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Alberta Energy Regulator Ramps Up Expanded Authority

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has taken on additional regulatory functions, including responsibility for the Public Lands Act and Part 8 of the Mines and Minerals Act for all oil, natural gas, oil sands and coal development in the province, and has launched an online private surface agreements registry and expanded public notice of applications, the agency said Monday.

Effective Nov. 30, AER is responsible for issuing, amending, maintaining and inspecting all land approvals for energy activities, and will approve, maintain and inspect seismic exploration programs in Alberta related to oil and gas. The new Private Surface Agreements Registry provides landowners or occupants of land with the opportunity to register with AER agreements made after Nov. 30, and a new AER webpage will provide public notice for energy applications.

"Alberta is committed to building a robust and efficient regulatory system to support continued growth and environmental management," said Diana McQueen, the province's Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister. "The new process ensures a thoughtful and common sense approach that will uphold strict environmental standards while ensuring landowners have more direct control in how they deal individually with the regulator."

The changes come more than a year after Alberta's Conservative government introduced the Responsible Energy Development Act (REDA), which called for creation of the AER and the end of the Energy Resources Conservation Board (see Daily GPI, Oct. 29, 2012). The AER was launched in June. Environmental and water jurisdictions under REDA are scheduled to come into force and be transferred to AER by spring 2014.

REDA aims to cut project approval times and clarify rules by compressing previously separate industrial and environmental conduct codes and enforcement structures into a single bundle of law court and police-like judging and patrolling. The regulatory reform package was intended to cover almost every aspect of oil, gas and coal development from cradle to grave.

AER will take over management authority on provincial Crown (public) lands, but aboriginal rights claims are declared off-limits for the agency.

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