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Alberta Landowners Guide, Landowner and Occupant Rights

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
                Geophysical Exploration
                Compensation and Access
                Landowner and Occupant Rights
Development Phase
Pipelines and Other Infrastructure
Environmental Impacts
Abandonment and Reclamation
Compensation, Rights, and Hearings

Refusing Permission for Access

If, as a private landowner or occupant, you do not wish to have seismic activity take place on your land, you can refuse permission. In such a case, the seismic company is not allowed to enter the land and has no right to appeal.[1] If a company comes onto your land when you have refused permission, it can be fined up to $25,000[2] and you can treat it as an act of trespass. You can ask a geophysical inspector to investigate (see Compensation), and can take the company to court to recover the cost of any damage.

If you refuse access for seismic operations, an oil or gas company may be able to obtain the information it needs about the geological structure under your property by doing seismic exploration from adjacent property. In this case, the company may return to you at a later date to ask permission to drill a well on your land.

If a company wants to conduct seismic testing on a leased roadway, they must first negotiate with the tenant. However, if negotiations fail, the company is permitted to use a leased road allowance (developed or undeveloped) for seismic testing.[3] In this case, the company must give written notice to the tenant 48 hours before entering the road allowance. This notice must state where the points of entry will be and that the company will be liable for any damage resulting from exploration activity.


As a landowner/occupant, it is important for you to inspect for compliance when a seismic line is put across your land. If you have concerns, first try to resolve them with the seismic company (seismic agents do not have a home registering body to register complaints about conduct). It is advisable to obtain the name and company of the chief surveyor for the project. If there are concerns over the crew, first attempt resolution with the chief surveyor. Surveyors are also a registered profession and have a complaint process; contact the Alberta Land Surveyor's Association for details.

If your attempts with the seismic company are unsuccessful, you can call the Alberta Energy Regulator’s Energy and Environmental Emergency 24-hour response line at 1- 800-222-6514. Inspectors from the Geophysical Inspector Program[4] deal with problems relating to seismic activity and water wells, structural damage, permit disputes, surface damage, flowing or cratered shot holes, trespassing (and related damage), livestock damage, and miscellaneous inquiries.

Note that if you have negotiated specific requirements with the company (in addition to legal requirements) you will need to enforce these specific requirements yourself. Ideally you should inspect the area with a representative from the seismic company, document the problems, and send your written account (with photographs or videos, if appropriate) to the company.

If you have a problem with a water well that you believe to be caused by the seismic operations, you should first contact the seismic company using the contact information available on the permit form or the 400-metre notification information. You can also contact the Energy and Environmental Emergency line (1-800-222-6514) and ask for a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the water well problem.[5] If this remains unresolved, you may also contact the Farmers’ Advocate Office to inquire about having your well inspected, repaired or replaced under the Water Well Restoration or Replacement Program.[6]

Should you have concerns about the conduct of a permit agent, you can report this to the Canadian Association of Geophysical Contractors, to which many seismic companies belong.

Adjacent Landowners and Occupants

You may be concerned about possible impacts on your land or water supply from seismic activity occurring on adjacent property. Companies are required to notify all residents within 400 metres of any planned seismic operations at least 48 hours before the activity starts.[7] The notification can be done to each individual residence, using signage or public announcement. It must contain the name of the seismic operator, a contact name and phone number, as well as a description of the energy source.[8] If you are concerned that your water supply may be affected, ask the company to test your well, or have it tested by a professional laboratory. This will provide you with baseline information on quality and flow of the water before the seismic testing starts.

If you have concerns or questions about the impacts of local seismic operations on your water well, or any other problems related to the seismic activity, contact the Alberta Energy Regulator and ask a geophysical inspector to investigate (see Geophysical Inspector Program).

A company must notify a municipality, in writing, of their intention to conduct seismic operations before they apply to Alberta Energy Regulator for a licence.[9] When undertaking exploration on primary or secondary highways, the company is required to notify the Operations Manager for the Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation.[10] Even if your land is not within the notification area, you can contact the company and draw its attention to any concerns you have and request that these be addressed before the seismic program commences. If you want information about a specific exploration program, you can make a request in writing to the Alberta Energy Regulator.[11]


  1. This material is from the Pembina Institute publication 'Landowners' Guide to Oil and Gas Development, 3rd edition (2016)'
  2. Exploration Regulation, schedule 2(1)(2).
  3. Exploration Regulation, section 10.
  4. This program is described at https://www.alberta.ca/geophysical-inspector-program.aspx
  5. Farmers’ Advocate Office. 2012. Seismic Operations and Landowners’ Rights;
    https://open.alberta.ca/publications/ag-dex-878-5. p. 5
  6. Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, “Well Water Replacement or Restoration Program.”
    http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$Department/deptdocs.nsf/all/ofa11059; See also Farmers’ Advocate Office.
  7. In the White Areas of the province. Farmers’ Advocate Office. 2012. Seismic Operations and Landowners’ Rights; https://open.alberta.ca/publications/ag-dex-878-5. p. 4
  8. Geophysical Information Letter 001/01, Conducting Exploration Programs in Municipalities;
  9. Alberta Environment and Parks, Exploration Directive 2006-06: Application for Exploration Approval.
  10. Alberta Environment and Parks, Exploration Directive 2006-11: Notice to Relevant Land Authorities and Holders of Forest Management Agreements and Timber Licenses.
  11. Alberta Environment and Parks, Exploration Directive 2006-04: Release of Program Information.