Industry officials and environmental expert appointed to province’s new energy regulator

By Sheila Pratt, Edmonton Journal June 12, 2013

EDMONTON – The new board overseeing the energy industry includes experts from the oil and gas, forestry and electricity industries, as well an internationally known environmental expert from Toronto with experience at the United Nations.

Three Calgarians are on the board: Cameron Bailey from the oilpatch; rancher David Chalack; and Sheila O’Brien, who has 30 years experience in the energy industry.

They will be joined by Edmonton resident Peter Flynn from the electricity sector, and Elizabeth Dowdeswell, a former undersecretary general of the environment for the UN and a former federal assistant deputy minister of environment.

Energy Minister Ken Hughes said in a news release he is pleased with the diversity of the board for the new Alberta Energy Regulator, which will take over from the decades-old Energy Resources Conservation Board next week with the goal of streamlining approval of applications for new oil, gas and coal projects.

The new regulator, which officially starts up June 17, will also take over responsibility for handing out environmental permits for new projects and enforcement of provincial environment laws. That job is now done by the environment department.

The new board will “ensure our province leads the country and the world in balancing resource growth and our strong environmental commitment,” said Hughes.

Board chairman Gerry Protti, also appointed by Hughes, is a founding member of the industry lobby group the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. CEO Jim Ellis is a former deputy minister in the environment and energy departments.

The new board also includes: small business owner Fred Estlin from Grande Prairie; and Andy Neigel from Athabasca, who has 30 years in the forestry industry and runs Boreal Management Group.

Rachel Notley, New Democratic environment critic, says the new EAR started off with a “serious credibility problem ” when Protti, an industry insider, was appointed as boss.

“The new board members have a lot of work to do to overcome that bad start,” said Notley, adding that putting environmental enforcement under the regulator is heading in the wrong direction.

The board appointed five people, four from Calgary and one from Banff, as full-time officers to hear arguments about projects that go to public hearings.

Brad McManus, currently acting chair of the ERCB, becomes chief hearing commissioner.

The hearing officers are Alex Bolton and Rob McManus, both former ERCB members, Christine Macken, currently a member of the province’s Environment Appeals Board, and Barbara McNeil, chair of the Banff Development Appeal Board.

Unlike the ERCB, where board members also doubled as hearing officers, the board of the AER will not preside over public hearings.

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