Imagine you’re a landowner and you receive a notice from an oil and gas company telling you they would like to drill a sour gas well on your property. You’d likely have questions and maybe concerns about this proposed project. Or perhaps you believe a nearby facility recently started omitting an odour. Where do you turn?
Fortunately you live in Alberta, where oil and gas development has taken place since the early 1900s. The province—and the companies that operate within it—have lots of experience in dealing with situations exactly like this. Nowadays, companies are more open to listening to concerns, and various options are available for people living near energy development activities.
Determining whether to file a concern or a complaint comes down to what phase the development is in, explains Melissa Ladner, a business intelligence analyst with the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER).
“Quite simply, if you have a concern about a project that is in an application phase, you would file a statement of concern, or SOC,” she says. “Whereas, in the case of a concern with a facility or piece of infrastructure that has already been built, one would file a complaint.”
What’s the Difference?
SOCs can be filed by anyone who believes they may be directly or adversely affected by a proposed energy development project—be it a well on their land or a pipeline running through their community. SOCs must be written and submitted to the AER via mail, email, or fax, and a copy must also be provided to the company in question.
It’s important to note that SOCs address a project application concern, which means they can only be filed in response to a notice of an application. They may also trigger the start of a formal hearing process.
There’s a lot more to know about SOCs—such as what information should be included and what happens after they’re submitted—so check out our EnerFAQs on SOCs to get into the nitty gritty.
As for a complaint, these are typically received by one of the AER’s local field offices, the Energy and Environmental 24-hour Response Line, or the AER Customer Contact Centre. Complaints cover issues such as facility noise, odours, or anything that might impact public safety, the environment, or personal property.
What the Numbers Say
Number of SOCs received since 2015: 1053
Number of complaints received since 2015: 2218
Number of complaints since 2015 that requested a site visit by the AER: 324
Number of site visit requests fulfilled by the AER since 2015: 316
If you notice an energy-related incident (such as an oil spill or pipeline leak), have a complaint about a specific energy activity or operation (such as sour gas odours or noise), or have concerns about a company’s operations, please call the AER’s 24-hour response line at 1-800-222-6514.