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Assessment of the regulatory response to complaints related to unconventional oil and gas operations Open Access


Other title
Oil and Gas
Complaint Investigations
Environmental Public Health
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Ponto, Jessica A
Supervisor and department
Guigard, Selma (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Kindzierski, Warren (School of Public Health)
Examining committee member and department
Buchanan, Ian (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Guigard, Selma (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Kindzierski, Warren (School of Public Health)
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Environmental Science
Date accepted
Graduation date
2016-06:Fall 2016
Master of Science
Degree level
Unconventional oil and gas development in Alberta has been rapidly expanding over the past couple of decades and has raised public concerns regarding the potential public health impacts and environmental contamination. The objectives of this thesis were to identify the types of unconventional oil and gas issues that government agencies, like health and environment departments, respond to, and to determine the complaint investigation approaches that have worked best for experienced jurisdictions to respond appropriately to the identified concerns. To fulfill the objectives, seven agencies from four US States were selected to be surveyed based on the presence of unconventional oil and gas plays in their State, the extent of resource development and their role in investigating complaints. These States were Colorado, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The types of agencies that responded to the survey were state health departments, state environment departments, and state oil and gas regulators. The survey results suggest that there is variation with the types and nature of public concerns investigated by each State agency. However, air quality complaints were likely to be one of the most abundant concerns and also the most challenging to mitigate due to intermittent emissions and nonspecific exposures. Survey participants also cited water concerns and general health complaints as being issues that their state agencies respond to on a frequent basis. The approach taken by the agencies to act upon the concerns mentioned above was similar; all agencies investigated all complaints, including non-specific issues, with priority given to health and odour concerns. Inter-agency collaboration was critical to ensure a multiple lines of evidence approach and was best achieved by clarifying roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders in the context of the different types of anticipated complaints. Other complaint investigation strategies included centralized intake and coordination of complaints, the ability of agencies to respond quickly to concerns with suitable equipment and tools, appropriate training and expertise of regulatory and advisory agency personnel, health-based regulations, and a comprehensive reporting system.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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