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Regulation and monitoring

Canada’s oil and natural gas industry operates in one of the world’s most stringent regulatory environments, with oversight from federal, provincial, and territorial governments. Regulations govern activities such as water use, air emissions, land reclamation, monitoring, and reporting, among others.

Federal regulators

The Canadian Energy Regulator (CER) and Indian Oil and Gas Canada (IOGC) have jurisdiction over certain oil and natural gas development and transportation. For example, the CER (and its predecessor agency, the National Energy Board) is responsible for pipelines that cross provincial and international boundaries, permitting hydrocarbon import and export, and non-Atlantic offshore wells. The IOGC manages and regulates oil and gas resources on designated First Nation lands across Canada.

Atlantic offshore oil and natural gas development is regulated by the Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB), which are joint federal-provincial regulators.

Provincial regulators and ministries

In Canada, provinces have jurisdiction over developing onshore (land-based) natural resource development, including oil and natural gas. Each province has its own regulator dealing with energy development, environmental protection, resource conservation, labour, safety and transportation.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) is the single regulator for energy development in Alberta. The AER ensures the safe, efficient, orderly, and environmentally responsible development of oil, oil sands, natural gas, coal resources, geothermal, and brine-hosted mineral resources over their entire life cycle. The Ministry of Energy and Minerals (Energy) and the Ministry of Environment and Protected Areas (AEPA) play important roles in policymaking related to energy development. Energy is responsible for policies related to energy development including mineral rights, royalties and liability management. AEPA is responsible for regional planning, integrated land management and land use policy. It also makes policies to address the impact of oil and natural gas developments on air, land and water.

In British Columbia, the regulation of oil and natural gas activity is the responsibility of the BC Energy Regulator (BCER). The BCER regulates the full life cycle of energy resource activities in B.C. from site planning to restoration. The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation (EMLI) and Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (ECCS) also play important roles in regulating the upstream oil and natural gas sector.

In Saskatchewan, the Ministry of Energy and Resources (MER) and the Ministry of Environment (MOE) regulate the oil and natural gas industry, including environmental protection, liability management, royalties and other aspects of the industry’s operations.

Environmental monitoring

Monitoring oil and natural gas industry activity helps ensure that operators meet regulatory requirements. Monitoring also provides research data to help improve operations.

Monitoring the impacts of oil and natural gas activities, from air quality to water use to land reclamation and more, is specified in licenses and approvals that companies must obtain prior to undertaking activities such as drilling, hydraulic fracturing, oil sands mining or in situ development, and facility construction. Companies are required to monitor the impacts of their activities and to report the results of their monitoring programs to the appropriate regulatory agencies.

In addition, many networks and organizations monitor air quality, water quality, wildlife, and more. These networks are often collaborations among industry, governments, and special interest groups. Examples in Alberta include:

  • The Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA) provides real-time monitoring of environmental conditions in the Wood Buffalo region in northeastern Alberta where the oil sands are located. Monitoring includes air quality, and terrestrial and human exposure.
  • The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) advances biodiversity monitoring to inform responsible resource management and land stewardship by tracking changes in wildlife and their habitats across Alberta, working collaboratively to provide ongoing, relevant, and scientifically credible information.