EDMONTON, AB (November 5, 2012): The Wildrose Official Opposition is taking steps to ensure proposed legislation to streamline the energy development regulatory approvals process actually encourages development, protects landowners, and respects the environment.
Wildrose MLAs will introduce a total of 12 amendments to Bill 2 – the Responsible Energy Development Act with the objective of avoiding another draconian law that tramples on landowner rights, removes independent appeals and gives the Minister sweeping powers over development similar to Bills 19, 36 and 50. “Wildrose wholeheartedly supports a more streamlined approvals process in order to make our economy more competitive, but not at any cost,” Wildrose Official Opposition Leader Danielle Smith said. “We hope all MLAs can come together and make the necessary changes to this legislation that will allow for speedier regulatory approvals while respecting and upholding fairness, independence and landowner rights.” Included in the amendments Wildrose will put forward:
- An explicit requirement for the regulator to follow legislated timelines for the total regulatory process (currently excluded);
- An explicit mention of respecting landowner rights in the regulator’s mandate and reintroducing the protection of the “public interest” in the duties of care of the regulator (currently excluded);
- A mandated inclusion of at least two energy sector experts on the regulator’s Board of Directors, one landowner rights expert and one environmental expert (currently not prescribed);
- Returning the ability to appeal to the Environmental Appeals Board and the Public Lands Appeals board under certain circumstances (currently excluded); and
- Ratification by the Legislature for the regulator to enter into extra-provincial agreements (currently ratified by cabinet).
Wildrose will also put forward a referral motion in the Legislature so the bill can go to the all-party Legislative Policy Committee on Resource Stewardship for further review. “Premier Redford said she wanted an expanded role for these policy committees. We think this is the perfect opportunity to get their input,” Smith said. Wildrose Energy Critic Jason Hale said implementing the Wildrose amendments and having committee fine-tune the bill will avoid messy legislative fixes down the road and help the energy sector improve its relations and image with the public. “We need to get this one right the first time,” Hale said. “If we pass this legislation as is, we’ll wind up back here two or three years from now, just as we’re doing right now with Bill 8, trying to fix all the problems it will create as it relates to protecting landowner rights and the public interest.” Wildrose Justice Critic Shayne Saskiw said establishing a clear and independent appeals process is essential to striking a balance between cutting red tape and protecting landowner rights and the environment. “The regulator simply cannot have the authority to review appeals into its own decisions. That’s not how the system should work,” Saskiw said. “We must have independence in appeals so the public has proper recourse when the regulator’s decision adversely affects them.”