URF: How Does the ERCB Regulate the Oil and Gas Industry?
THE GOVERNMENT OF ALBERTA OWNS ABOUT 80 PER CENT OF THE PROVINCE’S PETROLEUM AND NATURAL GAS MINERAL RIGHTS, WHICH INCLUDE CRUDE OIL, NATURAL GAS, COAL, AND THE OIL SANDS. IN OTHER WORDS, MOST RESOURCES ARE OWNED BY THE PEOPLE OF ALBERTA THROUGH THEIR GOVERNMENT.
Private companies can develop Alberta's resources by purchasing rights to develop them, and the ERCB is empowered by the Government of Alberta to protect the public's interest by regulating the discovery, development, and delivery of these resources. The ERCB's regulations help ensure non-renewable resources are produced in a safe, responsible and efficient manner, without waste.
WHAT DOES THE ERCB DO?
The ERCB regulates the safe, responsible, and efficient development of oil, natural gas, oil sands, and coal, as well as the delivery pipelines within Alberta’s borders. Regulation is done through two core functions: adjudication and regulation, and information and knowledge. ERCB approval must be given at almost every step of an energy project’s life.
The ERCB works to ensure that those affected by development have a fair chance to be heard. When conflicts regarding development remain unresolved among industry competitors or between companies and landowners, the ERCB works to help settle the issues in a balanced and fair manner. This may occur through Appropriate Dispute Resolution or, if required, the ERCB Hearing Process.
Finally, the ERCB plays an important role in collecting and distributing energy information—including estimates of Alberta’s energy reserves.
An ERCB hearing is a court-like proceeding where those who may be directly affected by an application for an energy project may participate. An ERCB hearing is a formal and quasi-judicial proceeding. It provides a level playing field for all participants, giving each the opportunity to present their position and question the positions of others. This allows the Board to make a fully informed decision.
Normally, a panel of three ERCB decision-makers hears evidence from the applicant and participants who may or may not wish to be represented by a lawyer. The panel considers the evidence and arguments presented and issues a written report giving the decision and the reasons for it, usually within 90 days after the close of a hearing. The report is then made public and given to all participants.
The panel will decide to approve the project unconditionally, approve the project subject to certain conditions, or deny approval of the project.
In Alberta, industry compliance with ERCB regulations averages over 98 per cent.
In the event that a company is found operating outside ERCB regulations, the ERCB will take enforcement action against the company. If the infraction is minor, the company is required to correct the issue and the operator receives a notice of enforcement on the spot. A copy of the enforcement notice is also sent to the company’s head office and ERCB Field Surveillance and Operations Branch. The company's compliance records are made publicly available on the ERCB's website at www.ercb.ca.
If a company is found to be operating outside of prescribed regulatory rules and regulations, the ERCB field inspectors may, among other options, shut down the operation immediately. If the company is unable or unwilling to comply with ERCB regulations, the facility may be issued a closure order until they can operate the facility in a safe and responsible manner.