Canada to speed up approval of big energy projects

Thu Mar 29, 2012 5:22pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada, intent on boosting development of the oil-rich tar sands, will speed up the process for approving big energy and industrial projects such as pipelines.

The federal budget, released on Thursday, also said the right-of-center Conservative government would crack down on political activity by charities, some of which have strongly criticized Ottawa's focus on energy exports.

The government, which has long complained about the complex approval system for pipelines and mines, said it would impose firm time limits on regulatory hearings, ensure that each project was only reviewed once and cut the number of environmental assessments.

At stake, it said, was up to C$500 billion ($500 billion) in investment in new Canadian projects over the next decade.

"Those who wish to invest in our resources have been facing an increasingly complicated web of rules and bureaucratic reviews that have grown over time, adding costs and delays that can deter investors and undermine the economic viability of major projects," said the budget document.

"We need a regulatory system that reviews projects in a timely and transparent manner, while effectively protecting the environment."

Ottawa and the 10 provinces share responsibility for regulation, which can mean some major projects are examined twice. Public hearings into proposed mines and pipelines can drag out the review process for up to seven years.

The government said it would impose a maximum 24-month limit for reviews. Hearings by the National Energy Board, the federal energy regulator, will be capped at 18 months and standard environmental assessments will take no more than 12 months.   Continued...