Industry helped select Alberta for regulatory support

Industry helped select Alberta for regulatory support
Cabinet recently announced that Industry Minister David Ramsay, right, would be heading the new NWT regulator, to receive technical support from Alberta and the National Energy Board.Bill Braden.

The decision to employ the technical services of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) following devolution was made at the advice of industry consultants, officials with the GNWT told The Journal last week.

A spokesperson for the department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) said the decision to negotiate service agreements with both the National Energy Board (NEB) and AER to provide technical support to the NWT as it establishes its own regulator was made following meetings with industry “to get their view as (to) what would be the best course of action for the NWT,” according to an email from Carina Sartor-Pielak.

“Once all the options were considered, the GNWT felt that the best choice for the NWT would be to establish its own regulator…As a result, the decision was made to negotiate service agreements with both the National Energy Board and the Alberta Energy Regulator,” she said.

Though neither service agreement has been finalized, it was recently announced that the GNWT would be accessing support from both regulators for the next two years.

Sartor-Pielak said details of the contracts would be available to the public once signed on Apr. 1, though some pieces would remain confidential. She did not say what details would be made public.

“In the case of the NEB, the service contract with the NWT will be released at the earliest possibility, as is the case with all contracts entered into by the NEB,” she said. “Some of the detail in the AER contract contains personal information that must remain confidential; however, we anticipate that the remainder of that contract could be released publicly with the consent of both the GNWT and AER.”

Worry over the move to employ AER in the provision of technical support has been expressed by sectors of the public and within the Legislative Assembly. Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley tabled a report in the house last week criticizing AER’s compliance and enforcement record in its home province.

The report, compiled by watershed scientist and consultant Dr. Kevin Timoney, indicates over 4,000 environmental infractions between 1996 and 2012 with only 0.9 per cent resulting in enforcement, a number he concludes is 17 times lower than in the US.

“With that expert advice we will enforce our own rules on less than one of 100 violations,” Bromley said, asking why the NWT didn’t create its own version of the NEB rather than making cabinet responsible for energy regulation.

The GNWT recently appointed ITI Minister David Ramsay as head of the new NWT Regulator. ITI will be responsible for regulating onshore oil and gas reserves, as well as mining.

Ramsay said it is too early to criticize the model.

“Oil and gas projects here in the Northwest Territories will, again, continue to be subject to environmental regulation under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, which will continue to require public hearings in some circumstances. It’s simply wrong to make an assertion that because of devolution, requirements for public hearings are going to change. That’s not the case,” he said.

“This is going to be our best effort put forward to regulate this industry in the Northwest Territories, build a capacity here at home and with an integrated approach to resource management in the NWT…we believe we can get this right.”

Ministerial control over the regulatory process is a model emulated by other jurisdictions in Canada, including Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Yukon.

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