​As set out in AER Bulletin 2014-30, effective October 1, 2014 the Alberta Energy Regulator assumed responsibility for the environmental assessment process under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act for upstream oil, natural gas, oil sands, and coal projects in Alberta.

Introduction

The Responsible Energy Development Act (REDA) was proclaimed in force on June 17, 2013. Under it, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) was to become Alberta's single regulator of energy developments. The AER's  implementation occurred in a series of phases, with the AER gradually assuming responsibility for the energy development regulatory functions formerly administered by the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) and Alberta Energy. The third phase, which occurred on March 29, 2014, involved the AER assuming certain regulatory functions and responsibilities from ESRD under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) and the Water Act. As of that date, however, the responsibility to direct EAs under EPEA for energy resource activities remained with ESRD. 

As a result of legislative amendments made July 23, 2014 to the Specified Enactments (Jurisdiction) Regulation under REDA, as of October 1, 2014, all EAs commenced after July 23, 2014 in respect of energy resource activities, have become the responsibility of the AER. All EAs commenced prior to July 23, 2014 in respect of energy resource activities (as well as all EAs in respect of non-energy resource activities, whenever commenced), will continue to be managed by ESRD.

Industry Implications

As part of Alberta's Regulatory Enhancement Project, the Regulatory Enhancement Task Force delivered 3 reports addressing provincial regulatory streamlining. In its second report, released in December 2010, the Task Force cautioned that realizing the full benefits of Alberta's oil and gas resources depends on Alberta's ability to continue attracting significant levels of investment. To that end, the Report made 6 recommendations, including the establishment of a single regulatory body for upstream oil and gas development activities.

In the government's News Release that accompanied Bill 2, Responsible Energy Development Act,  it was claimed that in the event Bill 2 is passed, a more effective and efficient system would ensue for industry and landowners, which will build on Alberta's long-standing commitment to the environment. Benefits to the economy of both Alberta and Canada, as well as the maintenance of the social license to operate, were also cited in support of Bill 2. Industry was said to benefit since a one-window approach to project applications would be implemented, thereby creating a clear process.

As of October 1, 2014, with the AER having now assumed all regulatory functions from each of the ERCB, ESRD and Alberta Energy, including responsibility for the EA process, the AER has become Alberta's single Regulator for upstream oil, gas, oil sands and coal development, from the application stage to project reclamation. As a result, it is hoped that a more effective and efficient system will ensue for industry, and that Alberta's ability to continue attracting significant levels of investment has been thereby enhanced.