Alberta Energy Regulator paying a 3rd executive to commute from B.C.
Previously, the AER board was unaware it was paying some executives to travel from B.C.
The president of an oilpatch industry group is calling for significant changes at the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) after learning that another executive at the regulator is living outside the province and billing for travel.
CBC News has learned a member of the AER's legal team, Jeff Moore, lives in Victoria, B.C., and has been commuting to Edmonton and Calgary for at least two years.
The AER has covered the cost of his flights, hotels and meals. The regulator also reimbursed Moore for other travel-related expenses such as the mileage on his vehicle to drive to the Victoria airport and parking.
The costs added up to $11,308.03 between January 2017 and September 2018, according to expense documents obtained by CBC News through a freedom of information request.
Moore is the third executive to be found to be living in B.C. and billing travel costs to the regulator.
Previously, CBC News reported that former CEO Jim Ellis and executive vice president Jennifer Steber both travelled from the Penticton airport in B.C's Okanagan Valley.
The AER declined an interview request.
In an emailed statement, spokeswoman Cara Tobin said the AER has paid for Moore to travel from B.C. since 2014.
"Mr. Moore was hired because of his specialized expertise in key pieces of energy and environmental legislation. The agreement was approved by the AER's General Counsel and the Chief Executive Officer," she said.
The provincial government sets the budget for the AER, but the oil and gas industry itself funds the regulator through administrative fees.
Tristan Goodman, with the Explorers and Producers Association, which represents junior and mid-sized oil and gas companies, said this is one of the reasons why it is time for significant changes at the regulator.
"There is frustration with people that are spending an increasing amount of time not focused on the regulatory work. Are there situations where it is acceptable to have people somewhere else? I'm sure some unique cases. But as a general rule, the positions are in Alberta," he said in an interview.
The culture of the organization, its commitment to its objective, and how it delivers services all need to be examined, he said.
"We probably want to see more focus here and to get back to the mandate of the regulator to make sure that's moving in the right direction," said Goodman, who worked for the AER for 15 years.
Moore's salary was $195,382 in 2016, Steber's was $373,547 in 2015, and Ellis's was $609,034 in 2017.
In December 2018, when CBC News first reported on Ellis and Steber travelling from B.C., the AER said its board of directors was unaware of the issue but would order a thorough review of its practices.
"The AER Board conducted a comprehensive review of the organization's travel policy and changed it to tighten the controls on travel and telecommuting. Mr. Moore's agreement is aligned with the updated policy," said Tobin.
The bulk of Moore's expenses are for hotels and airfare. In one instance, he received free accommodation while in Calgary and compensated the host with a $150 gift card from Hudson's Bay, which was expensed to the AER.
Moore still works at the AER, while Ellis resigned late last year. Steber's retirement was effective in January.
The AER would not say whether it is covering the cost of any other executives to commute from outside the province.
The AER is the single regulator of energy development in Alberta — from application and exploration, to construction and operation, to decommissioning, closure and reclamation.