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Alberta Landowners Guide, Other Impacts

Landowners Guide Cover.jpg
3rd edition
Authors:            Duncan Kenyon, Nikki Way, Andrew Read, Barend Dronkers, Benjamin Israel, Binnu Jeyakumar, Nina Lothian
Publisher: Pembina Institute
Publish Date: October 2016
PDF Download: [Landowners' Guide]              [Landowners' Primer]                                                                    
Initiation Phase
Exploration Phase
Development Phase
Pipelines and Other Infrastructure
Environmental Impacts
                Oil and Gas Operational Impacts,
                 Conservation and Reclamation

                Air Emissions
                Drilling Wastes
                Other Impacts
Abandonment and Reclamation
Compensation, Rights, and Hearings


Compressor stations, processing plants, well batteries, well drilling and servicing operations can all cause noise, which is especially noticeable in quiet rural areas.[1] If you have a complaint, you should first contact the company, but if you have a problem locating the company or if you are not satisfied with their response, contact the AER 24- hour Emergency and Operational Complaint number, 1-800-222-6514, and ask them to help (see Alberta Energy Regulator).

Noise is measured in decibels, which is a logarithmic scale; an increase in ten decibels is perceived as a doubling in noise level. Examples of the sound levels of familiar noises[2] are given in Table 6.

Table 6. Examples of noise levels

Source Sound level (dBA[3])
Soft whisper at 1.5 metres 30
Quiet office or living room
AER target[4] nighttime sound level at low density housing with dwellings more than 500 m from heavily travelled roads[5]
Inside average urban home, quiet street, refrigerator
Noisy office, conversation at 1 m
Highway traffic at 15 m
Jackhammer 88-98
Loud shout 90
Modified motor cycle 95
Amplified rock music 110

The AER policy on noise is summarized in Directive 038: Noise Control. This directive also sets out noise requirements for all facilities approved by the AER, including drilling and service rigs. The directive aims to keep sound levels to an acceptable minimum so that the quality of life for neighbours of a facility is not impaired and their sleep is not affected. The directive regards noise from the “receptor viewpoint” rather than considering sound levels at the property line.

A person can make a complaint about noise in different ways — in person or by phone, fax, email or letter. Once the company has been informed, it must contact the complainant directly to try to understand the concerns and work out reasonable expectations and a time frame for action. Section 2 of Directive 038 sets out what the AER considers permissible sound levels. Section 4 provides more detail about dealing with complaints and Appendix 5 includes a noise complaint investigation form that the company and the complainant will need to complete. If a company conducts a sound survey, it must ensure it is carried out under representative conditions that would affect the person complaining.

A noise impact assessment is required for a new facility, or for modifications to an existing facility, to identify and deal with aspects that might later cause problems. For these facilities, a company commits to the AER in its application[6] that it will comply with noise requirements set out in Directive 038. If the company does not comply, it has two options: satisfy the complainant or do what it takes to meet the noise guideline. This includes shutdown of the facility if necessary.

Although Directive 038 does not cover construction operations, the AER expects construction companies to keep noise to acceptable levels and take reasonable mitigating measures, such as only undertaking noisy operations between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. The AER also asks operators to advise nearby residents of noise-causing activities and to schedule them to cause the least disruption.[7]

Animal Health

Problems can arise if animals eat contaminated vegetation or come into contact with contaminated soil, or spills such as oil, condensate, or hydraulic fracturing fluids. Animals may also be affected by air emissions. If you believe that activity may have an impact on your livestock, you can negotiate precautionary elements into your surface lease agreement such as fencing to ensure your animals don’t come into close contact with the well site. Landowners concerned about the impact that air pollution might have on their animals should request assessments of the project’s emissions and the location of where they are released in relation to active pasture lands. You can also include clauses in your agreement that cover the costs of a necropsy in cases where you suspect nearby development may have played a role in an animal death. It would be helpful to have an ongoing relationship with a veterinarian to establish a herd health baseline, so that you can monitor changes in health and behavior to compare to the health of the herd prior to development.

If you believe that oil or gas activity is affecting the health of your livestock, contact your local veterinarian and the AER’s 24-hour Emergency and Operational Complaint number at 1-800-222-6514. An independent animal health investigator may be called in. Be sure to keep a record of events and take photographs to aid any investigation.

The Clean Air Strategic Alliance Animal Health Project Team was set up in 1999 to prevent short- and long-term animal health impacts due to air contaminants. Their report includes a bibliography of research studies conducted to investigate these impacts.[8] The team conducted a survey of air quality impacts on animal health and designed the Herd and Environmental Record System, to enable livestock owners to address livestock health issues potentially associated with air emissions.[9] In 2001, the Western Interprovincial Scientific Studies Association was founded to study the impacts of air emissions from the oil and gas sector on animal health in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.[10] The study, only available for purchase from the Alberta Energy Regulator, broadly concluded that “there were no associations between the measured exposures and most of the health outcomes” they investigated.[11]

However, there were some statistically significant correlations between hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide, and VOC exposures and the risk of calf mortality and calf medical treatment.[12] Additionally, there is little research that has measured herd health in respect to newer unconventional practices and their associated potential contaminants.


  1. This material is from the Pembina Institute publication 'Landowners' Guide to Oil and Gas Development, 3rd edition (2016)'
  2. AER, Directive 038: Noise Control (2007), appendix 2.
  3. As explained in AER Directive 038, appendix 3, sound is measured in decibels, but, to approximate the human hearing response at low frequencies, the decibel sound is filtered through the A filtering network and the sound is measured as dBA. The AER uses dBA Leq, which represent energy equivalent sound levels.
  4. AER, Directive 038, 3. This is a target and does not establish compliance should infringement occur.
  5. AER, Directive 038, table 1.
  6. AER, Directive 056.
  7. AER, Directive 038: Noise Control (2007), 13.
  8. Clear Air Strategic Alliance, Animal Health Project Team Final Report and Recommendations (2003), 24.
    https://www.casahome.org/past-projects/animal-health-8/. This link has been updated since the 2016 publication; the updated link may no longer contain the original information.
  9. Clean Air Strategic Alliance, “Herd Environmental Record System.”
    https://www.casahome.org/attachments/AHPTFinalReportandRecommendationsMAR-20-2003.pdf. This link has been updated since the 2016 publication; the updated link may no longer contain the original information.
  10. Manitoba Innovation, Energy and Mines, “Western Canada Study on Animal and Human Health Effect Associated with Exposure to Emissions from Oil and Natural Gas Field Facilities”, news release, November 19, 2001.
  11. Western Interprovincial Scientific Studies Association, Western Canada study of animal health effects associated with exposure to emissions from oil and natural gas field facilities: a study of 33,000 cattle in British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan (2006), 13.
  12. Ibid., 14.