Who is the AER and What is its Role?


Who is the AER and What is its Role?

The Alberta Energy Regulator ensures the safe, efficient, orderly, and environmentally responsible development of hydrocarbon resources over their entire life cycle. This includes allocating and conserving water resources, managing public lands, and protecting the environment while providing economic benefits for all Albertans.

The AER succeeds the Energy Resources Conservation Board and will take on regulatory functions from the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development that relate to public lands, water, and the environment. In this way, the AER will provide full-lifecycle regulatory oversight of energy resource development in Alberta—from application and construction to abandonment and reclamation, and everything in between.

For 75 years, Alberta’s oil and gas regulator has adapted to meet innovations in technology, new industry activity, and changing social expectations. The Alberta Energy Regulator builds on this foundation and prepares the province to take on the next era in energy regulation.

The AER is authorized to make decisions on applications for energy development, monitoring for compliance assurance, decommissioning of developments, and all other aspects of energy resource activities (activities that must have an approval under one of the six provincial energy statutes). This authority extends to approvals under the public lands and environment statutes that relate to energy resource activities.

The AER’s governance structure is designed to achieve benefits of both strong corporate-style oversight and independent adjudication.

The AER is headed by a chair, who leads a board of directors, all appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and all 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, these directors set the general 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. In this way, the AER’s board operates as a truly “corporate-style” board.

The CEO, who reports directly to the chair, oversees day-to-day operations, which include receiving and making decisions on applications, monitoring and investigating energy resource activities for compliance, and closing energy developments through the processes of remediation and reclamation.

Hearing commissioners represent another key part of the AER’s structure. Reporting to a chief hearing commissioner, the commissioners are responsible for the AER’s adjudicative functions, acting as the decision makers on major applications and conducting hearings. They are also involved in developing the organization’s hearing procedures and rules.

Hearing commissioners are independent adjudicators and their decisions may only be overturned by the Court of Appeal of Alberta.

While the legislation specifies instances where a hearing must be held, the AER has significant discretion to use hearings as part of the decision-making process. In 2012, the then-ERCB received and processed more than 34 000 applications, with seven of those going to hearings. It is expected the Alberta Energy Regulator will continue to address applications in this manner with hearing commissioners conducting hearings as appropriate.

The AER truly is a province-wide regulator. Our nearly 900 employees work from Alberta’s rural communities, mid-sized cities, and major urban centres.

The AER has nine field centres stretching from High Level in the north to Medicine Hat in the south. AER field inspectors monitor industry activity while Community and Aboriginal Relations staff meet with Albertans and provide information on the AER’s regulatory role. Meanwhile, our regional office in Fort McMurray oversees all oil sands operations.

The Alberta Geological Survey is part of the AER and is based in Edmonton. This group provides geological information and expertise to government, industry, and the public about Alberta’s resources and geology. This information and expertise is fundamental in managing and developing our resources.

Our head office in Calgary is home to technical operations and regulatory staff who review and process applications, ensure that rules and requirements are updated, and support the AER hearing process.

The Core Research Centre is located near the University of Calgary and contains comprehensive data, including rock selectively taken from a geological zone when a well is drilled, drill cutting samples, and drilling reports for wells drilled in Alberta.