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.
The AER succeeds the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) and will take on regulatory functions from Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) that relate to public lands, water, and the environment. In this way, the AER will provide full life-cycle regulatory oversight of energy resource development in Alberta—from application and construction to abandonment and reclamation, and everything in between.
The AER is authorized to make decisions on applications for energy development, oversee the decommissioning of those developments and all other aspects of energy resource activities (activities that must have an approval under one of the six provincial energy statutes), and monitor for compliance. This authority extends to approvals under the public lands and environment statutes that relate to the energy resource activities.
The AER emerged from the Government of Alberta’s Regulatory Enhancement Project. This project aimed to ensure that the development of Alberta’s resource policy development, public consultation process, and regulations is not only efficient and competitive but also effectively supports public safety, environmental management, and resource conservation objectives.
From this process, the government passed the Responsible Energy Development Act (REDA). Under this act, the new regulator operates at arm’s length from the Government of Alberta.
The AER’s governance structure is designed to have both strong corporate oversight and independent adjudication. The corporate, operational, and governance responsibilities have been separated from adjudicative functions (i.e., hearings on energy applications). This is a significant change from the model used under the ERCB where these functions were combined.
The AER is headed by a chair, who leads a board of directors who are all appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and are part-time directors of the AER. The chair and the board of directors are not involved in the AER’s day-to-day operations and decisions. Rather, the directors set the general strategic 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 (CEO). In this way, the AER’s board operates as a truly “corporate-style” board.
The current CEO was appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. In the future, the board of directors will appoint the CEO, subject to ministerial approval. The CEO, who reports directly to the chair, oversees day-to-day operations and the staff of the AER, which include making decisions—and delegating decision-making—on applications, monitoring, and investigating energy resource activities for compliance, and closure of energy developments, including remediation and reclamation.
Hearing commissioners represent another key part of the AER. Reporting to a chief hearing commissioner, the commissioners are responsible for the AER’s adjudicative functions, hearings on applications, and regulatory appeals. They may also be involved in developing the organization’s hearing procedures and rules.
Hearing commissioners are independent adjudicators. Their decisions are appealable to 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.
Creating the AER is a complex undertaking that requires careful implementation. For this reason, the Government of Alberta is taking the time to manage the transition well through a threephased approach.
In phase 1, completed in June 2013, the government proclaimed certain sections of the Responsible Energy Development Act, which resulted in the creation of the AER and its new governance model.
In phase 2, which became effective on November 30, 2013, the AER assumed additional responsibilities from ESRD, which began with the public land and geophysical jurisdiction. The AER also created a landowner registry for private surface agreements. New rules and processes for public engagement and participation also came into effect during this phase.
Phase 3 will begin when all environmental and water jurisdictions under the Responsible Energy Development Act come into force and are transferred to the AER. This phase will be the final step in creating a single regulator for upstream oil, oil sands, natural gas, and coal development in Alberta. All phases will be completed by spring 2014.
As mentioned, the AER is being implemented in a phased-in approach and therefore not all operational changes will occur until all phases are complete. For example, companies will continue to apply for the appropriate approvals from both the AER and ESRD. The AER and ESRD are also continuing to conduct their own inspections of Alberta’s energy infrastructure. Likewise, landowners, First Nations groups, and other stakeholders can continue to engage these two regulators and their processes as they did before the AER was established.
Some of the notable changes that have occurred in phases 1 and 2 are as follows:
More changes will occur when phase 3 begins.
The AER is 100 per cent funded by industry and is authorized to collect funds through an administrative fee levied on oil and gas wells, oil sands mines, and coal mines. The industry-funded model is commonly used by agencies that regulate various industries from across North America.
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 Product Services Section (IPSS). 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 IPSS by phone (403-297-8190), fax (403-297-7040), or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).