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Alberta - May 25, 2022

High school – People often associate those formative (and oh so awkward) years with questionable haircuts, celebrity obsessions, and a craving for freedom. But for a group of 4-H Alberta members, high school is an opportunity to start discussing environmental stewardship.

Youth in Action

In response to a violation of the Water Act, an energy company was ordered by the Provincial Court of Alberta to fund a creative sentencing project, to be overseen by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), to educate landowners and other nonindustry stakeholders on requirements companies must follow when using water for energy development.

Through a competitive bid process, the AER selected a candidate whose bid involved forming the Youth Water Council, comprising ten members of 4-H Alberta, to encourage Albertans to learn more about temporary water diversion licences and their importance.

“It was obvious from the get-go that we were contributing to something important.”

Mykaela Guldberg, Youth Water Council member.

"As my family is in the agriculture industry, I have always been interested in the role water plays in our operations. I also have a special interest in government and politics; this project allowed me to explore both," says Ross Redelback, Youth Water Council member.

The council set out to produce an awareness video, as well as a supporting infographic, featuring interviews with representatives from the energy industry, Alberta Environment and Parks, the Special Areas Board, Farmers' Advocate Office, and the AER.

"The interviews we conducted shed light on the need for a project like this" says Mykaela Guldberg, Youth Water Council member. "It was obvious from the get-go that we were contributing to something important."

Learning From Our Youth

The Youth Water Council's video not only spread awareness about temporary water diversion licences, but also highlighted the incredible capability of today's youth to support the development of real-world solutions.

"Not only did I learn more about a topic of interest, but also I was able to work cooperatively with people I had never met," says Ross Redelback. "While working together, we were learning together; hopefully, this also encourages others to take a chance and get involved [in awareness projects]."

Student interviewer
Youth Water Council member interviewing AER regional engagement specialist, Brian Lieverse.

In addition to the video on temporary water diversion licences awareness, the Youth Water Council documented their experience with a series of interviews, virtual information sessions, and in-person gatherings.

"The youth council were great to work with and developed an incredible video to support Albertans in understanding water use for energy development," says Brian Lieverse, a regional engagement specialist with the AER. "It was inspiring to be interviewed by students who were so passionate about water regulation, environmental science, and communications."

The Youth Water Council's project emphasizes the importance of collaboration and communication to support responsible water use in Alberta.

Brian Lieverse
AER regional engagement specialist, Brian Lieverse discussing temporary water diversion licenses in the Protected Water awareness video.

A Creative Solution

The Youth Water Council's project is just one of many creative sentencing initiatives overseen by the AER on behalf of the Provincial Court of Alberta. When an AER investigation results in a company being charged and prosecuted, the court can require the company to fund a creative sentencing project that is designed to compensate for the harm that was caused.

"Ideally, learning about important topics, such as environmental considerations in energy development, from a young age ensures this information is inherently known, and perhaps that knowledge is passed on to future generations," says Gary Neilson, AER senior advisor and liaison to the Crown. "Forming a youth council was an innovative approach in understanding environmental stewardship from a young age."

Creative sentencing is an opportunity for the AER to work with the Provincial Court of Alberta to identify novel projects through a transparent and competitive process. This process has demonstrated success and allows for the Provincial Court of Alberta and the AER to hear about projects that are proposed by our stakeholders for our stakeholders.

The AER is responsible for overseeing the competitive process and assessing proposals based on court-selected criteria. Following the selection of the successful bid, the AER maintains oversight to ensure the creative sentencing requirement is met and reports back to the court.

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