Breaking down barriers, Darren Barter says the AEUB is open to suggestions by Jon Koch, June 20, 2006, Mountain View Gazette
Bill Sheehan can probably tell you what a number of local landowners think about the Alberta Energy Utilities Board (EUB). However, on May 31, he received the opportunity, along with other members of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, to let the EUB know what he thought of them. Sheehan, chairman of Mountain View County’s Agricultural Service Board, was asked at the end of last month for his committee’s input into the EUB’s process for resolving conflicts between surface and sub-surface rights owners. Although the timing of the request wasn’t great, Sheehan said it was just nice to be asked. “It just looks like to a lot of landowners that either (the EUB) don’t pre-plan, or a lot of us begin to feel that we’re at the lowest end of the priority,” said Sheehan.
The Carstairs-area landowner would like energy companies and the EUB to take more time to plan ahead, and give landowners notice far in advance as to their future intentions whether it be above or below ground. Sheehan is not alone in his concerns, and the EUB seem to be taking note. The regulatory agency is set to launch a pilot project in September which is designed to involve a broader range of stakeholders earlier on in the development process, while looking at long-term development plans for the area in question. According to EUB spokesperson Darren Barter, his organization is adopting a more “holistic approach” to managing and mitigating issues that arise as a result of development. “It’s a broadened scope, it’s a pilot policy, but certainly this looks at area planning rather than individual applications. We want companies to tell us and tell municipalities and individuals what their plans are for the area, rather than the site,” said Barter. “We need to communicate early, we need to communicate often, and industry needs to do the same thing.”
Perhaps the major bone of contention, and area of confusion for landowners when it comes to the EUB is the organization’s relationship with the oil industry. Sheehan has heard these concerns, and believes that the EUB must work harder to convince landowners that they are independent from the energy industry that funds them. “Dealing with the perception that they are in the back pocket of the industry is nothing new for the EUB. Barter says his organization has been dealing with it for decades. “It’s very easy to make those claims, because we’re a big target, let’s face it, but really there’s no substance to that claim,” said Barter. “(These claims) are absolutely, unequivocally untrue.” … “We consult with the public and industry on a continual basis, whether it’s well spacing or CBM … we open it up to the public for comment, so this is a part of how we do our business, we’re open,” said Barter. [Emphasis added]