​ Regulatory Enhancement

The Responsible Energy Development Act passed in 2012, is a one - stop approach making it easier for Albertans and industry to navigate the system.

The Alberta Energy Regulatorexternal link icon (AER), a single regulator for upstream oil, gas, oil sands and coal projects in the province is responsible for regulating energy resource developments from initial application to reclamation, and it is a key pillar in Alberta’s integrated resource management system.

Enhancements include;

  • New Services for Landowners, AER has authority over all decision and review processes, and there are provisions for applying to the Court of Appeal. Under this new system, the decision -  making process will be streamlined. Landowners can ask the AER to determine if industry is complying with the terms and conditions of the agreement. If the AER finds that industry is not complying, it may issue an order directing industry to comply.

  • Strong Environmental Enforcement, the AER will have increased fines at its disposal for companies who are not operating in accordance with agreements. The AER will be responsible for enforcing all legislation related to energy resources, including land and water acts.

  • Consultation with Aboriginal Albertans the duty to consult and engage with First Nations and Aboriginal people across the province rests with the Crown.

Alberta has a regulatory system that benefits Alberta’s and Canada’s economy. The most visible component of the Regulatory Enhancement Task Force recommendations was to establish the AER, however work is moving ahead on the other recommendations.

General Questions and Answers

What was the timeline for the regulatory enhancement project?

In the fall of 2005, the executive committees of the natural resource and environmental ministries (Alberta Energy, Alberta Environment and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD)*) set a vision of becoming the best natural resource and environmental managers in the world. To accomplish this, they made a commitment to strengthen the ways they work together. Sustainable Resource and Environmental Management (SREM) was approach of working together and taking joint responsibility to achieve agreed-upon natural resource and environmental outcomes. It laid a roadmap to align policies, align information sharing and streamline regulatory processes and the basis for Regulatory Enhancement.
*Note in May 2015 ESRD became Environment and Parks.


Progress, news and developments
2015In March the AER launched Compliance Dashboardexternal link icon it includes incidents, investigations, compliance and enforcement.
2014In May the AER and the BC Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC) signedexternal link icon a memorandum of understandingexternal link iconPDF icon to form a strategic partnership to enhance energy resource regulation in both Alberta and British Columbia.
2014After the transition, the AER hosted industry information sessionsexternal link icon about their regulatory responsibilities under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Actand Water Act. Information on authorizations, the Mine Financial Security Program, Compliance and Enforcement, and Reclamation and Remediation were also provided.
2014On March 31 the transition to the AER was completedexternal link icon

In November, the Alberta government passed regulationsexternal link icon that give the Alberta Energy Regulator more authority. The new regulations ensure:

  • Public notice of applications made to the Alberta Energy Regulator is given to Albertans.
  • Landowners can register new surface agreements with the regulator.
  • The regulator has the authority to administer the Public Lands Actexternal link icon for energy projects.

This move reinforces what Albertans have been told from the outset – that all existing environmental requirements and standards will continue under the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER).

2013The Alberta Responsible Energy Policy Systemexternal link icon (AREPS) was launched to bring together policies, regulations and pieces of legislation, from the AER and the departments of Energy and Environment and Parksexternal link icon .

The new Policy Management Office (PMO) is tasked with developing a public engagement process as well as the risk assessment and management approach.

Other key elements of integrating the resource management system include a new environmental
monitoring system and land-use planning.

2012 Bill 2PDF iconexternal link icon was introduced in the Legislature to establish the Responsible Energy Development Actexternal link icon it was passed in December of 2012, creating the Alberta Energy Regulatorexternal link icon (AER), a single regulator for upstream oil, gas, oil sands and coal projects in the province.

The AER is responsible for regulating energy resource developments from initial application to reclamation, and it is a key pillar in Alberta’s integrated resource management System. Bill 2 Fact SheetPDF icon


In January the Regulatory Enhancement Task Force made six recommendations to government:

  • Establish a Policy Management Office (tasked with developing a public engagement process as well as the risk assessment and management approach.);
  • Establish a single oil, gas, oil sands and coal regulator;
  • Provide a clear public engagement process;
  • Establish a common risk assessment and management approach;
  • Establish a performance measurement framework and public reporting mechanism;
  • Develop an effective mechanism to address landowner concerns. Final report, Enhancing Assuranceexternal link icon See the question below for more details about the task force. 
2011 January was also the month that the GeoDiscover Albertaexternal link icon website was launched, the program is an initiative designed to provide quality, authoritative mapping data to citizens. Alberta's geospatial data is brought together in one searchable catalog and can be viewed with an easy to use online mapping tool. Accessibility of this data to citizens makes it easier to make important decisions and better understand the province of Alberta.
2010-2013A number of consultations took place see the question below for details and reports.
2010The Regulatory Enhancement Task Force was established in March to do a comprehensive upstream oil and gas regulatory review and recommend system level reforms to ensure Alberta has a modern, efficient, outcomes-based and competitive regulatory system that continues to maintain Alberta’s strong commitment to environmental management, public safety, and resource conservation.

