Responsibilities of the Energy and Utility Board and the Government
This is an extract from the document titled, " Public Safety & Sour Gas"
Provincial Advisory Committee on
Public Safety and Sour Gas (2000)
The jurisdiction respecting sour gas and public health and safety in Alberta is complex. The EUB is the principal regulator of oil and gas development, including sour gas. All sour gas facilities must have approval of the EUB. The EUB also regulates ongoing operations, including the inspection of facilities, and has the ability to revoke approvals or suspend operations to correct deficiencies. The EUB has a regulatory role in the prevention of sour gas releases and in response to them when they do occur.
Alberta Resource Development has responsibility for the disposition of oil and gas development rights on behalf of the people of Alberta for the more than 80 per cent of the province where the resource belongs to the Crown. In this capacity, it establishes relevant policy, issues leases, and collects royalties.
Alberta Environment has responsibilities related to sour gas and plays a major role in establishing air quality standards, and the environmental regulation of sour gas plants. The monitoring involvement is particularly important in the event of major releases of sour gas.
Alberta Environment is also responsible for licensing seismic exploratory operations. Sour gas facilities are located in many urban and rural municipalities in Alberta. Municipal governments have a relatively minor role in their development or approval because of the responsibility of the various provincial agencies in the siting of facilities, but they have substantial emergency response responsibilities in the event of major sour gas releases. The regional health authorities and the department of Alberta Health and Wellness have overall responsibility for the health of Albertans, including the impacts of sour gas on public health and safety. The department has a special role in setting health standards. The Regional Health Authorities Act requires that regional health authorities protect and promote the health of residents in their region. Regional health authorities and Alberta Health and Wellness are part of the overall response team in the event of major sour gas releases.
The department of Alberta Municipal Affairs, Disaster Services, has overall responsibility through the Disaster Services Act for preparing and coordinating responses to all emergencies in the province, including those related to sour gas. All municipalities are required to develop and maintain emergency response plans for response to any emergency within their area of jurisdiction.
Alberta Human Resources and Employment has overall responsibility for the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This includes requirements for workers safety as related to sour gas. Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and Alberta Environment have a shared responsibility under the Public Lands Act. With much of the sour gas activity occurring on Crown lands, there is a responsibility associated with the numerous activities on these lands and including lease and other management agreements.
Jurisdiction respecting sour gas and public health and safety is even more complex with respect to First Nations lands. In these situations, several federal government departments including Indian Oil and Gas Canada (IOGC), and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)) are also involved. In addition, the Indian Resource Council (IRC), in its capacity of representing First Nations with proven or probable oil and gas reserves underlying their lands, has a significant role to play on behalf of First Nations.
There is much communication among the various departments and agencies with responsibilities related to sour gas and public health and safety. As well, a number of agreements exist respecting jurisdiction and roles and responsibilities, but they do not cover all areas of potential overlap.
Findings of the Committee
Many participants in the outreach process expressed concerns about the lack of coordination among various agencies involved with sour gas development. They generally stated that the lack of a mechanism for managing the various jurisdictions results in confusion, loss of credibility, and lack of confidence in the regulatory system.
The Committee indicated in its Directions document that it was considering recommendations towards ensuring that the responsibilities and relationships of the various government organizations are clear, that overlaps are minimized, and that where they do exist formal working agreements are developed. The Committee also saw a need to clarify for the public and industry the roles and responsibilities of the government agencies.
The reactions to the directions of the Committee in the second round of outreach were somewhat mixed but overall supportive. Some suggested giving all of the responsibility and all of the accountability to one organization, such as the EUB. Others opposed this and pointed to the need for greater involvement of health officials. Some noted concerns respecting gaps in regulation and suggested the Committee was placing too much emphasis on overlaps.
The Committee continues to believe that the appropriate objective to strive towards is the clarification of roles, responsibilities, and accountability of the various jurisdictions, while ensuring that the overall system is both effective and efficient. Additionally, efforts are needed to ensure that the public and industry have a better understanding of the various jurisdictions.
Alberta Energy & Utilities Board web site http://www.eub.gov.ab.ca