End of year deadline for review of Alberta Energy Regulator, says minister by Darcy Henton, September 21, 2015, Calgary Herald
Alberta’s Energy minister says she will deliver a recommendation on the future of Alberta’s oilpatch regulator to the premier by the end of the year.
Marg McCuaig-Boyd said she is examining whether the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) should be split or whether it is capable of performing the dual roles of developing the province’s oil and gas resources and enforcing environmental standards.
“We’re sure looking into it,” Boyd-McCuaig told reporters last week. “Is the mandate still the current one or do we have to look at changing it? Once we get that work done, I’ll certainly report back to you, but yeah, we’re working on it.”
She said she has had regulator meetings with the head regulator and met recently with the agency’s board chairman.
Premier Rachel Notley told the Herald in an interview last June she thought the agency that replaced the Energy Resources Conservation Board three years ago may need a major overhaul.
“One of the concerns that I have always had with the Alberta Energy Regulator is that it appears to have a conflicting mandate, in that it is both a promoter of energy and the primary vehicle of environmental protection in Alberta,” Notley said in the June interview.
“What’s troubling about the AER is it has actually taken over responsibility for most of the environmental protection and monitoring part and standards development within the energy sector … You can’t do that job when your overarching mandate is to promote energy development.”
Recently the AER ordered Nexen to shut down all of its pipelines after a July spill near Fort McMurray. The regulator ordered that the company cease operation of 95 pipelines on its Long Lake oilsands site after determining it had not provided adequate records of maintenance, inspection and monitoring of the pipelines.
McCuaig-Boyd said that if the AER appears to be taking a stronger enforcement stance lately, it’s not at her direction.
“They’ve got all the regulations down and they’re getting more comfortable with where they are going as well,” she said. “I think they’re showing that it’s working. [Pre-determined conclusion?] It’s an ongoing process. You always want to be better, so that’s the next phase we’re looking at.”
AER spokeswoman Tracie Moore noted the AER is being examined as part of the government’s review of all its agencies, boards and commissions.
“As Alberta’s provincial energy regulator, the AER implements government direction and policy through our regulatory requirements,”‘ she said in an email. “The review panel asked the AER for materials in support of their review work, and we provided all materials requested.”
Wildrose energy critic Leela Aheer said the single regulator model was requested by industry after the last royalty review proved to be disastrous.
“Instead of floating the trial balloon of dismantling the regulator in a time of economic uncertainty, the minister should be focused on stricter timelines and accelerated approval times,” Aheer said in an email. “Albertans and industry are just getting used to the single regulator and the government should focus on streamlining it [more deregulation?] — not starting all over again.”
She said Albertans expect the Alberta Energy Regulator to be an efficient and effective body that supports public safety, environmental management, and the rights of landowners.
The Progressive Conservatives established the AER in December 2012 to provide one-stop shopping for regulatory approvals after industry complained about the delays and red tape.
The legislation combined duties of the Energy Resources Conservation Board with responsibilities of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development to create a single entity to administer the Public Lands Act, the Water Act, and the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.
Two years ago Notley was critical of the PC appointment of former oilpatch executive Gerry Protti to head the AER, complaining that an oil industry insider should not head the agency. [Emphasis added]
A comment to the article:
Bruce Pettigrew · Calgary, Alberta
Why doen’t the Herald run a series showing how deregulation has profited some corporations to the tune of billions and cost small consumers a fortune (check out Alberta Views magazine).
Oh I forget the Herald is in the pockets of the corporations and that bastion of there is a private business answer to all public policy questions the Fraser Institute. It would be really great to see a return to truly independent and aggressive investigative journalism.