For more than a century, oil and gas development in Alberta has occurred across our landscape in what often seemed like a random way. But times have changed. Development is no longer single wells dotting the countryside. It now includes multi-well pads where several wells are placed within a compact space, and pipelines lined up in corridors all in a scale that is much larger than in the past.
Albertans’ expectations have changed too. They want to know more about what’s going on in the province, where development will occur, how it will happen, and how it might affect them. And they want to be part of those discussions.
To meet these expectations, we need to change the way we regulate. One of the ways we’re doing this is through an area-based regulation (ABR) approach.
As a first step, we tested this approach through a pilot in the Municipal District of Greenview in northwestern Alberta. This is an area of Alberta where a lot of energy development has occurred and is expected to continue, and where stakeholders in the area have expressed concern about water use.
Under the pilot, a multistakeholder panel, which included representatives from industry, local and provincial government, landowners, and watershed councils, was set up to help us improve water use by the energy industry in the area. The panel has provided the AER with a report containing 23 recommendations that focus on reducing and enhancing water use and promoting collaborative water use planning in the area.
The AER is now reviewing the recommendations with our government partners and will report back to the panel and Albertans once we’ve identified the next steps. Since this is the first pilot we’ve done using an area-based approach, we’ll learn from what worked and what didn’t, and adjust our approach as we move forward.