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Open for feedback! AER Public Involvement

The Alberta Energy Regulator released a draft Directive on proposed changes to Public (Participant) Involvement requirements. This is intended to replace current participant involvement requirements under Directive 056. There are significant changes proposed, including: new definitions of “engage” vs “inform”, a new “Public Involvement Area”, new information required to be in an applicant’s information package sent to the public, increased timeline of 30 days to distribute an information package prior to application, and much more.

This Directive is one in a long list of regulations across multiple jurisdictions being updated to have a greater focus on public engagement. We are seeing Environmental Assessments require stringent conversation tracking; the NEB issued a new Early Engagement Guide in preparation for changes coming into effect with Bill C-69; the OGC released new requirements for notification and consultation for noise and seismicity last year. The onus is being placed on companies to have thorough engagement with stakeholders and the public. It is a big picture approach. The AER Draft Directive requires proponents to discuss potential impacts to air, biodiversity, community, land and water.

These changes have created a stir among Land, Regulatory, and Indigenous Relations professionals in the industry. There are many questions relating to the Draft Directive on how it will be determined if the public is engaged sufficiently, the challenges with increased timelines for engagement, and the added administrative burden on the public and industry to keep up with the amount of distributed project information.

While the industry works to adapt to these changing requirements, often with valid concerns for the risks, burden and ambiguity, I am also reminded of the opportunities for innovation and how Canadians rise to a challenge to tackle the hurdles and become leaders for the rest of the world to look to. Regardless of how this specific Directive gets finalized, the need and expectation which the public & regulators require around engagement continues to increase. Project execution can no longer be a transactional approach. Pre-planning, early engagement, project life cycle and social impacts are becoming part of our everyday language as land professionals. At BRITT we have evolved to this modifying landscape and have focused considerable time and resources to effectively perform despite these added burdens. We want our clients to feel ease and peace of mind that we can manage their projects regardless of complexities, and will pull in added support to carry the load, provide innovation and be one step ahead.

We encourage you to read the AER Draft Directive XXX: Public Involvement, and submit feedback by August 25.

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