In March, the government reported to Albertans in Energizing Investment: A Framework to Improve Alberta’s Natural Gas and Conventional Oil CompetitivenessPDF icon , which summarized the findings this study. It outlined a series of actions and initiatives to position Alberta as one of the most competitive jurisdictions in North America for upstream oil and gas development. As a result of these efforts, the Regulatory Enhancement Task Force was established

2007-12 A number of reports on competitiveness in Alberta were released.

Who was consulted on the regulations for the Responsible Energy Development Act ?

Consultations on the regulations under the Responsible Energy Development Act were held in February and March 2013. More than 500 Albertans attended 19 public sessions, and approximately 350 people completed an online survey.

Many other Aboriginal groups, key stakeholders, and individuals provided written input between February and June 2013. 

First Nations and Metis, Stakeholder and Online Engagement condensed summaries

The Responsible Energy Development Actexternal link icon (REDA) was passed in December of 2012, creating the Alberta Energy Regulatorexternal link icon (AER), a single regulator for upstream oil, gas, oil sands and coal projects in the province. In the spring of 2013 the Government of Alberta hosted 19 public sessions and a number of First Nation and Metis sessions, seeking feedback to build the regulations that will support the Alberta Energy Regulator. Consultations looked at how Albertans want to be notified about energy projects in their community, how much time they need to respond to applications and what elements the Landowner Registry must contain.

Regulatory Enhancement Project (REP) implementationinformation sessions were held in September and October 2012. At each session, participants were provided with a REP update and feedback was gathered to inform further implementation work.

The Enhancing Assurance: Developing an integrated energy resource regulator discussion document was shared with First Nations and stakeholders from June - August 2011. A twelve question online survey was part of the feedback.

The oil and gas regulatory review included extensive engagement of First Nations, the oil and gas industry, and individuals from landowner, municipal, and environmental groups. Between March 31 and October 1, 2010 the task force hosted three rounds of engagement through a series of briefings, meetings, workshops and a forum.

  • 2010 What We HeardPDF icon (5 Sierra Systems reports in one, Issues and Opportunities, System options, First Nations engagement, forum report and stakeholder and First Nations engagement summary).

The integration of regulatory responsibilities presents an opportunity to enhance energy sector regulation based on the principles of effectiveness, efficiency, adaptability, predictability, fairness and transparency. Please note that the report is not a representation of Government of Alberta policy and no decisions have been made with respect to the subject matter.

What was the Regulatory Enhancement Task Force?

The Regulatory Enhancement Task Force was established in March 2010 to do a comprehensive upstream oil and gas regulatory review and recommend system level reforms to ensure Alberta has a modern, efficient, outcomes-based and competitive regulatory system that continues to maintain Alberta’s strong commitment to environmental management, public safety, and resource conservation. The task force has delivered the following reports to government;

A goal of the Alberta Competitiveness Actexternal link icon is to create effective regulatory systems that deliver the results Albertans want and that provide clarity, predictability, certainty and efficiency.

In response to a competitiveness review, the task force was established to oversee regulatory improvement efforts by the Alberta government. The task force was instructed to make recommendations in the following areas: (see the next question, Terms of Reference for the task force for more information)

  • Policy Integration Framework – Recommendations to resolve any gaps, overlaps, inconsistencies and duplications in Alberta’s strategic provincial policies around the oil, gas and oil sands sectors, and potentially other resource sectors.
  • Policy Assurance System – Recommendations for an enhanced policy assurance (regulatory delivery) system with performance measures and benchmarks.
  • Implementation Strategies – Recommendations on the critical issues relating to implementation of an enhanced system.

What were the terms of reference for the Regulatory Enhancement task force?

the Alberta Competitiveness Act (Bill 1) calls for the creation of effective regulatory systems that deliver the results Albertans require and that provide clarity, predictability, certainty and efficiency;

WHEREAS the mandates for the Ministers of Energy, Sustainable Resource Development and Environment include the long-term streamlining and rationalization of the natural resource regulatory system and identifying improvements that promote environmentally responsible clean energy development ;

WHEREAS it is in the public interest to have an effective and efficient regulatory system that considers the interests of all Alberta stakeholders, promotes sustainable development and assures the proper balance among economic, environmental and social outcomes;

WHEREAS many of the concerns raised by natural resource industries regarding the current regulatory system are well documented and include: multiple regulators and points of entry for applications, lengthy time for approvals, lack of inter-agency coordination, increasing regulatory costs to industry, and lack of clarity, consistency and predictability;

WHEREAS the need for a coordinated and integrated effort to review regulatory systems for natural resource development across government is necessary and timely;

THEREFORE, the Government of Alberta has initiated a review of Alberta’s regulatory systems to ensure that they effectively support a competitive economy.

