The Alberta Energy Regulator (“AER”) and Alberta's Crown Land Disposition Application process have undergone many changes over the past few years, including the split between Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) and the Alberta Energy Regulator, the introduction of OneStop, changes in the Master Schedule of Standards and Conditions, Crown Land Reservation (CLR) replacing Consultative Notation (CNT) / Protective Notation (PNT) - just to name a few. These changes and the intricacies of Crown Land applications were highlighted by Marissa Shutz and Laurie Kirkpatrick from the AER at a recent Canadian Association of Petroleum Land Administration conference.
With the systems and processes ever evolving and shifting, it’s hard to keep up and ensure Disposition Applications are submitted properly with all required information to obtain approvals. Below are some helpful tips gained from years of experience in this field, and discussed during the AER presentation, to help guide applications into successful approvals.
When Crown land applications were all previously submitted into the Electronic Disposition System (EDS), the applications would be reviewed in full detail, front to back. This resulted in long application approval timelines. With the creation of AER’s OneStop, that process stopped. Applications are no longer reviewed front to back. If no “rules are triggered”, the application remains low-risk and approvals can be seen within a few hours or days. If rules are triggered, the application becomes high-risk and gets sent for review. Even in a high-risk instance, the entire application is still not reviewed front to back, only the items marked high-risk will be reviewed.
The AER shared statistics on the most common Business Rules triggered between Jan 2022 and Aug 2023 that result in high-risk status and/or application rejection.
1. The #1 cause of triggers in the system were variance requests, with the top three variance requests being for 1403-AS (water body setbacks for linear activities or pipeline bore sites), 1402-AS (construction setbacks for tops of waterbody breaks) and 1000-AS (locate minimum of 80% of the linear activity adjoining existing occupied linear dispositions within 250m). Diverting from the approval standards as set out in the Master Schedule of Standards and Conditions does not mean the application will get rejected, but it triggers the project as high-risk and requires variance mitigation and rationale. The AER is looking for specific details in the rationale such as why the variance is required and site specific and technically relevant justification. Within the mitigation, the AER is looking for specific actions to be taken to reduce the risk and alternative ways to meet desired outcomes. Without proper rationale and mitigation, the application is at risk of being rejected.
A secondary tip regarding the Master Schedule of Standards and Conditions, is that the Energy Development Planning (EDP) Tool in OneStop is actually more up to date and accurate with the current standards and conditions than the PDF copy on the Open Alberta website. Pulling an EDP report at the start of your project will give you the best idea of what Standards and Conditions will be applicable to your project. Once the application is initiated in OneStop, the application standards and conditions will also be pulled into the application. It’s important to note that if there are updates to the Master Schedule of Standards and Conditions, this will automatically update any draft OneStop applications. Always review that page prior to submitting to ensure all Standards and Conditions are still met at the time of submission and/or all required variances are included.
2. The #2 Business Rule triggered is with respect to Public Lands Subject to Prior Rights Interest. This can be triggered if there is an unacceptable disposition overlap or not all required consents are received and/or uploaded into the system. The tip here is to understand the Public Land Standing Report (PLSR) trumps what shows up under the Registered Interest section in the OneStop application. Not all dispositions are spatially available in the AER mapping system, so some may not pull properly into the system. It is the applicant's responsibility to pull a PLSR and add in any missing affected registered interests into the OneStop application and obtain the required consents and/or provide applicable notifications.
3. Lastly, the #3 highest Business Rule triggered is around lands or activity not under the AER’s jurisdiction. Lands that are not in the AER’s jurisdiction are privately owned lands, Surveyed Government Road Allowances, AB Transportation RRD’s, lands within City / Towns and lands on parks and protected areas. Activities not within AER’s jurisdiction are Federally regulated projects, utility projects, and basically anything that isn’t listed within the PLAR Table A2. Submitting applications not within AER’s jurisdiction will result in application rejection.
A few other high statistic reasons for applications being rejected are missing information, wrong purpose / activity code, inconsistent application details, applying for RTF disposition where a formal disposition is required or no response to supplemental information request.
Overall, the Crown process and systems can be difficult to navigate and keep up with. At BRITT, we are up to date with the latest developments, news, changes and regulations to ensure our client’s projects are moved through the system with ease and foresight to efficiently tackle foreseeable hurdles. Reach out to our Land team for help with your Crown applications.