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As the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) continues to implement sections of the Responsible Energy Development Act (REDA), industry is advised of the following changes that will occur upon proclamation on November 30, 2013.
Legislation, Regulations, and Rules
Regulations and rules have been developed and passed by the Government of Alberta and the AER, to provide further details as to the legal framework of the AER. These include
What is changing
1.1 Section 31 (Notice of Application)
Depending on the activities proposed, before the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) accepts an application for an oil or gas project, a company might be required to provide notification and information so persons receiving the information can fully understand what is being proposed and what the potential impacts could be.
On December 2, 2013, once the AER receives an application, additional public notice will be provided through the Public Notice of Application page at www.aer.ca. This page will provide notice of many applications received by the AER, which include oil and gas wells, pipelines, coal, oil sands, in situ, facilities applications and those pertaining to energy development on public lands.
This new notice provision improves and enhances existing notification requirements; affected landowners and stakeholders will continue to receive direct notification of applications where required by the AER.
The public notice of application includes details such as: the company’s name and contact information; a description of the energy resource activity for which approval is being requested; a legal description or the GPS coordinates of the area where the proposed activity will take place; information on how to access additional information about the project, and details on how to submit a statement of concern.
Many applications posted on the Notice of Application page will be processed and decisions made immediately or on an expedited basis. A full list of types of expedited applications can be found in section 5(2) (2) of the Alberta Energy Regulator Rules of Practice
For all other applications, the AER must wait until the 30-day period for filing a statement of concern, as specified in the notice of application, has passed before making a decision.
1.2 Public Lands Act
Land-use authorizations and dispositions for energy-related activities under the Public Lands Act (PLA) will be issued by the AER starting December 2, 2013. Public notice of applications received under the Public Lands Act will also be posted on the AER website.
The AER is striving for a seamless transition of the review and processing of approvals. To ensure timely processing of disposition requests, applicants must ensure that all submissions are accurately completed and meet plan standards or approval will be delayed.
Applications that were submitted to ESRD and not concluded before December 1 will be transferred and completed by the AER. This includes Environmental Field Reports (EFR) and Enhanced Approval Process (EAP) applications under the Public Lands Act. Temporary field authorizations for energy-related activities applied for but not issued before December 1 must be reapplied for through the AER after December 1.
The Electronic Disposition System (EDS) will be used by the AER for disposition applications. Applicants should contact the AER Customer Contact Centre for system related questions. For information on applications, please contact the AER via the new contact information that will be posted on the AER’s website. The AER will coordinate systems support matters directly with Environment and Sustainable Resource Development to ensure applicant issues are addressed promptly and effectively.
The templates used to apply for authorizations and dispositions have been changed to reflect use by both energy industry and other clients. These templates will be available through both the AER and ESRD websites. Templates available through EDS will also be rebranded. Dispositions and authorizations issued by the AER will have the AER’s logo and contact information.
The Alberta Energy Regulator is implementing some process changes to improve efficiency. Specifically, all plans for all activity types under the Public Lands Act managed by the AER must be submitted digitally. No paper plans will be accepted.
The AER will have field centres established to provide service to clients across Alberta. Their locations will be announced shortly on the AER’s website.
1.3 Mines and Minerals Act (Part 8)
Exploration for petroleum, natural gas, and other minerals in Alberta is regulated under part 8 of the Mines and Minerals Act (MMA). Under REDA, the AER will assume the responsibility to regulate all exploration activity except for that related to metallic and industrial minerals, which will remain under the jurisdiction of ESRD.
This means that the AER will issue authorizations to conduct exploration programs and ensure compliance with the approvals, licences, and permits issued. The AER is committed to making the transition of this work as seamless as possible. To this end, applications, letters of clearance, final plans, and all other exploration-related work submitted to ESRD prior to November 30, 2013, will continue to completion with the AER. Do not resubmit work already received by ESRD.
The AER’s submission process will be essentially the same as that used by ESRD. Information about the process, including the new contact information, will be found in the exploration directives and related forms, which will be available to be viewed or downloaded from the AER’s website, www.aer.ca after December 1, 2013.
Questions related to the exploration programs or submissions should be directed to the AER by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone to 403-297-8311 or 1-855-297-8311 (toll free).
1.4 Private Surface Agreements Registry
The Private Surface Agreements Registry (PSAR) gives landowners the ability to register their agreements, which traditionally have been private, with the regulator. If the landowner feels the company is not meeting a term or condition of the agreement, they may make a request to the AER to make a determination of compliance with the term or condition. If the AER determines that the company is not in compliance, it can issue an order to comply.
The PSAR will be one of many tools the AER offers to landowners who may have a disagreement with an oil and gas operator on their land. Landowners may file a complaint with the AER, which will be responded to by an AER field officer. Landowners may also request alternative dispute resolution (ADR), which may include negotiation, AER-led mediation, or independent third-party mediation.
Only written agreements entered into after November 30, 2013, will be accepted for the registry. A Private Surface Agreement (PSA) is a signed and dated written agreement between a company and an owner or occupant of land. A PSA that concerns any aspect of the company’s access to or use of that land for the purposes of an energy resource activity may be registered.
More information will be available on the AER website, www.aer.ca on December 2, 2013.
1.5 Compliance Assurance and Enforcement
The AER takes a comprehensive approach to ensuring compliance with all regulatory requirements. The AER uses three components in its compliance assurance program: education, prevention, and enforcement.
The AER takes very seriously its enhanced role in environmental protection and the closure of abandoned and inactive wells, pipelines, and facilities. Compliance assurance will educate on the rules and regulation, and, where necessary, ensure appropriate and timely enforcement action is taken.
All available compliance and enforcement tools will be used by the AER, including inspections, investigations, suspensions, refer status, orders, administrative penalties, and, where needed, prosecution.
Desired outcomes include voluntary compliance, necessary vigilance to minimize risk, continuous improvement, public reporting, and stakeholder and public approval of AER compliance assurance activities
1.6 Systems and Tools Portal
The AER System and Tools Portal was deployed in June 2013, enabling industry to access former ERCB systems and to provide improved public access to information such as regulations, acts, reports, and news releases. With the transfer of parts of the Public Lands Act and the Mines and Minerals Act from Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development to the AER, the System & Tools Portal will continue to enable industry to access and submit information to systems used for PLA and MMA authorizations and reporting. The System and Tools Portal will provide hyperlinks and short descriptions of the relevant systems, which will also be listed in an additional bulletin on November 22, 2013.
1.7 Complaints, Incidents and Emergency Response
The AER will continue to maintain complaint, incident and emergency response as a top priority. The Energy and Environment 24-hour Response Line at 1-800-222-6514 is the central point of contact for these types of calls. A Compliance Officer will forward the pertinent information to the AER who will conduct a response based on the risk and potential impacts.
1.8 Industry Reporting
Part 6, Section 164 and 165 of the Public Lands Administration Regulation requires industry to self-report any contraventions. In order to ensure a consistent approach to this requirement, the AER will be utilizing the current Industry Reporting Line at 780-422-4505. A Compliance Officer will forward reported information to the AER for review and response if necessary.
The AER Customer Contact Centre (CCC) will continue to be the central point of contact for all AER inquiries. The CCC has the capability to engage the appropriate subject matter experts when necessary to ensure a timely and knowledgeable response. To contact the CCC phone 1-855-297-8311 Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
1.10 Next Steps
Industry information sessions will be held December 11, 12, and 13 in Calgary. There is no charge for the sessions, but preregistration is necessary as space is limited. Details will be posted on www.aer.ca.
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President and Chief Executive Officer