In the past year, Alberta has undergone unprecedented
environmental regulatory reform impacting its energy sector.
On June 17, 2013, the majority of the Responsible Energy
Development Act ("REDA") was proclaimed in force,
creating the Alberta Energy Regulator (the "AER"). Under
REDA, the AER will ultimately assume specified regulatory functions
from the Energy Resources Conservation Board, Alberta Environment
and Sustainable Resource Development and Alberta Energy, with
respect to upstream oil, gas, oil sands and coal development. The
appointment of a single energy regulator had been one of six
recommendations made by the provincially appointed Regulatory
Enhancement Task Force, with a view of improving Alberta's
investment attractiveness for the development of its energy
resources. The appointment of the single regulator, which is
consistent with recent parallel federal regulatory streamlining
initiatives, results in one application, one review and one
Previously, on September 1, 2012, the Lower Athabasca Regional
Plan ("LARP") came into force. Under LARP, which is the
first of seven regional plans to be introduced in Alberta,
consideration must be given to the combined impacts of existing and
future activities in Alberta's oil sands, in deciding whether
to grant regulatory project development approvals. Under LARP,
environmentally sensitive areas are identified and protected, while
future development is regulated with the objective of ensuring that
it occurs in an environmentally responsible manner.
Building on LARP, on October 17, 2012, the Alberta Government
announced the establishment of a new arm's length environmental
monitoring agency, the Alberta Environmental Management Agency (the
"Agency"). The first of its kind in Canada, the Agency
will utilize a science-based approach to monitor, evaluate and
report on land, air, water and biodiversity. The intention is
the data, which will be collected initially from the Lower
Athabasca Region, will be scientifically credible, accessible and
As a result of these reforms, the level of provincial government
involvement in regulatory decision making for oil and gas project
development appears to be on the rise. Among the issues to be
addressed is identifying and maintaining the delicate balance
between environmental responsibility and resource development.
Ontario's Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change continues to roll out its Climate Change Action Plan with its proposed GHG guide for projects that are subject to the province's Environmental Assessment Act.
The Imperial Oil refinery pled guilty to one offence for discharging a contaminant, coker stabilizer, thermocracked gas, into the natural environment causing an adverse effect and was fined $650,000...
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