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Updated September 2021

This EnerFAQs answers frequently asked questions about the Alberta Energy Regulator’s (AER’s) ADR program. It describes how the different options available through the program work and how they can help resolve issues or matters in dispute. This information is intended for any parties that find themselves in a dispute over energy industry projects and the possible impacts of the projects. 

In some cases, an AER hearing commissioner will conduct ADR when a hearing or a regulatory appeal is to occur. However, this EnerFAQs focuses solely on ADR administered by other AER staff.  

Questions:


What is ADR?
ADR stands for alternative dispute resolution and offers concerned parties a variety of options to manage disputes, such as coaching, facilitation, and mediation.

ADR helps people to explore and understand what is important to one another and to develop acceptable solutions together by creating an environment that supports respectful discussion. The solutions generated by the parties reflect what is important to each of them and are often solutions that would not have been arrived at individually. 
 

What are the goals of ADR?
ADR aims to

  • improve communication and relationships between parties (e.g., between a company and landowners),
  • encourage local solutions for local problems, and
  • ensure the efficient use of everyone’s time and resources.

What are the main benefits of ADR?
ADR is more cost effective, timely, and flexible and more tailored to the parties’ needs compared to other AER options for resolving disputes, such as through a hearing.

When may ADR be used?
ADR may be used to resolve any issues in dispute if at least one issue falls within the AER’s jurisdiction. ADR can take place at any stage of a project, from preapplication and application through to operation and closure.

What if some concerns are outside of the AER’s jurisdiction?
We encourage parties to discuss all concerns during the ADR process even if some may not be within the jurisdiction of the AER. 

However, issues outside the AER’s jurisdiction would not be discussed at an AER hearing or form part of the AER’s decision.

Which ADR option is right for me?
The ADR specialist will work with you and the other parties to determine which option, such as coaching, facilitation, or mediation, would be the best given the situation. 

How much time is needed for an ADR meeting?
The time required depends on the complexity and number of concerns. Generally, a mediation can last between one and four hours.

How do I prepare for the ADR meeting?
You may want to think about what you would like to have discussed and prepare a list of questions, as well as compile any useful resource materials such as maps or survey plans, to make sure that all concerns are understood. 

The ADR specialist will work with you to ensure that you feel ready to participate in the meeting.

You should come with an open mind and a willingness to speak honestly and to try to understand the views of everyone involved.

Who will attend the meeting?
It is important to have the right people at the table. In a mediation, for example, those participating must have the authority to make decisions on the issues. This prevents delays that may occur when proposed solutions must be approved by others not present.  

The ADR specialist will determine if having an AER subject matter expert attend to provide information about relevant aspects of AER legislation would be beneficial. 

The parties may also decide to bring lawyers or advisors to the ADR meeting. The ADR specialist will work with the parties to determine who needs to attend and what their role will be.

Will a written agreement be drafted?
If you reach an agreement at an ADR meeting, a written agreement may be drawn up. It is up to the parties, but generally if commitments are made at the meeting, the ADR specialist will ask for those commitments from the company in writing. All parties will have input into how those commitments are worded. For more information, see EnerFAQs The AER and You: Agreements, Commitments, and Conditions.

Who pays costs?
The AER’s ADR process is a free service provided to parties. Costs directly related to holding ADR meetings (e.g., room costs) are generally minimal and are normally covered by energy companies. Any additional costs beyond direct meeting costs (including any legal fees) should be addressed by the parties before the first meeting.

If I participate in ADR, will the application automatically be put on hold?
No. The application review process continues separately and is not automatically influenced by the ADR process taking place.

How do I start the ADR process?
If you are interested in ADR, email @email or call 1-855-297-8311 (toll free) and ask to speak to an ADR team member.

How does ADR work when there is a group of concerned parties?
Sometimes different parties will have common concerns. When meeting with the parties, the ADR specialist will explore the various options available and help determine the best process for the parties.

Are ADR discussions confidential?
Yes. The ADR specialist is bound by confidentiality, and the discussion between parties is confidential unless the parties agree otherwise. Discussions are also conducted without prejudice.

What do “confidentiality” and “without prejudice” mean in ADR?
“Confidential” means that nonpublic information disclosed by the parties is not to be shared outside of the ADR process unless it is otherwise agreed to by all. Experience has shown that an atmosphere of open and free dialogue enhances the chances of a successful outcome. Parties are encouraged to fully disclose their interests to each other without reservation, which in turn can increase the range of solutions developed and evaluated. 

“Without prejudice” means that any admissions, concessions, proposals, and offers to settle made by one party during the ADR process cannot be raised by the other party during a proceeding unless both parties agree.

Parties will discuss confidentiality, without prejudice, and how information is going to be shared early in the ADR process.

Where can I find more information on ADR at the AER?
Our ADR specialists are available across Alberta and are happy to answer questions about the ADR process. Email @email to contact an ADR specialist.

We also have on our website, www.aer.caan ADR page, as well as the following documents:

Besides ADR, how else can I get my concern addressed at the AER?
Depending on the circumstances, you could

Other avenues may also exist outside the AER. The ADR specialist should be able to provide you with information on those external avenues.

Additional Information
For more information on the AER and its processes or if you wish to speak with your local field centre or have general questions about oil and gas in Alberta, contact the AER Customer Contact Centre: Monday to Friday (8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at 1-855-297-8311 (toll free).

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 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 downloaded free of charge from the AER website or ordered from our Products and Services Catalogue by emailing @email

AER Head Office
Suite 1000, 250 – 5 Street SW
Calgary, Alberta T2P 0R4
@email
1-855-297-8311 (toll free)

Energy and Environmental 24-hour Response Line (emergencies and complaints): 1-800-222-6514 (toll free)