Public participation is widely considered to be an essential component of any legitimate exercise of state power over resource development and environmental decision-making. A clear illustration of what can happen when public participation is excluded from the decision-making process is the public uproar concerning the abrupt rescission by the Alberta government of the 1976 Coal Policy in May 2020.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) is Alberta’s regulator of energy development throughout the full lifecycle of an oil, gas, or coal project - from initial application to final closure and reclamation. The AER is responsible for assessing and monitoring the environmental impacts of these energy projects, and the AER implements a compliance program to enforce the applicable legal rules.

This session will be a critical examination of the opportunities provided by the AER for the public to participate in its decision-making processes. While the discussion will canvass the topic broadly in relation to various components of the AER’s regulatory functions, specific focus will be given to the AER’s statement of concern procedures - the process used by the AER to invite persons who are concerned with a proposed energy development to express those concerns.

Speaker: Shaun Fluker

Shaun Fluker is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Calgary. His research includes examining legal frameworks governing public participation and transparency in resources and environmental decision-making. He has written extensively on procedural and substantive rules governing access to legal process, judicial review and access to information. His article “The Right to Public Participation in Resources and Environmental Decision-Making in Alberta” (2015) provides a critical assessment of these issues specifically in relation to the AER and its predecessors, and he writes frequently on current developments in public participation at the Faculty of Law’s blog.

Shaun also serves as legal counsel in public interest environmental litigation with the Faculty’s Public Interest Law Clinic. His most recent case with the Clinic resulted in a victory for enhanced public participation in environmental decision-making in Normtek Radiation Services Ltd v Alberta Environmental Appeal Board, 2020.

Session Video

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