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WHEREAS the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) requires energy companies to notify parties whose rights may be directly and adversely affected by the proposed energy development; and
WHEREAS energy development has the potential to have a significant impact beyond the minimum notification zones in areas of significant country residential development; and
WHEREAS the ERCB Directive 056: Energy Development Applications and Schedules (September 2011) outlines requirements and expectations for a participant involvement program (public and municipal notification); and
WHEREAS ERCB Directive 056 and Table 7.1 provide minimum distances for notification by energy companies, expanding the notification zone beyond minimum requirements is left to the discretion of an individual energy company; and
WHEREAS the energy industry is required to develop an effective participant involvement program that includes parties whose rights may be directly and adversely affected by the nature and extent of a proposed oil and gas (energy) application;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties work with the Government of Alberta to expand minimum public notification requirements for the energy industry, as outlined by the Energy Resources Conservation Board, Directive 056, when proposed energy development is located within areas of residential development.
While oil and gas drilling and pipeline activity is a common occurrence within Alberta, much of the energy exploration and development activity has been focused in predominantly agricultural areas with limited residential development. Recently, energy companies have begun to explore and propose development in areas of significant country residential development. Oil and gas development within these country residential areas is of concern to these residents, particularly with respect to how energy development will affect their quality of life. Municipalities are frequently approached by residents seeking support and guidance on how to control and/or stop this activity. Issues of concern for residents include limited landowner notification, increased traffic generation, access impacts, visual impacts, health and safety, impact on property values and odors.
Oil and gas activity in Alberta is regulated solely by the provincial government through the ERCB. A company must receive approval from the ERCB prior to initiating energy activities having an impact on the public, land use, environment, conservation and equity. The company must first consult with the public about the proposed project. Within ERCB Directive 056: Energy Development Applications and Schedules (September 2011) and Table 7.1 of the Directive, the ERCB has set out minimum distances for public notification and consultation requirements which depend on the type of project proposed. In the case of a sweet oil well, the minimum distance for notification is a 0.2 kilometre radius, which often does not include the access/lease road to the proposed site. Within a densely populated country residential community, residents of the broader community, located beyond the limited 200 metre notification zone for the proposed well, may be impacted; for example, by the location of the lease road gaining access to a municipal road near a residential property outside the 200 metre notification area.
ERCB Directive 56, Section 2.2 does contain provisions for an expanded notification area; however, it states industry is responsible to assess the area beyond the specified distance to determine if the radius should be expanded. In areas of significant country residential development, ERCB Directive 56 should provide more prescriptive direction to industry requiring an expanded radius for direct notification and an expanded participant notification program including broader community notification and consultation. Early consultation with the broader community will enable energy companies to understand and address issues of concern for residents including increased traffic generation, access impacts, visual impacts, health and safety, impact on property values and odors.
Further, although regulated by the ERCB, Directive 56 states “local authorities and Alberta Sustainable Resources (SRD) play an important part in the plan for orderly land use and should be involved at an early stage in planning an energy development and participant involvement program. Additionally, local authorities, ERCB Field Office staff and the applicant’s previous knowledge of the area may help identify needs in the community.” One of the fundamental areas of responsibility for municipalities’, as defined by the Municipal Government Act, is to ensure the orderly, economical and beneficial development and use of land. The local municipality must be involved at an early stage in the planning process with respect to sharing community based knowledge with energy companies and understanding potential land use impacts.
Expanding notification requirements within ERCB Directive 56 for energy development proposed within areas of significant country residential density ensures appropriate consultation has occurred and potential community impacts are identified and discussed. Any outstanding concerns between the energy company and the community relating to proposed development can be addressed prior to formal submission to the ERCB, potentially resulting in an energy application being processed routinely by the ERCB and the need for a public hearing avoided.
See AAMDC expired Resolution 23-08F: Intervener Status ERCB Hearings and expired Resolution 21-07F: Timeline for Filing Objection to Well Site / Other Drilling Application or Pipeline Installation Application.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions related to this issue.
Energy: The Energy Resources Conservation Board’s (ERCB) notification and consultation distances were developed based on several factors, including safety of nearby residents and providing the space necessary for any activity that would be required to take place on the lease. History shows that they have been successful in protecting safety and providing the necessary access to the leases. Thousands of wells, pipelines, and other oil and gas facilities in Alberta safely operate near people in both rural and urban developments.
ERCB requirements for notification and consultation create awareness, but do not mean those notified may be impacted by the proposed activity or that they will be able to trigger a public hearing. The Energy Resources Conservation Act requires that a party have rights that appear to be directly and adversely affected in order to trigger a hearing.
Resolution 7-12S refers to the concept of “significant country residential development.”
However, as the resolution does not define this term or offer an explanation of what density of development is contemplated or what notification distances would be proposed, it is difficult to comment specifically on the impact on ERCB prescribed notification requirements.
There is no doubt that as residential development continues to expand into formerly rural areas, the conflict between housing development and resource development will continue. At the core of this conflict are competing and validly held legal rights – namely, the rights of surface owners versus the rights of mineral owners/lessees. Both parties have purchased those rights in good faith and for valuable consideration. All of these competing interests and rights must be taken into account and balanced when deciding whether, and within what areas, oil and gas development will be permitted in the province.
The ERCB is currently undertaking an internal review of notification and consultation practices and distances in order to ensure that they continue to meet the mandate of the organization and the purpose for which they were developed. The results of this review will be presented to Albertans for their feedback and input before any changes are made to current notification requirements.
Subject to the Regulatory Enhancement Project proceeding to integrate the ERCB with the authorizing elements of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, further work will also be done to integrate the current notification and consultation practices of the two organizations to align and simplify public involvement throughout the process.
The AAMDC raised this concern in a January 2014 meeting with representatives of Alberta Energy’s Policy Management Office, which is responsible for integrating policy created from a variety of ministries associated with energy development and making it applicable to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). In the meeting, the Alberta Energy representatives indicated that a review and possible revision of Directive 056 was a future priority for the provincial government, but had no details as to when such a review would take place or its scope. As a result, the AAMDC originally found this resolution to be Accepted in Principle. As a result of limited progress being made, the AAMDC has reassigned the status of Unsatisfactory for this resolution and will follow-up with the AER to work towards the intent of this resolution.