On May 20, 2020, the Alberta Energy Regulator (“AER”) announced sweeping temporary suspensions to environmental monitoring requirements across Alberta’s energy industry. The suspensions are a follow-up to the Minister of Environment and Parks and Minister of Energy’s earlier suspensions to certain environmental reporting requirements. This is a significant development as the previous measures essentially suspended requirements to report routine monitoring information, while this new step actually suspends the underlying requirement to monitor in certain circumstances. The AER states this step is a measured response to public health concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic including legitimate concerns that energy operators will not be able to meet certain monitoring requirements while complying with the COVID-19 public health orders and guidelines.
- Surface water quality testing and analysis with the exception of surface water released to the environment.
- All groundwater sampling under Water Act licences and approvals but at least one monitoring event must take place in 2020.
- Soil monitoring and groundwater monitoring under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) approvals with the exception of any monitoring necessary to protect human health and ecological receptors.
- Lab testing of water released except for domestic wastewater.
- Volatile organic compounds and reduced sulphur compound monitoring, including fugitive emissions surveys carried out by third-party contractors.
- Fugitive emissions leak detection and repair (LDAR) programs carried out by third-party contractors. Methane monitoring requirements must still be met.
- Quality Assurance Plan (QAP) audits and verifications, including third-party audits, under the Continuous Emission Monitoring System (CEMS) Code. Approval holders are still required to maintain CEMS monitoring and report exceedances and meet federal multi-sector air pollutants regulation measurement requirements.
- Audits and verifications, including third-party audits, under the Continuous Emission Monitoring System (CEMS) Code. Approval holders are still required to maintain CEMS monitoring and report exceedances and meet federal multi-sector air pollutants regulation measurement requirements.
- Wildlife monitoring programs but wildlife deterrents and mitigations are to remain in place.
- Wetland monitoring.
- All research requirements under EPEA approvals.
- All reclamation monitoring programs. The mitigation and repair of potential impacts, such as weed infestations and soil erosion, must continue.
- Five-year integrity testing of aboveground storage tanks. Monthly visual inspections for evidence of problems must continue.
- In addition, the AER provided the following regulatory modifications:
- Operators that conduct twice-annual surveys to determine the volumes of fluid tailings and treated fluid tailings in their storage facilities are now required to perform only one of those surveys in 2020.
- Pipeline deactivation - Internal and external corrosion mitigation and monitoring must continue on deactivated pipelines that are susceptible to corrosion.
- Approval holders may apply to the AER to modify the frequency and timing of manual stack testing (stack surveys) and similar activities.
Ongoing Reporting of Emergencies and Documentation of Reporting