillars of our program; the AER’s ultimate goal is to ensure compliance with requirements, monitored and enforced on behalf of all Albertans. Manual 013 – Compliance and Enforcement Program is a guide for our staff that further explains how the AER will conduct compliance assurance activities.
Many AER requirements have a predetermined level of risk based on a Compliance Assurance Risk Assessment Matrix. Risk is determined as high or low across the following requirements:
The predetermined risk of each AER requirement is used to help the AER plan which energy development activities need to be most closely scrutinized.
To assist stakeholders, a list AER requirements and their associated level of risk has been compiled: Associated Risk Rating of AER Requirements. While the table includes many noncompliant events—along with their requirements—it is not an exhaustive inventory of all AER requirements.
For a list of further noncompliant events, see Manuals 001, 002 and 005.
The AER’s enforcement response is not pre-determined by the risk assessment.
Voluntary self-disclosure or VSD is when an energy operator tells the AER about a noncompliance. It may or may not qualify under the AER’s VSD process. Whether it does depends on whether it meets the well-established criteria. See the Compliance and Enforcement Program Manual for the criteria.
When an energy operator identifies a noncompliance, the AER expects it to be corrected or addressed and reported to the AER. The AER also expects the operator to act as if the AER had identified the noncompliance. What this means is that regulated party should take actions to mitigate any risk to the environment or public or shut in operations when necessary to reduce risks associated with the noncompliance. The process is intended to encourage operators to proactively identify, report, and correct noncompliant events to ensure public and environmental safety are protected.
A large number of VSDs are submitted to AER field centres, regional offices, and Infrastructure Authorizations. A VSD form has been created to manage these submissions. See the Frequently Asked Questions: Voluntary Self-Disclosure Process and Voluntary Self-Disclosure Form Instructions for more details.
Notice of Noncompliance
The notice of noncompliance notifies an energy operator that the AER has identified a noncompliance with their operations. Where a noncompliance can be remediated the notice of noncompliance will also instruct an operator to correct the noncompliance within a specific timeframe. The AER will then monitor to ensure the operator has come into compliance.
Failure by the company to respond or address the notice of noncompliance may lead to further enforcement by the AER.
AER Noncompliance Triage Assessment Process
The triage tool is used to assess the significance of a noncompliance and to coordinate the AER’s response relating to different noncompliances. The Noncompliance Triage Assessment tool helps ensure a consistent AER approach to responding to noncompliance. AER staff will use the process when considering the context for each instance of noncompliance. It is designed to be completed quickly so that the enforcement process is as efficient as possible. When a noncompliance is escalated, the triage will be completed within a few days.
The triage process uses five questions to help AER staff determine the appropriate response.
If any of the criteria apply to the noncompliance, further follow up will be required and a decision will be made as to whether an investigation is warranted.
The AER’s collects information and evidence to determine the facts relevant to a noncompliance. Investigations are conducted by staff trained in evidence collection and procedural fairness and can be triggered through either the triage process or by an incident like a pipeline spill, blowout, or explosion.
The investigation will inform an enforcement action, and if any, is required. AER enforcement actions could include a warning, an administrative penalty, an order to suspend or cancel an approval, imposing terms or conditions on a license or approval, or prosecution.
The investigation process involves three activities:
At the conclusion of an investigation the information will be used to inform the appropriate enforcement response, if any, and identify lessons learned for improved AER and industry performance.
Compliance and Enforcement tools
Compliance and Enforcement tools are either remedial which are intended to fix the noncompliance and any impacts to the environment or they can be punitive and which are intended to deter future noncompliance.
The AER has a variety of compliance and enforcement tools available under its energy resource and specified enactments to compel compliance and to correct and deter future noncompliance. The AER tries to use the most appropriate tool fit for the purpose.
The AER has processes in place to ensure that each noncompliance meets legal standards and procedural fairness before proceeding with any compliance or enforcement response.
Under the Responsible Energy Development Act (REDA), energy operators may file a request for a regulatory appeal on some decisions. These include:
Appeal-filing requirements and forms are available on the appeals webpage on the AER website.
The AER’s Compliance Dashboard demonstrates how the AER is involved in incident response, investigations, compliance, and enforcement. The AER also publishes a number of educational resources—presentations, FAQs, brochures, and guidance information—that relate to AER directives, rules, and regulations.