The following terms of reference apply in respect of the Task Force on Regulatory Enhancement:


Reporting to the Minister of Energy, the Task Force was to fulfill a key role in Alberta’s regulatory review efforts for natural resources within the Departments of Energy, Sustainable Resource Development, Environment, and the Energy Resources Conservation Board and will: support a comprehensive natural resource regulatory review initiative within government; engage with senior officials and heads of regulatory bodies to confirm direction of overall regulatory review efforts; engage with members of the legislature to build support for and overcome barriers to regulatory review efforts and proposals; facilitate key stakeholder meetings and workshops and assist in identifying key stakeholders; support the Ministers of Energy, Environment and Sustainable Resource Development to communicate and reinforce key messages and outcomes to industry and other stakeholders concerning government’s overall direction on regulatory review efforts; and communicate critical stakeholder issues, input and feedback on the regulatory system to senior officials for follow-up.


The Task Force members were:

  • Diana McQueen, Chair, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Energy and MLA for Drayton Valley-Calmar
  • Evan Berger, Vice Chair, Parliamentary Assistant, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development and MLA for Livingstone-Macleod
  • Cal Dallas, Vice Chair, Parliamentary Assistant, Alberta Environment and MLA for Red Deer South

The Task Force was supported by a cross-ministry secretariat of officials, reporting to a steering team composed of the Deputy Ministers of Energy, Environment, Sustainable Resource Development, Justice and the Chair of the Energy Resources Conservation Board.

Specific Actions

The Task Force was directed to implement a comprehensive review of Alberta’s regulatory system for resource development. This review will be broad-based and will engage with industry and other stakeholders to ensure Alberta’s regulatory system is modern, efficient, performance-based and competitive; and continues to maintain Alberta’s strong commitment to environmental protection, public safety and responsible resource development in the public interest. The Task Force will:

  • include representation from industry and institutes related to the three participating departments
  • facilitate meetings and workshops with industry, government and other stakeholder representatives
  • report to the Minister on recommended enhancements to the regulatory system that could be implemented within six months, including the following:
    • The Alberta government will accelerate the shift to an outcome-based approach for assuring policy objectives and improving environmental performance.
    • Regulatory bodies will work together to put coordinated compliance inspections in place by October 2010.
    • Alberta Environment will streamline the review process for Pre-Disturbance Assessments (PDA).
  • The ERCB will streamline processes for:
    • Commercial in-situ oil sands development approval amendments.
    • Harmonization of well spacing in Development Entities 1 and 2.
    • deliver periodic progress reports, the first of which will be within 90 days regarding the implementation of near term enhancements (as above), changes to support and facilitate the deployment of new technology; and the process for comprehensive review of the regulatory system going forward, including the establishment of specific milestones for progress.
    • establish measureable objectives for the regulatory system and benchmark against other jurisdictions to support continued competitiveness.
    • issue a final report by December 31, 2010 and make recommendations for:
      •  a renewed regulatory system
      • alignment of regulatory system with government policy direction
      • implementation strategies, including legislative changes as required
        (original was a two page word document)

Why do we have so many regulators/agencies/government departments that monitor Alberta’s environment with respect to energy projects?

Environmental regulation is complex. Delivery of regulatory functions must be efficient and effective without sacrificing environmental, social and economic outcomes.

At the same time, efficiency and streamlining of regulatory processes must be balanced with objective, science-based monitoring of outcomes.

A single regulator is part of a larger integrated resource management system, which includes – policy development, policy assurance, monitoring and reporting. Through these stronger connections, policy can provide clearer direction the regulator, and industry. The Alberta Energy Regulator focuses on regulating the upstream oil, gas, oil sands and coal sectors.

The system is integrated – working together – not overlapping. Each piece of the system has a distinct role and distinct responsibilities. 

In the case of Environment and Parks, they still administer the Public Lands Act, Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and Water Act for non-energy resource projects.  As well, it continues to be responsible for ensuring environmental outcomes are met though clear policy direction/development and evaluation of the effectiveness of the regulatory system.   

Can landowners still enter into private surface agreements with industry?

Yes, absolutely. We are not changing the way landowners enter into private surface agreements with industry at all; rather, we are giving them an extra enforcement mechanism, if they choose to use it.

Landowners can choose to register private surface agreements with the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER).

If an issue arises, the landowners can then request the regulator to determine if industry is complying with the terms and conditions of the agreement. If the regulator finds that industry is not complying, it may issue an order directing industry to comply. The regulator can enforce its orders using a variety of tools.

This provision applies to new (and renewed) agreements only.

Will the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) let Albertans know about project applications and how to participate?

Can I appeal a decision?

  • direct negotiation between the parties
  • AER staff mediation
  • and third-party mediation.

Who will determine whether my application requires First Nations consultation?

Aboriginal Relations' Aboriginal Consultation Officeexternal link icon manages all aspects of consultation, including:

  • Policy development and implementation;
  • Pre-consultation assessment (determining if consultation is required);
  • Management and execution of the consultation process (specific to the Treaty rights and traditional uses potentially impacted);
  • Assessment of consultation adequacy by considering what efforts were made in the consultation process, and what efforts were made to mitigate or substantially address potential adverse impacts;
  • Consultation capacity building initiatives with First Nations; and
  • Collection and aggregated disclosure of consultation-related agreements between First Nations and industry.

This assessment of adequacy will be made after consultation is completed and before the Crown decision is made.

If the consultation office finds performance to be inadequate, the consultation office may direct the proponent to take further steps.