Alberta Engergy Minister Ken Hughes
Credits: LYLE ASPINALL/QMI AGENCY
But the province said the change to a single industry regulator would also bring tougher penalties for polluters.
On Wednesday, the government tabled legislation to create the Alberta Energy Regulator, a one-stop monitoring and approval body Energy Minister Ken Hughes said should shave off months or years off startup waits.
"We want to remain an attractive place to do business," Hughes said in Calgary. "It will be efficient and effective for industry, and efficient and effective for landowners and Albertans."
The single regulator will assume the roles of the Energy Resources Conservation Board and the Alberta Environment Ministry and affect the oil, oilsands, natural gas and coal sectors.
When asked if the proposed higher fines for polluters are an admission current penalties are too light, Hughes said consequences for environmental breaches have already been "much more onerous" than those for other violations.
"We're taking all the penalties to the highest standards," he said.
The new approach, he said, also makes it easier for landowners to state their concerns earlier and to appeal to decisions.
Environment Minister Diana McQueen said expediting projects won't sacrifice Alberta's wilderness.
"The environmental outcomes we expect in this province won't be lessened, they'll be maintained and increased," she said. "They'll stand up to international scrutiny."
The energy industry is happy with the legislation and hopes it'll reduce delays, said Brad Herald, spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
"This is a major milestone today -- it really establishes a platform for future growth," he said.
The environmental activist Pembina Institute isn't opposed to the move but needs to know more, spokesman Chris Severson-Baker said.
"Making Alberta's regulatory processes more efficient could be a positive step, but it will depend on how this streamlining is implemented," he said.
Details of Bill 2, the Responsible Energy Development Act, according to provincial government:
- Created after consultation with landowners, First Nations, environmental groups, industry, general public.
- Expected to impact oil, oilsands, natural gas and coal sector for next 50 years.
- Assumes regulatory roles of the Energy Resources Conservation Board and Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.
- Will bring higher fines for polluters.
- More flexibility for regulators in granting approvals.
- Voluntary registry for landowners to register private surface agreements to improve enforcement.
- Maintains strength of environmental legislation.
- Give landowners a better avenue to state concerns.
- Requires both parties to take part in alternative dispute resolution process.