NDP minister reassures Alberta Energy Regulator about review

Marg McCuaig-Boyd
FILE: Minister of Energy Marg McCuaig-Boyd. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON – The Alberta government says the province’s energy regulator is performing well and there are no plans to make major changes to the agency.

In the past, Premier Rachel Notley has voiced concerns that the Alberta Energy Regulator has responsibility for both promoting energy development and protecting the environment.

Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd said Notley’s comments have been misconstrued.

“She (Notley) and I have been clear since the beginning that we are not breaking up the AER,” the minister said in an interview Thursday.

Last month the NDP announced a review of 300 government agencies and boards, including the AER, to ensure they are performing to the maximum benefits of Albertans.

A report on the first phase of this review is expected by March.

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A few weeks later McCuaig-Boyd sent a letter to AER chairman Gerry Protti to reassure the agency that the review would not include its regulatory mandate.

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“While the governance structure will be examined under the review, I have confirmed with Premier Notley that the AER’s regulatory mandate does not need to be reviewed,” reads the letter.

Jim Ellis, president and CEO of the AER, said the agency is heartened by the decision.

“The government of Alberta recently advised us that they will not be proceeding with a review of our mandate,” Ellis said Thursday in an email.

“This is an important signal to the AER and a validation of the important work we do … ensuring the efficient, safe, orderly and environmentally responsible development of Alberta’s energy resources.”

In 2013, the AER took over responsibility for reviewing the effects of oil, natural gas, oilsands and coal projects from Alberta’s Environment Department.

That change stemmed from legislation that was passed to make it easier for the energy industry to navigate the regulatory system.

McCuaig-Boyd said the government is very confident in the AER, but wouldn’t ruling out making some changes to it in the future.

“There are always areas where we can improve and we are working on those, but as a single regulator.”

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She declined to give any specifics.

Last month the government announced Alberta’s climate change strategy.

The plan includes a carbon tax, limits on oilsands emissions and phasing out coal-generated electricity.

McCuaig-Boyd said the government will be working with the regulator to achieve its targets.

“I have talked with Mr. Ellis on that,” she said. “He said there is lots of work to do but we are going to get through it and we are quite confident that we can make the whole industry better.”

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