The story of the Alberta Energy Regulator’s (AER’s) presence in Wainwright began in 1978 in the basement of an inspector’s home. From these humble beginnings, the Wainwright Field Centre moved to a few other locations before finding a home at 801 – 2 Avenue in Wainwright, where it has stood since 1989.
Over the last 30 years, the field centre has become part of the community, with staff working closely with those who live in the area.
“People know who we work for,” explains Darren Antos, regional coordinator. “It’s not surprising to have someone come up to us and ask questions about oil and gas. When you come from small rural communities, everyone is connected.”
A New Direction
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Alberta earlier this year, we followed the province’s lead and sent staff home, including the ten staff members of the Wainwright Field Centre. However, this didn’t compromise the field centre’s ability to oversee energy development in the area. It soon became apparent that physical office space wasn’t required to deliver AER services. With staff now successfully working remotely, we are moving out of the building we have occupied in Wainwright for the last three decades.
“The field centre has been a long-standing part of the community, but times change and we have to move on.”
- Agnes Hogg, field support, Wainwright Field Centre
A number of the field centre staff live many kilometres out of Wainwright, and the region they cover spans eight municipal districts and two special areas of mostly grassland and crops. The team’s sprawl won’t affect the support and oversight we provide to Wainwright; rather, the region will continue to respond to inquiries and provide services such as incident response, inspections and audits, and regional engagement. The Wainwright team has been reporting into the Bonnyville Field Centre since February.
Some Things Never Change
Antos explains that the onus is on the AER to keep community relationships going. “People can’t knock on the door and just come in anymore, but we just have to make the effort to stay connected.”
But hasn’t 2020 made us all take a hard look at how we connect with others, forcing us to find creative ways to work together while being farther apart? Phone chats and emails won’t replace the interactions community members had with staff in the physical building, but the field centre team will continue to connect with each other and the community.
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