Deputy Alberta energy minister named chief executive of new provincial regulator

CALGARY – Alberta’s new energy regulator will be headed up by a CEO who has been second-in-command of both the province’s energy and environment ministries.

Deputy Alberta Energy Minister Jim Ellis is leaving his post to handle the day-to-day operations of the revamped oil and gas watchdog, set to launch in June.

Gerry Protti, a former energy executive and founder of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, was named chair of the Alberta Energy Regulator earlier this month. He’ll be responsible for more big-picture matters.

Ellis said Monday that much of his new job will involve assuring international customers for Alberta crude that the industry is operating in an environmentally sustainable way.

“We know that the energy industry is the economic engine of this province. We also know that the energy industry, in order for it to be successful, needs the ability to get its goods to market and we need customers who would buy that product,” said Ellis.

“For both of those, we need Albertans, Canadians and international customers to have confidence not just in our resources, but in how we produce them. The new energy regulator will play a critical role in that equation.”

It’s a task with which Ellis is familiar, having developed the province’s strategy to diversify its markets and acted as Alberta’s point man on talks to form a Canadian energy strategy.

A common thread during visits to Washington, Asia and other Canadian provinces has been questions over Alberta’s regulatory oversight, Ellis said.

“Part of the role of the energy regulator will, in fact, be an outward speaking role to deal with these people around the world and explain what we’re doing.”

During his time as deputy environment minister between 2008 and 2011, Ellis worked on environmental frameworks in the oilsands region, climate change initiatives and improvements to the regulatory system.

The new energy regulator, which will replace the Energy Resources Conservation Board, will have a $200 million budget and employ nearly 1,000 people.

The change is meant to make the regulatory process for oil, oilsands, natural gas and coal projects less complicated and lengthy.