Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

The Alberta government tabled legislation Wednesday that, if passed, will allow cabinet to set limits on how long the province’s independent energy regulator has to review and make decisions about applications for oil and gas projects.

It’s part of a continuing government evaluation of the Alberta Energy Regulator, which the United Conservatives say is crucial to speeding up project approvals in the province. The party said during the 2019 election the AER was dragging its heels on applications, which was in turn stymieing oil and gas investment.

The province insisted Wednesday the change will have no bearing on the environmental oversight of application reviews. It recently came under fire for a series of ministerial orders in April that curtailed AER reporting requirements for the industry, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Story continues below advertisement

The energy watchdog went a step further last week, temporarily suspending a swath of environmental requirements for oil and gas sites, including programs that monitor soil, water, wildlife, firebreaks and greenhouse gas emissions. It explained in a written decision it made the changes at the behest of companies that said they couldn’t meet monitoring requirements while complying with public-health orders.

Last week Premier Jason Kenney wouldn’t comment on why the regulator made those changes, saying the AER was an “independent body that makes its own decisions without direction from government."

In a Wednesday press release about the legislative change, the Alberta government said AER delays were “unnecessary” and the result of “needless red tape and ineffective processes.”

“The regulator’s obligation to fully consider social and economic effects and the effects of an activity on the environment and landowners is unchanged,” it said.

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a statement her government isn’t asking the AER to say yes or no to any specific projects, but rather “ensure delays and uncertainty do not dissuade projects – that will help put Albertans to work – from being brought forward for review.”

Environment Minister Jason Nixon said Bill 7 would “harmonize government and AER policies, allowing the regulator to approve or reject projects more quickly using its already stringent standards.”

The province is currently working on a new suite of policies to ensure industry can cover the cost of cleaning up oil and gas wells and sites in a manageable way. It has also directed the regulator to establish a red-tape-reduction task force to identify unnecessary regulatory steps or duplication in processes.

Story continues below advertisement

Already the AER has started using automated review technology called OneStop, which it says will dramatically reduce application processing times by streamlining applications for what it deems low-risk activities, and forwarding high-risk applications to staff for more detailed assessments.

OneStop is currently used for applications for new pipelines, clean-up certification, major integrated projects and applications made under Alberta’s Water Act. The AER says all applications will move to OneStop by 2022.

The AER has faced a series of hurdles over the past few years. Alberta’s UCP government fired the AER board in September and announced a review of the regulator’s mandate, operations and governance.

A few months later, investigations by three government watchdogs concluded the regulator’s former boss set up a pricey side project that diverted resources, money and employee time from the agency while concealing many of the details from the board of directors.

Alberta’s Auditor-General then found that top-level AER executives repeatedly snubbed expense account rules by taking questionable flight upgrades, circumventing cash bonus laws and avoiding taxes on subsidized parking.

The regulator appointed former Saskatchewan deputy minister Laurie Pushor as its new chief executive on April 15.

Story continues below advertisement

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies