Decision Date: June 15, 2011
Panel: Alan Andison
Keywords: Oil and Gas Activities Act – s. 72(7); Administrative Tribunals Act – s. 24(2); preliminary application; extension of time; special circumstances; notice
Marilyn Gross applied to for an extension of time to file two appeals against two separate permits issued by the Oil and Gas Commission (the “Commission”). The permits authorized the drilling, operation and flaring of two exploratory horizontal wells on land that is owned by Ms. Gross. The appeals were filed on May 16, 2011, over two weeks after the expiry of the 15-day appeal period applicable to landowners under section 72(7) of the Oil and Gas Activities Act.
Under section 24(2) of the Administrative Tribunals Act, the Tribunal has the authority to extend the time to file an appeal, even if the time limit has expired, if satisfied that special circumstances exist. Ms. Gross submitted that an extension of time should be granted because special circumstances existed in this case. Specifically, she argued that the Commission did not notify her legal counsel that the permits were issued until May 3, 2011, despite her legal counsel notifying the Commission several months prior that he represented Ms. Gross and that she had concerns about the applications for the permits.
Both the Commission and Murphy Oil opposed the application for an extension of time.
The Tribunal found that there were special circumstances in this case that justified granting the extension of time. The Commission had notified Ms. Gross directly when the permits were issued, but it had failed or refused to communicate with her legal counsel, despite receiving notice several months prior that he had been retained to represent her interests with respect to the permit applications. The Commission provided him with notice of its decision on May 3, 2011, after he found from another agency that the permits had been issued, and he requested information from the Commission. In addition, the Commission did not send copies of the permits to Ms. Gross when it notified her that they had been issued, and it did not send copies to her legal counsel until May 3, 2011. The Tribunal noted that Ms. Gross would lose her right, as an owner of land on which oil and gas activity was permitted, to appeal the permits to the Tribunal if the application for an extension of time was denied. The Tribunal found that the principles of procedural fairness and administrative justice would not be served by adhering to the 15-day appeal period in these circumstances. The Tribunal found that refusing an extension of time in this case would be an injustice, especially given that the appeals were filed within 15 days after the Commission notified her legal counsel that the permits had been issued.
Accordingly, the application for an extension of time to file the appeals was granted.