Is Alberta’s Energy Regulator (AER) looking out for Albertans’ interests?

Is AER looking out for Albertans’ interests? by Alvin W. Shier, January 22, 2014, Lethbridge Herald
In her recent report to the electorate the MLA for Lethbridge East invited those concerned with the Goldenkey drill operation (proposed to operate within Lethbridge’s western border) to check the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) website to find for themselves what function they serve and how they might benefit Albertans. I did – and here’s what I found.

The Alberta Energy Regulator consists of 1,000 unelected stiff collars, many from the oil and gas business sector, who operate a fiefdom controlling and administering complete and final control and say over all “energy resource activities” within the borders of the province of Alberta. One thousand unelected people have complete authority over your (Albertans’) prime GDP generator which was 1,815,000,000 barrels of petroleum product in 2012!

Incredibly, AER operates at “arm’s length” from your elected government, too. And through some magical process, they inform on their website that they are capable of managing the energy activities of over 185,000 wells (181,000 which are active), 405,000 kilometres of pipelines, 775 gas processing plants, nine oilsands projects, five bitumen upgraders, 10 coal mines, four other processing facilities, and 200 primary/enhanced schemes (whatever that means).

Their annual budget of $165 million is paid for wholly by the energy industry – the very people seeking approvals from them, and whose activities they claim to serve as watchdog over after the crude starts flowing. What bunk! Yes – 1,000 people, operating outside of any elected official and void of any representation from the general public (which owns the resource) “regulate” all of the above and consume huge amounts of money doing so.

Do I hear alarm bells ringing? Logic does not allow that 1,000 people can oversee all of the above and still find time to sort through and approve or disapprove over 36,000 new oil and gas related applications that come before them each year – with a net maximum benefit to Albertans. It is simply not physically possible! Albertans are being royally hoodwinked out of their resource – their prime GDP generator – and something better be done before the last drop is torn out of this province and Big Oil bids us adieu.

2 Responses to “Is AER looking out for Albertans’ interests?”

galenviro says:
January 22, 2014 at 10:13 AM

While I understand how it is difficult to comprehend how the AER works, there are some inaccuracies in these comments by Mr Shier. As someone who has worked for industry and in the environmental world, trust me, AER is not out to make life easy for oil and gas. The people who work for AER are out to make sure that the province’s energy mandate is fulfilled, yes, but they have tons of rules and requirements that industry must adhere to. At times, AER actually seems quite difficult!

Further, people seem to have issue with fact industry pays into the AER. And yet, if industry didn’t pay, they would be slammed for not paying for the increased cost to tax payers. Which is it? By paying into the operations of the AER, it doesn’t taint the organization. I see the same argument when industry pays for environmental research; immediate the money is tainted, and yet, if industry didn’t fund research, they’d be in bigger trouble.

People seem to think of industry as being separate from the average person, and yet, industry exists to meet our needs (energy sources) and is often invested in by our RRSPs, stock portfolio, etc.

People need to stop this us vs them approach and start trying to understand how things work and try to make things better.

Rural Alberta says:
January 22, 2014 at 12:25 PM

“but they have tons of rules and requirements that industry must adhere to.”

Yes, seems the regulator’s real proud of those. Unfortunately, “tons of rules and requirements” doesn’t mean squat when they rely on the voluntary reporting of incidents no one seems to find for a month, companies investigating themselves, 100% funded by industry “reviewers” and “enforcers” – and companies who don’t know how to carry the 1.

“Just one week after Apache Canada announced it had determined the cause of the largest pipeline spill in recent North American history, a third leak was discovered on the company’s property near Zama City in the northwestern corner of Alberta at the end of October.

The oil and gas producer’s third spill in the area this year is estimated to have released 1.8 million litres of ‘produced’ wastewater, containing oil and other chemicals, onto an estimated 3.8 hectares of land.

Though Apache estimates the leak began on Oct. 3, it was not discovered until Friday, Oct. 25 when a company operator went out to investigate a volume discrepancy at the company’s Shekilie site approximately 35 km northwest of Zama City.”

“Apache’s 9.5-million litre Zama City spill revised to 15.4-million litre spill

Apache Canada continues to make progress on cleanup and remediation efforts following a produced water release in the area of its Zama operations that was discovered on June 1, 2013.

… As a result of Apache’s extensive internal investigation in conjunction with third-party experts, the volume of produced water that was released from the pipeline has been revised to approximately 15,400 cubic metres from the original estimate of 9,500 cubic metres.

The revised volume has also been submitted to the AER.

… Apache’s internal investigation has concluded that the failure of the less than five-year-old pipeline was caused by stress corrosion cracking.

… We have determined that the failure occurred on May 5, 2013.”

“In contract, emails and meetings, Alberta officials ensured ‘independent’ pipeline safety review wouldn’t look at enforcement: The Alberta energy regulator’s review of pipeline safety, commissioned after multiple pipeline accidents in 2011 and 2012, was explicitly designed to not look at any pipeline incidents or investigations.

And regulator officials regularly communicated with reviewers to ensure this did not happen.

The review, released in August 2013, found that ‘Alberta has the most thorough overall regulatory regime of all the assessed Canadian jurisdictions.’ A press release announcing the report’s publication said, ‘An independent review has confirmed that Alberta leads in pipeline safety.’

But the $465,000 review did not examine any specific incidents or how well Alberta’s regulations were enforced.

Instead, it focused on the regulations themselves, comparing them to other jurisdictions and industry best practices.”

“At times, AER actually seems quite difficult!”

And other times, they actually seem quite useless and irrelevant, while sitting comfortably in the “gaps” – as people are forced to abandon their homes – and doctors and labs put their heads between their knees and take a deep breath.

“I blame the ERCB (Alberta’s energy regulator). They are not doing proper monitoring and are withholding data. They are responsible for this going on for years. They have lied to us more than the company. I don’t know how they sleep at night.”

“the regulator says it does not have the legal authority to order a shutdown in the Baytex case, as there is a gap in the regulations, noted Wilson.”

“Health report: some Alberta doctors refused to treat families exposed to toxic emissions by Baytex in Peace Country, one lab refused to process a test; 10 day public hearing starts Tuesday”

[Refer also to:

2011: ‘Frack hell is imminent’ ]

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