As of November 30, 2013, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) will
take over administration of the Public Lands Act and the
exploration provisions of the Mines and Minerals Act
insofar as the legislation applies to energy resource
activities. This announcement, which was accompanied by new
regulations, was made by Order in Council on November 6, 2013.
The AER's enabling statute, the Responsible Energy
Development Act (REDA), provides that the AER will eventually
be responsible for administering essentially all regulatory aspects
of energy resource projects in Alberta; however, it is being
implemented in a staged approach. The changes effective
November 30, 2013 will mark the first significant shift towards
establishing a one-window regulatory approach for energy projects
To assist with this change, the new regulations provide guidance
regarding the scope of the AER's powers to administer public
lands and environmental legislation as it relates to energy
resource activities. Most notably, the regulations provide
that the AER will soon be responsible for:
issuing geophysical approvals for exploration under Part 8 of
the Mines and Minerals Act;
issuing public lands dispositions under the Public Lands
Act related to energy resource activities for oil, natural
gas, oil sands and coal; and
enabling landowners to register private surface agreements that
the regulator is then able to enforce.
In addition, the regulations establish certain areas of
jurisdiction that are to remain within the Province's authority
(such as the administration of public lands in relation to federal
pipelines) and those which will be areas of shared jurisdiction
(such as certain enforcement provisions under the Public Lands
Act). The regulations also provide clarity regarding the
environmental responsibilities that will be transferred to the AER,
which include granting approvals under the Environmental
Protection and Enhancement Act and issuing licences and
approvals under the Water Act. These changes are not
expected to take effect until the spring of 2014.
The transitional provisions of the regulations provide that
existing approvals, orders, directions and decisions made pursuant
to public lands and environmental legislation are deemed to have
been made by the Regulator and remain in full effect. With
respect to ongoing applications, proceedings or other matters that
are commenced prior to the regulations (and associated portions of
the REDA) coming into effect, the regulations provide that the
matters are deemed to be applications, proceedings or other matters
under the REDA and that they are to be continued and completed by
The regulations provide important information that will assist
energy resource players in understanding the evolving regulatory
regime in Alberta and how it affects their operations.
However, despite this increased clarity, there remains some
ambiguity as to how these changes will fit within the AER's
current regime for making decisions on applications, which can, at
the AER's discretion, be made with or without holding public
hearings. In addition, the potential shift in decision-making
authority mid-application review gives rise to significant
uncertainty regarding the timelines and processes that will apply
to new and existing applications. Despite these challenges,
we expect that in the long term, the consolidation of regulatory
oversight in a single regulator should reduce inefficiencies in the
regulatory approval process. We also anticipate the issuance of
further guidance and direction from the AER to clarify regulatory
processes prior to full implementation of the REDA.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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In Bank of Montreal v Bumper Development Corporation Ltd, 2016 ABQB 363, the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench enforced the "immediate replacement" provision in the Canadian Association of Petroleum Landmen 2007 Operating Procedure...
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