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Alberta’s beleaguered energy regulator has appointed a new chief executive after months of upheaval and layoffs at the agency.

Laurie Pushor, a former Saskatchewan deputy minister of energy and resources, will take the helm of the Alberta Energy Regulator, which is responsible for assessing and approving energy development, on April 15.

His hiring comes after a tumultuous year for one of the province’s most important regulatory agencies.

Premier Jason Kenney’s government appointed a new board and began a review of the AER last summer, saying the agency needed to be more responsive to the industry and speed up approvals.

In September, three investigations concluded that the agency’s former CEO, Jim Ellis – who resigned the previous year – and his top lieutenants had tried to carve out a lucrative new business for themselves when they started a side project to provide regulatory training to other jurisdictions. The project, called the International Centre of Regulatory Excellence, used AER resources and staff, even though it was set up to arrange its own contracts.

Gordon Lambert, who replaced Mr. Ellis as interim CEO, was thanked for his service in a statement Thursday from the AER.

The AER said Mr. Pushor’s experience means he has an in-depth understanding of – and appreciation for – the regulator’s work.

“Mr. Pushor has outstanding experience leading organizations through major transformation and change, which will be a huge asset as the AER continues its journey to ensuring we have not only the structure, but the vision and culture we need to achieve our mandate,” it said.

He will oversee the agency’s move to a new design, in which employees focus on four main functions: adjudication and regulatory decisions; environmental, energy and safety oversight; energy information; and stakeholder engagement, which is industry and community outreach.

The AER oversees major oil sands plants and pipelines in the province and had a budget of about $252.8-million in the past fiscal year. Although funded by the industry, the budget is set and approved by the provincial government.

In October, the government said it expected the AER to reduce its 1,200-person work force by 270 full-time-equivalent positions as part of a reduction in its budget.

Last week, Mr. Kenney announced that AER fees would be waived for six months as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on oil prices and demand.

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