How an organization is governed determines how it carries out its daily business and how successful it is at achieving its goals. For this reason, corporate governance was a key consideration when the AER was created in June 2013.
The AER’s governance structure separates the corporate, operational, and governance responsibilities from adjudicative functions (hearings on energy applications). Through this model, the AER seeks to realize its full potential as the single regulator of Alberta’s energy resource development, as well as gain the confidence of its many stakeholders.
Board of Directors
A chair heads the AER and leads a board of directors; none are involved in the AER’s day-to-day operations or decisions. Rather, these directors set the general direction of the regulator’s business affairs, including approval of the strategy and budget. The directors are also charged with approving regulatory change and setting performance expectations for the AER and its president and chief executive officer. In this way, the AER’s board operates as a truly independent and transparent “corporate-style” board.
President and Chief Executive Officer
The president and chief executive officer, who reports directly to the chair, is accountable for day-to-day operations, which include receiving and making decisions on applications, monitoring and investigating energy resource activities for compliance, and overseeing reclamation and remediation of energy developments at the end of their life cycle.
Hearing commissioners are responsible for conducting all hearings into energy applications and regulatory appeals. Reporting to a chief hearing commissioner, they are independent adjudicators and operate free of political interference; their decisions may only be reviewed by the Court of Appeal of Alberta.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
During its seven meetings in fiscal 2017/18, the AER’s board of directors approved the 2017/18 budget and changes to the 2017–20 strategic plan. It approved several rule changes relating to regulatory instruments and to the administration and orphan levies, and it monitored the AER’s progress in delivering on the strategic plan’s four key priorities.
The board held its June 2017 meeting at Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park on the Siksika First Nation. The directors visited the site where Treaty 7 was signed to recognize the 140-year anniversary of this historic event, which is significant for all Albertans. At this meeting, the board approved the AER’s Mandate and Roles Document, which details the interplay and interdependency between the AER’s role and Government of Alberta policy. The ministers of Energy and of Environment and Parks also signed this document.
During the year, the board was briefed on the AER’s integrated decision approach, the International Centre of Regulatory Excellence, and annual public opinion survey results.
The board’s risk management committee endorsed AER senior leadership’s identification and detailed analysis of risks facing the organization.
The board approved amendments to the Oil and Gas Conservation Rules and Pipeline Rules relating to revisions to Directive 067: Eligibility Requirements for Acquiring and Holding Energy Licences and Approvals. The revisions and the rule amendments increase the scrutiny the AER applies to acquiring and holding a licence or approval in Alberta.
The board reviewed amendments to the Conflict of Interest Act based on an AER legal review of the AER Conflict of Interest Policy and Procedures—which Alberta’s ethics commissioner identified as a model policy among government agencies, boards, and commissions—to determine whether any changes were required. The board decided that any changes would be minimal.
Brian Fleck, Gordon Lambert, and returning director Sheila O’Brien were welcomed to the board of directors in 2017. These three people bring strong environmental, energy sector, and human resources expertise and perspectives to the board.
Board chair Gerry Protti and directors Cassie Doyle, who chaired the risk management committee, and Stan Boutin, a member of a number of committees, all ended their terms in fiscal 2017/18. They leave a legacy of strong governance oversight at the AER, and the board thanks them for their work and dedication and wishes them well in their future endeavours.
With Mr. Protti’s departure after serving as the AER’s first chair for five years, Ms. O’Brien was appointed as the interim chair of the board, effective April 1, 2018.
As the AER enters its sixth year, the board of directors looks forward to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
The AER’s six board committees receive reports and recommendations from management, provide information, make recommendations to the board for approval, and make decisions on behalf of the board in their areas of authority. The following summarizes the business of each committee over the past year.
The Audit and Finance Committee reviewed the AER’s management discussion and analysis. In addition to reviewing quarterly statements, the annual financial results, and the budget, the committee met with Internal Audit Services at each of its meetings and monitored how AER management incorporated internal audit recommendations. The committee also met with the Auditor General of Alberta for the annual audit entrance and exit meetings.
The Governance Committee reviewed the terms of reference for all board committees and corporate bylaws to determine if revisions were required and made recommendations for the board’s approval. The committee also managed the annual board evaluation process.
