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AER Town Hall – What We Heard Report

March 15, 2024

Executive Summary

On Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024, Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) hosted a workshop with representatives from groups across Alberta to discuss our shared concerns about the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and its apparent inability to adequately regulate the energy industry for the sake of the public’s best interest, Indigenous communities, and Alberta’s ecosystems.

Mounting evidence shows that the AER operates without sufficient public transparency while having vast discretionary powers with limited accountability. The evidence indicates that rather than serving the best interests of Indigenous communities, the environment, and the Alberta public at-large, the AER is instead held captive by the interests of the fossil fuel energy industry.

Examples of the AER’s inability to sufficiently regulate the fossil fuel industry include the AER’s abysmal response to the leak and spill of tailings at Imperial’s Kearl Mine, the AER’s decision not to reconsider its approval of Suncor’s inadequate operational plan for the McClelland Lake Wetland Complex, and Alberta’s continued reluctance to collect adequate funds for the cleanup of orphaned and/or abandoned well sites, as well as oilsands liabilities – which are estimated to be as high as $260 billion, leaving taxpayers at risk for the cleanup tab.

The purpose of this event was to bring diverse groups together to share experiences, propose potential solutions, and to begin crafting a collaborative strategy for a broader campaign aimed at demanding structural changes in how energy projects and the energy industry are regulated in Alberta.

The meeting featured 28 participants representing environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs), Indigenous Peoples from First Nations and Metis communities, lawyers, western science practitioners, academics, landowners, authors, grassroots organizations, as well as medical and climate justice organizations.

Major discussion themes from the workshop included (but were not limited to):

  1. Alberta Energy Facilitator.
  2. History Lessons.
  3. Settler Colonial Dynamics.
  4. Challenges to Improving Regulations.
  5. Targets for Change.
  6. Key Messaging.
  7. Lessons from Other Jurisdictions; and
  8. Building Public Knowledge.

The discussion resulted in the establishment of the following list of values, which are crucial to any form of trustworthy public-interest regulator, but which are currently absent from the AER and the energy regulation regime in Alberta more broadly – including at the legislative level. These are the values that an adequate energy regulator should embody, and sweeping changes within the AER are needed if these are to be attained at the pace needed to limit further harm.

  1. Decolonial.
  2. Sustainable.
  3. Equitable.
  4. Accountable.
  5. Responsible.
  6. Accessible and Transparent.
  7. Independent.
  8. Capable and Competent.

Energy regulation in the province should be guided by these values to ensure that Alberta’s ecosystems, Indigenous Peoples, and public at-large are prioritized over the short-term profitability of private/corporate interests in the fossil energy industry. Sufficient accountability mechanisms need to be established to ensure that decision-making at the AER is guided by these values.

Part of the motivation for hosting this discussion was to help determine AWA’s organizational stance as it relates to the AER, and to help craft a suite of demands for change which we can use in our advocacy work moving forward.

To begin working towards a regulator that upholds these values, AWA is demanding the following changes to the AER and/or the legislative regime governing energy regulation in Alberta:

  1. Independence from the Fossil Fuel Industry.
  2. Indigenous Co-management or Co-regulation of the Energy Industry.
  3. Replace the Directly and Adversely Affected Test in the Appeal Process.
  4. An Independent Public Inquiry or Investigation into the AER.
  5. Revisions to Alberta’s Mine Financial Security Program (MFSP) and the Liability Management Framework (LMF) that Uphold the Polluter Pays Principle.
  6. Increased Royalty Rate(s) on the Revenues of Fossil Energy Projects.
  7. Establish and Enforce Strict Timelines for the Reclamation of Mine Sites and Other Infrastructure.
  8. A Moratorium on New and/or Expanded Fossil Energy Projects.
  9. A Moratorium on Carbon Capture, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCUS), and Critical Minerals Mining Projects.
  10. Implementation of Buffer Zones around Protected Areas and “Pristine Viewscapes.”
  11. No New and/or Renewed Water Licenses for Fossil Energy Projects.

This discussion was concluded by a commitment from all participants to work together as a coalition to fight for these much-needed changes at the AER and for energy regulation in Alberta more broadly. This coalition will seek to develop a joint campaign to raise public awareness and appetite for an improved regulatory system that works in the best interest of Albertans.

To view the full report PDF, please click the following link:



Please note that this document is a “What We Heard” report, which summarizes the thoughts, feelings, opinions, and/or perspectives of a diverse group of participants who have been impacted by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) in various ways. The report only intends to provide a general overview of the themes discussed, and the sentiments expressed within this report do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of all individuals and/or organizations who participated in these discussions. Comments have not been attributed to specific individuals or organizations for this reason. This report, and the discussions it summarizes are intended to help Alberta Wilderness Association frame its own organizational position for future work relating to the AER.

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