On November 30, 2013 the Alberta Energy Regulator Rules of Practice Amendment Regulation (Amended Rules) will be proclaimed into force which will bring significant changes to the regulatory process before the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). The Amended Rules have been developed in an effort to re-define and clarify certain procedural issues that have occurred since the creation of the AER in June 2013. Noteworthy aspects of the changes include:
- Expedited applications. The Amended Rules set out a variety of types of applications for which the AER may make a decision prior to inviting statements of concern from potentially affected parties. These include routine applications under the AER’s Directive 56, applications under the Public Lands Act Enhanced Approval Process, and temporary field authorizations under the Public Lands Act. This provision will also apply to water licence applications once the AER assumes responsibilities under the Water Act (which is expected in Spring 2014).
- Clarification around hearing triggers. The AER will now have considerable discretion to decide whether or not to hold a hearing on an application and will be required to consider factors such as: whether the matter to which the application relates has been adequately dealt with or addressed through a previous hearing or other proceeding; whether the concerns raised relate to matters outside the AER’s jurisdiction, are unrelated to or beyond the scope of the application, or relate to policy decisions of the Government; or whether the application will result in minimal or no adverse effect on the environment.
- Time limits. In the case of electronic and oral hearings, the AER will be required to establish time limits for the presentation of evidence, questioning of witnesses, argument and any other procedural items.
- Changes to participant costs. The AER will be required to consider new factors when making a cost award, including whether there is a compelling reason why the participant should not bear its own costs, whether the participant made an attempt to use other funding sources or whether the participant refused to attend a dispute resolution meeting.
In our view, these changes are significant and should address many of the procedural issues that have arisen in the AER regulatory process since June 2013. As with any legislative amendments, however, it remains to be seen how the AER will interpret the Amended Rules and we expect to gain additional clarification on each of these changes in the coming months.