The Human Resources, Health and Safety Committee received quarterly workforce metrics reports that covered a number of the organization’s talent programs, including health and safety, learning and development, employee wellness, and recruitment. The committee also reviewed ongoing safety statistical reports, and it received special reports about pension plans and the career and succession management program.
The Nomination Committee planned for the potential reappointment of existing directors and the recruitment of new directors in 2017/18. This involved advertising the positions, conducting interviews, and making recommendations to the ministers of Energy and of Environment and Parks. Two existing directors were reappointed on October 4, 2017, and three new directors were appointed on October 18, 2017. The committee coordinated a board orientation session in late October 2017.
The Regulatory Review Committee reviewed changes to, and informed the board about, a number of regulatory instruments, including
- rule amendments to the annual administration and orphan fund levies,
- amendments to Directive 067: Amendments to Oil & Gas Conservation Rules and Pipeline Rules, and
- amendments to Directive 059: Well Drilling and Completion Data Filing Requirements; Directive 060: Upstream Petroleum Industry Flaring, Incinerating, and Venting; and Directive 071: Emergency Preparedness and Response Requirements for the Petroleum Industry related to the Integrated Decision Approach initiative.
The Risk Management Committee leads and oversees the processes necessary for risk management at the AER. As part of this process, the board confirmed the committee’s acceptance of a number of principal risks that the AER focuses on, including: end-of-life obligations for oil and gas assets and mining; cumulative effects related to land disturbance, air emissions and surface water usage; information integrity and quality; induced seismicity, dam safety; fluid tailings; and odour management.
Executive Leadership Team
The AER president and CEO reports directly to the chair of the AER board of directors and is accountable for day-to-day operations, which include receiving and making decisions on applications, monitoring and investigating energy resource activities for compliance, and closure of energy developments, including remediation and reclamation.
Hearing commissioners are an important part of the AER’s structure. Reporting to a chief hearing commissioner, the hearing commissioners are responsible for conducting public hearings and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes related to energy applications and regulatory appeals referred to them by the AER. Appointed by the Government of Alberta through an Order in Council, hearing commissioners are independent decision makers whose decisions are only subject to review by the Court of Appeal of Alberta.
Last year, the AER said farewell to hearing commissioner Barbara McNeil. Ms. McNeil made a significant contribution to the work of the hearing commissioners, particularly in the area of ADR processes. Terms also ended for Rob McManus, Terry Engen, Heather Kennedy, and Lorne Ternes, although they continue to work on hearing panels they were assigned to before their terms ended.
The AER welcomed five new hearing commissioners in July 2017: full-time hearing commissioners Dean O’Gorman and Parand Meysami, and part-time commissioners Claire McKinnon, Tracey Stock, and Larry Strong. Mr. O’Gorman brings experience in environmental policy and has overseen environmental assessment reviews on major energy projects. Ms. Meysami, as a professional engineer, has worked for years in the energy sector in environmental engineering. Ms. McKinnon, as a lawyer, has significant experience in regulatory, environmental, and aboriginal law. Mr. Stock, also a lawyer and professional engineer, has extensive experience in oil and gas exploration and production. Mr. Strong, a professional geologist, has experience in the oil and gas industry and as an investment banker and private-equity consultant.
Hearing commissioners have access to a range of adjudicative and mediation processes to resolve disputes. They strive to use the most appropriate process based on the nature of the issue in dispute, the efficient and effective use of resources, and the requirements of natural justice and procedural fairness. Processes available include mediation, settlement conferences, and binding dispute resolution, as well as oral, written, and electronic hearings before a panel of hearing commissioners or a single decision maker.
Last year, 13 files were referred to the chief hearing commissioner for hearings:
- An application for expansion of an oil sands mine
- Two common carrier applications
- Two regulatory appeals
- An application to amend an approval for an oil sands processing plant
- Seven oil and gas applications
Five hearings took place: one related to a pipeline project, two related to oil and gas projects, one steam-assisted gravity drainage oil sands project, and one to amend existing approvals for an oil sands processing plant. Four files that were scheduled for hearings were resolved through hearing-commissioner-facilitated ADR or because the parties reached agreement on their own.
At the end of the year, there were 5 hearing-commissioner-facilitated ADR processes underway and 12 pending hearings.